Kotor, Montenegro

Backed by beautiful mountain cliffs and resting on a scenic bay, Kotor is one of the hidden jewels of the Adriatic. Long ruled by Venice, the city is surrounded by a wall erected by the Venetian Empire. It is sheltered from the open sea by a network of waterways that comprise Europe’s southernmost fjord. This secluded city seems frozen in time.

There are many legends surrounding Kotor’s beginnings. One such story involves a fairy named Alkima who advised the Serbian King Stefan Dusan to build a city by the water. In another legend dating to Phoenician times, the Argonauts fled to Kotor after stealing the Golden Fleece.

Kotor traces its recorded history to the year 168 B.C., when it was known as Ascrivium, part of a Roman province. The Emperor Justinian built the first fortifications near the city in 535. Throughout the Middle Ages, the city was a Dalmatian city-state. In 1002, it was occupied by the first Bulgarian Empire.

By the 15th century, Kotor had come under the influence of the Republic of Venice. It remained a part of the Republic, except for brief interruptions from the Ottoman Empire, until 1797, when it saw a quick succession of occupations by Italy, France, Great Britain and the Hapsburg Empire. After World War I, Kotor joined Yugoslavia under the Treaty of Versailles. In 1945, the city became part of the newly formed Republic of Montenegro.

Kotor Lifestyle and Culture

Kotor is renowned for its memorable and engaging views. This compact and affable city is a lovely canvas of varied and romantic textures. Kotor’s remarkably preserved Old Town is one of the finest on the Adriatic. Its walls were built by the Venetian Empire in 1420 to protect their city from the Ottomans; they are still in sturdy condition today. The labyrinthine streets of the Old Town were purposely designed for protection, their maze-like layout was meant to confuse invaders. A rich sense of history and craftsmanship lives on every corner here. And the people of Kotor are as proud of their medieval wall as they are of their rich traditions of shipbuilding and goldsmithing.

Kotor Sights and Landmarks

Built in 1166, the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon is one of the most beautiful buildings. Saint Tryphon, the patron and protector of the city, is buried within. After an earthquake toppled one of its twin towers, reconstruction was limited by lack of funds, and so today’s towers are known for their characteristic asymmetrical appearance. Inside, the cathedral houses a magnificent collection of Roman, Renaissance and baroque artwork, including a gold-and-silver relief of the saints.

At the fascinating Maritime Museum in the Old Town, visitors can delve into Kotor’s rich naval history. Even the building itself is a wondrous artifact – the baroque palace of the Grgurina family. The museum opened to the public in 1900.

Montenegro Entertainment and Activities

Kotor is a gateway to some of the most fascinating and vibrant corners of Montenegro. Nearby Perast offers panoramic views of Kotor Bay. This seaside town is still home to many beautiful palaces from its boom years in the 17th and 18th centuries. From here you can visit the amazing Island of Our Lady of the Rocks. Created from the bulwarks of sunken tall ships and built up with large stones, this artificial island was blessed by construction of its first church in 1452. The current house of worship contains a large collection of paintings by local 17th-century painter Tripo Kokolja.

Leaving the coast, the road from Kotor to Cetinje ascends the Lovcen Mountains and provides sweeping views of the Bay of Kotor. The delightful hamlet of Njeguis is nestled among the mountains. This town is the birthplace of Petar II Petrovic Njegos, a 19th-century poet and philosopher who played a key role in the modernization of Montenegro. His most famous work is The Mountain Wreath, hailed as a national epic. The city of Cetinje is Montenegro’s former capital; here, the Museum of King Nikola pays tribute to a man who completely reformed his country's political landscape.

The countryside is home to the Plantaze Vineyards. An innovative and fascinating winemaker, this vintner uses a refurbished series of Cold War-era tunnels as a wine cellar. The tunnels maintain the perfect temperature as his wines age in oak casks, while serving as a reminder of the former military establishment.

Budva is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic. This cultured city hosts many music concerts and festivals, yet keeps its medieval past very much alive. The Old Town, fortified by walls, is connected to the mainland by a small isthmus. According to local legend, it was Cadmus – the famous exile of Thebes who grew an army from planting dragon’s teeth in the earth – who founded the town.

South of Budva is the famous resort island of Sveti Stefan. A getaway for Serbian royalty in the 1930s, the island became an elite resort for the rich and famous in the 1950s, attracting the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Orson Welles. To this day, it is known for its high level of leisure services.

Passing through the Vrmac Mountain tunnel from Kotor, the road leads to the Luštica Peninsula. This fertile agricultural center is a haven of cheese-making, wine production and olive oil pressing. Families have been farming this land for centuries. Today, it’s a combination of ancient know-how and modern ingenuity that produces some truly unforgettable farm products.

The largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula, Skadar Lake is a beautiful natural preserve and park. Bordering Montenegro and Albania, the lake is a refuge for many species of birds and wildlife. From the small village of Virpazar, visitors can embark on a scenic cruise.

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