Voyage through the Bay of Kotor
4 June 2019
written by Marina Pejaković
One of the most exquisite gifts that Mother Nature has given to Montenegro, among many beautiful hidden beaches, is the Bay of Kotor. It is the only bay on this side of Mediterranean coast that resembles a Norwegian fjord. However, do not let it confuse you. At the very entrance of the bay, it feels like you are entering into some land Far Far Away, just waiting for some nymphs or sirens to jump out of water and salute you. It definitely resembles a dreamy, remote harbor, guarded by the mountains, where the magic happens.
Kotor bay is not only splendid due to its natural characteristics, it has been also a witness of the rich history of the seamen, craft men, noble families and other habitants of this area. Towns were built, stories were told and famous people were born. Regardless of the fact that Kotor bay is just one small part of this wide world, it is the protagonist of many events happened in the history.
It all starts from the very entrance of this beautiful bay. Between the two peninsula of Prevlaka and Lustica, you will come across one of the most interesting islands in the bay. The famous Mamula island, which got its name after the Austro-Hungarian general Lazar Mamula who built the fortress back in 1853. The purpose of the fortress was to guard the Bay of Kotor, alongside the fortress Azra on the Lustica peninsula.
The position of the island was perfect in stopping the invaders coming from the wide sea. However, this island has its notorious history.It served as a prison and many people faced the end of their lives while serving their death penalties. Nowadays, this island remains attractive to investors, many of which want to rebuild the fortress and turn it into a hotel, but there are also artists who see the potential of the island and use its beauty for filming attractive scenes for their films. Recently made film Papillon (2018), directed by Michael Noer, was partly shot in the fortress of the island Mamula but since I do not want to spoil your enjoyment of the film, you should definitely watch it and try to notice the very scenes filmed in Montenegro. After passing the first defense fortifications, among beautiful landscapes and somewhat calmer water, a thought might come into your mind that at any of these beautiful locations you would plant a house made of stones, with a little garden and small boat, creating an oasis, which is soothing your soul. As I already told you, you might feel like you are charmed by the air and bluish water (or that must be the work of the nymphs).
After a while, you will catch a sight of the town on your left, the first town you will come across, but the newest built town in Kotor bay. And just when you thought there will be no more fortresses, this town called Herceg Novi, has even four of them, and they were all built in different times throughout the history. The fortress Forte Mare, of the Old Town was built in 1382 by the first king of Bosnia, Tvrtko 1 st Kotromanic. It served for protecting the town. It seemed to be a good strategic move to start building a town on the coast of the Kotor bay, and later on, it turned out to be a goal of many conquerors.
Therefore, you can see different influences made by different powerful countries, which got to rule over this town, even for a little while. The fortress Spanjola, was built while the town was under the authorities of Spain. However, shortly after they built this fortress, the invasion of Turcs was on, so they got to conquer the town of Herceg Novi. They left their own influence in this area. The most famous one is the Kanli kula (the Tower of Blood). This tower served as a prison, but nowadays it is one of the most splendid summer stages where many concerts are being held. There is also the Citadel, which was built by Venetian authorities. Since there were a lot of fortresses, they were all somehow connected, with secret tunnels and many stairs, which give this town air of mystery and the ability of coexistence between so many different nations.
However, this is only one of the stops in the Kotor bay that might intrigue you. While passing along many beautiful small places on the coast, what might interest you are the very luxurious yachts that are berthed in Tivat. I did say that the history of the Kotor bay was rich and colorful, but that does not mean that we have not followed the trends of today. So if you are more into 21 st century and luxury, Tivat, with its complex Porto Montenegro, is the right stop for you. Infinite pools looking at the horizon, popular music and cocktails, foods coming from different cultures, I am sure you will enjoy yourself.
And it does not mean that you cannot enjoy some bits of history, because everything here is close to one another. So suit yourself the way you enjoy the most, I am sure you will not regret it.
While some of you are left sipping cocktails in Porto Montenegro, the rest of us will continue our voyage throughout the Kotor bay. Here comes the narrowest part of the bay, called Verige. It is around 250 meters long, and it also served as advantage to the locals, because they could use it to stop the invaders of entering further into the bay. Because the real treasure of the bay was after you cross this passage.
Now, we will come across the town of Risan, whose name dates back to the 4 th century BC, also known as Rhizon, the residence of the famous Illyrian queen Teuta and her followers. Although, according to the legends, the destiny of queen Teuta, was fatal and not at all glorious, her name is still celebrated within the citizens of Risan. Unfortunately, the territory of Kotor bay is prone to devastating earthquakes that are known to destroy many of the monuments and buildings, which are the result of Kotor bay people’s hopes and dreams. One of the fatal earthquakes managed to destroy the ancient city of Risan, queen Tetua’s city, and as the story of Atlantida goes, it has lost in the depths of the sea. It remains unsolved, how many treasuries could be found beneath, it is up to one of Indiana Joneses of the Boka bay to solve the mystery as old as time.
After this story of the remains of the ancient city of Risan, we are approaching to one of the small towns, which gained its popularity and climbed to its peak in a different time. It is the baroque town of Perast, which lays its eyes everyday to the two of the most popular islands in the bay, Our Lady of the Rock and the island of St. George. Perast was famous for its fishermen but also for its extraordinary sailors, among which was Matija Zmajevic, admiral of the Russian Navy, and Marko Martinovic who was teaching Russian sailors in his maritime school. It was the town of rich noble families, who enjoyed showing off the glamour of the 18 th century.
It was also a hometown of one of the most famous painters from this area, Tripo Kokolja, whose work can be seen in the church on the island Our Lady of the Rock, and that is the stop that cannot be missed. This manmade island, was made by citizens of Perast and their belief that this particular spot in the Kotor bay is where good fortune comes and all the wishes come true.
After making a wish on this splendid little island, we are moving towards the most important and the most remote town in the Kotor bay, the bearer of this very name, the little town of Kotor. Laying in the heart of the Kotor bay, this coastal town defends his history steady and despite many earthquakes it stands still, opening its gates to everyone who is willing to spare some time and listen to the monuments that are whispering legends and stories. As the area of Kotor was enlisted in the World Heritage Sites of UNESCO, in 1979, after the tremendous earthquake, this town gained its popularity even more.
Its long walls, many little churches, the Cathedral of St.Tryphon and the extraordinary collection exposed in the Maritime museum, are just some of the breath-taking spots you must not miss when visiting Kotor. While we are still talking about something that takes your breath away, mentioning the view from the fortress of St. John properly takes all the credit, since it will definitely leave you speechless. After climbing all the stairs, several minutes of calmness, brings piece to the soul.
Since I gave my best in presenting you all the gems of the Kotor bay, I sincerely hope that I tickled your imagination and that your travel instinct will take you here. Who knows, maybe there are some mystical creatures, hiding beneath the water, guarding the local people, and casting spells onto anyone who enters the Kotor bay, so that it can never be forgotten, and that it stays deeply carved into their hearts. Maybe, you are next!
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