19 July 2018

The Gulf of Kotor....Pretty much Perfect

A hike up The Ladder of Kotor, climb 72 switchbacks to this spectacular view of the inner of the three gulf basins of Kotor or Kotorski Zaliv.  Although not carved by a glacier and, hence, not officially a fjord, the 1,000 m steep slopes that rise from the narrow bay sure make it look like one.
Montenegro started out great but ended up almost perfect in the Gulf of Kotor.  It is everything I love best - protected anchorages, clear blue water (for the most part), steep, rugged and wild mountains that plunge into the sea with sweet old stone houses built hanging along the shore, friendly and proud locals who speak some English, historic walled towns, clean streets provided with lots of rubbish bins, little traffic for easy coastal biking, well-marked challenging hiking trails, tastefully developed coastline.  We even have a few buddy boats for rollicking evening company.

A church and monastery sitting on Otocic Otok in the second or middle basin.

Our first two nights in the gulf were spent anchored beside the super yachts paying exorbitant fees at Porto Montenegro, a marina founded by Canadian Peter Munck when he was disgusted by condoms floating by his nose while swimming in the Med at the French Riviera - or so the story goes.  He picked a magnificent site and, so far, nary a condom to be seen.

The Boka Kotorska or cut from the middle to the third basin is narrow with progressively higher and more austere mountains making us excitedly anticipate what lay hidden in front of the bow.  

The cut opens to this view on the port bow.   Otok Gospa Od Skrp Jela, the island with the blue domed church is actually artificial.  Legend has it that on July 22, 1452 an icon of the Madonna and Child was found on a rock where the island is now.  The local seamen laid a rock on the site whenever returning safely from a voyage, eventually heaping enough to make an island.  Each year, on July 22 the locals take to their boats to contribute more rocks to the island.  The church was built in 1630.   Beside it, another actual island houses a monastery.

And on the starboard bow, the mountains were stupendous!

The green smallish mountains on one side are bottomed by old stone houses, churches and palaces.  All red-roofed. Some, rattled and cracked by earthquakes, have been abandoned and others restored.  Their view across the bay is....

...this.  The towns on the opposite shore are dwarfed by the higher rock mountains on which growth is tenuous.

Our view from anchorage.  The old walled town of Kotor is at the end of the bay.  The fort, built on the steep cliff and made from the same rock is barely visible.  The walls and staircase climb  from the town with a church midway and a fort at the peak.
After the cruise ships go our view from Milly down the bay is awesome.

Rooftops and churches in the old walled city of Kotor.

Walking through the narrow, cobbled alleyways of Kotor it is impossible not to notice or trip over a multitude of stray cats and kittens.  They are everywhere as are bowls of food and water to keep them satisfied.  For hundreds of years Kotor was an important port and cats were often on board ship to keep vermin at bay.  Many got left behind and the cat population is now probably more international than the human.  They are a symbol of the city.  Not really being keen on strays, this one was our favourite.

Very talented buskers abound in Kotor, many more than any other city we have been to lately.

Difficult to see how steep this is but the fort wall is at the top of the cliff backing on the town.

We climbed up and beyond the Ladder of Kotor one day which is on a mountain behind and way above the fort.  Seventy-two switchbacks reportedly, some of which you can see.  This trail used to be the only route from the port of Kotor to the inland town and once capital, Cetinje.  The only invader that actually successfully took the fort, hauled his cannons via his anchor windlass up this precipitous slope and shot down on the fort.  Crazy?  Greedy?  Power hungry?  Hating to give up on a challenge?  It was quite a climb and we only had water bottles.  

There were two houses on the switchback both inhabited at least at this time of year.  We met one toothless elderly woman walking down the trail on our way up and passed her again on her way up carrying groceries!  When passing her house, we had noted that her husband? or son? was sitting having a drink in the shade of a big tree.  No comment!

Nearing the top.  Even the cruise ship looks like a toy.

And the second over the now looking short ridge with the first basin at the top right of the picture and Adriatic at the top left.

Once higher than the ladder, we walked through what could only be an enchanted forest.  The spruce clad mountains gave Montenegro it's name.

On our way down, still above the fort hill.  Milly is there.

The ladder

A mountain biker from Bosnia who pelted past us at great speed eventually waited for us to exchange picture taking.

Biking the coastal road, mostly at sea level which made for a relaxing day, let us see up close what we had passed on Milly.  Chapels, churches and monasteries - we have only seen minarets in the south of the country - are all over the place here.  My favourites are the tiny, stone chapels with stone roofs.

The delightful tourist town of Perast where all the buildings are restored.

We have sailed/motored, biked, hiked, walked, climbed, kayaked, and driven the area and there is still so much more to do and see!!  If Croatia didn't have such great cruising waters by reputation, we'd stick around longer.

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