Today dawned gloriously fine and sunny which should make the trip into Kotor and a look around easy to do.
In the absence of egg cups Gretchen adapted an egg carton by cutting off the individual egg holders and putting them inside one of the small coffee cups to make 'egg cups'.We had tired of scambled egg and it was time for boiled eggs for a change.The 'cups'should last and not need to be washed!With the toaster we purchased during our Niksic shopping expedition(the one we bought in Naples works but only if you hold it down and we weren't able to trade it in at the Auchan store we tried at)we can now make hot toast again which is something we were missing.
We headed into Kotor about 10km away and found a parking area a short walk away from the old city.We feel now that we are heading into countries with a bit of history on cars being stolen(according to guidebooks)that we make use of a guarded car park even if it costs a Euro or two.
There was one medium size cruise ship berthed at the dock and a smaller one on the other side
and an even smaller one out in the harbour and so there were cruise passengers everywhere.To our surprise(to some degree) the medium size ship was the Seabourn Odessey which is a regular caller into Tauranga and it doesn't seem that long ago and shortly before we left on this adventure that she was in our home port and here she was on the other side of the world,just like us!
There was a mix of nationalities from British to American to Eastern European some in groups getting guided tours and others more like what we like to do when cruising,out exploring on their own.
The old city is a maze of narrow alleyways with a mix of shops mostly of the type to trap the tourists and restaurants in the piazzas of which there are several.
We called into a couple of Serbian Orthodox churches and then into the Catholic cathedral of St Tryphon built in 1166 although there is very little other than artefacts from those years as the church had been destroyed and rebuilt a couple of times after major earthquakes,the last in 1979.The interior had been restored as best as possible given the circumstances
and it would be interesting to match it up with Christchurch Cathedral also badly affected by an earthquake to see whether the damage here was any worse than Christchurch and if not then someone should be querying why Christchurch Cathedral isn't being restored too.There were some frescoes that had been uncovered in the church but there was really very little left of them.The remains of St Tryphon,the patron and protector of Kotor are kept in the cathedral.
After lunch it was time to take on the Kotor Fortress which at 260 metres above sea level is a similar height to climbing Mount Maunganui.Except there is one big difference!The Mount is a stroll in the sun compared to the near vertical cliff face you have to climb to get to the vantage point in the Castle of St John at the top.
When we looked at the climb from the old city we knew it was going to be a long and arduous one and that got reconfirmed when we collected a leaflet, as we paid our €3 each for the pleasure of the climb, on the history of the fortress which forms part of the city walls and
constructed from the 9th century but added to right up until the 19th century.Gretchen also spotted a sign to tell you that you must take regular stops to catch your breath and that there were reptiles in the area which of course meant snakes.Gretchen is not a fan of snakes and although I don't mind watching them on TV I must admit I would prefer not to meet them sliding across my path.The guy on the gate said not to worry or something to that effect so we set off.
There are some 1300 steps to the top and you can take a mix of steps or a sort of cobbled walkway and you make your way in a zigzag manner as that is the only way you could climb to the height of the castle given the near sheer face of rock that the path takes.Actually,when we thought about it after we returned to the old city,the construction of the path and steps was quite a feat.
The wall was built up the mountainside to stop invaders coming down the mountain although in reality it is hard to believe that someone trying to invade would take that
option when there was a flat approach to the town via the water as long we guess that a ship could sail undetected from the Adriatic several kilometres away.
It wasn't hard to stop to take a breather as the views out over the city changed at each zig you zagged and even though some of those stretches were no more than 100 metres of so with a rise of 20 or 30 metres each time you got the feeling you were seeing a different aspect of the town over the rooftops at each stop and that included seeing the ship in the port at a different angle.
There were a good number of people either climbing with us or passing us on the way down although most were in the younger age bracket and it was only the fitter looking cruise passengers that seemed to be doing the climb.We kept up a good pace with the stops taken into account.One thing we had forgotten was to take water but there were three vendors selling water,juice and beer from chilly bins although the price went per bottle went up slightly as you climbed.However we eventually realised our folly
and purchased some ice cold water to quench our thirst.We had been lucky that the sun at times was obscured by some light cloud keeping the temperature to the mid 20's.
We were about three quarters of the way up when I heard a rustle in the grass and saw a small brown snake slithering into the long grass.Thankfully Gretchen didn't see the snake or she would have been hot footing down the steps.I did tell her about it a few more metres up the hill and she admitted she was pleased she had not noticed it.
We made the top of the steps/track in an hour which was in tune with the guide book which said to allow for a 90 minute return walk and we had already reckoned we could the downhill stage in half the time.The views were fantastic and although we were only at 260 metres we had the feeling we were higher as the surrounding towering mountains and virtual straight drop to the old town made it feel that way.The old town with its buildings with terracotta roofs looked like a small Dubrovnik which we guess you can expect as that city is
just up the coast in Croatia.
The fortress sits atop an outcrop and it was only when we peered over the backside of the ramparts that we discovered that there was in fact a small valley behind and that there were more ruins down there as well as a church.However aside from slipping on your backside through a hole in the fortress wall and then falling we don't know how many metres there didn't appear to be any way of getting there.
Time for a little competition amongst our followers and readers of the blog with the usual prize of a spcial mention in the blog for the person who gets the question correct.What does the inscription in the photo of the inset in the fortress wall read?
The views of the old town,out into the Bay of Kotor and beyond had all been worth the exercise of climbing up to the top and we started down with more photos and video for memories of the exhilarating climb.
We reckoned on 30 minutes return to the bottom but of course coming down the mountainside you get different views than you do going up as the stopping
places tended to be different.Half way down we met an English couple who we gave way to on the steps and got talking to them about the views.They were off the Seabourn and in fact had a daughter who lived on Waiheke Island and had been in NZ visiting I February.They even had photos of the ship taken in Auckland at the time.What a small world!
On the way down we offered words of encouragement to those climbing up like 'not far to go' or 'there is a beer waiting for you at the top' and most acknowledged although we suspected that there were some who didn't understand our Kiwi accents as they looked quite blankly at us.
The cruise crowd had thinned out by the time we got back to the bottom and it was easier to negotiate the alleyways to head back to the car.
Before we left the old town,Gretchen,who had been in need of a hair trim spotted a hairdresser who was looking for some custom and negotiated a price for a haircut for herself and threw me into the bargain as well.We came out well trimmed and should be right for another
5 or 6 weeks or in the case of myself after a #3 clipper cut ,it might be another 6 months!
By the time we got home we were ready for a glass or three of beer out of the 2 litre bottle of Niksicko(my goodness what a name to put you off drinking beer but that is its real name,photo to prove it) that we had bought at the supermarket for €1.69 or about NZ$2.40 and will probably last us a couple of afternoon sessions.They certainly don't do their beer in small cans or bottles here and in fact we did see bottles that have to be at least 3 litres in size for sale as well.
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