Haute Kotor (in the Black Mountains!)

Europe » Montenegro » Kotor
September 21st 2014
Published: June 26th 2017
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Split in Croatia to Kotor in Montenegro

Distance travelled 381 nautical miles

After the previous day's events of rain, rain, rain it came as no surprise but slight disappointment (despite my continued optimism of that's the last we'll see of the rain!!), it was not raining but very misty and the clouds were hovering almost within reach around the lower level of the surrounding bergs.

Kotor is a tender port meaning the port either has no quay large enough to accommodate a cruise ship or the draft of the water along the quay is not deep enough to accommodate a vessel of the proportions of the MSC Orchestra. We reckon it must have been the latter as the Silver Sea, a supposedly luxurious 6 star but much smaller vessel followed us in to the bay and proceeded to dock alongside one of the larger quays. Last night we obtained our ticket for the tender. The tickets are numbered prioritising the order in which you can disembark. You can take any tender ashore AFTER your number has been paged as long as its not before. We acquired these tickets on the assumption that at some time we expect to make it ashore. Kotor is only ½ day. We dropped anchor just after 8am and expect to weigh it at 1pm.

According to the Officer of the Watch, the ship would start its navigation through the fjords at 05:00. He advised us that it is a sight to behold coming in to Koror. The scenery is supposedly stunning and will linger in your memory for a life time or in my case about 47 minutes!!! Anyhow, I ain't getting up at 05:30. For one thing the sun doesn't rise until 06:50 so stunning or not I forgot to pack my night vision goggles!!

Roisin and I were both up and showered and entering the restaurant for breakfast at 08:15. The restaurant is our first choice for meals as, apart from being slightly more civilised, the portions are controlled!!

Every new country we arrive in, I receive a text from my mobile phone service provider explaining the cost of calls and text messages. Today was no exception. The text started off as usual: 'Welcome to Bosnia & Herzegovina'. Either the GPS is down or the captain took a wrong turning at the second fjord on the left!!

Montenegro, as a member of the UN and a country in its own right, didn't exist 20 years ago. This doesn't mean it suddenly rose up from out of the sea, like Atlantis: the lost continent only this would be more like the lost and found continent! No, Montenegro has had a torrid history being controlled by the Romans, Ottoman Empire, Nazis, Venetians and most recently was a former state of Yugoslavia before gaining independence in the mid-nineties.

There are about 625,000 people that live in Montenegro. This small and compact country is located in the Balkans, it has borders with Serbia in the northeast, Kosovo in the east, Albania in the south, the Adriatic Sea in the southwest, and Bosnia and Herzegovina in the northwest. So although Montenegro may be a little known, weird country to visit, it is surrounded by even lesser known and weirder countries!!

While there is no accurate information regarding the founding of Kotor, archaeologists believe that it rose on the foundations of the ancient city of Acruvium. Legend has it that Alkima, a fairy, advised the Serbian king, not to build his town in the hills where boats don't have a harbour and where horses run about, but to instead build near the sea. In Phoenician myth, the town was founded after Argonauts' conquest for the Golden Fleece.

The Old City of Kotor is an ancient trade centre, due to its fortified entrance to the sea. It's also a UNESCO World Natural and Historical Heritage Site and Montenegro's most famous town. The walled town is just across the street from the city's cruise-ship dock and after a smooth 5 minute tender crossing we had entered the car free old city of Kotor through what is known as the Sea Gate (for its close proximity to the sea, I guess!!) The Old Town is a well-preserved collection of buildings, churches, squares and stone streets that date back to the Middle-Ages.

Whilst walking through a tapered lane that connects the main square to a smaller square, several cats, one black and a kitten, no more than a few months old were sitting in the middle of the cobbled pavement. Pedestrians walking past did not seem to bother the cats. As we entered this small square with a disused fountain as its centre piece we could not help but notice wall to wall cats. Cats galore or should that be pussys galore!! They were all very tame and either black or tabby so my guess is that they're all from the same family. I beckoned a very tame tabby kitten by kneeling and holding out my fingers. The cat did not hesitate and was quick not just to approach me but to climb up via my bent knee to my thigh where it continued to purr. Roisin picked the cat up who immediately moulded itself to the contours of Roisin's body. Despite the tabby fitting perfectly in Roisin's bag I explained that this would be a bad thing and to let the cat go!! These cats did not have collars but at the same time we were convinced they were not feral. We continued to stroll around occasionally checking behind to ensure we weren't being followed by an army of cats!!

During our meander through Kotor old town we never lost sight of St. John's fort that overshadows the town of Kotor 4km away high up in the surrounding hills. From the fort you have fantastic views of the town and surrounding bay. So I believe. It is a 90 minute hike to the fort. I'm not wearing the correct footwear!!

Around another corner and through a narrow archway and we enter a small court yard. I happen to look up to take in the ambience of this old yet quaint bastion and low and behold, someone has the novel idea how to get their washing dry by hook or pay crook – even on a grey day like today. It looks like rain so we either hang the washing over the maiden or the radiator. But here in Montenegro, they hang the washing out as normal but to ensure the washing doesn't get ‘soaked' by sticking an umbrella over the washing. That should do the trick!! (see photo)

On the hour, all the churches in Kotor old town (at least 6) have their bells ring out…. neither in time or in unison. They were all ringing out their own variation on a theme. A sort of an ecclesiastical ‘mash-up' of campanology

Having missed the sailing in due to the lack of daylight, we stood watching Kotor disappear as the MSC Orchestra sailed back through the fjords heading to the Adriatic and the trip back to Venice. Yesterday I was talking to Maria, the cruise consultant and advised her that I was told Kotor is like the Norwegian Fjords. She soon put me in my place by telling me they are so different from the Fjords. From where I stood, looking out at the rugged mountains rising up on either side of the bay and gently sweeping down to the water line below, some mountain side more barren that others, they were exactly like the Fjords!!

We passed the island of Sveti Đorđe with the lone church built on the site. This is a popular tourist spot but the island was at least a ½ hour sail from Kotor and although regular trips are made to explore the small churchy islet, the times of the excursions did not fit in with the ships itinerary.

At 4:30 we made our way to the Shaker Lounge for the quiz. Although 3 of the entertainment team were there, they outnumbered the passengers 3 to 2 (Roisin and I being the ‘2'!!) They couldn't understand where everyone was. Although another couple from France joined us a few minutes later, the quiz was played just for fun. Similar to the previous quiz it was all but ‘unmanned'!! The quiz sheet had the names of Actors and actresses with their real names listed down below. Who would have thought that Joan Crawford wasn't really Betty Joan Perske, and that was actually the real name of Lauren Bacall! But Joan Crawford's real name was in fact Lucille le Sueur. We scored 18/20 but I'm sure if our good friends from San Francisco who we met on the Royal Princess, Simon & William, were here we would have scored maximum points!!

On the way back to our cabin, we decided to check out our dining table while it was quiet. Your dining table is allocated at check in and stated on your cruise card. However, it is not compulsory that you eat in the main dining room. There are other less formal places to eat. After checking a few of the tables to understand the layout we finally managed to find our table tucked away next to a serving station and hidden from the main seating area by a wooden and frosted glass screen. On each of the last 6 MSC cruises we always ask for a table of either 2 or 6 but always end up with a table of 4!! So far we have eaten in the buffet but thought to check out the table with a view to changing our meal time to the earlier sitting of 18:30. Glory be! A table for 2!! I thought Roisin was going to do cartwheels but instead just punched the air with delight!! Looks like we are going to keep our 2nd dinner sitting after all.

As mentioned yesterday tonight is a 60s, 70s and 80s theme night. There have been many Eastern Europeans on this leg of the cruise and looking at most of them walking around it is difficult to establish if they are entering in to the spirit of the evening or it is just like any other night on board!!!

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