The Bay of Kotor: A Dreamy Fjord Of The Adriatic
Sprinkled with the unique scent of cypress trees and tucked in by cliffs of the Orjen and Lovćen Mountains, the Bay of Kotor endured the spirit of time, human neglect, and other calamities.
One legend about Montenegro says that God’s sack poured on when he shared natural beauties over this land, and all the mountains subsided and fell on her ground. Among them are the gorges and the canyons of the rivers that crumble their way through the rocks and wilderness. And the blue sea’s waves that shakes its shore escaped from rubble and bare stone. And just where the coastline and sea merged, there is a bay, unique in its beauty and picturesque of the sea breach among the steep and massive hills. The gem in the blue – The bay of Kotor.
I am familiar with a lot of stories about Montenegro. My gramma was a Montenegrin and as a kid I used to spent summer holidays on the river Pjenavac at the foothills and pastures of Mount Durmitor in the north of the country, as well as in the small town called Stoliv in the bay of Kotor. I love Montenegro, and I never felt as a foreigner here. Here feels like home.
The beauty of the bay for centuries has served painters as an inspiration, yet particularly for the poets who found within the incentive for spelling chansons, in an attempt to court a lady during a romantic walk by the Mediterranean sea (the translation available in Serbian only: “Boka“, Aleksa Šantić, 1906). Aleksa Šantić, the famous Yugoslav poet addressed Boka as the “Bride of the Adriatic” and the title familiarised among the domestics. And indeed, the bay is stunning; a combination of diversity, history, heritage and natural beauty. Its numerous Orthodox and Catholic churches and monasteries make it a major pilgrimage site. Since 1979 the bay, the city of Kotor and the surrounding territory has been a World Heritage Site – Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor – protected by UNESCO.
Known simply as Boka (“the Bay”) the gulf of Kotor is one of the deepest and longest on the Adriatic Sea, and is often called the southernmost fjord of Europe. The average water depth in the gulf is 27.3 m, and the maximum depth is 60 m. The length of the coast is 105 km, from Herceg Novi to Risan, Perast, Dobrota, Kotor, and all the way to Tivat via Prčanj, and Stoliv. Along the way there are many smaller places. The bay is divided into four bays, represented by the cities Herceg Novi, Risan, Kotor, and Tivat. There are nine islands: Prevlaka, Mamula, Our Lady of Grace, St. Marko, Flower Island, Skilled Skull, Our Lady of the Rocks, and St. George. Since 1997, Boka Kotorska numbers among the 28 most beautiful bays in the world.
D and I are seriously planning our visit to Risan and Tivat in the summer 2019. And I already wrote you about our travel to the Montenegrin city of the sun, after my letter from the city of a hundred stories. Both adventures were part of D’s and my summer vacation in 2018, together with a third one on which I will write here. In this regard, our summer adventure 2018 ends in the Medieval city of Kotor.
The bay’s beauty has not gone unnoticed by the yacht set, however, so in the recent years there has been an increase in the number of cruisers in the port of Kotor. Maritime experts warned of the threat to sea at a meeting in Kotor in 2018. They issued that ships remain very short in the port, thus provoke lasting ecological damage.
On our way to the old town of Kotor, driving along the fjord-like bay from Herceg Novi (approximately one hour with a local bus and fairy), D told me that he sees an oasis of unspoiled natural sights dotted with little villages and backed by towering, rocky mountains. It is breathtaking, indeed.
For centuries, man has created settlements near the water, building his home and homeland right by the sea, engaging in fishing. Along with the natural beauties, the bay is fulfilled with wonderful artificial creations – dreamy houses. Montenegro sea-folks embellished their homes with various plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees. The bay is rich in flora and the most common are cypresses, cactuses, laurels, figs, magnolias, and camellias. In front of almost every house, there is a small dock to which boats are tied. Each house is a special pictorial experience. Enchanted by this scene, you can not escape the overwhelming desire that one of these charming houses is yours and that you enjoy the shade of high mountains in the terrace, listening to the sound of waves, while you drink your favourite cup of coffee.
Strolling around the small town of Prčanj, enjoying the surroundings in a bit cloudy weather, we came to the palace which represents one of the main attractions in the bay, the Tre Sorelle palace. It was a summer residence of the Buća family, build in the Gothic style sometimes in the 15th-century. Outside of the Kotor Old town this is the only building that type that stayed preserved entirely. The house is decorated with Buća’s family coats of arms which are several times carved in outside walls. The Tre Sorelle palace is linked an tragic romantic story – The legend of three sisters who loved the same sailor.
Filomena, Grazia and Rina (or as in the some of the writings – Nera, Bianca and Rina) were beautiful sisters whose father built a sea-front house with three parts connected to one another, but with separate roofs. The sisters were the most beautiful girls around there, reputable and fair, but as the unfortunate destiny wanted, they gave all the love of this world to one man – the young Captain Jerko.
The legend says that the captain could not decide which of the sisters he liked most. Instead, he resolved to take his ship on a long sailing to recall everything. Additionally, the sister, who waited for his return, he would take as a wife.
However, the shared love for Jerko reunited sisters. They prayed for his health together, and were hoping that they would see him before they pass away. When passing by their house, one were likely to see them looking from their windows expecting captain’s return. They waited and waited until the old age, thus captain Jerko never came back. Sisters agreed that when the first one dies, the other two will shake the window of the deceased sister so when Jerko return to the Boka bay he could see according to the sealed window which one of the sisters no longer waits. Filomena died first, and the sisters walled her window up. Then the other sister Grazia died, so the last standing sister closed her window too. A few years later, when Rina passed away, there was no one to close her window.
Tre Sorelle Palace, with three towers and two walled up windows, stands empty in one of the most beautiful parts of the bay. Today is the palace in the private hands and there have been some interventions on the legendary windows. On the photo above you can see that two of the windows are opened, which wasn’t the case earlier. The Tree Sorelle palace before the window intervention can be seen on this link.
Sadly, the sisters’ sacrifice and love rarely come back to life, only when the locals or tour guides try to impress the visitors with an unfortunate romantic story of three sisters who loved the same sailor. Hopefully, this house will gain its glory again and this unique love story will be restored. It is a great lesson on love, fidelity, sacrifice, and empathy for all of us, thus for the future generations in particular.
Finally, we have arrived in the humble, Medieval old town of Kotor. This fortified coastal town, build between 12th and 14th century, is located in a secluded part of the Bay of Kotor. The town was settled during Ancient Roman times and is first mentioned in 168 BC when it was known as Acruvium, a part of the Roman province of Dalmatia. Kotor faced various misfortunes during the time: the two siege of the Turks (1538 and 1657), the occurrence of plague (1572), two major earthquakes (1563 and 1667); it was under Austrian rule (1797), then Italy (1805), and France (1810), to return to Austria again in 1814. After the First World War, Kotor became part of Yugoslavia and officially became known as Kotor. Today the city of Kotor belongs to the independent state of Montenegro.
Crisscrossed with the narrow cobbled streets and squares with a rich cultural, historical, and architectural heritage, Kotor makes me feel so unreal surrounded by these idyllic scenes. Those moments I recall in the rush of everyday life and they remind me that wonderland exists and that I was once part of it. Cathedral of Saint Tryphon is at the centre of the old town. It’s a monument of Roman culture, one of the most recognisable symbols of the city, and one of two Roman Catholic cathedrals in Montenegro. Moreover, the heritage of Kotor includes the Church of Saint Ana (from the 12th century), Church of Saint Luke (from the 13th century), Church of Saint Mary (from the 13th century), Church of the Healing Mother of God (from the 15th century), the Prince’s Palace (from the 17th century), and the Napoleon’s Theatre (from the 19th century). Centuries of Venetian domination have left a trace of classical Venetian architecture.
We wandered through the narrow streets of the old town, accumulating all the positive vibes of thousand of stones around us, feeling nothing but freedom and happiness.
We would stop every now and then ducking into artisan shops or enjoying the charms of this Medieval beauty. Kotor is one of those places I keep coming back to. I’ve been here twenty times. Accurately. Thus, this idyllic little town is winning me over each and every time. From the moment you enter the gate of the old town you just have to let your sense of adventure guide you. No map is needed. Maybe some general information about the town before arrival would be helpful. And walk and breathe. Walk and breathe. Suddenly, you get a feeling that wherever you turn around and whatever you see, it’s artsy and beautiful. Each facility, building, monument or the facade has a story. Each has a soul. Accordingly, this 21st visit to Kotor has a special charm, as next to me is my companion for life, my best buddy and biggest support, my D.
I was thinking about the people who don’t like the sea. Do you recall Marina Tsvetaeva (also Marina Cvetaeva and Marina Tsvetayeva)? She was a Soviet poet and her work is (of course post-mortem) considered among some of the greatest in 20th century Russian literature. She was one of an extraordinary “Big Four” of Russian poets that also includes Anna Akhmatova, Boris Pasternak and Osip Mandelshtam. Her verses were not desirable in the Soviet Union, and at the time she committed suicide, she was lonely, without money, and almost forgotten. Nobody attended the funeral, and Tsvetaeva’s exact buried place has never been found. This tragic life, full of love and passion, left rich treasury of essays, poems and prose. Marina Tsvetaeva was one of those people who don’t like the sea. In her letter to Boris Pasternak Tsvetaeva reveals that she has fear of the sea and that she likes the stability of the mountains:
“But there’s one thing, Boris: I don’t like the sea. Can’t bear it. A vast expanse and nothing to walk on–that’s one thing. In constant motion and I can only watch it–that’s another. Why, Boris, it’s the same thing all over again, i.e., it’s my notorious involuntary immobility….It cannot be caressed (too wet). It cannot be worshiped (too terrible). As I would have hated Jehovah, for instance, as I hate any great power. The sea is a dictatorship, Boris. A mountain is a divinity. A mountain as many sides to it. A mountain stoops to the level of Mur (touched by him!) and rises to Goethe’s brow; then, not to embarrass him, rises even higher. A mountain has streams, nests, games. A mountain is first and foremost what I stand on, Boris. My exact worth. A mountain is a great dash on the printed page, Boris, to be filled in with a deep sigh.”– Tsvetaeva in a letter to Pasternak, May 1926.
I truly believe that Tsvetaeva would not have thought this way about the sea if she had the opportunity to visit the Bay of Kotor. It sounds like a cliché, but keeping in mind hers romanticism, I am convicted that she would be able to overcome herself and defeat her demons in this blue lagoon.
Lots of Love,