Back in time - The Old Towns in Kotor Bay & Budva
Montenegro has a beautiful 300 km coastline along the Adriatic coast. Kotor bay has a 100 km coastline and hits the top 25 most beautiful bays in the world. This shouldn’t be surprising as it looks like a massive fiord surrounded by mountains. But it’s when you step into the old towns, at the edge of this coast that makes you feel like you’re travelling back in time.
Walking in the old town of Perast felt surreal, like walking into a picturesque postcard. Its 55 meters Bell tower, stands 6 storey high in the middle of the town, and has the best view of the town and bay you can get. The buildings in Perast date back to the 1st and 2nd century’s A.D. Its Venetian style makes it the most stunning looking Baroque village overlooking Kotor Bay.
Perast made it the most important town in the area, as it was exactly opposite the channel that leads into Kotor bay. This gave them the responsibility to protect it from pirates and other enemies at all costs. The bay was an important trading centre and whoever had it meant power. This is why the Bay has undergone many conquers. Perast protected ships from entering the bay by pulling chains from opposite ends of the channel, crashing the ship as it went through the chains. But unfortunately the chains weren’t enough to defend the bay from a whole fleet. In this case the natural St George Island was used by the military to shoot the ships from. Today no one can stand foot on this Island and belongs to the church.
But next to St George’s Island one can notice another small Island with a beautiful church with a blue dome. But something as beautiful like that doesn’t come without a great story behind it. The legend goes that there were 2 fishermen brothers in the bay who found an icon, ‘Virgin with the child’. When one of the brother got seriously sick, the other dreamt of Our Lady asking him to go and get the herbs from the mountains to cure his brother. He did, and his brother was cured. This is when they decided that the icon they have found was powerful and holy. So they decided to build a church on the very exact spot they have found the icon. They started throwing rocks at the bottom of the bay, and hundreds of ships were sunk in the area to start forming the Island. It took 300 years to actually build this man-made Island and was completed in the 17th century. Nowadays, the icon of the Virgin and the child still hangs at the altar where it was found. The church has been dedicated to The lady of the Rocks and had become the patron saint of sailors. Every year on the 22nd July men carry out a tradition in which, they row their boats near the island and throw rocks to carry on this tradition.
Kotor‘s old town makes it marvelously unique. With its old town at the base, by the water’s edge surrounded by walls as thick as 16 meters and 20 meters high. The walls are 4.5 km long and not only surround the town but climb up the mountain, in which 1350 cobbled staircase takes you to the Fortress overlooking the bay. During the day the wall is barely noticeable as it is camouflaged by the mountain it stands high on. But when the sun sets the walls shine with the lights reflecting on it making a beautiful scene. The town dates back to the 9th century, during the Byzantine’s time. However the last alterations made to this town’s was in the 19th century. This means that it took 1000 years to complete the whole wall. The town is a maze with its narrow marble streets leading into big squares all of which are named after the items that were traded or produced here. The Cathedral of Triphon dates back to 1166 and has amongst the oldest Romanesque styles in Europe. The town is on the beaches edge and enjoys a lively vibe of cafeterias, restaurants and bazaars.
Kotor and Perast, both have very high heritage and in fact both these towns and everything in between have been an UNESCO heritage site since 1979.
30 minutes out of the bay leads you to Budva, Montenegro’s most touristic destination. Its high end restaurants and hotels, bustling night bazaars, crystal clean beaches and hot night life attracts many tourists. Budva has records of the oldest settlements in Montenegro dating back to the 3rd Millennium B.C. But the old town did not survive all its misfortunes of conquers. Especially not the 7 rector scale earthquake in 1979 which destroyed most of Budva. It took up until 1987 to restore the whole town and get it back up on its feet. In fact the Cathedral was originally built in the 7th century, however it had been destroyed and was rebuilt in the 15th century.
15 minutes away from Budva’s Old town takes you to the dreamy peninsula of Sveti Stefan. A beautiful Peninsula on the Adriatic coast which nowadays hosts many celebrities, including Sylvester Stallone, Princess Margaret, Catherina Zeta Jones and more. Originally Sveti Stefan was a famous trading centre housing only 9 dwellings. It has been a resort since the 1950’s and is now covered in terracotta-roofed houses. It is now privatised and only residents can access the peninsula and its beaches. But get your cash ready, it can cost as much as €2000 per night.
All these towns are a must explore while visiting Montenegro. They are all easily accessible by bus, however being with a local tour guide can help you get the full experience to vividly see life back in the days of these beautiful towns. Visit Montenegro Tours for more information.
Check out the video for the full experience.