Viv checks out picturesque Kotor, from a cruise ship. However you see it, Kotor is one of Montenegro’s most beautiful baysWhat a beautiful place! As we sailed into the fjord (yes, it really is a fjord), we were amazed at the tranquillity and peace. Blue green water, so clear that you can see shoals of fish far below the surface, and the sea as smooth as the proverbial millpond. We travelled through grey craggy heights, with dark green vegetation dotted on the steep slopes towering over the villages on the shore. It seemed impossible that our enormous liner could negotiate the zigzags of the fjord, but the local pilot steered us sharp right, sharp left, sharp right again (and yes, purists, I know it should be Starboard and Port, but I’ve been on land a lot longer than at sea).
Eventually, we could see a lovely little town nestling at the far end of the inlet, all white walls and red roofs, and realised that that was Kotor. Another cruise ship was moored up, with passengers already travelling to and from the town on tenders, but Captain Vago kept going and tied up on what seemed an impossibly small mooring right on the Town Quay. Everyone piled off, with lots of people going on coach excursions. We had booked a boat trip around the fjord, and were marched off by our tour guide through the port and into a small waterside park, where we couldn’t see any boat large enough to take more than about 10 people…. Suddenly we were all being ushered onto a little Tardis of a boat, that took all 40 of us easily.
Sitting almost at water level in the boat gave a totally different perspective from being up on Deck 11 of the Oceana. I could have just sat back and relaxed all day, chugging through crystal clear water and looking at the little churches and houses on each side of the bay. There was a sense of dropping back in time, and passengers were pointing out tiny hotels, bars and restaurants, with lots of “shall we come here for a holiday?” comments.
After a while (don’t ask how long, I didn’t look at my watch once during the day), we reached an island at the other end of the bay from Kotor. This was the island of the Virgin of the Rocks, where sailors traditionally dropped a rock on the site where an icon was found of the Virgin Mary centuries ago, to thank her for a safe homecoming. The story goes that there were so many rocks eventually, that an island was formed, and the locals built a church on top. Every year, there is a Festival when hundreds of people row or sail out to the island, taking rocks with them to shore up anywhere that seems a bit shaky. The church is absolutely beautiful, bright white walls outside, and decorated with gold, blue red and every other colour inside. Another local tradition is for brides to bring their bouquets to the church, and these hang up with all the gold and silver votives given by those grateful for calm seas, or perceived miracles.
After looking all round the church and the attached small museum, most of our boats passengers expressed their own gratitude that there were, somewhat primitive, toilets on the island. When we boarded the boat again, we travelled across to the nearest village, to look round the ‘Maritime’ museum. This is actually a palazzo, housing a totally eclectic collection of anything and everything that is local and ancient enough to be in a museum. My husband thought I qualified on the ancient part, but they wouldn’t keep me.
We sailed back to Kotor, in time to walk through the lovely Old Town, stroll along the waterside, and have a quick reviving tipple in a local bar, before going back to Oceana in time to sail to our next port of call, Hvar in Croatia. One thing I know, though – we’ll be going back to Montenegro, and the unspoilt little glory that is Kotor.