Thursday, October 6, 2011

Magic in Montenegro

I just returned from Montenegro's Bay of Kotor -- a dramatic landscape of craggy mountains and turquoise waters. A land where the early morning sun brushes across the towering peaks, painting a luminous broad swath across the rough limestone surface. Where the black veil of night is streaked with a zig-zag glow from the string of Kotor's medieval battlements that are lit up along their length as they snake up the steep slope.

On this trip with Ramblers Worldwide Holidays, turning a corner along many a bay brings a surprise. While I spent most of my time hiking the rocky slopes covered with fragrant macchia, oaks and conifers, the magical waters were almost always within view. And then there were those few excursions onto the mirror-like watery surface itself that brought more discoveries.

Perast is just one of several gems in the necklace of towns along the Bay that's often referred to as a fjord, but, in fact, geologically it isn't since glacial activity were not responsible for its formation. This Baroque village, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is most heralded as the birthplace of some very well-regarded sailors. With the rise in prosperity in the 17th and 18th centuries, maritime captains established themselves in palaces and villas, some which remain today, converted into houses, accommodations -- such as the Hotel Admiral, restaurants (like the Per Astra Restaurant) and even a museum.



The offshore twin islets, St. George and Our Lady of the Rock, add to the allure of Perast. Taking a ferry, we motor out towards the wee rocks, seeing the tall, monolith-like cypress trees encircling a 12th century Benedictine monastery on St. George, where the abbey was destroyed in an earthquake.

While visitors are not allowed to set foot on this island, we dock at Our Lady of the Rock, appropriately named given that, according to legend, a painting of the Virgin Mary was discovered on a tiny rock jutting from the sea at this very spot. (The artificial islet itself was created by rocks added bit, by bit, over time.) Now, in her honor, stands a brilliant blue-domed church that we tour with and English-speaking guide who points out the dozens of oil paintings, 17th century working organ, silver crowns, and many precious and domestic gifts (from irons to sewing machines) that were donated to ward off disasters at sea. Probably the most memorial item is a work of embroidery hung on a wall: a woman used silk, gold and silver threads and her own hair to sew an image of the Virgin encircled by cherubs. (It took her 25 years while her husband was at sea and, supposedly, the hair-threads turned white over time and she became blind. It's unclear if her husband ever made it home.)

22 comments:

Steve said...

Amazing photos... This place looks incredible.

JTravel said...

Hi Steve, thanks. Glad you liked 'em. Wish I had more time. That Bay is really pretty sweet.

Jane Boursaw said...

How beautiful. I love your travel stories, photos and hidden treasures you find along the way.

JTravel said...

Hi Jane, Thanks, much. I'm so happy that you enjoy reading my posts.

Sheryl said...

Thanks for the ultra-interesting tour and beautiful photos! The blues are incredible; I'm sure even more so in person.

MyKidsEatSquid said...

What a story to end with. Your trip sounds fascinating. What sort of food did you eat during your stay?

JTravel said...

Hi Sheryl, Yes, the natural scenery was so gorgeous that I couldn't stop looking around, which is a problem when you're trying to stay upright on a narrow, rocky trail.

JTravel said...

Hi MyKidsEatSquid, I have to say that I didn't love the food I ate when I was with the group. But when I did exploring on my own, I found some lovely cafes serving tasty seafood, including risotto with octopus and shrimp; and a pizza with tuna and capers.

judy stock said...

Looks like an enchanting place to visit! Loved the island monastery. So many opportunities for photographs!!

Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart said...

Those pointy trees are wild.

JTravel said...

Hi Judy, I loved it that the island is so easy to get to.

JTravel said...

Hi Roxanne, I loved those cypress trees, too.

Casey@Good. Food. Stories. said...

gorgeous! Who knew all of this was tucked away in Montenegro?

JTravel said...

Hi Casey, I know. So surprising. And this is just a tiny snapshot of the beauty I experienced in Montenegro.

Nicol said...

Stunning photos. These places are so interesting and full of enchanting spirit!

JTravel said...

Hi Nicol, For me, Montenegro is synonymous with enchantment. Glad you enjoyed my photos.

Living Large said...

Lovely photos, they put you right there. This looks like a wonderful place!

merr said...

Gorgeous photos...wow! I have never been but would love to see a place so lovely.

Kendice said...

Montenegro has this special magic that is cast on everyone who sets foot there. Beautiful and fresh in every aspect!

JTravel said...

Hi Living Large, thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed my photos.

JTravel said...

Hi merr, I appreciate your comments. Kotor Bay is an amazingly beautiful part of Montenegro. It's hard not to take great shots there.

JTravel said...

Hi Kendice, Yes, I totally agree with you. It is a magical place.