Kotor Montenegro

Slave Žižek – The Mountain Wreath Epic Montenegrin Poem

Montenegro is decidedly different from Croatia. I spent the first day in a cloud trying to accomplish basics – getting bearings, buying a local SIM, finding food, and determining a loose itinerary for the week. After days of rain, the weather was warm and sunny!

Kotor Wall at Dusk – On the Luce Travel Blog

Some tours available in summer aren’t running now, but there’s still plenty to see and learn. I’m checking into boat tours of nearby islands in the Bay of Kotor. Since it’s winter group tours are hard to find and private tours expensive.

St. George Church Kotor – Kathmandu & Beyond

Walking Kotor’s Walls to St. John’s Fortress

My first adventure was walking Kotor’s walls and the “seemingly never-ending switchbacks along the ancient ramparts” of St. John Mountain to St. John’s Fortress. The stone steps and loose rocks were challenging but not difficult. The path leads to interesting destinations, depending on how far you go and which turns you take at forks in the path. You can end up at Church of Our Lady of Remedy, Sveti Ivan Fortress, or the partially hidden Church of St. George.

Hiking the Wall

Petar II Petrović Njegoš – Montenegrin Ruler, Governor, Poet, and Philosopher

Kotor Old Town – New Location, Different Apartment

Moving between countries causes some disorientation – at least for me. Just when you’re getting comfortable in a location, it’s time to move on and everything changes. Moves keep you on your toes. My Kotor apartment is in Old Town. At first the medieval city with its narrow cobbled streets, stone archways, and dead ends seemed like an impossible maze – especially at night. My landlord gave a good orientation which didn’t make sense at the time but after a day of exploring does.

View from St. John Fortress

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“Kotor’s history is parallel to the rich culture of the town ruled by many conquerors –  Illyrians, Venetians, Austrians, French…”

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Kotor Bridge Old Town – 360monte.me

Every morning at 7:30 am Old Town church bells begin tolling. If you’re staying here and not already awake, it’s your unavoidable alarm clock! Throughout the day the bells ring at predetermined times – noon, 5 pm, 8 pm. Sunday is a day of wild church bells.

Kotor Montenegro – featurepics.com

Cars are not allowed in Old City. You can hear reverberating conversations from cafés, carts rolling along the cobbled pavement, and people passing in the narrow stone streets below. The last medieval city time I stayed in was Split Croatia. It’s a fun, interesting experience and mini taste of life in a medieval city.

Culture, Poetry, Art

Kotor’s history includes invasions by many would-be conquerors, yet Montenegro maintains a unique culture and national pride. Balkan neighbors from Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia often label relaxed Montenegrins as lazy. Not sure that’s fair. They have a “deep love and respect for family” and clearly are proud of their heritage and country. I still struggle to differentiate between Serbs, Croats, and Bosnians.

Sveti Ivan Fortress – Meanderbug

Poetry is an important part of Montenegro’s history. Gorski Vijenac (The Mountain Wreath) is a “vast epic poem focusing on the coming together (or lack thereof) of Montenegro’s many tribes”. Petar II Petrović Njegoš, Montenegrin ruler, governor, poet, and philosopher wrote the poem. It’s not an easy read but a must if you really want to understand Montenegro.

Dado Đurić Painter, Engraver, Draftsman, Illustrator, Sculptor – OKF Cetinje

Milo Milunović Painter Impressionism and Cubism – maletic.org

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Montenegro’s most formidable foes were the Venetians and Ottomans. Both cultures left a strong impact on the country.

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Saint Tryphon Cathedral Kotor

Dado Đurić Montenegrin Artist

Njegoš brought “modernization” to Montenegro in the 19th century. Between 1970 and 1974 the Montenegrin people built the highest mausoleum in the world to honor him. It’s on the second highest peak of Lovcen Mountain.

Art is important to Montenegrins. Milo Milunović and Dado Đurić are two notable contemporary artists. If possible, I’ll visit local galleries and see their work. Most major galleries are in Cetinje, Herceg-Novi, Podgorica, Bar, and Budva.

Church of Our Lady of Remedy Kotor – Photorator

Independence, Politics, Economy

Like Croatians, Montenegrins have a “relentless desire for independence”. Over centuries they’ve fought fierce battles against large invading armies.

Milo Milunović – Pinterest

Montenegro has been independent since 2006. The President Milo Đukanović is also President of the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro. He’s known as a “Balkan political strongman” and has been in power since 1997. I’ve heard that Đukanović is unpopular with younger Montenegrins.

President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović – bne IntelliNews

My landlord expressed concern that the current situation in Kosovo might have a negative impact on Montenegro. I don’t know much about it and am educating myself.

Dado Đurić Traces of Ancient Montenegro – mne.today

There’s considerable poverty in Montenegro. The average monthly salary is between 300 – 600 Euros. Montenegro’s economy is said to be “in transition”. Currently it’s service based and still recovering from the impact of the Yugoslav Wars. Montenegro experienced a real estate boom in 2006 and 2007 when wealthy “Russians, Brits, and others bought property on the Montenegrin coast”.

Steps to Sveti Ivan Fortress – Meanderbug

More later…

Ancient City of Ephesus

Nike Goddess of Victory

Nike Goddess of Victory

Library

Library of Celsus

Yesterday I visited the ancient city of Ephesus. Our group included tourists from Holland, Germany, India, Italy, and Malaysia – a fantastic mix of interesting people who were great company. It was an enjoyable and informative day with sunny weather in the 80s.

Holding up an Archway

Holding up an Archway

On the way we stopped for breakfast at Lake Bafa, a beautiful lake that was a gulf of the Aegean Sea until the earth’s elements rearranged it. The highway to Ephesus hugs the northern shore of Lake Bafa and connects the cities of İzmir, Kusadasi, and Söke to Milas and Bodrum. Olive tree groves cover the steep slopes surrounding the lake.

Bafa Lake

Bafa Lake Island

Bafa Lake

I wasn’t expecting Ephesus to be so beautiful or to be so taken by it. It’s breathtakingly gorgeous with shining white marble and colorful stone mosaics throughout! Some of the ruins are in excellent condition making it easy to imagine the ancient city. Before exploring Turkey, I thought of Italy and Greece as the Mediterranean countries with ancient ruins – didn’t realize there are so many here in Turkey!

Ruins

Ruins

Ephesus was an important city in the ancient world and a major religious center of early Christianity.  With fertile land and a strategic port on the Aegean Sea it was the gem of the region. Today its ruins are a large archaeological site and a major tourist attraction. It’s known as “the best preserved classical city of the Eastern Mediterranean”.

Great Amphitheater

Great Amphitheater

“Findings obtained in this region where the native Lelegs and Carians lived show that the city dates back to 2000 B.C. During the years 1000 B.C. the Ions (Ionia region in Anatolia) came to Ephesus led by Androckles. Ephesus was captured many times – in the 7th century B.C. by the Cimmerians (descendants of Atlantis), in 560 B.C. by the Lydians, and in 546 B.C. by the Persians.”

Ephesus Wildflower

Ephesus Wildflower

Ephesus was rescued from Persian domination by Alexander the Great. “Lysimachos, a commander in Alexander’s army, moved the settlement to a new location between Mount Panayir and Mount Bülbülaway.”

Gate of Hercules

Gate of Hercules

“The city of Ephesus was taken by the Kingdom of Pergamon after 190 B.C., by Rome in 133 B.C., and then by Byzantium. During military and historical ups and downs Ephesus maintained its importance to Christianity.”

“Ephesus lived through a third glorious period during the reign of Justinian in the middle of the 6th century A.D. At this time, the Church of St. John was built by the Byzantine emperor. The apostle St. Paul arrived during the years of 50 A.D. and at the beginning of the 2nd century St. John was buried on the hill of Ayasuluk.”

Temple of Isis

Temple of Isis

The city layout placed the Temple of Isis at the center of the Agora (marketplace), the Stoa (promenade) on the north side, the Odeion (parliament) behind it, the Prytaneion (town hall) on its flank, and the Baths of Varius on the east. At night, oil lamps illuminated the streets.

Temple of Domitian

Temple of Domitian

Ruins to the west and south of the marketplace contain the following remains and more – all with an impressive history:

• Gate of Hercules
• Library of Celsus
• Temple of Domitian
• Fountain of Trajan
• Temple of Hadrian
• Goddess of Nike (Victory)

The Great Theater is one of the most magnificent, well-preserved buildings at Ephesus. There was a cappella group visiting the theater at the same time we were. They sang a few songs – amazing how fantastic the acoustics still are in the amphitheater! With a capacity of 24.000, it’s the largest theater in Asia Minor.

Temple of Hadrian

Temple of Hadrian

Marble Street

Marble Street

St. Paul was dragged into the Great Theater to face the crowd because of his famous letter to the Ephesians. The security corp rescued him. Today festivals are still celebrated in the Great Amphitheater.

Landscape

“The avenue that passed along the front of the theater extends toward the Vedius Gymnasium and the Stadium built during the Nero period. The Church of the Virgin Mary, built at the beginning of the 4th century A.D., is behind the Port Gymnasium just before the exit from the lower north gate.”