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Montenegro: Kotor fortress

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Kotor fortress | Montenegro | Europe

[Visited: August 2009]

When you arrive in Kotor for the first time by road from the south, it is difficult to imagine that this lovely town lies on the far end of a fjord (actually, formerly a river canyon), and not a lake. The open sea is far from here, and that is what gave Kotor a special place in history: while on the sea, its location is not as easily accessible as most other coastal towns. The steep mountains rising right behind the town are a perfect foundation to build a fortress, and this is exactly what the Illyrians and later the Romans did. Venetian rule and strengthening of the fortifications could not prevent the Ottomans to capture the fortress twice in the 16th and 17th century. Several big powers have had their base here, while several earthquakes also damaged the fortifications on several occasions.

Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Fortress wall with view over the Bay of Kotor from the top of the fortress

From below, especially from the other side of the bay, you can see the city walls high above Kotor, reaching up to the top of St John Mountain and St John Castle. The walls actually continue all the way around the old town at sea level. In total, the length of the city walls is 4,5 km, and it has plenty bastions for added strength. Its attraction proved too strong for me, and when the sun was already going down and the worst heat of the day was over, I started hiking up the fortress. A steep beginning allowed for views over the attractive medieval old town of Kotor, and I soon reached the church of our Lady of Remedy. The church itself is closed, but climbing a little higher gives splendid views over the Bay of Kotor with the bell tower of the church in the foreground.

Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Kotor fortress at the top of the hill

On my way further up, I passed some parts of the ramparts that were in a pretty bad shape, and several bastions closed for visitors. While looking down occasionally, the triangular shape of Kotor became always clearer. I maintained a high pace on my climb further up, and reached St John fortress in some twenty minutes after leaving Kotor. The Montenegrin flag, that I had seen flying on top of the fortress from the other side of the Bay of Kotor, now appeared like a prominent part of the fortress. Time to drink some water, and enjoy the amazing views over the entire Bay of Kotor, the ramparts of the fortress below, the setting sun behind the mountain ridge to the west, and others working their way up the stony paths leading up to the fortress. When it was getting dark, I decided to descend to Kotor again, being careful not to fall on the slippery stones. Later that night, looking at the illuminated walls of the fortress again, it appeared like a lion, and with the reflection in the tranquil waters of the bay, like a heart. During the day, the fortress looks beautiful, but during the night, it takes on a completely different, magnificent appearance.

Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Venetian lion guarding an entrance gate of Kotor fortress
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Much of the climb of Kotor fortress is over stone paths like this one
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): View over Kotor and the Bay of Kotor, with a church in the foreground
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Church of our Lady of Remedy seen from below
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Some of the fortified walls of Kotor fortress seen from below
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Walls of Kotor fortress in the foreground, Bay of Kotor below
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Montenegrin flag and remains of the fortress at the top
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Fortress walls on top of the hill overgrown with plants
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Reflection of lights of Kotor and the fortress in the waters of the Bay of Kotor
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): View of Kotor fortress from below
Picture of Kotor fortress (Montenegro): Detail of Kotor fortress

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