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Bay of Kotor

The Bay of Boka Kotorska (Boka kotorska) is a bay of the Adriatic Sea in south-western Montenegro. It is often called Europe's most southernmost fjord (and sometimes described as the Mediterranean's only fjord). It comprises four smaller bays; the bay's of Kotor, Risan, Tivat and Topla.

As seen in the map below, the coastline of the bay is somewhat jagged making the length of it approximately 100km with a surface area of just 87km². The narrowest part of the bay (350m wide) is at the straights of Verige and it is here stretched chains were once used to prevent enemy ships from entering the bay (verige is Serbian for 'chains'). Whilst a road runs around the bay, to save some 30km, it is possible to take a vehicle and passenger ferry across the bay between two points at Lepetane and Kamenovo. People have lived in this area since antiquity and around the Bay of Kotor may be found the well-preserved medieval towns of Kotor, Risan, Tivat, Perast, Prčanj and Herceg Novi. As well as the historic towns which attract tourists, numerous Orthodox and Catholic churches and monasteries also attract pilgrims to the area. The photos on this webpage are from two visits made in the early 2000's and a description follows.

Above: Map of Bay of Kotor [Courtesy of]

Kotor [Photos 1-13, photo gallery lower down the page] was once the most important town in the bay. Throughout Kotor's history it has had several different names, rulers and governments; the first known settlement at this end of the bay was the Greek town of Akurion. The Romans named it Acruvium and it was later named Kotor by Slavic tribes. The heart of the old town was originally built during Roman times between the 3rd and 6th centuries. In Kotor, it is possible to see elements of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque architecture alongside its its own well preserved features. such as the clock tower (from 1602), the Cathedral of St Tryphon (consecrated 1166, rebuilt/repaired after earthquakes of 1667 and 1979), [Photo 6],the churches of St Nicholas [Photo 9] and St Luca [Photo 10], several palaces and the Naval Museum of Montenegro. There is therefore plenty to see and explore within this historic city. The Cathedral of St Tryphon is one of two Roman Catholic cathedrals in Montenegro. In the 9th century, mariners carrying the remains of St Tryphon were forced by a storm to sail into the harbour at Kotor. The storm lasted for days and the citizens of Kotor told the sailors that if the saint does not wish to leave their town, he should be left and forever worshipped there: "Let him forever be our and your protector and defender". By 1166, the citizens had erected the cathedral and dedicated it to St Tryphon. Today, Kotor is a very attractive old town to walk around, with a labyrinth of narrow winding streets surrounded by 4.5km of walls which are up to 20m high. Both ends of the walls meet at the fort of St Ivan, high atop a hillside, overlooking the town.

Above: Architectural detail, Kotor Old Town

Perast [Photos 22, 23] is a small town which is famous for Marko Martinovic's naval school which has previously trained various cadets, including cadets for the Russian navy. The town also has various palaces dating from the Baroque period, a museum and its skyline is dominated by the Church of St Nikola. In front of Perast are two islands, Gospa od Škrpjela and St Đorđe (George) [Photos 24-28]. The island of Gospa od Škrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks) [Photos 26 and 27] is an artificial island. According to legend, sailors found here an icon of the Mother of God painted on a crag and so decided to build a temple here by bringing rocks to create an island on which to build it. The bringing of rocks to this site became an annual tradition and so still to this day, on 22nd July, people bring rocks here. The first known church was built on the islet in 1452. Construction of the present day church began in 1630 and completed in 1632 with further additions made to the building later on. It is possible to visit the island (I took a boat from Kotor) and see inside the church, which contains some 68 paintings by Petar Kukolj, a Baroque painter, a large collection of silver votive tablets, depicting maritime life in perast and also a famous votive tapestry by by Jacinta Kunić-Mijović from Perast; using gold and silver fibres (as well as her own hair), the tapestry took her 25 years to finish whilst waiting for her sailor lover to return. She went blind and never lived to see him again. The island of St Đorđe (George) [Photo 25] is a natural island on which there is also a church bearing its name. The island's history has included plundering by the Turks and earthquakes (1667 and 1979).

One of the lesser known sites to look out for whilst visiting the Bay of Kotor are tunnel entrances; Yugoslavia's Tito had these carved into the cliff faces to harbour naval vessels underneath the ground for defensive purposes. There are many other sites around the Bay of Kotor not mentioned on this webpage which may be of interest to the visitor if time permits and the bay may also appeal to those with a penchant for sea food dishes, for which this area is noteworthy.

The Natural and Culturo-Historical Region of Kotor is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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