Thursday, December 31, 2009

Kotor, Montenegro

I learned the night before we went to Montenegro that SkyEurope was no longer flying out of Vienna as of that Friday...3 days after we'd flown with them to Split. We barely made it out! (It shut down completely about 2 weeks after I came home, so I was pretty lucky)

So, the morning after meeting with Amy, Liz and Eileen, we got up at 6:30 to head to Montenegro for our tour. At this point we were beginning to become exhausted after all the incredibly early mornings and late nights! We got to the gate about 15 minutes early, which was good because our tour van was 10 minutes early. We picked up the rest of the people for the tour (about 14 of us total) and then we drove to Montenegro, a beautiful drive as usual!

We learned that Montenegro means "The Black Mountains" in Italian, even though they speak a Slavic language. It has an Italian name because the Venetians (or the Wenetians as our tour guide Christina called them) ruled Montenegro for 4 centuries. Also, people from Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Slovenia all speak such close languages that they can understand each other perfectly, even though there are variations in the language. I'm pretty sure that Bulgarian is included in that list because Mimi and Asya (the girls from Bulgaria I met in Vienna and showed us around Sofia) could speak to the boys from Serbia that they knew. Montenegro is not an EU member, but they want to be so the country runs on the Euro because it is a stable currency, which is interesting. They're not supposed to do that. Montenegro is only 4 years old. It declared independence from Serbia on May 21, 2006. They separated peacefully, unlike Croatia and Bosnia, which many years later the effects of the war, including destroyed buildings, can still be seen. Montenegro has just 650,000 citizens.

The Bay of Kotor is on the list of the Top 25 Most Beautiful Bays in the world. We stopped at a lovely viewpoint for a few minutes to look at the bay. The sun was in a difficult spot for picture taking, but it was very beautiful.

After looking at the Bay of Kotor, we drove an hour around the entire bay to the city of Kotor. It is a walled city with a castle on the hill and a church with a view of the bay of Kotor (obviously, if you couldn't tell by the name of the city). A tour guide in the city showed us all the churches, explaining that the streets in the city are not named because they are so small and crooked they couldn't make a good system for naming. Instead, if you want to send a letter, you write the number of the building and then the square that it's closest to. There is only one street in the entire town that is actually named. It's called "Let me Pass" because 2 people can't walk down the street at the same time. All the squares are named after goods. The main square is "The Square of Arms," but they also have the Squares of Salad, Flour, Wheat, Grain etc.

The tour guide took us to a 10th century church in the same square as a 20th century Serbian Orthodox church, which was pretty cool. The way the churches were situated made the square seem very crowded....definitely a different layout then I've seen elsewhere!

She also showed us the main Catholic church (the big one with the 2 towers in the pictures below) which is the most well-known church in the town. After the tour, Ashley and I used our free time to wander the streets in Kotor and go into the 2 churches in the crowded square. We didn't pay to go into the main Catholic church, but we glanced in the large window, even though the ticket taker was glaring at us. Oh well!!

We wandered around some more, bought some souvenirs, then headed back to the shuttle to drive to the second town, Budva, also on the bay, which I will write about in the next blog.

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