On my last day in Dubrovnik, Anna Lisa and I decided to take a bus tour to Montenegro since our flights were not leaving until the next morning. Technically, my photography tour did not end until mid-morning but I decided that rather than have most of the day free, I would go on a bus tour. The tour was actually very enjoyable (23 people), however it was more rigid in terms of time than what I was used to. When you are travelling with a very small group, there is a lot more flexibility. Still it was a great day and I got a taste of Montenegro. I think I will have to go back to really see the country though as there just wasn't enough time in the places we went.
The bus first stopped at a lookout of the Bay of Kotor. The Bay of Kotor, is a winding bay of the Adriatic Sea in southwestern Montenegro. The bay was once called Europes' southernmost fjord but it is actually a ria, a submerged river valley. The bay is about 28km long from the open sea to the harbour of the city of Kotor and has a shoreline of 107.3 km. The religious heritage of the land around the bay (numerous Orthodox and Catholic charges and monasteries) makes it one of the major pilgrimage sites of the region.
After getting off the bus we all walked to the clock tower in the main square in Kotor to meet our guide. The guide took us for a thirty minute tour of the old city. The Clock Tower, shown above is a three-story building with two clock faces. On its facade is the crest from the ruling prince of the time. In front of the tower is a "pillar of shame" where local criminals were once tied up as punishment.
The main square in Kotor. Kotor is one of the best preserved medieval old towns in the Adriatic. It was fairly busy in off season, so I can imagine what the crowds would be like in the summer. The city has a population around 13,000 but in the summer with all of the cruise ships coming in, this could easily double.
The narrowest street in the town was shown to us by our guide.
Kotor has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of the fortifications surrounding the medieval town and its natural beauty.
The laundry sure added some additional colour to the garden. Anna Lisa and I were wandering around trying to find the trail that led up the mountain. The ancient walls stretch for 4.5 km (3mi) directly above the city. The start of the trail was just on the other side of this house. We really wanted to do the hike but we didn't have enough time.
We spent our free hour wandering around the streets.
In this photograph, you can see the climb up the hill that we wanted to do. One of the best views of Kotor is from the city's medieval fort walls build during the 9th century. I read that there are 1,350 stairs and it is 4,000 feet above sea level. Ideally, you should be starting the hike first thing in the morning as soon as it is open. The fort walls became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. The walls were built by the Byzantines to protect the city from invaders. However, the walls didn't actually keep out invaders since Kotor became under siege by Venetian, Ottoman and even British rule over the centuries.
Sveti Stefan (Saint Stephen) is a small islet and hotel resort in Montenegro, approximately 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) southeast of Budva. The resort includes the islet of Sveti Stefan and the part of the mainland, where the Villa Milocer (hotel) is located. This islet was an Adriatic playground for the rich and famous from the 1960's to the 1980's. The hotel is now a 5 star franchise hotel of the international group of Aman Resorts. It was completed in 2009 and is operating under a 30 year lease. Just for fun I looked up the cost of the hotel for mid June. The daily rates ran from 881.5 Euros ($1,203 CND) to 3,356.50 Euros ($4,900 CND) per night. I hope that includes breakfast! Formerly an Island, all of the buildings were acquired by the Yugoslav government and turned into an upscale hotel during the Tito Regime. The resort was also a venue for political conferences and an occasional chess venue, attracting top-class players such as Boris Spassky and Bobby Fischer. In the 1990's the break-up of Yugoslavia led to the decline of the resort. The government of Montenegro proposed to recreate the old charm of the island by inviting international bids for the revitalization project. The contract was awarded to the Aman Resorts in 2007. The refurbished resort, completed in 2009 retains the old world charm of its exterior view, with a totally modern, contemporary look for the interior. The hotel won the Hotel of the Year award from Gallivanter's Guide in 2010. In July 2014, tennis champion Novak Djokovic married Jelena Ristic at the resort.
A water taxi in Budva, our next stop on the tour.
The Venetians ruled the town of Budva for almost 400 years, from 1420 to 1797. The Venetian walls were built to protect the town against Ottoman conquests. With the fall of the Republic of Venice, Budva came under the rule of the Habsburg Monarchy. During the Napoleonic Wars, Montenegro forces allied with Russia and took control of the city in 1806 until 1807 when France took over. In 1813, Budva was ceded to the Austrian Empire which remained in control for the next 100 years. In 1918, the city remained under Austria-Hungary until after the war when it came under Yugoslavia. We wandered around the streets of the old town.
Montenegro became an independent country in 2006, with Budva as its primary tourist destination. We wandered through the streets of the old town. In 1941, Budva was annexed by Italy and was liberated from the Axis rule on November 22, 1944 to become part of Yugoslavia. A catastrophic earthquake struck Budva win 1979. Much of the old town was devastated, but today there is little evidence of the earthquake as almost all of the buildings have been restored to their original form.
The beach was not crowded at all in May.
I included this photo to show the incredible colors of the crystal clear water. The dot in the sky in far right side of the photo is a kite surfer.
We left the town around 3.30 to head back to Dubrovnik. We took a ferry ride in the Bay of Kotor and this was a view from the ferry.
After getting back to the hotel shortly before 7 PM, I decided to head into Dubrovnik one last time as I hadn't had a chance to take the cable car ride up which overlooks the city. There was a bus across the street from the hotel and after a twenty minute ride into the city I found my way to where the cable car ride started. This photo was taken while I was heading towards the start of the ride.
I actually enjoyed the views from the top much more than the photographic experience. I only had a short amount of time before the last ride down and I really didn't have enough time to explore (about an hour or so). There is an actual hike that one can take up to the top of Mount Srd with incredible views. The Dubrovnik cable car began transporting passengers in 1969 but was completely destroyed during the Croatian War of Independence, in one of the fiercest battles (Siege of Dubrovnik) of the 1991-1995 war. In the summer of 2010, the cable car rides were restored and took passengers to the top of the mountain. You can see how the cable car wires got in the way of the photo!
Looking down at the rooftops from above.
A beautiful view of the Adriatic Sea.
Mount Srd was once forested with oak trees which locals called dubrava, after which the city of Dubrovnik was named. The southern slope was once rich with pine forests, but in the second half of the 20th century and during the war, the forest was lost completely gutted from various fires.
One of the last shots before heading back to town.
I wandered into the old town and took a couple of last shots before taking the bus back to the hotel.
One last walk through the main street.
My flight to Toronto (via Zagreb and Frankfurt) was leaving at 7 AM in the morning so I arranged for a cab to pick me up around 5 AM. The cab driver was happy to stop the cab for me so I could take one last photo of Dubrovnik and enjoy looking at the city for a final view. The flight leaving Zagreb for Frankfurt was about an hour late which left me practically no time for my connecting flight to Toronto. If any of you are familiar with the Frankfurt airport you will know that it is always busy and it seems like you always have to walk a long way to get through passport control (with lineups) and to your gate. Fortunately, once we landed in Frankfurt, Air Canada arranged for about 5 of us to take a bus from the plane to near the gate where the flight was boarding. So we were able to skip passport control and make our connection. Without the special treatment, there is no way we could have made the flight. One of the other travelers said that the last time she took this route home, she was not so lucky and had to stay in Frankfurt overnight and fly to Toronto the next day. So a hectic and very long last day of travel but of course it is always worth it.