Friday, July 4, 2014

Cruise Day 11: Kotor, Montenegro.

(Not a postcard. *I* took that freakin' picture. WITH AN IPHONE. I know, right?)

Kotor pictures are HERE.

In truth, despite our having had a really lovely time in each of the places we’ve stopped, 12 days is a bit long to be on tour at a new-place-every-day pace. One struggles with saturation, and many of the places are similar in general character, even if they differ quite a bit in their details. Marseilles, Monte Carlo, Livorno, Civitavecchia, Naples, Taormina, Corfu, Kotor: there’s a whole lot of old stone buildings and narrow alleys in those places, an awful lot of tourist shops, however fabulous.

I’ve been really itching to see Venice, and so I was kind of wishing I could give Kotor a pass. We’re both kind of homesick, and this just seemed like a place I didn’t particularly need to see.

Fortunately, nobody listened to me. Because we have an inside stateroom on this trip, there is no window and we only really know what it’s like outside when we emerge from below decks. In this case we came up for breakfast and found the ship hovering in the middle of a fjord, with fantastic, orange-tile-roofed buildings on both sides. A REALLY fantastic setting. So we headed ashore, and Susan made a beeline to a nearby pebbly beach to lounge on a chair under an umbrella (with a surreal view of the ship surrounded by rocky mountains) while I wandered thru the old town and headed up the ancient fortified wall that stretches, Great-Wall-of-China-style, up the mountains to an ancient, crumbling fort high over the town.

That turned out to be a hell of a walk, with a hell of a view at the end of it. I don’t really know how high up it was (I’m guessing a couple thousand feet up at least—this is what happens without an internet connection; I guess at stuff), but it was pretty steeply uphill for a good hour. Despite being in the shade most of the time (the sun was behind the mountains as we climbed) I was as wet as if I’d showered by the time I got to the top. A nice workout, actually. 

The walls / fortifications / path upward; all were crumbling and centuries past their prime. There were only one or two marginally-intact buildings along the path, and probably another 10 that were in ruins. Really, nothing useful is left intact—I can’t even figure out what purpose the wall served in the first place for all the effort it clearly took to build it. There’s nothing behind it for  anyone coming from the sea (and it only covers a short span above the city—it could easily have been bypassed by intruders) and it doesn’t cover enough to stop people coming from the backside. The path up looks like a medieval stone pathway suitable (in its prime) for golf carts. And next to the wall are narrow steps, about 15% of which are missing or crumbled. The path ceased to be functional for anything with wheels a couple hundred years ago, and is now mostly a Ramp Of Rubble that makes for slightly precarious walking. There were quite a few people doing the walk up and down (many stopping midway and abandoning their quest) and we had to get around each other on this steps / ramp combination. I had an ankle twist a couple times, though to no ill effect. But I wonder if they don’t log some injuries with so many tourists going up and down. They charged a paltry three Euros to walk up, some dude sitting at a card table with a little receipt-printer serving as the gate keeper. (In Croatia, the fee was seven Euros to walk the wall, and that money was clearly being poured into keeping the wall up; it was quite pristine.) There were pink garbage bags placed along the climb at regular intervals, and vendors carted coolers with water and soda up as far as they could make it and sold cold drinks for a couple Euros (I bought a water from one guy out of pity as he seemed to toil so much to get his cooler in place.)

After a few minutes’ admiration of the sight (and many pictures), I started down and met Susan back on the beach. We then strolled more thoroughly through the old town (which was inside the wall and REALLY like a blast from the past) before heading back to the ship. Because we had far to go before our next port—Venice—they needed to get an early start, and the all-aboard was at 1:30 PM. Arrival in Venice would be 24 hours later.

So I’m really glad I didn’t give Kotor a skip, as it was maybe the most extraordinary ancient village we’ve seen of all. And the wall climb was fantastic and some good exercise.

Tomorrow: Venice!

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