Kotor, Montenegro is on the agenda today. This island has survived wars, earthquakes even the black and bubonic plagues. It started with the Illyrians, (Balkans) who had their own God, own language and own traditions. Then came the tribe Dalmatae (which means sheep)...I guess the movie should have been 101 sheep instead of 101 dogs and could have still been called 101 Dalmations. Then came the Roman, Byzantine, Hungarian, Serbian and Bosnian rulers and finally in 1391 Kotor becomes independant....until 1420 when it joins the Venetian Republic for protection against the Ottoman Empire. This is a fortress and is the best preserved medieval fortress in the world. The location is prime. Alkima, (a fairie) said" let the seaside be your place of residence as you would have no life without the sea."
Another legend...two travellers sailing around the world suddenly felt the need to stop and rest on the hillside of this island. They saw a rock with an inscription that said "dig". They did and found a chest with another inscription that read "wish for whatever you want before you sleep". They wished for nice stone houses and beautiful wives. In the morning their houses and wives appeared. Every night they made the same wish and more houses appeared every day.
The fortified walls of Kotor is the main entrance to the Old Town. The Sea Gate of 1555...unique in that is chock full of symbols. Above the archway there is a rectangle with a star in it. 21xi-1944...marks the liberation from WWII. Above that is a beautiful coat of arms which was one of the last remaining of Yugoslavia. Below that is a quote from it's president at says " We will not take yours, but we will not give up ours."
The walls of Kotor are 6-50 feet wide and the tallest section is 60 feet high. It forms a loop of about 2 1/2 miles long to protect it's people inside. Looking up into the hillside I see a zig-zag pattern. There are 1350 steps that rise up 850 feet. (I'm thinking Stairway to Heaven) Midway there is a church "Sveti IIuan (St John)...This is where people stop to pray that they make it to the top. It ends at an overlook...this was to keep an eye out for the bad guys.
Looking over at the sea there appears to be a floating church..called Our Lady of the Rocks. Another legend...in 1452 some fishermen saw something shiny...it was an image of Madonna and Child. This church was built in honor of the Madonna. This church was built on an oath taken by the townsfold to honor Madonna. It is man made by piles of rocks thrown into the sea (this took years). The "Rock's" story...it took centuries to build... and a sprinkle of faith. Everytime a ship returned safely from sea the townsfolk honored this spot and added another rock. Under the church lies a cemetary of old wooden boats no longer useful.. filled with rocks and sunk to add a foundation for this church. In 1630 the rockpile supported a tiny blue domed chapel. It's quite impressive with beautiful artwork inside. Two artists, one worked in brass and the other...hair.
One piece is the original marble rock with Madonna and Child carved into it that inspired the church. Above the alter over 200 single silver pieces which were signs of gratitude from seafarers, from fishermen and from the people of this region who belive in the Virgin Mary as their Protectress.
There are also 68 works of art from Tripo Kokolja, the biggest baroque artist in the 17th century from the Balkans. Most incredible...on the ceiling shows the assumption of Virgin Mary into heaven. This church is dedicated to that so it is most important.
There is also a small museum next to the chapel which houses a work of art done while waiting for her sailor husband to come home from sea. It is an embroidery made from her hair and silver and gold threads. It is called Love and Faith. Legend has it that eventually the artist went blind and never saw her husband return. Her work of art, Love and Faith, is still appreciated today.
Every 22nd of July, small wooden boats parade past the chapel and throw stones into the sea to maintain the island and saving over a 500 year old tradition. It is still an active church today!
A boat ride back to Kotor we visit the Lady of Remedy church. Named because she brought salvation from the bubonic and black plagues. She saved the town from black death. Obviously..it helped...the place is still here...thank you, Our Lady of Remedy.
St. Tryphon and his relics...one side 809 the other side 2009...Healer of Animals. The Church is pink inside due to the pink stone from the area. On the way to Venice his relics were transported from Asia to Venice during a storm and stopped in Kotor to take a rest. Whenever he tried to leave with his relics...there was another storm. He realized God must be saying "Stay here". It was a sign ...and he became a Patron Saint dedicated to Saint Luke. In 1195 it operated as a Catholic and Orthodox church at the same time...and...it was never destroyed by the earthquakes..ever. (That's what I call..."Divine Intervention."
The town has spagetti-like streets which were designed purposely to protect the town from intruders. It also has uniquely named squares...Wood square, Milk square, even Salad square...used for merchants and named after the products they sold. There is a Weapons square as well. By the clock tower in town is a pyramid..Pilar of Shame..if you stole a piece of bread or committed a minor crime you were tied to the pilar and everyone in town was invited to throw things at you like eggs or tomatos. There were rules to this...you could not throw anything that would hurt ...so...definitely..no watermelons! So..do not try to steal anything in Kotor!! I won't be!!!
Gossiping is ok though by the old water pump in town. Its called Karampana. While doing their laundry everybody talked about everybody in town. Privacy was something like "once upon a time"!! So they gathered "around the water cooler (so to speak) and caught up on the latest gossip. The town newspaper apptly named "Karampana" posts some of the stories even today. There was just an article about the town Doctor who was seen with a woman...not his wife. It said "we didnt know he had a daughter that old"...now the Doctor is published!!! (Kind of like Facebook)!