Many things can delight the senses and become part of our memories, knowledge, and overall adventure. But nothing can be more enduring and charming about a destination than the warmth of its people. And that’s how I remembered Montenegro, as a country of courteous, easygoing, and happy inhabitants. This is how we were welcomed at the pier of Kotor today, by smiling guides with whom I developed an immediate connection, as if I had known them my whole life. I felt at home, as if Montenegro, a country in the Adriatic, was instead in Latin America.
Maybe they are joyful because they live surrounded by so much beauty. They have the sea, and they have limestone mountains that rise sharply from sea level, giving the illusion of a fjord, when instead the bay was carved by rivers instead of ice.
After landing at Kotor, we took buses to the tiny baroque town of Perast. Then we went by a small boat to the rocky island of Gospa od Skrpjela, the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks. Long ago, two fishermen discovered an idol of the Virgin Mary in the shallows and determined it was a sign that a church had to be built on that very spot. At that time, however, the only exposed ground was a very small outcropping, barely above the tideline. Over several centuries, local seafarers and fisherman dropped off large rocks. Eventually, an island of significant size was formed, and a church was built with an altar made of marble of different colors, shipped all the way from Venice. We enjoyed the beautiful paintings, gifts, and the views: in all directions, the mountains, and in all directions, the sea. We returned to visit Kotor itself, to go through the gate and explore its narrow streets, many churches, and eclectic shops.
In the afternoon, we placed our trust in the steady hands of the expert drivers as we embarked on a sightseeing tour up and over the serpentine road to 3000 feet high. The sheer fjord walls have a narrow road with twenty-five thrilling switchbacks that our drivers maneuvered with steady skill. The view was worth the ride, together with a tasty treat of smoked prosciutto in the small village of Njegusi along with a splash of wine. We then descended back down to our waiting ship, where hotel manager Simon organized a feast of fresh oysters from Kotor Bay on the spanker deck. Dinner was on the Lido deck. We enjoyed the views along the seventeen miles of Kotorfjord with its background of evergreen trees until the half-moon was the brightest light in the sky. We continued sailing down the Dalmatian Coast towards Albania.