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Climbing Kotor

The challenging mountain climb is a 1,350 step hike straight up to fortress San Giovanni. Or is it?

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Founded in the century 5BC, Kotor is an old, fortified seaport town that is steeped in tradition.  Fondly considered as the nation’s cultural heart, Kotor is the oldest town in Montenegro. She snuggles her limestone walls, bastions and ramparts into the ridges and folds of land below the 5,738 feet (1,749 metres) high Mount Lovćen, also known as Black Mountain, from where Montenegro takes its name. 

Entrance through the old city walls

It’s a world heritage site with medieval architecture and several Romanesque churches but it is a long way upwards, so we wisely made our ascent first thing in the morning to beat the heat.

The steps in the foreground and the town below

To be frank, it is a muscle clenching, heart-pumping workout, and whilst some say it can take 5 hours to do the climb, that’s an exaggeration.  We did the entire return trip in less than two.

Ancient and fascinating history with old curches on the ascent to San Giovanni

 At the top of the climb, your reward is the fortress of San Giovanni which was built between the 9th  and 15th century, built on Byzantine foundations from the year 532. It lords its presence over the aged red-tile-roofed township at its feet. 

The red roofs of Kotor

According to many sources, the ascension is 1,350 steps virtually straight up taking you to 1200 metres above sea level. However, before we’d reached the top a series of successive steps had 1,450 steps written on them, so the Captain ran the maths’ and it simply doesn’t add up. There are 500 steps before you ever get to the official entry and my pedometer had me at over 8,000 steps for the return to the gate. There’s no way each step equates to nearly a metre in height.

Irrespective. the climb is more than a worthwhile way to expend some energy. Along the way are several churches and opportunities to gasp at the view that lays itself out below. There is an abundance of wild flowers and butterflies (such as the swallowtail butterfly we captured below)

Butterflies and wild nature at over 1,000 steps up

It is scenically beautiful and most definitely a destination port, with multiple cruise ships arriving every morning.  They dominate the harbour and whether they are named Sea Fantasia, Viking Sky, or Celebrity Whatever, they spill out 3-5,000 tourists each and depart each evening.  No doubt the passengers are souvenir laden with shopping bags and memories of history stories for them to dine out on for some time into the future. 

The climb continues past old towers and citadels

For us, it was a cold local beer and a deliciously fresh-made burger reward at a cheap yet most excellent “10-stars on Trip Adviser” joint on the waterfront before we dinghied back to our boat, pleased that we had conquered the climb of Kotor.

A window to a meadow half way up. If you look closely you can see yet another church

‘Black Mountain Blues’ is originally a 1930’s track first released by Bessie Smith, but Janis Joplin more than gives the song credit.

I had a man in Black Mountain, the sweetest man in the town.
But then he met a city gal, that’s when he throwed me down.
Lord, I’m bound for Black Mountain, me and my razor and my gun,
I’m going back to Black Mountain, me and my razor and my gun.
I’m gonna fire him if he stands still, I’ll just cut him if he runs.
Lord, now you’ve heard my story, now you’ve heard my news.
Lord, now you’ve heard my story, now you’ve heard my news.
Now my man can clear off, I’ve got the Blackest Mountain blues.

Janis sings the Black Mountain Blues live

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2 Responses

  1. What splendid views, reminds me of the time myself and Marian climbed Penon de Ifach rock in Calpe, Spain. Such beautiful scenery made every step worthwhile.
    Who knew Montenegro was steeped in such history.
    Waiata or cruise ship, hmmm let me think 🤔
    Keep it up guys.

    1. We unexpectedly are really loving Montenegro. We knew it would be lovely in places but our entire time has been wonderful people and fabulous history, and it special in our hearts. Yes you’re so right about every step. And the exhilaration at conquering it is great for the spirit too.

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