"When our planet was born, the most beautiful encounter between sea and land took place in Montenegro." What? wrote Lord Byron and if you go to Kotor (Cattaro) you understand why? we just can't blame him.
We leave Trieste by car with the idea of taking it easy and arrive in Kotor after two days: the first stop? one night in Split (Split, a beautiful city on the Croatian coast) the second? in Trsteno, just before Dubrovnik (Ragusa), a small town with a beautiful marina where you can swim and a magnificent arboretum.
With us c '? also Viola, our dog, a peaceful and nice labrador but who, not having the size of a Chihuahua, is not? always easy to place in hotels and rooms for rent. However, despite not having booked anything before leaving, we do not encounter particular problems in finding accommodation in private houses, whose owners rent rooms at decent prices. We are in peak season and the average cost of an unassuming room for three people with a dog (cleaning usually comes with a small surcharge) is between 45 and 60 Euros per day.
Like in Split or Dubrovnik, also in Kotor - especially in August -? full of tourists.
Difficult to find a place at the last moment, so? - leaving out Budva, pi? suitable for who can? do nightlife and love the sand - we fall back on Prčanj, a village 5 km from Kotor, on the Jadranska magistrala, the coastal road that from Kotor descends along the coast, and we find a place at the Konoba Ferao (Ferao Tavern), which now unfortunately ? been closed.
We book for two nights, then we stop for almost five days why? the owners are nice, the food great and you just have to cross the street to be "on the beach".
We alternate visits to Kotor with sunny days on the pier, while Mati, who has made friends with a former Belgrade diving champion, enters and exits the water of the fjord continuously.
The Konoba Ferao not only had a restaurant with tables on the sea side, but also two spacious (and very "vintage") rooms in which both children and dogs could enter, and a comfortable internal courtyard.
Along Jadranska magistrala, however, there are other taverns and so, if you ever go there, stop at least for a grilled fish and a glass of white wine. You will not regret it.
Day dedicated to the sea and visits to the city. On this day we saw the Bay of Kotor.
The Bocche di Cattaro, a series of natural bays surrounded by the Dinaric Alps, are certainly one of the wonders of the eastern Adriatic coast. The Bocche creeps inland for about thirty kilometers and the entire area has about ten inhabited centers.
Founded by the Romans, Serbian during the Middle Ages, Venetian for more? three hundred years old (from 1420 to 1797), Austrian until the First World War, then Yugoslav and finally Montenegrin, Kotor is located south-east of the fjord of the same name, protected by the spectacular walls that rise along the side of the mountain. The historic center of the city? ? enclosed between the sea and the mountains and? accessible through three doors.
The Kurdish River Gate corresponds to the North entrance and dates back to 1540; the Porta Marina, west entrance,? of 1550; the Porta di Terra or Porta Gurdić, the southern entrance, was only completed in the th century.
Day dedicated to the sea and visits to the city. On this day we saw the fortifications of Kotor.
Behind, on the top? of the mountain rises the Illyrian fortress, the Castle of San Giovanni, from which you can enjoy a spectacular view over the entire Gulf of Kotor.
The fortifications of Kotor were erected over the centuries by Illyrians, Byzantines, Venetians and Austrians and represent an exceptional example of military architecture, so much so that they were included, together with the city? and its natural and historical-cultural region, in the list of world heritage sites of humanity? protected by UNESCO.
Day dedicated to the sea and visits to the city. On this day we saw the churches of Kotor.
Kotor, in addition to towers and bastions, some of which bear the name of ancient patrician families of Venice such as the Corner and the Contarini, also has various churches and convents, such as the ancient Cathedral of San Trifone (1166 AD), seat of the Catholic diocese of Montenegro, the Church of San Nicola (1909th-1195th century), built in on the foundations of the previous buildings and the Orthodox Cathedral of Kotor, and the Church of San Luca (), initially Catholic and then Orthodox, which has two altars , dedicated to both cults.
After five days of total relaxation we get back in the car, spend a night in Cetinje, which was the capital of Montenegro until the First World War and take the road to? Abljak, the mountain town in the heart of the Durmitor National Park.
The road leading to the mountains has something of a Tartar Desert, Mongolian border, with Balkan pride.
Authentic Montenegro starts here. Crna Gora, the name of the country in Serbian-Montenegrin, means "Black Mountain" and from the time of the times? was inhabited by shepherds and warriors, proud people, accustomed to living in a harsh, inhospitable territory and, at the same time, endowed with a wonderful, wild and powerful nature that - at least until? mass tourism will not be? also arrived here? - remains, for the most part, intact.
In? Abljak we lodge in a private house whose owners rented the attic apartment on the second floor and start exploring the area.
Day dedicated to the visit of: Durmitor and the Canyon of the River Tara.
Durmitor National Park takes its name from the massif which is located in the north-east of Montenegro and is part of the Dinaric Alps.
The Durmitor massif? bounded by three canyons, respectively of the rivers Tara (North), Piva (West) and Komarnica (South).
The Tara canyon? the largest in Europe and the second in the world after the Grand Canyon, carved by the Colorado River in Arizona (USA). In addition to a myriad of rafting centers, in the Tara canyon there are also dense forests that contain ancient monasteries.
Day dedicated to visiting the Black Lake.
Crno Jezero, the Black Lake is located near? Abljak and? the pi? large of the numerous lakes of glacial origin of the Durmitor massif.
The tourist area of Lago Nero (entrance fee: about 3 Euros. By the way: in Montenegro they have the Euro, even if they have not yet officially entered the community currency system) offers a parking lot, some food stalls, the possibility? to rent rowing boats, but not only. Inside, in fact, c '? (or there was, I don't know, almost 6 years have passed) also a kind of Adventure Park, one where you can climb and throw yourself from one tree to another using ropes and pulleys. My two men felt the thrill of the launch ... It is up to you to decide whether to embark on the adventure.
Two days in Mostar.
After the immense natural beauty of Montenegro? now (unfortunately) to turn the bow towards home. We decide to return to Trieste via Bosnia and stop in Mostar. From? Abljak to Mostar it takes about 4 hours by car; pi? or less 1/3 of the time it takes from Mostar to Trieste.
The city, which stands on the Neretva River, takes its name from the ancient and now famous bridge, the Stari Most (Old Bridge), which was destroyed in 1993 during the Bosnian War and definitively rebuilt in 2004, becoming a UNESCO site.
Stari Most - The Old Bridge.
Stari Most? a humpback bridge higher of 20 meters which dates back to the Ottoman period (it was built in the th century by Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent) and currently? the symbol of the city? and the reconciliation between Christians and Muslims after the massacres of the war in the former Yugoslavia.
Stari Most? famous all over the world also for the practice of diving which seems to be already in vogue? for centuries as a stunt competition: the height? remarkable and the water of Neretva very cold!
But maybe not? just a long-standing tradition revived to attract the attention of tourists.
In the exhibition, invariably, I? seemed to perceive something else. After all, jumping off a bridge? symbolic. Who launches from the bridge? desperate.
In Mostar, as in the rest of Bosnia, a quarter of a century ago an entire generation of young people was sacrificed to the icy horror of war and, therefore, the position of "Christ on the cross" of the diver you see in one of the photos, captured by shot just before he leaned forward to complete the dive, for me it takes on the sense of an "in memoriam" of those who died, often in their prime, during the conflict.
That of the former Yugoslavia was a war "on the doorstep", especially for us from Trieste. So? I recommend a book: "Masks for a massacre" by Paolo Rumiz written shortly before the massacre in Srebrenica and dedicated to the Trieste journalists Dario D'Angelo, Marco Luchetta and Sa? a Ota, who died in Mostar on January 28, 1994.
Bazaars, Ottoman houses and mosques.
Today on the Mostar bridge you can walk quietly, stop for a coffee? Bosnian (bosanska kava), that is? a coffee? turkish, in one of the many kiosks of the old Kujiundziluk bazaar (from kujiundzija: goldsmith) and smile (but not so much) in front of the T-shirts hanging outside the countless souvenir stalls that bear the inscription: I am muslim, don't panic . It is in one of these little shops that Mati falls in love with a bichaq (fake, of course), the dagger of the Ottoman infantry, also worn by civilians as a defense weapon.
We buy it for him and then we go to visit one of Mostar's Ottoman residences, the beautiful Bi? Ćevića kuća (the others are Kajtazova and Muslibegovića). Bi? Ćevića kuća (House Bi? Ćevića)? a jewel dating back to the period of Ottoman domination in Bosnia (th-th century). The house overlooks the Neretva River and was built by one of the oldest families. influential of the time, the Bi? ćević.
But in this city, which has now become a symbol of Peace, c '? much more: in addition to the excellent food of Turkish origin and hospitality? of the people, you can admire some mosques such as the Koski Mehmed-Pa? ha (excellent for the view over the city), the Karađozbegova (the largest) which also contains a library, and the Nezir-aga Mosque, the largest one. ancient, which is located right in the historic center.
By now you will have understood: I have a boundless love for the Balkans. From Croatia to Montenegro and Bosnia, from Serbia to Macedonia, up to the Peloponnese, these are lands that, once traveled, do not leave unscathed. They get into your blood.
We are truly in the heart of Europe, with its contradictions, its troubled, bloody and, at the same time, poetic history, always poised between East and West, and its inimitable beauty.
So, in addition to the advice to take a trip to the Balkans, I leave you with the wish to visit Kotor, Durmitor, Mostar (and Sarajevo) why? in a world more and more? violent and divided, certain experiences are useful. Why? remember, perhaps, can? help not to repeat.