Saturday, October 24

Walls, walls, walls

Dubrovnik isn’t the only spectacular walled city along the Dalmatian Coast. About two hours south, in Montenegro, lies the medieval town of Kotor. This wonderfully preserved town is surrounded by 4.5kms of impressive stone walls. Those facing the waterfront are the most impressive; 20 metres high and 15 metres wide. Kotor itself sits in s spectacular location, nestled at the end of a long fjord-like finger of the Adriatic Sea called the Boka Kotorska (Gulf of Kotor).

Kotor is reached by a scenic road tracing the dramatic shoreline. It takes more than an hour to drive this winding route, past soaring, barren limestone cliffs and villages populated by old stone buildings. Perhaps the most memorable sight along the way is the blue-domed church of Otok Gospa. While the building itself isn’t particularly note-worthy, its location is. The church sits on tiny man-made island in the middle of the gulf.

The old town of Kotor itself is a beautiful place. We spent more than an hour wandering its narrow cobblestone streets lined with all manner of magnificent stone buildings. The most impressive is its iconic postcard perfect Cathedral of Saint Tryphon. This venue’s twin towers stand above a spacious square, framed by a soaring stone cliff face. Unfortunately, the day that Garry and I visited, it was cold and damp; and the place was almost deserted. This left us with a sense of desolation rather than memories of a lively museum town that seemed to grace every guide book.

The other walled city we visited was Ston, and its neighouring port of Mali Ston. Both are located on the Peljesac peninsula, an hour north of Dubrovnik. Ston’s stone walls reminded me of another famous fortification, the Great Wall of China. At regular intervals, the wall’s narrow length is broken by a series of fortified towers. Each wall towers up to 15 metres high; first circling a small town of stone buildings before snaking dramatically up and around a nearby hillside.

Ston’s walls extend for more than six kilometres, ending on the opposite side of a narrow peninsular at the coastal village of Mali Ston. The village was completed in 1490 and clearly resembles the port of Dubrovnik with three arsenals, a round tower and a fortified port gate. As we walked down its narrow cobblestone lanes I was reminded of Mousehole, the Cornish coastal town we visited in May.

We later completed our visit by driving along the coast to Prapatna cove. This is a narrow bay with two distinguishing features; a ferry terminal for boats to the island of Hvar and small sandy beach. We stopped on the beach for a breezy autumn picnic lunch using produce we’d bought at a small local mini-mart in Ston. As with the drive to Kotor, the winding coastal road to Ston took us past some spectacular scenery. The Dalmatian Coast really is as rugged and picturesque as an atlas glance suggests.

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