With edges that touch the sea and limestones that reach the low clouds, Montenegro has metamorphosed and positively separated itself from its previous identity.
And yet, she has preserved the best influences of its past — their history and heritage, customs and tradition, arts and culture.
The Lady of the Rocks Island./Photo courtesy of Jocelyn Erskine-Kellie
Due to its alluring, Old-World charm, one of the most anticipated ports of call in our nine-day Mediterranean and Adriatic cruise was the fortified and historical Kotor and the quaint Perast port, which has been fishermen’s bastion for several generations.
We dashed via a speedboat to Our Lady of the Rocks, an island that continues to grow due to the Fašinada, where loyal residents of the area cast huge pebbles and tiny rocks on the surroundings, as their desire to expand the area.
We learned of local fables of seamen in the 1400s, who stumbled upon an icon of the Madonna and Child, which spurred them to build a church.
Today’s seafarers pay homage to the church before they embark on a marine voyage, with fervent prayers for safe return.
Laid-back Cafe Armonia
We spotted the towering lighthouse, which continues to be an important, piercing beacon light for ship captains and sailors on peaceful evenings and stormy nights.
But the epicenter is the chapel with the recreation of the original, surrounded by lighted votive candles left by earlier pilgrims and visitors.
Our Lady of the Rocks Church and museum.
Nearby was the museum, where we discovered handcrafted masterpieces including artworks of 17th century baroque artist Tripo Kokolja.
The most interesting were tapestries by Jacinta Kunić-Mijović, who patiently waited for her husband to return from the high seas until her hair turned grey — which were then used in her personal obras.
But in time, she lost her eyesight.
At the mainland harbor of Perast, we headed to its titular museum. We admired the well-curated personal valuable relics, eye-opener primitive tools and educational paraphernalia of seamen, shared by their families through the centuries.
We then joined a sprinkling of locals to catch the celebration of the Holy Eucharist at the neighboring Our Lady of the Rosary Church.
Though the Mass was conducted in the national Montenegrin language, the universality of the church was more than enough for us to actively participate.
We took a welcome break under the trellises full of creepers and vines at Café Armonia, even made prettier by the presence of boxfuls of potted flowering plants. Caressed by the constant cool breeze, we feasted on prawns and shrimps, octopus and white bream, all prepared in the signature traditional way.
Our next stop was the Intramuros-like World Heritage Site of Kotor, a walled-in collection of castles and bastions — such as the impressive Kotor Castle and extensive Castle of San Giovanni — situated beside grand canals and waterworks, up on hills and mountains.
The Cathedral of Saint Tryphon — the martyr evident in their Coat of Arms — stands as the territory’s oldest building, famous for its fresco masterpieces.
We stood in awe of its altar which proudly displayed a series of reliefs of various saints in gold and silver.
There was likewise a stone slab that depicted the eponymous patron’s life, as it highlighted key moments of his life.
As it started to get chilly, we found shelter at a nearby café. As we winded down, warmed by freshly-brewed coffee and newly-baked pastries, we pledged, in unison, that we must return for an exclusive and in-depth Montenegro holiday.
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