Riviera has arrived in Europe for the
summer, and today she calls on lovely Kotor, Montenegro. As Blogger-at-Large for Oceania Cruises,
I recently had the pleasure of visiting this charming town and have many fond
memories and fantastic photos from my time spent there.

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As with many costal towns, the views are among the most
memorable aspects of a visit to this beautiful little city, nestled in a
secluded area of the Gulf of Kotor just off the Adriatic Sea. The inlet on
which the town lies has been called the southernmost fjord in Europe, but technically
it is not a fjord. It is actually a ria, a coastal inlet formed by a submerged
river valley. Regardless of the scientific name, the result of nature’s work is
spectacular scenery. When calling on Kotor, you most definitely want to be on
deck as the ship sails into port.

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Flanking the ship, forested mountains rise out of the
tranquil sea as you sail the meandering route toward
Kotor. As you approach, you can see two diminutive islands off the coast from
the town of Perast, each island just large enough to support a religious
edifice. The manmade island is home to the Church of Our Lady of the Rocks, and
a Benedictine monastery stands on the natural island, known as St. George
Island (pictured below).

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Continuing on to the far end of the cove, you are greeted by
the charming coral-tiled roofs of the Old Town of Kotor. The town was settled in ancient Roman times and became
an important center of trade in this region in the Middle Ages. Four
centuries of Venetian rule gave Kotor its Venetian look and feel, including the
fortifications that still surround the Old Town. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is one of
the best-preserved medieval towns in the Adriatic. Several monuments, including
the Cathedral of Saint Tryphon and the town walls, were seriously damaged by an
earthquake in 1979, but the town has since been meticulously restored.

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Just a short walk from the cruise pier, the Old Town is primarily
pedestrian and thus best appreciated on foot. I had a wonderful time exploring
the narrow, winding lanes with photo opportunities around every corner.

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The inscription above the entrance to the walled Old Town
reads, “What
belongs to others we don’t want; what is ours we will never surrender.” The
10th century Cathedral of Saint Tryphon certainly embodies the “never
surrender” spirit. Badly damaged in two earthquakes, it stands beautifully
preserved today. After the first quake in the 15th century, it took years to
raise the funds and complete the reconstruction, which accounts for the
different styles of the two towers. One of only two Catholic churches in
Montenegro, it was built in honor of Kotor’s patron saint and protector.

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Behind the Old Town, an ancient stone pathway consisting of
more than 1,300 stairs leads to the old fortress perched on the mountain. Along
the way you pass the lovely 15th century Church of Our Lady of Health, which
offers another fantastic photo opportunity, not to mention an excuse to rest a
bit from climbing. If you have the stamina to reach the Castle of St. John, you
will be rewarded with amazing views of the town, the bay and your ship. The
climb is a challenging one, but it is definitely worth the effort!

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As my day in Kotor drew to a close, the wind picked up and
the rain clouds began to roll in. But not even gray skies could diminish the
beauty of the view as we sailed out of the bay.

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I am grateful to Oceania Cruises team member Vanessa Cordo
and Oceania Cruises guest Peter Pretty, who also contributed some fabulous
photos from their visits to Kotor. Guests onboard Riviera today are the first of the season to call on this gorgeous
destination. I have no doubt they are enjoying a truly memorable day and
capturing many photos of their own!