Kotor

Kotor is by all means the shiniest jewel in the crown of the Boka Kotorska, or "The Bride of the Adriatic" as it was called, an old town with a rich culture and roots reaching deep into history, and a unique place in the world, a fact recognised by UNESCO when the organisation placed the old part of the town on its list of World Heritage Sites. Located at the farthest end of the Bay of Kotor, almost pressed into the foot of the rocky mountain looming over it, Kotor may exude a slight feeling of gloominess and coldness even. This is probably due to the fact that, because it is surrounded by high mountains, the sun appears late in the morning compared to other places, and sets quite early, especially during the winter. However, Kotor more than makes up for this by the beauty of the intricate stone paved, typically Mediterranean, narrow streets and tall, stone-built houses of its old town.

The earliest beginnings of Kotor as a settlement are obscured by the vast expanse of its long history. It is hard to pinpoint the exact moment in time when the first group of people decided to set up any kind of settlement at this particular place. The earliest settlement was probably in Spiljari, a well-sheltered gap behind the old fortress. Remains of a prehistoric settlement were discovered there. Later on in history, the Illyrians fortified the place. Another mention of a settlement occurs during Roman times, with Acruvium. Traditionally, this Roman settlement is usually identified as the predecessor of Kotor. However, it is probably more accurate to assume that the Roman settlement was located further to the east of the current location of Kotor, where there was more fertile ground.

The present town of Kotor probably started developing around the area that was easier to protect and fortify, which was very important during the turbulent and violent period of its history, when barbarian onslaughts were frequent. The area where Kotor is located today is protected on all four sides - the side of a mountain on one, the sea on the other, the River Skurda from the north and the Gurdic spring from the south.

Kotor was first mentioned as Dekaderon, in 670 AD, when it was the seat of a bishopric. In this early period, the town was sacked twice - once by Saracens (867 AD) and once by Bulgarians (1002 AD). However, it managed to recover to have the role of a very important administrative and trading centre on the Adriatic Coast, under Byzantine protection.

It became a part of the Nemanjic-ruled Serbian state in 1186 AD and this was the beginning of its most prosperous period. The internal matters of the town remained under the dominance of its aristocracy of Roman descent and its merchants were provided the benefit of a guaranteed market, with Kotor becoming the most important trading port for the Serbian state. Since it changed its masters so often, and since they were of many different nations and culture, the culture of Kotor represents a colourful mix of various cultural influences, a cross between the East and the West. The 14th century was the golden age of Kotor, when it stood as an equal to its most important competitor - Dubrovnik. After the end of the dynasty of the Nemanjices, in 1371 AD, a period of internal struggle and instability ensued.