From Old Bones to Alpine Berries

As we travel around the Med we regularly see reminders of the fact that people in these parts haven’t always gotten along terribly well together. But the “memorial” in the Cathedral at Otranto is one that takes the cake. As is so often the case, religion was the reason for the slaughter. The muslims besieged the Christian town in 1480 and were fought off by the locals for 15 days before they caved in. The eight hundred that survived were then beheaded for refusing to convert. The Chapel of the Dead has the bones of those slain neatly arranged in display cases. Slightly macabre. Why can’t people just live and let live? (Even today?)

Otranto was our port of entry into Itlay, before we headed up the coast to Brindisi, Monopoli, then Bari to meet up with my brother Peter and sister-in-law, Martine. (This is in between the toe and the ball of Italy’s foot). Great fun to have them on board, as we seldom get to catch up with the Londoners. We hired a car and spent a day driving through some of the pretty towns in Puglia. Polignano a Mare sits atop craggy cliffs looking out over the Adriatic, whilst the locals all pack onto the weeny pebble beach to soak up the sun. Locorotondo has quiet, pedestrianised streets paved with smooth ivory-coloured stones and abundant planter boxes adding a snap of colour here and there. Along the way we visited Alberobello, another UNESCO World Heritage site, with the beehive-shaped “trulli” houses. We then headed north to Trani, another old walled town, where we took in the local sites and provisioned before setting off on an overnight crossing of the Adriatic. No wind. Motored all the way.

Our port of entry in Montenegro was at Budva, where yet again we enjoyed strolling through the well-preserved old town full of rabbit warren lanes. We cruised up the coast to the Bay of Kotor, stopping at Herceg Novi and Risan, before continuing up to Kotor town. Had a bit of a dingy adventure along the way when our dingy decided to cartwheel during a 40 knot gust whilst were were anchored. Luckily the rope on the dingy anchor was of the floating variety, so we were able to retrieve the anchor and tackle, but alas, the oars were gone and the outboard was decidedly unhappy. Fitz did a good job of cleaning the outboard and managed to get it going again.

During our stay in Kotor it was Martine’s birthday. We felt very virtuous having started the day climbing the 1350 steps up to the top of the town walls, some 260 metres above sea-level, for spectacular views over the harbour. Enjoyed a day sailing on the Bay of Kotor with gentle breezes and wouldn’t you know it, Fitzy took the dingy for a spin and managed to locate our lost oars! Knowing his love of nicknacks, I saw something the other day that looked really appropriate, a sailor throwing his anchor away. I’m sure I can find room for it somewhere onboard. There’s a theme emerging about Fitzy, the dingy and things going AWOL.

That evening we enjoyed a very smart bottle of champagne Peter had brought from London to help Martine celebrate her birthday. During our pre-dinner drinks on deck our Russian neighbour noticed the birthday balloons and very generously presented Martine with another very nice bottle of champagne. Ten minutes later he reappeared with a bottle of Chivas Regal. “The champagne was for the women. This is for the men!” Note to self: birthday balloons are a good lurk when moored next to super-yachts!

Next day we hired a car to take a look inland and visited the Ostrog Monastery, built into a cliff face 900 metres above the Zeta valley. Millions of Orthodox Christians make the pilgrimage annually, particularly to the impressive Upper Monastery, and to where the bones of Saint Basil lay wrapped up in a coffin.

Montenegro seems to embody the split in the Roman Empire with Catholic and Orthodox churches almost equally popular. Up until 1918 it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, so as with many parts of Europe it has known many masters, including fifty years of Communist rule. The old town of Kotor is a lovely place to spend a few days wandering around the narrow, carless streets, taking in the ancient Venetian palaces. The winged Lion of Saint Mark, the emblem of the Venetians greets you as you arrive at the Sea Gate to the town. Trolleys and carts are the favoured mode of transport. Local fishermen can be observed cleaning their mussels at the bottom of the town’s fortifications. Opposite where we were moored was a fabulous market with fresh fruit, veg, fish, meat & cheeses, etc. We loved the tiny alpine berries sold in recycled pickle jars. Sweet and tart at the same time!

We farewelled Peter and Martine in Kotor, and said goodbye to Montenegro the next day. We are now in Croatia and the Dowdneys joined us a couple of days ago. They seemed to have settled into relax mode quite well! More on that next post.

We’ve been hearing it’s cold in Melbourne, so hope those at home are keeping rugged up. Don’t forget to drop us an email or a blog comment to let us know what’s happening at your end. We’d love to hear from you. Hope you are keeping safe & well wherever you are.

Ciao for now,


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