Kotor, in Montenegro, was one of two ports of call that required some tricky navigation to enter or exit. Commercial ports usually requires incoming and outgoing ships to pay for a specialized pilot who knows the channels and tides. Commercial and military marine traffic into San Francisco Bay, for example, use what we call Bar Pilots. The name comes from the ring of sand bars and shipwrecks that sit just outside the Golden Gate, not from where the pilots go after work.
Navigating to Kotor involves following the channel from the Adriatic Sea in the lower left of the relief map shown below and into the two linked bays in the middle of the map. From there, the ship has to transit a narrow passage and then make a hard right turn to eventually arrive at the end of the inlet that looks kind of like a long, bony toe towards the right side of the map. Like San Francisco Bay, Kotor is a port where the pilots really earn their pay.
The water was very calm the morning we arrived. So calm, in fact, that we could see stunning mirror-like reflections of the shoreline and mountains as the sun rose behind us. The shadows made photography a little tricky, but you can see one of views below.
View of the old town part of Kotor, taken from the top deck of the ship. The old city wall is in the foreground, and near the bottom of the photo you can see a tunnel-like gate providing entrance to the narrow streets, shops and markets, and small town squares Notice the small chapel on the mountainside above town. A friend and I hiked up that far, and won the great view shown in the last photo.
Most people think of the Pacific Rim when they hear of the Ring of Fire. However, from a geologic point of view, the Ring of Fire actually describes the incredibly complex combination of fault zones, volcanic zones, subduction zones, and boundaries created by plate tectonics worldwide. The Mediterranean regions sits on the Ring of Fire, just like the Pacific Rim, so the area is prone to volcanic activity (think Aetna, Vesuvius, and Santorini) and earthquakes. Lots of earthquakes. A magnitude 5.6 quake occurred in Croatia while we were in Italy, on the other side of the Adriatic but not really all that far away. And Kotor has experienced its own share of destructive earthquakes, as illustrated in the bronze image below.
An earthquake destroyed the cathedral bell towers many years ago, but the people set about rebuilding as soon as they could. The photo below shows the rebuilt towers. One is less ornate than the other simply because they ran short of money before they could finish the second tower. So, like the rest of us, they did the best they could with what they had.
View of the old town from the mountainside chapel mentioned above. The size of the harbor and the narrowness of the channel leading to Kotor keep larger ships from reaching this port of call. The tops of the two bell towers shown above appear along the bottom of the photo, towards the left. A striking view from an enjoyable visit!