The Old Town Herceg Novi

Herceg Novi
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The old town of Herceg Novi and its attractions.

The old district of Herceg Novi differs from most other Montenegrin old towns such as Kotor, Budva, Bar, surrounded by walls and full of shops, cafes, restaurants and souvenir shops for tourists inside. The town is not one whole, protected by walls, urban area, and consists of a number of architectural objects and many houses built at different times and at different hosts, but united in the same area in the central part of the town. The old town of Herceg Novi can be called more real and alive - normal, steady urban life is preserved there, and locals still live in small cozy courtyards.

For connoisseurs of the ancient architecture, the old town of Herceg Novi is a window into the Middle Ages.

Archaeological excavations indicate that the settlement existed in this area even in ancient times. The documentary sources, Herceg Novi was first mentioned in 1382 - then the Bosnian king Tvrtko I built a fortress, which called Sveti Stefan (Sveti Stefan in Montenegrin, or San Stefano - Italian style). It was the governor, who praised Bay as a great place for the Navy and shipbuilding. After the death of the King, the castle was first retrocede to Prince Sandal Hranic, and then to his nephew - the Duke Stefan Vukic. During his rule, the settlement was granted a city status and its current name (word "Herceg" appeared in the name because of the title of Vukic).

In 1482 the Turks captured the city. The power of the Ottoman Empire lasted for nearly two centuries, apart from a short break in 1538 - 1539's, when the city was ruled by the Spaniards.
In 1688 the city was conquered by the Spaniards and it is included in the Venetian Republic, called Castelnuovo, i.e. a "New Town" or "New Fortress".
In the late 18th century, the city briefly fell under Austrian rule. From 28.02.1806 to 12.08.1807, the city belonged to Russia, and then, according to Treaties of Tilsit, it was given to France.
In 1813 the Montenegrins managed to recapture the city, but just a year later Austria-Hungary was able to bring it back under its influence, and almost a century, Herceg Novi was a part of the Dalmatian Kingdom.
In 1918, troops of Serbian army liberated all the cities of the gulf, and then Herceg Novi shared the fate of the rest of the coast – merged in Yugoslavia. After its collapse, the city became a part of Montenegro.

During its long history, this unique city repeatedly passed from hand to hand and was in Turkish (Ottoman Empire), France, Spain, Austria, Venice and even the Russian Empire possession. That is why Herceg Novi is a collection of various architectural styles and bears the marks of each of those cultures.

In addition, each of the new rulers and conquerors strived for making the city as impregnable as possible and protecting their possessions, building additional fortifications, citadels and fortresses. For this reason, today, the old town of Herceg Novi is, first and foremost, a city of fortresses, which became a real decoration and attraction of the Montenegrin city and define its appearance, delivering unique features and bringing to its walls many tourists from all over the world.
During its long history, Herceg Novi repeatedly passed from hand to hand and was in Turkish (Ottoman Empire), France, Spain, Austria, Venice and even the Russian Empire possession.
On the territory of the old town of Herceg Novi is a huge number of attractions, monuments and objects of cultural heritage. Many of these historical monuments deserve special attention.

For example, one of the main symbols of the city is the clock tower "Sahat Kula" or "Sat Kula", which translates as "Clock Tower". It was built in 1667, during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, by Turkish Sultan Mahmud and it served at the time as a main entrance to the city of Herceg Novi. In addition, decorated with several mechanical clock on several sides, it showed all citizens the time of daily Muslim prayers. Until recently, it was an old mechanical clock, winding up by using heavy weights. But in 1995 it was replaced by new, electronic one - a gift from the Serbian twin town - Zemun.

Later, in 1850, already with the Venetians, the tower was rebuilt and modified slightly - a top part was completed in pseudo Romanesque style. They also gave it a new name - Tora, which, by the way, did not stick.

Inside the tower, there is unique bas-relief, work of Sarajevo sculptor Afran Hozic, depicting the Virgin Mary under the title "Black Madonna", which is made of old smoked wood. "Black Madonna" is a code name of unusual sculptural and pictorial images of the Virgin Mary with a black face. These statues can be found throughout Europe, but most of them are located in France, where are more than 300 of them.

It is the clock tower, that is depicted on the coat of arms of the community.
The Clock Tower is located in the Square of Nikola Dzhurkovic.
The Clock Tower is located in the Square of Nikola Dzhurkovic. Dzhurkovicha square, which is sometimes called " Clock Square" can be called a historical and cultural center of Herceg Novi. It is by the local architecture and the spirit is a bit like Spain or Italy - there are many cozy cafes, where on weekdays locals leisurely drink coffee with a view of the ancient fortress, as well as read newspapers and talk very actively and noisy on various topics. During festive days, entertainment events, concerts and fairs are hold, as a rule, there.

In addition to the clock tower in the town there are two old towers - a "Western tower" located slightly above Sahat-Kula and "Tower of St. Jerome", built in honor of a local hero-liberator Jerome Korner in 1687 after the expulsion of the Turks. It is located on the east side of the old city, and now the city orchestra often performs there.

Just beyond the entrance to the old part of town is the main square of the district - the square of Herceg Stefan Vukic, in whose honor the city of Herceg Novi was named. This square during the Venetian rule was also called Belavista, which means "beautiful view". On the square there are several nice outdoor cafes where you can enjoy a cup of coffee or eat a portion or another of delicious ice cream.

On the square, there is one of the main city churches - the Orthodox Church of Archangel Michael. The church is relatively new, its construction was started by the Republic of Venice in 1883 and ended in 1911 - at the same time the church and was consecrated. The building is made of carved stone blocks and surrounded by four palm trees. This Orthodox church is a jewel of not only the city of Herceg Novi, but the whole Gulf and Montenegro at all. In the image of the church is closely intertwined Romanesque, Byzantine and Gothic styles, which elevates it to the rank of the most striking monuments of Christian architecture on the Montenegrin coast.

In the middle of the square is also a heritage of the Turkish era - drinking fountain Karachi. The fountain was presented to the city by one of the wealthiest locals in the XIX century and has the features of Gothic, Byzantine and Romanesque styles. Stone fountains and cisterns decorated the squares in many cities of the Adriatic coast. "Fountain" is translated as "source, spring of well" from the Latin language.

From this so-called fountain (actually water flows out of it only if you open the faucets, which are integrated into the central carved marble column) you can still drink water.

Also on the square of Herceg Stefan Vukic, there is a city archive, a library and an antique shop.

To the very shore of the bay, a Fortress with a beautiful name "Forte Mare" stretches out, which is translated as Sea Fortress. The date of the construction is considered the bastion building in 1382 and it was intended to protect the city from the sea. According to some reports, facing the bay fortress wall at the time had a special attachment for the mooring for ships approaching to the city. The modern view,the fortress of Forte Mare acquired only in XVII - XVIII centuries under the rule of the Venetian Republic and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. From 1952 to the present days, open-air cinema, as well as discos and concerts are held there. And here you can see not only a good movie, but also enjoy the beautiful views of the bay, the view from the back rows. Pure romance!

Near the fortress Forte Mare, on the waterfront is a monument to King Tvrtko I a founder of the city. It was established in October 2013, the day of the municipality of Herceg Novi. The height of the monument is 5, 6 meters, weight is 1.2 tons. Author of the project is a Belgrade sculptor Dragan Dimitrijevic.

Near the monument to King, the former building of the railway station is located, because before the railroad was on the waterfront location. Now this house belongs to Emir Kusturica, and inside he opened a bar, a café with a summer terrace, and a top-floor apartment for tourists. Also, there are three cinema halls, but for their main purposes, they have not been used so far - here periodically hosts small art exhibitions and sales.

Another local attraction, that has become world famous, is Citadel (Bastion) Kanli Kula - which is translated from Turkish "bloody castle" or "bloody tower". This is a military fortification built by the Ottomans in 1483, due to the tragic history of the city of Herceg Novi. This is explained by the fact that in the XVI century, during the reign of the Ottoman Empire, there was a prison, known for its brutal tortures and murders. But today nothing reminds about tragic events of the past - on the upper terrace of the bastion is a very beautiful summer open-air theater.

Spanish rule, which lasted only one year from 1538 to 1539, remained in history as a great and impregnable fortress Spanjola in the northwestern part of the city. Surprisingly, its name is preserved until now and is translated as "The Spanish Fortress", despite the fact that it was only laid by the Spaniards in 1538 and initially a fortress architecture was more like a Church. Its final image fortress acquired during the reign of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans - the Turks further strengthened it, surrounded with high walls with four speakers at the corners round bastions. This construction lasted from 1539 to 1548, and the castle was given a new name - the Upper Town (Gornji grad), which never stuck to it.

To find a way here is difficult without a reliable guide, as only narrow streets and stairs of 1000 steps are led to the fortress. But having climbed on them, you will see a beautiful panorama of the city and bay.

We cannot ignore another coastal fortress - Venetian Citadel (Citadela), which is undoubtedly the pride and decoration of the city of Herceg Novi. Citadela Fortress was built during the rule of Venetian Republic and with its help, rulers strived to protect the city from the sea. However, in the era of the Ottomans and the Austrians it was significantly modified. In the XVI century, bastion was given the name "Unshakable Tower." 

Unfortunately, the Citadel was almost completely destroyed during the earthquake in 1979, and today only ruins left.

Also, a must visit place for every tourist is an ancient monastery Savina. This building of the XI century is considered to be the Orthodox soul of Boka-Kotor Bay by locals. The date of the construction of the monastery is considered to be in 1030. The complex consists of two churches and monastic cells complex. One of the original buildings, that have survived to this day, is the small Church of the Assumption, decorated with frescoes. Big Assumption Church holds all the property of Montenegro – a miraculous icon of Savinskaya Mother of God, the celebration of which falls on 28 August. Also, there is a crystal cross in a silver frame of Saint Sava, and a portrait of the young Peter the Great, brought from Russia in 1831, in the monastery.

There are several art galleries, National History Museum, the Maritime Museum, a public library, where you can find a lot of valuable and interesting books, and a historical city archives on the territory of the old town of Herceg Novi. The exhibits of rich historical events, life in the region, as well as over 30,000 interesting documents, access to which is open, are stored at the museum of local history.

Since the historic square of Herceg Novi is located on an incline, it is full of winding streets and lots of stairs. Herceg Novi is even sometimes called "the city of a thousand steps". Therefore, walking in the Herceg-Novi, especially if you want to explore all its attractions, can be a real test for your endurance.

The old town of Herceg Novi in Montenegro is a small, but very cozy - narrow streets, red-tiled roofs, old houses in different styles with green shutters and a variety of flowers and plants, will bring you a complete delight!
The old town of Herceg Novi in Montenegro


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