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Ulcinj Old Town

Ulcinj`s Old town is a lot like many other medieval towns on the Montenegrin Coast. It is encircled by big stonewalls and fortresses, which for centuries have been the keepers of the Ulcin`s: history, culture, and tradition. For the Old town people from Ulicnj say that it is a fortress of a unique beauty. Bulwarks, which surround it, come out directly from the sea and their surface is 3 ha. They are composed of citadel – a part which is still called upper town an a fortress of a military character, which is located on a highest stone plateau, and city community which encircles the south area which is gird by the defensive walls. It is considered that the real builders of the Old town in Ulcinj were Greeks from Epir, who built the town at the end of the V and at the beginning of the IV century B.C.

That that period can be considered as the time for which the genesis of the town can be tied with, testifies a record on the pedestal for the icon of a goddess Ara on which it is written: “The union of the stonemasons (erects) to Artemida Elafavoli (a goddess of hunt)”. That leads us to a fact that the “Cyclops” walls, as they are still called, the bulwarks of Ulcinj, were erected by the Greek masons. The town, which was made by the Greeks, was ruined in the earthquake in the V century, so for the now – day look of the Old town Ulcinj, the credit mostly goes to Romans, who built a new town in the VI century.

With the Old town many stories are connected. Up to the year 19000 in Ulcinj 100 black people lived. For the arrivals of the first men of black complexion the most important is the period when Ulcinj, that is, at that time Port Valdanos was a pirate asylum. Because of the trading of slaves from the countries of the Mediterranean, the main square in Ulcinj even today carries a name Slave Square.

Also, even today you can hear a story that the famous Spanish writer Miguel de Servantes was one of the imprisoned pirate captives and slaves in Ulcinj. In Ulcinj Servantes has spent 5 years. Later, on his returning to his homeland, Servantes writes his famous work named “Don Quixote”. It is supposed that the two female characters that are mentioned in that work are precisely inspired by the Servantes` imprisonment in Ulcinj.

The Old town represents a real nest of culturally -historical heritage of Ulcinj. Beside the North gate of the town, on the central plateau a museum complex is situated. There is also a church, a mosque, today a museum in which all relevant documents and discoveries are found. The exhibits that re worth of attention are some like: antique pedestal with a transcript to a Greek goddess Artemida, an antique cameo with the picture of a goddess with a helmet, 2 axes from the Bronze Age. In the collection of the stone objects ionic capital, parts of the Little Church form the IX century and abundance of objects from the Turkish era are being preserved.

Behind the old Ulcinj`s museum a “Tower Balsici” is located, whose space for one part was used as a gallery. “The Tower Balsici” is considered to be one of the most representative objects of the medieval architecture in Montenegro. In front of the Tower is a Little or Slave Square, enclosed by volts (casemates). In the nearby there is a high wall, better known as Balani, from the Venetian era. In front of the entrance into the museum is a ramp “ravelina”(outer part of the fortification, shaped like crescent or half – moon, which is usually situated in front of the middle bulwark and between parapets), and a Turkish drinking fountain from 1749.

Just few meters away from the main is the Ethnological museum of Ulcinj. It owns an extremely rich collection of exhibits. From it many alleys lead to the upper plateau of the old town fortress. In front of the South entrance in the town the foundations of a former Orthodox Church Holy mother of God, from the XII century, which later was turned into a catholic church of St. Marko, are found. In the vicinity of the church is also a big Venetian cistern. A little bit further is a Turkish powder magazine from the XVIII century. Nearby is an extremely luxurious building “Palata Venecija” (“Palace Venetia”), on whose place there used to be remains of an old building, so it is thought that in the building “Palata Venecija” at the time of Venetian Republic there used to be a residence of the administrators of the town.

Because of the beauty, luxuriousness and functionality the above mentioned the Montenegrin rulers Balsici used palace as a residence and a court. In the approximate vicinity of the Palace, there is a big Venetian building, “Dvori Balsica” from the XIV century – today a well-known hotel facility.

Before the entrance in the Old town there is a burial chamber, which is a specific mark of the period of Otoman`s Empire reign.

According to a legend, the burial chamber testifies about the duel of two brothers or friends, for the love of a woman. According to that story, two men have fought to death so that the winner in that duel would win the love of the beloved woman. Unable to make a decision, and not even capable of watching their fight to death, according to the legend, the young woman jumped from the house and put an end to her life. Still, the duel of the young men who at that time were highly respected in former Ulcinj was continued. One of them died in the fight, and the other not longer after the first died too. The burial chamber – on the place of their fight, represents a sanctity, which – according to the folk belief radiates and heals.

Numerous people from Ulcinj and also tourists that pass through the Old town, which even today has bars with which the burial chamber is fenced, throw in a coin for the luck.

Ulcinj`s Old town despite of the numerous damages on the South side and of low quality communal infrastructure, remains a I category monument and a candidate for the protection of UNESCO.

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