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The Kotor - Constantinople Express

Copyright © by Alan Grant
Kotor, square of weapons

For centuries, the tiny Montenegrin statelet was sandwiched uncomfortably between the Ottomans and the Venetians. However, as Elizabeth Roberts points out in her history of Montenegro, this was “not always detrimental to Montenegrin interests”.

For example, Montenegrins often acted as couriers, maintaining a link between the Ottomans and Venice despite long periods of warfare. Venetian merchants needed to be in constant communication with their agents in Constantinople, and entrusted their despatches from Venice to Montenegrin messengers who secured their safe passage through Ottoman territories by means of guarantees and protection paid for by Venetian gold. The route, from Kotor to Pristina, crossed the mountains of Hercegovina but with the passage of time this route was felt to be too slow and in 1612 a Venetian from Kotor, Marino Bolizza, was charged with developing a new route.

Messengers would then travel from Kotor to the former Constantinople now Istanbul, crossing the territory of the warlike Kuci and Klimenti tribes along the mountainous borders of Kosovo, and on through Pec to Pristina, Phillippopolis1 and Adrianople, taking only eighteen days to complete the journey. Ultimately this route was found to be too insecure with the result that the couriers returned to the older, slower route. But this change was only made after many costly incidents; mostly the service continued in spite of war. A sixteenth-century traveller, Fynes Moryson, writing from Dubrovnik, (Ragusa) in 1595, recalled: "When we inquired of the war from Raguza [sic] to Constantinople by land, all the Postes and Messengers passing that way told us that the warre of Hungarie made all those parts full of tragedies and miserie."
1 Philippopolis is the old name for Plovdiv in Bulgaria and Adrianople is now Edirne, in Turkish Thrace, close to the Greek and Bulgarian frontiers.

Realm of the Black Mountain: A History of Montenegro. Elizabeth Roberts. 2007.
[pp. 111-1 / Hurst]

January 2007
Tim Judah

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  1. Istanbul: Pamuk's City
  2. Istanbul: Swimming across the Bosphorus
  3. Salonika and the Jews
  4. Salonica: Slaves and Trade
  5. Thessalonika: 1923
  6. Ohrid: Rise and Fall
  7. Tornado of Dust - 1944
  8. Awake Romania - 1989
  9. Novi Sad: Nest of the Serbian nation
  10. Nis: War Capital, 1915
  11. Belgrade and the Selenites
  12. 1996: Serbia Calling
  13. Belgrade Train Station - 1964
  14. Srebrenica: Vengeance
  15. Srebrenica: Blood
  16. Srebrenica: July 1995
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  18. Dayton: The Napkin Shuttle
  19. London Buses in Sarajevo
  20. The Museum and Bosnian Identity
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  22. Kosovo: The Swiss Front
  23. Mitrovica: 1908
  24. Pristina: Kosovo like Namibia?
  25. City without traffic - Pristina 1966
  26. Durham in Pristina - 1908
  27. Tirana: 1962
  28. Zog's Tirana
  29. The Kotor - Constantinople Express
  30. Kotor and the Montenegrins
  31. The Rabbi of Stolac
  32. Dubrovnik: England, Wine and Wool
  33. Cetinje: Nikola Under the Elm
  34. Cetinje: 1858
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  40. Zamfirovo: Rural livelihoods in the mid-1990s
  41. Kosovo
  42. Romania: 1914
  43. Istanbul: Food and the frugal Turks
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