Ulcinj is maybe the most interesting and romantic city on the east coast of Montenegro, truly an mosaic of civilisations.
Ulcinj has become a unique „open town“ in which various cultures can be identified. In the Old Town one can still recognize the strong presence of the Orient and the West, the Mediterranean and Europe.Since its foundation it has been a significant sea and trade harbor, and in the time between the end of the 16th and beginning of the 19th century it used to be an important pirate stronghold.Nature has really been generous to this town.
With its coast of 33 km it is gently swinging from north to south. The dark blue sea, the green-eyed river Bojana and the island of Ada on its mouth, the rich Shas Lake, the hundred-year-old olive grove, the beautiful grove of Valdanos, the healing springs and the nappy Pine wood, as well as the long breathtaking sandy beaches, are just some of the nature's beauties that cannot be decsribed in words. You simply have to experience them.
The Old Town in Ulcinj is one of the oldest urban architectural complexes along the Adriatic Sea. In this enchanting dish resembling a stranded ship for 25 centuries life has been booming, civilizations have been exchanging leaving their vivid traces up to now.It is a unique opinion that the Old Town represents a cultural-historical monument of invaluable significance due to its Illyrian walls, its citadel, the street net, the markets and squares, some house blocks and some valuable architectural edifices, and especially due to its town landscape, silhouette and urban plaster.
It has been built for 2.5 millenniums and during different economical, military and cultural conditions, thus the old town has got the characteristic of an organic complex. It is an antique town with picturesque middle-aged, narrow and curving streets, densely joined two-and- three-floor stone houses decorated by elements of the Renaissance and Baroque, and finally there is a series of valuable edifices from the Ottoman time.The oldest remnants of the walls date back to the Illyrian time. In the VI century the town got two gates: the lower (Eastern), which can be reached from the sea-side and the upper (Western), which can be reached from land.
In the Old Town there is a small square, once the Slave Square. It is surrounded by arches, due to the fact that since the middle of the XVII century Ulcinj had become a significant slave market. These slaves used to be captured by Ulcinj pirates.Most of the slaves in Ulcinj came from Italy and Dalmatia. The Ulcinj pirates mostly robbed rich villas along the coast of Apulia and Sicily, and then they would capture the owners and sell them as slaves. The people of Ulcinj kept the slaves as convicts and did not use them for any kind of work, but to get the ransom from their relatives, friends, or countrymen of the captured p Therefore they had to make it possible for the slaves to send messages to their homes or relatives, in order to inform the family or the municipality about their members to have been made into slaves in Ulcinj, so that they would come to offer the ransom.Since the middle of the XVIII century the tastes have changed, so that the courtiers began to look for slaves from Africa.
Later they would have been sold again or brought to Ulcinj, where they soon became free citizens and they would be involved in agriculture and seafaring.There is a small community of their descendants still living in Ulcinj.
By the legend at the end of XVI century famous Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes was salve in Ulcinj. Some researchers in Dulcinea del Toboso, main heroine of the novel, recognized woman from Ulcinj. He wrote his famous novel "Don Quixote" after being enslaved in Ulcinj, which was called Dulcigno in roman time. So it is suggested that Dulcinea was the name of woman from Ulcinj. Legend mentioned a man named Serevt, which destiny, but also the root of his name, matches with story of Cervantes.
Research of the several texts will lead us to discovering that 24 year old Cervantes was captured: "one day in 1575. when three Ulcinj "Leuta's" (fast pirate ships) under the command of fears captain Arnaut Mami attacked Spanish fleet in Mediterranean sea. In bloody showdown, pirates mastered combative Espagnols and brought the ship with prisoners in their port. Among them there was one with special reference from the spanish king. That meant that he was valuable slave, for whom they could take a lot of gold."
His behaviour was monitored from a close distance. He would stay late at night in his cell, always thinking of something and writing things down. In the day time, he was always singing, so girls went on their windows and listened to him. For one girl that wasn't enough, so every time he took a walk with the guards she followed him. So began love between local girl and unknown slave. After few years, some stranger brought a lot of money and freed the slave, who took with him that beautiful girl from Ulcinj.
After another version of the story, his owner took Miguel to Algeria, with whom people from Ulcinj had a close connection. He was bought by one of the most ruthless governor, Hasan - aga. From there he managed to get out thanks to the Spanish friars who paid ransom for their countrymen who were captured on Mediterranean. For Miguel they had to give 500 golden thalers, and after five years of slavery he went back to Spain. After that he wrote "Don Quixote", the story about Dulcinea, or the girl from Ulcinj.
It is an undeniable fact that before he was released in September in 1580. and came back to Spain, Cervantes defended himself from accusations of cooperation with Barbary pirates. Maybe with them he came to Ulcinj, or heard from them or other prisoners the stories about "port Dolcigno", at the other side of the sea. This legende eternalized the name of Ulcinj.