As finals and winter weather are upon us, I’ve been thinking longingly back to last summer’s travels and adventures.  Inspired by those – and top-notch procrastination – here’s a late-breaking, unashamed publicity piece for a very cool program that Penn’s Historic Preservation program runs every summer.

I never thought I’d visit the Balkans. I didn’t even know where they were before Randy Mason announced that the 2010 European Conservation Course would be held in Kotor, Montenegro, and I – after a brief confusion regarding Uruguay – checked a map. I wasn’t alone in my confusion. “Go to Greece and then head north,” I told puzzled friends, “or sail east from Italy.”

That’s what the Venetians did when they folded Kotor into their network of trading posts. They reinforced the medieval city walls and the fortifications snaking up the steep hillside to protect the town’s flank. The sea provided the other formidable defense for the triangular city, which became part of the Austro-Hungarian empire in the early 19th century.

This was our classroom for three weeks in early summer. We scrambled up the hillside fortifications, became intimately familiar with the winding paths of the walled old city, and made forays into the newer towns that spread out on both sides of the old city. To understand the larger cultural landscape, we took a boat tour around the inner Bay of Kotor – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – and discussed regional plans with local experts. A day trip to Dubrovnik, Croatia, introduced us to Kotor’s bigger walled cousin; and we spent three days in Mostar, a city slowly rebuilding itself in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Montenegro looked a lot like Italy, I thought, or maybe Montana. (I’ve never been to either place.) See for yourself in the photographs below, and definitely check out the European Conservation Course. Offered every summer for three weeks, it provides 1 unit of academic credit (plus, you can get financial aid, just like for a normal class).

[Kotor]

[L: laundry hanging from one of the limestone buildings — everything in Kotor was limestone; R: we also got to study this cool modern building just outside Kotor’s old city]

[L: Mostar’s still rebuilding from the Balkan War; R: classmates on the Old Bridge, reconstructed in 2004]

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