From Sveti Stefan to Kotor Old City and San Giovanni Castle
Here I was, in Montenegro with two of my friends, driven by my love for the sea hungrily looking for a beach to just lie there and listen to the sounds of the waves…Big surprise. Beaches were plenty, some of them more pebbles than the other, but being a full season the empty beach I was dreaming about was nowhere to be found… I did stoically resist for 3 hours on one of the beaches close to our apartment in Becici but the moment I had enough with all the noise around we decided to start visiting the surroundings.
First one on the list was of course Sveti Stefan. I wanted to see this place since I saw its pictures for the first time in one of the old issues from the 90`s of TUI magazines. Being only a few miles away we went there to see if Sveti Stefan rises up to its reputation.
Sveti Stefan, it is an islet connected to the mainland by a narrow isthmus. It was transformed into a resort since the 60`s when it use to be the playground for rich and famous. Nowadays it was taken for 30-year lease by the Aman Resorts and restored to its former glory. At the origins it use to be a fortify villages meant to stand the Turks attacks, one of the Serbians Kings moved there briefly when they were fighting the Ottomans, From the outside the entire island looks like a citadel but inside it is harboring charming stone houses shadowing narrow streets where the sounds of the sea are dissipating into the darkest corners of the streets.
Villa Milocer part of Aman Sveti Stefan Resort, Montenegro
Villa Milocer on the other hand built in the middle of an 800 olive trees orchard overlooking the Sveti Stefan Island was built in 1934 as a summer residence for Queen Marija Karadordevic. A coffee on the terrace followed by a walk on the Queen Beach and dip in the blue waters of Adriatic Sea would be a delight for a traveler. But do not forget, we are talking about a very luxurious resort and a traveler can only admire it and take a picture and imagine how it would be to do all this.
Sveti Stefan does not mean only luxurious resorts, the entire place is blessed by the mountains and the sea with a beautiful location Aman Sveti Stefan Resort being though the crown jewel.
If I could name a place I like the most in Montenegro, Kotor Old Town would be the one. Placed in the Bay of Kotor at the foothill of San Giovanni mountain Kotor Old Town is surrounded by thick tall ramparts with bastions on every corner.
From Budva to Kotor are 25 km and the moment the road is getting out from the tunnel which passes through the bowels of the mountains a spectacular view reveals to the unsuspected eye…I was impressed! It wasn`t only the feeling of entering a different kind of world the moment we went off the tunnel, it was overwhelming. The surrounding mountains were like giants leaning over the bay of Kotor to see if their peaks are well trimmed or not. I have never seen a fjord, so what I was seeing was new to me.
The entire view to me looked so fantastic especially when I noticed the ruins of San Giovanni Castle. The castle is placed on San Giovanni mountain is part of the fortification meant to protect the city of Kotor placed at the foothill of the mountain.
It was built up on the mountain with zigzagging walls going down on the mountain ridges till it reaches the city of Kotor thick ramparts completed with bastions and a citadel.
When I saw all this I thought I might be in some scene from “The Lord of the Rings“ somewhere in the Middle-earth after a battle with an army or orcs, and the ruins of the castle are the remains of that conflict.
The top of the mountain was fortified since Illyrian times, then again reconstructed during the Roman times. The current structure was built in the 15th century when the Venetian rule was installed upon the city. The city history has numerous tormented periods, passing from Venetian to Ottomans and then to Hapsburg, passed to French Empire, attacked by the British, and to be incorporated to Austrian Empire once again, The destruction made by wars were completed by nature, the city of Kotor being hit by several earthquakes, the last one in 1979. Since then it was incorporated in the World Heritage Sites, labeled as Natural and Cultural-Historical Region of Kotor.
Despite the melting heat Andra and I dared to climb the 1300 steps which were taking us up to San Giovanni Castle on the mountain top. After almost an hour and 2 liters of water, we were finally up on the top admiring the breathtaking view of Bay of Kotor. Definitely, the best view over the entire bay is from San Giovanni Castle. The surprising thing was that being up there I was expecting to see the mountain in the back of the castle, instead, there was a hidden valley where the ruins of what appears to be some settlements can be seen. and-and few goats are grazing peacefully between the remains.
The descent was more rapid than the climb because I thought to myself that no way I will let the sun get me and I start running down the stairs ignoring totally the fact that I could slip anytime on the round shiny stone polished by all the people passing through there ..and they were a lot.
After 15 minutes of running down the stairs and my thighs muscle trembling went in the first shop and bought a Coca-Cola and drink it all because I was so thirsty and exhausted…
After the sugar and caffeine kicked in I was able to face the heat again and we started to walk the narrow cobblestone streets in search for a restaurant. We were starving. Which is not very surprising considering the climb and the heat.
To find a restaurant is not very hard, the old city being composed mainly of restaurants some shops and few museums besides catholic or orthodox churches. The food is tasty and no matter what restaurant you might choose it offers a good ambiance and good food. My choice was goulash. I will always pick something more traditional leaving aside all the pasta or pizzas.
Nothing can compare to dining in an old city while the sun sets in. Shadows are mingling with lights and are giving an extra touch to a city caring centuries in its back.
Most of the time the old city of Kotor is quiet but when big cruise ships are docking in the city Marina the old city is filling up with tourist rummaging through its streets. That is the moment when all the languages can be heard between the centuries-old city walls. Far couple of hours that small fortify town becomes the center of the universe. The mountains are gathering around providing shelter and looking a bit condescended to those humans which comparing to their eternity are like some buzzing ephemerides…
I was looking at them and I realized that sometimes we are so caught up in taking as many pictures as possible and eventually to put ourselves in it also that we forget the main reason we traveled so far…We do not even allow ourselves a minute to stay, admire, breath, the view which we were chasing for it so hard. The rhythm is so alert but we are not even aware of it…
The sun was setting again marking the end of the third day…The sea water in the bay of Kotor looked like a magic mirror in which some last reflection of the sun were held captive.The ship was leaving the harbor heading to the next port..The day was over but my trip was not yet finished…For me, it was a day filled with mixed up feelings..I had the news of the death of a friend of mine and I visited this city…For someone life was ending while for my life was following its course, and I was fulfilling my dreams.. Somehow I could not get life`s logic …What I understood, though, was that while living we have to make the life meaningful…In my case…Live, Travel, Adventure, Write about it and don`t be Sorry…
“In loving memory of Darius Dadoo“