I awoke earlier than usual, in the cool of the morning, ready for my much-anticipated hike up to St. John’s Fortress, placed formidably on the highest point of the mountain, with Kotor at its foot.
A quick coffee sharpened my senses and I head off within about 10 minutes of waking. I entered the old town via the Sea Gate, and briskly made my way through the cobbled streets to the entrance to the fortress path. The incline immediately increased, so my pace was slowed somewhat, as I had to navigate my way up a path of weathered cobbles and precarious stones.
Despite the time, within about 10 minutes my forehead was feeling rather damp, making me wish I’d started at sunrise. Luckily, there were many different level positions and viewpoints on the way up, allowing me to catch my breath and admire the incredible views. It’s no wonder that by the time of my descent, my camera card was full.
Looking down upon Kotor was even more spectacular than walking through the heart of the old city itself. From my bird’s eye position, the higgledy-piggledy orange roofs were spread out below me, all at jaunty angles to one another, and the contrast between the bright orange and deep blue of the bay created a scene from a medieval romance.
I clambered upwards until I found Kotor’s hidden gem, the Church of Our Lady of Remedy, built in 1518. As sweet and simple a place of worship you never did see, with little turquoise stars adorning the ceiling above the main icon, surrounded frugally by gold and silver.
Onwards, ever onwards; I still was not even halfway up. Passing the Riva Bastion and the St. Marko position, I found myself panting and aching, my legs begging me to stop this madness and retreat. I soldiered on. My determination was only fuelled by passers-by on their way down; if they had made it, then I sure could!
Finally, finally… I rounded a corner and at last caught sight of the Fortress, towering above me, its red and gold flag flapping in the morning breeze. It was an old ruin, but to me it felt like I had just stumbled upon Richard the Lionheart’s crusader castle.
Standing on the main platform on the Fortress made me feel like a queen; it felt like a real achievement. After a pat down and a lot of water, I began to explore the ruins. It must have been a marvellous sight in its hey-day.
The view was even more spectacular from this angle, so I spent a while admiring the scenery and snapping away on my camera. I had a lovely chitchat with a family who had also made it up there, and we took it in turns taking photos of each other to commemorate our hike. I didn’t feel the most photo ready, but I was not going to forget this moment.
Finally, the baking sun rose above the mountains and I started my descent, alongside the family. The best part about solo travelling is that you’re far more likely to talk to other people, whether locals or tourists, and thus learn different perspectives and experiences which are invaluable. I also had a chat with a lady who had walked up to the church whilst her sons had made it to the Fortress; despite our only just having met, she tried to set me up with her ‘absolutely gorgeous’ son, since he also lives in London. I laughed, and thanked her for the generous offer…
All I could think about as I reached the foot of the fortifications was how much I wanted to dive headfirst into the cool water of the bay. It felt like I’d never wanted anything more, and when I finally made it through the old town to the beach, threw on my bikini and plunged into the sparkling blue, I felt like I’d never known bliss before.
This hike was undoubtedly the highlight of my time in Kotor (so far), and I found it hard to resist the temptation to repeat the pilgrimage that evening at sunset.