Boka Bay and Gospa od Skrpjela… Sounds exotic even for us!
It has been a while since I was there last and it was so nice to plan another trip!
Boka Bay in Montenegro is a very special place and well worth visiting when in Dubrovnik area. It can be combined with a visit to beautiful Budva and Sv Stefan further down the road but Boka Bay is an amazing place on it’s own!
Our tour starts from Dubrovnik and it is best to leave early as the traffic at the border crossing tends to be a VERY long one in the high season. Even now, in late October, we were waiting for 20 minutes to get to the crossing. The first impression when entering is not much and the government of Montenegro should really clean up the main road from Dubrovnik as it gives the first impression of the country for tens of thousands of tourists.
There is an alternative entrance but that is under re-construction these days. That smaller border crossing is sometimes used by our guides when going to Montenegro.
The first major town, Herceg Novi is not part of any tours as it is overdeveloped and the historic part is hidden behind the new buildings. There are many signs in Russian Cyrillic as the Russians have been buying and investing a lot in Montenegro in the past years.
But the real beauty opens after you pass the first towns…
Once you make that first big turn, you enter the region of almost unreal beauty!
The view of Gospa od Šrpjela island is one of THE views to see in your lifetime. Boka Bay glows with amazing calmness and peace! With the morning mist still hovering above the ice-like calm surface of the Adriatic, the entire place looked unbelievable!
So we drove around the bay to lovely and famous Perast town. Famous for it’s great fleet of tall ships and maritime traditions, Perast is now just a ghost of those great days. Yes, the palaces remain, the old shine is still there but only about 200 people still live there year round. Most of the houses have recently been sold to rich Irishmen, Canadians… who took advantage of the tough times and the embargo Montenegro was going through while still part of Yugoslavia. The square meter of old palaces did not go for little money, however. Some of the people gave up their centuries old family palaces for 10 000 E per square meter!
While waiting for our skipper, we took a short walk through very charming Perast and found this great basketball court! Looks fragile!
And then we were off to one of the most special places in Europe! The tiny, artificial island of Gospa od Škrpjela!
This island was started back in 1630 when the sailors found the icon of the Virgin Mary on the rock that once was there. Thy decided to build the island by bringing rocks and sinking ships that were too old or the ships captured from the Turks who constantly prayed on the towns of the bay. Over 150 ships were sunken around the rock and the area is now totaling 3030 square meters (32 614 square feet). Eventually, they paved everything with stone and built a church they dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
Although the people of Montenegro are predominantly of orthodox religion, the area was continuously inhabited by Croatians and thus the Catholic church of the Virgin Mary.
The interiors are amazing! We had a private tour of the church and the guide introduced us to all the riches and the great tradition of votive images and gifts that were brought here. There are 67 paintings of sailing ships given to the church by the sailors that survived storms and numerous silver votive plaques!!!
There are 170 different types of ships represented on these plaques and simply a must for everyone interested in maritime traditions! The tradition of giving these plaques still lives and church received 5 last year but has no room to exhibit them.
The special treasure is the collection of 68 baroque paintings in the church and all done by great local artist Tripo Kokolja.
The nearby St. Đorđe Island is not so open to visitors as it holds a benedictine monastery.
So we moved on. To Kotor.
Beautiful Kotor is another great place listed with UNESCO on the Adriatic shores and once you reach it’s walls and historic core, you will see why this wonderful town is worth visiting! We were also lucky with the weather as it was quite sunny.
Since it was Saturday, everyone was on the streets – typical Mediterranean tradition of hanging out with friends and families. So we took a break and enjoyed our light lunch at hotel Vardar watching the people pass by…
The meal served at Hotel Vardar was a great “sandwich” with Njeguški pršut (smoked ham) served on traditional bread. Very tasty and goes perfectly well with local Nik beer! I took double serving just in case.
There is no point in rushing anywhere without a nice dessert so Vardar cube for the end. Lots of walnuts!
Then we walked round Kotor on our own and enjoyed numerous monuments and were even tempted to go to the fortress above the city but it looked soo far away (especially after the meal!) So we stick to the old town of Kotor and great historic heritage and the walls.
Kotor is simply beautiful but we had to move on… As the sun chased the morning mist, the entire Bay was simply picture-perfect beautiful and I kept asking Florio to stop every 50 meters as I wanted to take more and more great photos. Then we moved on to Dobrota, Prčanj and Risan— all places with great maritime tradition and homes of numerous important sea captains in the past centuries…
The beauty of Boka Bay cannot be described in this short space but even more so the unbelievable peacefulness so rare these days. Although there are tourists, the small towns kept that beauty and ancient charm. Too bad there are so little people left…
Boka Bay is one of those special places in the world that is slowly loosing battle with modern way of life after centuries of wonderful traditions. It is only nice to see that the foreign buyers are restoring their properties and many of them have been saved from becoming unrepairable ruins.
The tour ended with us crossing the narrowest point of the bay by a ferry. Twenty minutes and we reached the other shore for about one hour to Dubrovnik. Amazing place!
Book this program at www.tours-in-croatia.com