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Dec 16 2013

My Mountain Adventure in Kotor

After locking myself away for the first two days I was in Kotor, to catch up on work and chill, I needed to get out and do something active.  I had seen lots of people make their way up the steps that lead from the Old Town of Kotor to St John’s Fortress, so I decided do that.  I was staying in a hostel in the Old Town and the manager told me there was a way of getting up there without paying.  I was interested.  He told me roughly how to get there and it seemed pretty straightforward, as directions always do!  Was it in reality?  For me, no.  I thought I had a good sense of direction but, during that particular trip, I seemed to have a knack of getting lost.

It was late in the day when I set off, at about 2pm, having had to unexpectedly move accommodation that morning.  Nonetheless, I decided to go for it and make my way up to the fortress.  I headed out of the Old Town and started walking in the direction I thought the hostel manager told me – turn right, go over a small bridge, and then head up the mountain.  So, that’s the way I went.  There was a mother and daughter in front of me so I thought I must be going in the right direction.  I have no idea why I thought they were heading in the same direction as me but I did.

It was getting late and I was on a mission to get up to the fortress and back down again before it got dark.  So, I purposefully strode up what turned out to be a very long zig-zag path up the mountain, passing the mother and daughter but stopping to take photos and video along the way, of course.

I could see the fortress and was feeling good.  It was a beautiful day and it was great to be out and active once again.  I was surprised at how quickly I walked up the zig-zag, passing an abandoned house and the only occupied house on the mountain, which had a sign for goat’s cheese.  I knew I was on the right track because the hostel manager had mentioned that house.  I didn’t stop but kept going, onwards and upwards.

I was motoring on and feeling really pleased with the progress I was making until I looked over and saw that I was higher than the fortress and I couldn’t see any way of getting to it.
The Bay of Kotor and St John's Fortress

I was about halfway up the mountain but I couldn’t tell because I couldn’t see the top.  Had I missed the turning or had I just gone the wrong way to get to the fortress?  I had no idea.  I shrugged my shoulders and decided to continue up for a bit longer.  I met quite a few people coming down.  They were the sensible ones who had started their journey earlier in the day.  At one point, I stopped and asked a couple where the route led to, basically trying to find out if it was worth continuing my journey, considering the time of day.  They told me there was a good viewpoint, so I decided to head for that and then make my descent.  The thing is, it didn’t take me too long to get there, so I continued on and reached the top of the mountain.  What a view!  I wished I had left earlier in the day so I could explore it more.  I had a great view of the Bay of Kotor and the fortress. At that point, I was really glad that I had somehow gone wrong on my journey because I would have missed this amazing view and not had the same level of exercise.  By then it was about 4.30pm, time to head down.  I really didn’t want to get stuck on the mountain in the dark.  That really wouldn’t be sensible.

As I descended, zig-zaging down the mountain, retracing my steps at quite a pace, I was literally stopped in my tracks by countless goats.  I have always liked goats but these ones had HUGE horns and there were lots of them in my path.  I wasn’t sure what to do.  ‘Do I just steam through them or shoo them out of the way? ‘, I pondered, feeling slightly nervous.  It was the size of the horns that did it.    What if they went for me?  As I was dithering, with all these thoughts going through my head, a young woman came out of the house and called to me, ‘Come here, it’s OK!’.  An older man, who turned out to be her father, and the owner of the house and 80 goats, moved them so I could pass.  The young woman beckoned me, so I walked down towards the house.

She, very kindly, gave me a cold, refreshing nettle drink and we chatted.  She was as interested in me and my life as I was in hers.  She explained that her parents are the only residents left on the mountain and how hard it is living there.  When she was at school, she had a real hike there and back everyday.  She no longer lives in the house but was there for the day with her baby, visiting her parents.  It was great exchanging stories but, it was time for me to finish my journey.  I thanked her, said goodbye, and headed off.  Just as I set off again, I met an Australian couple on their way up.  I thought I had left it late but they really had.  It was after 5pm at that point.  They told me they weren’t going to go much further because of the time of day.  I explained that I had originally headed for the fortress but somehow went wrong and ended up at the top of the mountain.

The man told me I had just missed a turning on the right behind the abandoned house on my way up.  So simple!  I thanked him and continued down the mountain until I got the back of the abandoned house.  There was a small path heading left towards the fortress.

Abandoned house on mountain in Kotor

I decided to head that way because I was much closer to the Old Town by that point and I could head back down at any time.

All the buildings, which included a church, were in ruins, having been abandoned years ago.  The only house still occupied was the one I had stopped at.
Abandoned church, Kotor
Having taken a few photos, I spotted the way to the fortress – excellent!  Apart from the incredible view, as it was getting later, the sun was beginning to set and it was amazing.  The mountains turned yellow.  They were like golden mountains.  I had never seen that effect before.

Yellow mountains, Kotor

But, if that wasn’t enough, a short while later, the colour changed to red.  They were like chameleon mountains.  It was a beautiful sight to behold, really!

Red mountains, Kotor

As I walked towards the wall, there was a hole which I climbed through and there it was, the fortress.   I had made it, at last!  I was so pleased that I didn’t miss it after all.  Mission accomplished!  I had a look around the fortress and noticed that there were quite a few people up there and more arriving.  I counted about 13 people plus me.  I was in two minds – do I stay and wait until the sun goes down so I could take some night photos or do I leave while it is still light?  Hmmm, that was a difficult one.  Up to that point, it had been amazing with the changing colour of the mountain and it would be a shame to leave and miss seeing Kotor at night from that vantage point.  Oh, decisions, decisions!

St John's Fortress

I decided that, as long as there were people around, I would stay and then take the steps that lead down to the Old Town

So, I stayed until it got dark and… it was worth it.  There is something magical as the sun sets, especially there where you have the changing colours of the mountains, the fortress lights up, and then you get an amazing view of the Bay of Kotor at night.
Kotor at night

The problem was getting down, which I hadn’t envisaged as there were steps the whole way down into the Old Town.  What I hadn’t realised, because I didn’t use the steps going up, was that there are a lot of them (when I say a lot, I mean, alot) and they weren’t in very good condition at all.  In fact, some were missing.  In addition to that, my head torch wasn’t working so I had to use the light from my mobile, which is what other people were doing.  The thing is, when it’s pitch black, which is was, that just isn’t good enough.  Thankfully, I had a light that I use for my kindle with me, so I clipped that on to my clothes and it gave me enough light to get down safely.

Having started my journey late, I did and saw so much.  Going early in the morning would have been more sensible and I would have been able to spend more time at the top of the mountain but then I probably wouldn’t have stayed to see the sun setting, which was well worth it.

Location

If you like hiking, want to get off the beaten track, and are up for a bit of adventure, I would recommend taking the zig-zag path up the mountain and then, on the way down, visit the fortress.

This is where the Old Town of Kotor, the mountain of St John, and St John’s Fortress are located.

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Have your say

Have you trekked up the mountain and then visited the fortress?  If not, would you be interested in doing so?

About the author

Teresa Keane

Teresa has been to almost 60 countries. She started travelling independently at the age of 38 when she gave up her job, rented out her house, put her possessions in storage and spent a year travelling the world. It changed her life. She now creates, publishes, & promotes online travel content and is an experienced freelance trainer & EFL teacher.

2 comments

  1. Erin

    Absolutely LOVE that, if you hadn’t gotten a little lost, you would have missed that view from the top. One of the things I adore about travel. Also, can’t get over the colors in those mountains!

  2. independenttravelhelp.com

    Hi Erin.

    Thanks for getting in touch!

    Yes, getting a little lost turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I wouldn’t have gone all the way up the mountain at that time of day. If I hadn’t done that, I would have missed the spectacular effects as the sun was setting. Have you been to Kotor?

    Best wishes, Teresa.

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