A magical journey through Stoliv.
On the way to Kotor from Tivat, there is a small town in the Boka Kotorska Bay, hidden between the mountains and the sea. This tiny town is called Stoliv and is often overlooked when talking about the beauty of Montenegro.
Truth be told, this is justified to a certain degree, as it does not boast any special characteristics. It has no tourist attractions or beaches, and the sea is not too clean in this area. Yet, its charm does not dissipate because of this. What makes it so appealing is its geographical position, which oversees numerous other beauties of Boka Kotorska Bay, its architecture, and certainly vast vert, which adorns the whole town.
Stoliv is, therefore, the typical Mediterranean town with greyish white stone facades, wide-open windows, green and blue jalousies, and a wealth of trees and flowers. It possesses a particular atmosphere, which resists being described, which is only to be experienced and lived. That’s what we call the soul of a town.
A magical journey through Stoliv.
Path took me to this quaint town while I was living in Tivat. I used to travel to Kotor often, and I always opted for the longer way so that I could enjoy the view to the bay. The way around the bay is three times longer than the one that goes through the tunnel, but taking it is not a waste of time in this case.
The plush-looking sea stretches before your eyes as you drive, gaining new tones and textures every time you go. Sometimes it’s navy blue like denim, sometimes silky and velvety in tones of grey and silver as if a mirror had been laid to reflect the sky.
Apart from the skies and clouds, the colour of the sea will depend on the winds gusting in the area, and I personally prefer the gleam the sea acquires during bonazza, those windless times, when everything grows still and silent as if in a photograph.
Bonazza is the greatest enemy of sailors, and you can often hear it enunciated with a dose of disdain and disappointment, accompanied by that famous Montenegrin “phew”. Only during one sailing trip, when we had spent hours trying to catch some wind in our sails and raise them did I understand this disdain.
Before that sailing trip, the bonazza in Boka had been the peak of beauty and charm, and I often felt as if we belonged in some French movie rather than reality (“life imitates art”). These moments, when you feel you are not real, because you are actually starring in a perfectly directed scene are the most precious in life. Those are the moments when everything stops and enters your soul to stay there forever and remind you later, during humdrum run-of-the-mill days that you too were once a part of the magic.
And so now, even though I’m seated in front of the computer in my room, I can transcend into that image which had long ago painted the canvas of my (sub)consciousness. Bonazza keeps on sparkling and its flutters are leaving millions of glittering confetti in the sea of my soul.
Mountains Orjen and Lovcen rise above the sea, sternly preventing the seawater from polishing them further. The war between the Adriatic Sea on the one side and Orjen and Lovcen on the other has been waged for thousands of years and it is hard to tell who the winner is. It seems that this never-ending war contributes to the beauty of it all. It might not even be a war, but rather a symbiosis.
This picturesque contrast between the sea and the mountains, the water and the earth is one of the most striking landmarks of Montenegro, something many more exotic and popular countries might be envious about. Whenever I take this road, I can’t help it but be overawed by the sight of the stern, sharp and slightly scornful mountainside threatening with its high slopes, and find some solace at the same time when I look at the gentle foamy sea, providing the sense of security and consolation.
And so my eyes drift from one to the other, switching between disturbance and serenity, which reminds me of Kant’s division into beautiful and sublime. He says that something is beautiful if brings harmony and peace to our souls and sublime if it rouses awe and sends shivers down our spine. Kant’s aesthetics have found their application in the Boka Bay.
It seems impossible to mention the sea without bringing up mountains too and that this is some new form of nature we could name “sea-mountain”. It’s as if the nature itself has played with its motifs, combining its two kinds of offspring into a hybrid. This brings me to Ivo Andric and his famous sentence:
“The sea and the land – I have always wondered which is the frame and which the picture”.
And truly, the nature in Boka takes such rounded forms which swirl through the cliffs into the sea before returning to the sky and back into the water. The sea and the mountain blend into one another, making it impossible to tell where one begins and the other ends. The hearty cliffs are frightening in their spiky, rough edges, serpentines and cracks and the sea covers their equally intriguing feet, luring us into trying to explore them and wonder what kinds of mountains can be found there, covered in corals instead of grass.
In the face of these natural beauties stand the artificial, man-made ones. Man has always created settlements near the water, building his homestead and homeland by the sea, fishing for living. Seafarers decorated their houses with different kinds of vert, flowers, undergrowth and trees.
Cypresses, cacti, laurels, figs, magnolias and camellias dominate the bay. Small boats tied to piers can be seen in front of almost every house and each house gives a special picturesque experience. Enthralled by the sight, you cannot help but wish one of those houses belonged to you and that you could enjoy the shade from the mountainside while sipping coffee and observing the sea from your balcony or backyard.
That’s how I discovered my favourite cottage, where I wanted to sneak in and invite myself over, but I never saw the owners in the street while wandering around. It had happened before that some elderly woman or man invited me over for juice just because I had stopped and stared at their houses or took a photo of some detail on it. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case here. And I really had the desire to meet the people living in this fairy-tale-like house, because I had always admired people who took their homes as a piece of art through which they could express their creativity.
The entrance to Stoliv is a good introduction to the beauties, which are born before your eyes as you progress. When you leave the Tivat municipality, near the Verige gorge, you can see the islands The Lady of the Rocks and St George and the tips of Perast behind them. While travelling around these parts, your eyes will wander between the islands to the left, the city architecture to the right and then upwards towards the mountaintops surrounding you.
Such a tri-dimensional image will remind you how small you are in the world, in the Boka Bay and Stoliv itself. You will experience the unrealistic need to climb the mountains, sail, dive and parachute at the same time, as this is the place where all the senses are awakened and you feel the urge to identify with and master all those wonders of nature.
I must mention Marnia Tsvetaeva, who in her letters to Boris Pasternak reveals her fear of the seas and her preference for stability of the mountains, as she feels them to be her symbolical feet. Marina Tsvetaeva would face no troubles in Montenegro though. You do not have to renounce anything here. There are many sites for mountaineering, hiking and skiing near the sea.
I usually get these thoughts as I cycle around the bay as the wind brings the smell of the sea into my lungs and I listen to the sound of the waves whooshing and feel like I’m flying. Once I finally reach Stoliv, I usually find my favourite place.
It’s one rectangular balcony surrounded by twiners, which seem to be floating in the sea. You can descend to a small, pebbled beach from it, and when the sea level rises, you can even jump right into it from there. This makes it look like a gate from the solid into the liquid state, the gateway between two worlds. I first saw it one autumn, when some crimson red twiner embraced it and turned into a floral gate into the sea.
This balcony makes a perfect frame for Perast peeking in the background. I instantly appropriated it and nicknamed it my living room. The colour of the twiner changed over the year and I was there to follow all its transformations. My balcony turned green in the spring and I devotedly followed its growth, watching it flourish gradually.
Someone brought a small table out there in the summer, making it even lovelier, warmer and more welcoming. I even did some diving on that beach once, using the balcony as a perfect hiding spot for changing my gear and the storage for shells I had found in the sea. Those shells are now glued to various boxes, picture frames, candleholders and other pieces of furniture I had decorated with seaside motifs. Those shells, which preserve Stoliv in their core, are now a part of a new, arid life in the plains. They carry their sea with them, breathing even in the dry air of my room, and sometimes I wonder if it had been cruel on my part to take them. Am I not, just like those shells, forced out of my natural habitat and into the pattern of breathing on the shelves of planet Earth, searching and never finding my home?
A magical journey through Stoliv.
Author: Mirjana Vasiljevic