Beautiful Bay: Silver Spirit Sails Into Kotor, Montenegro

Europe's most southerly fjord. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Silver Spirit transits Europe’s most southerly fjord. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

I always regret using superlatives in print. They often come back to haunt. Just when you think you’ve experienced the best, something that tops it comes along.

Today, Silver Spirit showed us a few things that were worthy of superlatives. From around 8:30 a.m. until about 10 a.m., we cruised Europe’s most southerly fjord (a superlative of fact). Those 2.5 hours certainly ranked among the most beautiful transits I’ve ever experienced. But I’ll save the superlative for now and let you be decide. Check out the photos that accompany this post and judge for yourself.

At the end of the transit, Silver Spirit docked within steps of the Old Town of Kotor. No free shuttle into town as was the case in Corfu yesterday. We didn’t need it. Kotor was at the bottom of the gangway.

Kotor Silver Spirit

Silver Spirit docked in the city center of Kotor, Montenegro. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

With such easy access, we laid out a plan. In the morning, we would walk through the Gradske Zidine (the ancient Town Walls) and hike the 1,300 steps to Tvrdjava Sv Ivana (St. John’s Fortress), 853 feet above sea level, and offering commanding views over Kotor and the bay.

We’d return to the ship for lunch, gather our swimsuits and join a Silversea shore excursion, Speedboat Adventure to Blue Cave. Dinner would be well deserved tonight.

Upward First

With our plan mapped out, we stepped off Silver Spirit at 10:30 a.m. and made our way to Glavna Gradska Vrata, the Main Town Gate, passing through it into the Old Town, and working our way through the labyrinth of winding cobbled streets, past piazzas and centuries-old stone buildings.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kotor’s medieval Old Town is enclosed within well-preserved defensive walls built between the 9th and 18th centuries. The Town Walls run almost three miles and tower up to 66 feet. They form a triangular defense system around the Old Town, rising up the hill to St. John’s Fortress, our destination.

It took us a few minutes and some asking directions to find the beginning of the path that led up to the hilltop fortress. After paying the €3 each entrance fee, we began the arduous ascent up a series of serpentines and putting one foot in front to the other to climb 1,300 steps. Midway, we passed the tiny Crkva Gospe od Zdravlja (Church of Our Lady of Health), built in the 16th century to protect Kotor against the plague.

Working Our Way Up To St. John Fortress

Serpentines and steps, 1,300 of them up to St. John’s Fortress, 853 feet above sea level,. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

About 40 minutes after we started, we reached the top. Our reward: views over the terra-cotta-tile rooftops of the Old Town, the meandering Kotor Bay fjord, Silver Spirit docked in the city center, and the rugged pine-forested mountains beyond.

View of Kotor Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

View of Kotor Bay from 1,300 steps above Kotor. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

With a schedule to keep (our tour would depart at 12:45), we made our way back down (which was harder than going up) and through the Old Town to Silver Spirit. After a quick lunch at the Pool Grill, we headed out again for our afternoon speedboat and swimming excursion.

The four-hour excursion departed just steps away from Silver Spirit’s gangway. About a dozen of us boarded a speedboat, straddling two rows of seats and holding on, as if we were on the back of a motorcycle. Indeed, with the sun in our faces and wind in our hair, the exhilarating adventure felt like a motorcycle ride, except this one was on water.

We sped along for 45 minutes through beautiful Kotor Bay to reach the ocean and skirt along the coast until we came to the opening of a cave and proceeded slowly inside. The water was as blue as Windex, hence the name Blue Cave, and those who wanted, us among them, were invited to slip in for a swim.

Blue Cave Swimming

Enjoying the refreshing blue water of the Blue Cave. © 2013 Silvia Kulichova

The water was refreshing, and we felt safe with only light waves and the boat nearby. After 10 minutes or so, we pulled ourselves back on the boat and made our way to Zanjice, a coastal village, where we took a two-hour beach break with refreshments, lounge chairs and swimming.

Swimming In The Blue Cave

Swimming In The Blue Cave. @2013 Ralph Grizzle

Sunburned and happy, we returned to Kotor and Silver Spirit, ending the day with an elegant dinner at Le Champagne, the only Relais & Chateaux restaurant at sea. Afterward, at around 10 p.m., we stood out on deck, talking with other guests and watching the spectacular sail-away from lovely Kotor. The Town Walls were illuminated, running around the Old Town and up the mountain to the Old Fortress. It was a beautiful sight to behold.

About 30 minutes after sailing, we stopped by Stars Supper Club and listened to Mickki Brown, a talented entertainer who performs melodies ranging from Frank Sinatra to Roberta Flack. We’ve watched her perform every night of the voyage so far. The venue is a Supper Club, and we plan to dine there on one of the three nights we have remaining on this voyage.

Exhausted from an active day, we returned to our stateroom, stood out on the balcony and looked out at the stars dotting the dark sky. A sliver of moon lingered over the horizon, and the sound of the sea washing over the hull of Silver Spirit was comforting, like a lullaby.

Today may not have been the best day of my life — being present for the birth of my children probably claims that distinction — but, to hedge on using a superlative, today certainly ranks among the best days in my life.

Kotor Bay’s beauty, an exhilarating climb with breathtaking views, an adventurous boat trip ending with a journey into a cave, swimming and beach time, an excellent dinner, a beautiful sail-away and a few late-night melodies. Life seldom gives us better days than this one.

Beautiful Bay

Beautiful Bay

Silver Spirit begins to make its way to Kotor, Montenegro. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

On The Way To Kotor

On The Way To Kotor

Transiting the Kotor Bay in beautiful Montenegro. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

A Little Like Norway

A Little Like Norway

Europe's most southerly fjord. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Beautiful Day In The Bay

Beautiful Day In The Bay

The weather cooperated beautifully as Silver Spirit made its way to Kotor, Montenegro. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Cruising Kotor Bay

Cruising Kotor Bay

Beautiful churches punctuate the shoreline. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Sister Islands

Sister Islands

In the foreground, Sveti Djordje (St. George), a natural islet, is one of Perast's famous pair of islands. It's ringed by a dozen elegant cypress trees and crowned by the Monastery of St. George, dating back to the 12th century and still inhabited by monks. In the 18th century the island became a favorite burial place for local sea captains, whose crypts remain today. Behind it, Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rock). Unlike its sibling island, St. George, this island is man-made. Folklore has it that in 1452, local sailors found an icon depicting the Virgin and Child cast upon a rock jutting up from the water. Taking this as a sign from God, they began placing stones on and around the rock, slowly building an island over it. By 1630 they had erected a church upon the new island. To get here, hop a boat taxi from the waterfront (a five-minute trip). © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Picturesque Towns, Imposing Mountains

Picturesque Towns, Imposing Mountains

The morning sun was perfect for photography. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Intimate Silver Spirit

Intimate Silver Spirit

A small group in front of the Observation Lounge watching as Silver Spirit cruises into Kotor, Montenegro. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Docked Downtown

Docked Downtown

Silver Spirit docked in the city center of Kotor, Montenegro. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Stepping Out & Up

Stepping Out & Up

1,300 steps to go to the top and St. John's Fortress. © 2913 Ralph Grizzle

Only 5 Minutes More

Only 5 Minutes More

The sign indicates that Kotor is a 20-minute walk down the steps, San Giovanni is only 5 (breathless) minutes more uphill. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Getting Closer

Getting Closer

A sign that we're headed in the right direction. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Working Our Way Up To St. John Fortress

Working Our Way Up To St. John Fortress

Still a ways to go. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

View of Kotor Bay

View of Kotor Bay

View of Kotor Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

View of Kotor Bay

View of Kotor Bay

View of Kotor Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

View of Kotor Bay

View of Kotor Bay

View of Kotor Bay. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Back to Silver Spirit

Back to Silver Spirit

Waiting for us, Silver Spirit in Kotor, Montenegro. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Cold Cloths, Refreshments Inside

Cold Cloths, Refreshments Inside

We're greeted with cold cloths upon our return. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Heading To The Blue Cave

Heading To The Blue Cave

A wonderful Silversea shore excursion to the Blue Cave, where we would swim, followed by a beach break. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Cool & Refreshing

Cool & Refreshing

Swimming in the Blue Cave. © 2013 Ralph Grizzle

Alex & Me

Alex & Me

We had a great day in Kotor, Montenegro, one of the most beautiful places I've ever visited.

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We are nearing the end of  an incredible journey on Silver Spirit from Piraeus (Athens), Greece to Venice, Italy. So far we’ve enjoyed a spectacular Evening Concert at Ephesus and toured Ancient Olympia, birthplace of the Olympics. We spent an afternoon in Corfu, Greece and today, enjoyed Kotor, Montenegro. Tomorrow, Dubrovnik, followed by Hvar and concluding the voyage with an overnight on board Silver Spirit in Venice.