As we all (hopefully) know, oftentimes there’s something wonderful to see right around the corner from your domicile.
Like Ferris Bueller said, “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” He was talking about life in general, but I like to use that as justification for snooping around corners and taking the road less-traveled.
Just because you can’t take a vacation or jump in a car and drive somewhere does not mean there aren’t glorious hallelujahs of beautiful fantasticalness near you. Simply go around the corner or take the street you don’t normally take.
That said, we currently reside in the Savina area of Herceg Novi, Montenegro. It’s considered one of the most beautiful and nicest parts of the district. We didn’t know that when we came here – we just got lucky. Really lucky.
The neighborhood is named after the local Savina Monastery, which is either the largest or the oldest monastery in the area. Both of those claims could be wrong, but what is not wrong is that it’s freakin’ gorgeous.
I’m not a history professor, but I play one on TV.
As a general point, I have very conflicted views on anything religious. That’s just how it is. Faith is one thing, oppressing others to prove your point is another. I’ll stop there, because this isn’t a religious debate.
That also doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the skill and thought that went into rocking out a brand new church hundreds of years ago. Fact: Notre Dame took something like a zillion years to build. That’s hard work, no matter how nice or mean you are.
Now that we’ve moved past all that, let us tell you about our visit. Savina Monastery is an active, Serbian Orthodox cloister built by the Duke of Saint Sava. Historians think it was first built in 1030, but they’re not completely sure about that since it didn’t show up in the written record for a few hundred years, and was rebuilt in the 1600s.
Five minutes’ walk up the road from our place and we were in the courtyard, with a cemetery on one side, a small park next to it, and two churches inside the compound walls.
There were a couple of kids selling trinkets for the monastery, and a monk relaxing outside. I didn’t feel it appropriate to take his picture, but I really wanted to.
In a land known for its infinite number of churches, where they can be found in the most surprising of places, the folks who chose this location for their monastery couldn’t have grabbed a better spot. It’s on a hill, surrounded by greenery, overlooking the Bay of Kotor, and even has its own little rock cliff on the grounds.
As we do when we go to cemeteries, we spent a lot of time reading the headstones, imagining who these people were, and wondering how they ended up in their permanent resting place.
We particularly liked the very old graves with skull-and-crossbones motifs. A catchy look for the last 500+ years, it never goes out of style.
Also, cats run the show, just like everywhere else we go in the area.
I told you this place had views.
We couldn’t really see into the monastery at all, but it’s right there and you can walk around the garden while the monks wonder why the heck you’re walking around their garden.
The larger of the churches on the grounds is called the Great Temple of the Assumption, built in the late 18th century to replace the old church. It features what we’ve come to recognize as the Orthodox style here, with pews set along the walls, countless works of art representing saints and other important figures, very ornate decoration, and a collection of relics.
Moving to the smaller, older Church of the Assumption, this is where we were most fascinated. The inside space is about the size of a bedroom, and the painted walls have not been restored. We were much more intrigued by this church, as its griminess and non-renovated interior allow for much more imagination.
It’s still open to the public and contains a few single pews, but it’s extremely dark and probably never has more than a couple of people inside. These pictures were brightened up quite a bit – I can assure you that it felt like nighttime in there, even though it was midday.
As we walked out and headed up to yet a third temple, the views from before just got better with each step up in elevation.
The third church is called the Temple of Saint Sava, and lies at the top of the mountain on which the monastery is built. The catch is that you have to climb an endless number of winding stairways in the middle of the forest, dodging various crumbling walls in order to get to the top.
We believe this one was actually closed by the time we got there, but weren’t particularly interested in checking the locks on the gate. The views were once again at the forefront, and we took them in while catching our breath.
The path didn’t stop there, so we decided to head around the mountain and see what was going on. And we ran into this guy. And he was all, “What you lookin’ at? I’m just eating grass. Because that’s what I do.” He wouldn’t even acknowledge me for a photo op. The nerve.
We also stumbled onto some vineyards, because that’s what happens when you roam around lost in this country.
Leaving the goats and vineyards behind, we jumped onto a small dirt trail to head down the backside of the mountain. As we did our best to follow various trails in order to descend, we realized that a lot of these trails were roads that had to be well over a hundred years old. They were quite rocky, but paved in that Austro-Hungarian Empire style of “throw some rocks down for a distance and call it a road. It gets the job done.”
After well over an hour of navigating these woodland paths, we made it to the nearby town of Meljine, where we rewarded our up-and-down adventure with beer and fried shrimp next to the sea.
Feat properly accomplished.
We certainly enjoy the idea that we can head off in a random direction and find intriguing sights to see. Whether it’s a famous, ancient monastery, or taking a back road and stumbling across a goat and a vineyard, there’s always something worth checking out just around the corner.
Want to see more photos from our day? Check out the album on our Facebook page.
Comments or questions? Do you have any similar experiences? Let us know your thoughts down below!
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