October 15-17, 2011: Once upon time, the tiny rocky island of Sveti Stefan was a refuge, home to fishermen and their families. A place to wait out raids by the Turks, and later by pirates. Now it’s still a refuge, although connected to the shore by a narrow causeway, but of a very different kind. The villagers were moved to the mainland by the government some time back, and now the whole island is a hotel. A very, very expensive hotel, for very, very wealthy people seeking privacy. The enemy now are paparazzi, not pirates.
I had no thoughts of staying on the island itself, I’d stay in the new village on the mainland, and enjoy looking at the forbidden territory offshore. It had occurred to me that I might splurge on a meal there, but fortunately I couldn’t indulge this extravagant impulse as the hotel had closed for the season the weekend before. In fact it seemed that about everywhere in Sveti Stefan aside from the Vila Drago and a tiny village store had closed as well. And the Villa would close the next week.
I had reserved room five at the Vila, which meant I had two balconies, one looking along the coast towards Budva, and one looking directly at the island. And the island, all grey stone and red tiles, its church spire rising among sentinel cypress trees at the highest point, was drop-dead gorgeous. Just too picturesque. I figured I had better views on the shore looking at the island, than I would have done on the island itself. And as an extra bonus for arriving at the dead end of the season, the beaches were deserted. In season, I heard, you had to pay anything from 50 to 125 euros for a beach chair and umbrella. That’s if the beach in question wasn’t off limits to the hoi polloi altogether.
It’s true that the weather could have been better, and I could have been feeling better. Even with the sun shining, it was chilly, and the wind made eating outdoors problematic. Plus, I seemed to have caught a cold, and the remedy that had worked in Serbia was of no help here. But this was a great place to sit around admiring the view, and I did manage a hike up the coast to the next village, finding beautiful views round every headland.
Fortunately, the Vila Drago provided good food as well as good rooms, as I ate all my meals there. Indeed, the daily fish special was far more food than I could eat. I caught the bus back to Budva after two nights very satisfied with my visit, and with absolutely no need to go back.