The island of Sveti Stefan is unquestionably the visit card of Montenegro.
The island is located 6 km from the city of Budva. Pinky-red-ish pebble beach, emerald water, olive groves… Sveti Stefan impresses with its beauty even sophisticated travellers.
But what was here before? Let’s plunge into history.
In the days of the Venetian Republic, the island served as an important transport hub. There was unloading of ships from the seaports of the Mediterranean Sea.
In the 15th century, after the victory of the Petrovic dynasty over the Turks, a fortress, 12 houses, and the church of the First Martyr Stefan, patron of Montenegro, were erected.
The island was a small village where men were engaged in fish farming, and their wives produced olive oil. Its population was no more than 80 people.
For a long time, the island had no significant economic significance for the country. Only in the mid-fifties of the 20th century, the government of Yugoslavia decided to establish a resort area on the Adriatic Sea. The construction of hotels started. A bridge was built along the isthmus connecting the island with the mainland.
Thus, the island turned into a luxurious city hotel with terracotta roofs, drowning in the green of cypresses and palms.
The visitors of the island include such people like Queen Elizabeth II of England, Queen Christina of Netherlands, first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, model Claudia Schiffer, singer Madonna, actress Sophia Loren, actor Sylvester Stallone, and many others.
As for the prices, people tell different legends. One our fellow Montenegrin, who lived all his life in the area of Sveti Stefan, says that Russian oligarchs could burn up to 6,000 euros for a night on the island.
Since the 2000s, the sale of real estate has been authorized. After that, the owners of the villas asked about the closure of the island for visiting for the non-hotel guests. So, from October 2016 to April 2017, the hotel was closed for visiting. However, on prior request, it was possible to book an excursion. The price of such an excursion was 20 euros. Currently, the ban on entry is valid again. But there is one day in the year when the entrance to the island is always open – this is August 28, the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin. Here is the Church of the Transfiguration. It is here, where annually on August 28, the priest from the Monastery of Praskvitsa comes and holds a festive service.
On the island, there was another church – in the name of the Russian holy Prince Alexander Nevsky. The church was built by the Queen of Serbia and Yugoslavia Maria Karageorgievich in the 1930s on the foundation of the destroyed 15th century Сathedral of the Nativity of the Virgin. The Queen decided to dedicate the church to Saint Alexander Nevsky out of great love and respect for Russia. The beach near the hotel Kraljičina Plaža is named in her honour, which is the only private beach in Montenegro, and the nearby beach is named after her husband Alexander – Milocer (Miloser), or the Royal Beach. In the season, entrance to this beach costs 80-100 euros. In non-season, you can walk along the coast for free.
At the time of atheistic rule in the country, in the 1950s, two churches were demolished to the foundations – Church of St. Stefan and Church of Alexander Nevsky. For the entire population of Montenegrin believers, this was a terrible blow… With sledgehammers, the prisoners broke the domes and walls ща the churches. In 2013, it was decided to restore the Сhurch of Alexander Nevsky. The church was restored together with the Russian Orthodox Church. Montenegrins still speak of Russia and of the friendship between the Slavic peoples with deep warmth.
The island is especially beautiful at sunset when the water lights up with sun rays, seafood is prepared in the restaurants on the coast, homemade Montenegrin wine is poured into glasses..while the sea keeps quietly whispering something for many centuries…