Vrmac Nature Park
The scenery is probably one of the reasons you decided to visit this magical piece of the planet in the first place. A magnificent mountain of Vrmac dominates, creating an experience of tranquillity and security in the viewer’s heart.
If you are coming to the bay from the mainland, we recommend taking the old Austro-Hungarian road from the direction of Cetinje. Not only will you pass through the historical section, but you will enjoy the view of the Bay of Kotor all along the way.
The Natural Landscape of Mount Vrmac
There are many viewpoints along the old road where you will want to stop and take photos. The impressiveness of this natural phenomenon one can experience best from Žanjev do, the first viewpoint you will come across when you pass Njeguši. One gets the impression that the pressure on the tiny historic settlements scattered at the very junction of the sea surface and the mountain is unbearable. Landscape and history are inextricably linked here.
Looking towards the higher parts, you will notice colossal mountain folds. Their origin dates back to the distant past when the continents were taking shape, and an incredible rock and roll of karst rocks took place. In that process, the entire area of Vrmac and its surroundings went below the High Karst Zone, which today represents the hinterland of the Bay of Kotor.
If you are fascinated by geology, you may come across many interesting limestone formations, from soft clay and marl to sharp and exciting breccias, conglomerates, and thinly layered limestones. For example, a fascinating stone used for centuries to beautify numerous buildings and public areas, of red and grey varieties, namely bokite, due to its quality and beauty, was installed in St. Mark’s basilica, OUN Monument in New York, many palaces, villas and pavements in Venice, Budva, Kotor, Odesa, Trieste.
Sinkhole rivers and underwater springs
Those heavy folds are, in fact, steep ravines that stand out, especially on the eastern side of Vrmac. Interestingly, they were created by the work of rivers that went underground due to extensive karstification. As a result, the waters of these springs often end up in the sea, where they emerge as underwater springs. Although on the Tivat side of Vrmac, there are numerous streams with natural and arranged beds, on the Kotor side, there are only smaller springs (wells) and traditional stone-made reservoirs called bistijerna. Moreover, almost every old house in the bay has such wells even now.
Mild winters and hot summers
It is unusual that despite all the rain that pours into this part of Europe, there is not enough water in the summer.
It often comes out in the form of underwater springs, gets lost in the labyrinth of underground limestone channels, or dries up in the hot Mediterranean sun. And although the summers are hot, the winters are mild with relatively high central temperatures (15-16 degrees Celsius).
Nevertheless, the abundant water most of the year contributes to the velvety green blanket that Vrmac possesses. Lush greenery is everywhere, growing and flourishing not only on its own but also nurtured by the local people. It consists of as many as 558 vascular taxa (plants imbued with a network of veins that supply them with nutrients and liquids), of which 17 are under state protection, and 14 are on the CITES convention. As many as 13 of them exist only on the Balkan Peninsula. Dendroflora, or more precisely trees, includes 63 taxa, of which Quercus pubescens, Cerpinus orientalis, Punica granatum, Laurus nobilis, Myrtus communis, Spartium junceum have “the greatest importance in the construction of plant cover” (Expeditio).
Medicinal, edible, and aromatic plants
Tanacetum cinerariifolium, an endemic species of the Balkan Peninsula that grows in Stoliv, was used in the past as a powerful insect repellent. Thanks to its efficiency, it was one of the most significant export products of Boka Kotorska in its history. Hiking enthusiasts can find it on the northeastern slope of Vrmac, i.e., in the surroundings of Stoliv.
Choose your favorite hiking trail
The path from Gornji Stoliv to Pasiglav is a popular hiking trail in the Bay of Kotor. Several tracks on Vrmac are unique and challenging, and the visitor will surely be delighted with the views. For connoisseurs of plant species, Vrmac is a true little paradise.
Click here for more information on hiking in Kotor.
Visitors can also see the remains of fortresses from the time when this mountain was an important stronghold of the fortified defense system from the Austro-Hungarian period. Back then, Boka Kotorska was the most strategically important point of defense in the south of the monarchy.
Arbutus unedo (maginja) among the edible plants is interesting because of its shape and nutritional properties. It is rich in flavonoids and vitamins, and people use it extensively, making all kinds of alcoholic beverages and jams. Moreover, the leaf has long been used in folk medicine as an “astringent, diuretic, antiseptic, means for the prevention and treatment of arterial hypertension.”
A macerate is made from the roots, and an extract is made from the leaves, which “prevent the aggregation of platelets and have a vasorelaxation effect” with a strong effect, so they are used “in the prevention and treatment of arterial hypertension”.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
This area is also interesting from the aspect of recipe creation. Numerous species the locals widely use in salads are sea fennel (Crythmum marittimum), asparagus (Asparagus acutifolium), or myrtle (Myrtus communis).
The Mediterranean conjures images of intoxicatingly fragrant nature, stone towns, and exciting dishes in the collective consciousness. And it is the plants that give that key stamp. People remember their well-known aromas and tastes for a long time, and many associate them with pleasantness, happiness, comfort, and authenticity.
Maybe you didn’t know, but those smells also come from macchia. It consists of hard-leaved plants, tall bushes, and low trees.
Macchia is considered the most critical ecosystem of the Mediterranean. It is interesting that, by definition, it represents the degradation status of vegetation caused by the actions of humans and animals. In addition, Macchia has an aesthetic value; it gives character to the landscape architecture of the Mediterranean. In several places, it is stated that it was built “from a small number of species of evergreen shrubs,” such as holly oak (Quercus ilex), laurustine (Viburnum tinus), Mediterranean buckthorne (Rhamnus alaternus), strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), lentisk (Pistacia lentiscus), green olive tree (Phillyrea latifolia), evergreen rose (Rosa sempervirens), butcher’s broom (Ruscus aculeatus)” and a few more, and several types of climbers”, e.g., greenbrier (Smilax aspera), wild asparagus (Asparagus acutifolius), common wild madder (Rubia peregrina), evergreen honeysuckle (Lonicera implexa), prickly cedar (Juniperus oxycedrus), tree heather (Erica arborea), bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), pomegranate (Punica granatum), olive (Olea europaea), Chirst’s thorn (Paliurus spina-christi), oriental hornbeam (Carpinus orientalis), European hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), cypress (Cypressus sempervirens), Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis), ash (Fraxinus ornus). Due to the density of the cover, “underneath the evergreen bushes there is a thick shadow on the ground all year round.” That is why in macchia and evergreen forests, “in the lowest layer near the ground, a tiny number of plants grow, e.g., spring sowbread (Cyclamen repandum), Irish spleenwort (Asplenium onopteris).”
Macchia on Vrmac occupies a small area because forests of tall trees dominate the peninsula. Vrmac is known for its chestnut forests, found in only a few locations in Gornji, Donji Stoliv, and Kostanjica. In addition to forests, you will also come across many stony pastures on Vrmac.
Pittosporum and mulberry tree
In addition to the olive plantations numbering thousands of trees, famous Kotor navigators brought numerous species from their travels to their region that adapted and accepted the new conditions. As a result, people still feel the benefit and recognize the aesthetic value in their flourishing.
For example, the pittosporum tree, originally from Asia, is a non-native species that likes to grow along the sealine. Pittosporum is a species that travelers will remember, especially if they visit Kotor in May, when the intoxicatingly sweet smell of its flower spreads everywhere. Or later in the summer, when they will enjoy its dense shade. Pittosporum local people often plant. It’s a species that has been shaped either as a tree or a fence since ancient times. Forming it like a tree, it usually takes the shape of an umbrella.
Nevertheless, mulberry and olive are champions in the high competition of plants from which man has benefited the most. Apart from its very healthy fruit, the mulberry is a tree from which locals obtained food in the cultivation of silkworms. Venetian authorities developed silk production in Kotor Bay, which engaged about 6,000 families. In Kotor alone in 1834, as many as 47 factories produced parts of women’s urban and national costumes. Silkworm cultivation continued during the Austro-Hungarian rule.
18 types of silk and a gift for officials
As many as sixteen types of silk fabrics were in use in the Bay of Kotor in the 19th century, writes Marija Crnić-Pejović in her work Svilarstvo u Boki Kotorskoj XVIII – 20 vijek: amoere, bavela, capiciola, camelot, cendal, cordonchin, cordellone, damask, dopio, drappio, ganzo , silk muslin, vello (raw silk), silk atlas, brocadella (silk and cotton blend), tamin (silk warp and combed cotton), veludo (silk and cotton), as well as rigardin.
The mulberry was a highly valued tree that high officials used to receive as a gift. People planted it for its fruit and shade. There were also instructions to grow along the roads so the poor could use it “and for the tired to rest in the shade.” Interestingly, the Administration in Herceg-Novi at the time, for the fallen and damaged mulberry trees that were planted and grown for decoration and shade, demanded compensation from the Administration in Kotor. It means that back in that period, the shade and fruit of the mulberry tree were valued, and any damage owners experienced deeply personally. In the mentioned work Marija Crnić cites parts of an official wiriting record of a meeting in Herceg Novi in which a certain citizen of Igalo complained “about the behavior of the soldiers who shook the mulberry fruits from his trees and caused damage to the tree, probably by breaking the branches, so he asked that they be prohibited this kind of behavior”.
You must have enjoyed the velvety flavors of porcini mushrooms or chanterelles. Mushrooms often contribute to the richness of flavor in traditional cuisine that relies on indigenous plant species. Although they do not belong to flora or fauna but the category of fungi, they are indeed connected and cannot exist without symbiosis with plants. Thanks to the specific features of the relief and the clearly expressed ecological characteristics of its slopes (southern and northern), different types of habitats were created, as well as the development of various fungi. Fungi enjoy the environment of species that build macchia.
Among the 75 recognized mushroom species growing on Vrmac, 3 are of national and international importance: Cantarellus lutescens, Craterellus cornucopioides, Geoglossum umbratile, Amanita cesarea, Lactarius mairei, Omphalotus olearius, Tulostoma fimbriatum.
Numerous animal species find refuge and home in the lush greenery. Don’t be surprised if you come across a deer or rhinoceros beetle at night because they love to grow in old dry trees. As many as 11 beetle species, 27 species of ants, and 36 diurnal species of butterflies exist on Vrmac. The law protects many of them due to the habitat’s vulnerability. Also, there are 59 species of birds, mostly nesting birds, and 11 species of mammals.
Small historical cores formed along the entire length of the peninsula or hidden in the deep greenery at higher elevations represent a valuable example of construction by famous and unknown builders who knew the nature of Vrmac and its laws and used it for production, but also simple treats. Unfortunately, due to the accelerated urbanization in the 21st century, many inventions of the former inhabitants of Kotor have been forgotten, neglected, or destroyed, such as the elaborate rainwater canal system.
Nevertheless, even today, numerous initiatives and activities contribute to the return to traditional methods in agriculture, and generally to the relationship with nature, and then to the prevention of further urbanization. In this sense, the intention of the Municipality to declare Vrmac a nature park is commendable.