Parenting Travel

Climbing the Castle of San Giovanni in Kotor, Montenegro with My Son: Dropping wisdom along the way

We arrived in Kotor, Montenegro already sunburned and tired. A heat wave was kicking our butts as we traveled around Rome, Croatia, and Bosnia. My step counter buzzed frequently letting me know new records were set. But as we approached the Fortress of Kotor, I knew my oldest son would request a little hike.

Some kids walk by ice cream stands and request a bite. Some kids walk by toy stores and crave a new plaything. My oldest can’t walk by a reason for physical exertion without asking to take part. And as I looked up at the 1355 steps of the Castle of San Giovanni, I knew the question was coming. My wife hiked with my son in Croatia, so I wanted the opportunity to hike in Montenegro.

We began our climb and were immediately thankful my wife talked us into carrying extra water. While we climbed, we chatted about our trip, what’s going on in the world, and of course, soccer. Step by step, we made our way, one talking point after another. At about the half-way point, music drifted up the steps. Our quiet, serene walk was invaded by 5 college-aged American men. One of them was playing music from his backpack. They arrived behind us, huffing and puffing and talking loudly. I saw them earlier walking around the city and was immediately annoyed. On the castle steps, my annoyances increased tenfold. What was an enjoyable quiet moment with my son was taken over by a group of obnoxious 20-somethings.

My son and I slowed down to let them pass and our moment was renewed. We stopped wherever we could find shade and rested and then continued our climb. Our conversations revisited our previous discussions, but soon we caught up with the group which I labeled, “The Frat Boys.” They were posing for pictures on an overlook and I was hoping to grab a couple pictures. They were taking a long time as they posed, ate energy bars, all the while listening to loud music. Knowing we didn’t have the luxury of taking our good sweet time because we needed to meet up with the rest of the fam, we pushed on ahead.

We reached the top and looked around the ruins. My son and I hugged and took a bunch of pictures. We dangled our legs off a ledge and took in the surroundings. While we were talking, can you guess what we heard coming up the steps? The Frat Boys loud music once again invaded our space. As they walked by me, I couldn’t help but smile at their sunburn backs. I leaned into my son, “they should’ve helped one another apply sunscreen.” “Yeah,” my son tiredly responded.

I looked at my son, “Ready?” We both stood up and began our descent down the steps. I motioned back to the guys at the top of the wall.

“Never be like them, okay?”


“Why do you think I’m saying that?”

“Because you don’t want me to be a rude American.”

“Yes, but more than that. Those guys up there don’t care about anyone else right now. They took up space while walking, played loud music, and were inconsiderate of everyone. Son, it’s hard to do, but I want you to be considerate to a fault. If making sure others have a better time at the expense of your time, then that’s a win. They could have had a great time on this hike like the rest of us, but they chose their own interests. Take this vacation. What if we only did things mom and I wanted to do? Didn’t care about what you want? How would that be for everyone? We share the space and work together. A little less for me adds more for you. You still have fun and so do I. Being considerate goes a long way.”

“Dad, I am.”

“I know son. Here’s a good spot for a picture.“

One of the things that I love about traveling with my kids are the unexpected lessons that come about. We talk about being considerate often, but a teachable moment presented itself and I took advantage. Hopefully someday when my son is talking about being considerate, he’ll have an illustration ready to provide.

Here are my tips for climbing the Fortress of Kotor:

  1. Give yourself about two hours for the whole experience.
  2. Pack a lot of water.
  3. Shade is few and far in between. When you get to a shady spot, relax for a few minutes.
  4. And be considerate of others. It’s a large mountain, but the space to climb is small.
  5. It costs 3 euro a person to climb the walls and well worth it.


Church of Our Lady of Remedy This little chappel is close to half way up the castle.


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  1. That’s an impressive hike! An even more impressive lesson. It’s so hard to teach consideration and compassion. Most of the time we have teach through example and you took full advantage of your opportunity. I backpacked Costa Rica for a couple weeks when I was younger. I would LOVE to take my kids on the same adventure.

  2. Wow beautiful photos and what a great way to teach this important life lesson. I think it’s only when we truly spend proper time with our kids that we find ways to teach these things because the situations grow organically and so the less is more meaningful. We love walking as a family and I hope as my kids get older, we will progress onto some proper hiking. I used to hike a lot pre-kids. There’s just something about being outside with only your feet for transport!

    And congratulations because someone loved this post so much, they added it to the BlogCrush linky. Feel free to collect your “I’ve been featured” blog badge 🙂 #blogcrush

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