THE LITTORAL IN MONTENEGRO
For all those who yearn for sun, sea, and beaches this is part of Montenegro to come to. From Platamuni Points just north of Budva to Bojana River, which forms, the border with Albania, you will find views across the open sea, mild climate, olive groves, and all other things one associates with the Mediterranean.
Most of the Littoral (Primorje) is a narrow strip of land between the sea and the steeply descending mountains with just a few small plains, the largest of which have now been taken by the cities of Budva and Bar. Other towns are passed into the sea, with new hotels, villas and apartments and their back and old villages draped on the mountainside above them. Once the rural part of the Littoral was important as the urban one, but today most of the inhabitants have moved to the urbanized coast. Furthermore, the towns of the Littoral receive a steady influx of people from all of Montenegro due to the good possibility of finding work and a favorable climate. Recently the newcomers are joined by Russians, English, Irish, and others buying property and building their homes here. All of these novelties and the orientation and the orientation of the regions towards tourism have drastically changed the region's appearance and the places untouched by commercial developments are becoming rarer.
The beauties of this area have drowned attention from people throughout the ages. The oldest cities- Budva and Ulcinj- where founded already by the Ancient Greeks as trading outposts with the inland tribes. Roman presence left a mark much deeper than the few ruins and mosaics remaining to this day: after the downfall of their Empire and the barbaric invasions, the Roman population withdrew to the fortified maritime towns keeping their Latin language and close ties to Italy. During the course of centuries, the population was slavicized and Roman Catholicism gave way to Orthodox Christianity. The Latin and Catholic legacies have survived due to the rule of the Venetian Republic which ruled a lion’s share of this region from the mid 15th century. The towns of Ulcinj and Bar were taken by the Turks in 1571 and changed their character completely, which is evident to this day, but Budva and its environs in the grasp of the Venetians. Montenegrins liberated bar and Ulcinj in 1878 winning access to the sea for their small principality, while the rest on the Littoral was joined with Montenegro in 1918 when Yugoslavia was formed.
The northernmost town in the region is Budva, the undisputed capital of Montenegrin tourism. On the elegant stone streets of its walled Old Town and in its refund restaurants one will find tourists throughout the year, but it is in high summer when the city is visited by the young enjoying its beaches and nightlife. The Budva Riviera around the town is a series of large and small beaches served by a multitude of hotels and apartments-to-let. The first one is Bečići with its long beach and many top-class hotels and surrounded by some of the most beautiful beaches in eastern Adriatic. Close by is Petrovac, smaller and much calmer than Budva, but equally nice in terms of nature and tourist commodities.
Further to the south is Bar, the largest city of Littoral; surprisingly, it is not a tourist spot at all but a modern city centered around its large harbor and shipyard. However, nearby is its historical predecessor, Old bar (Stari Bar), with its fascinating ruins of the medieval town amidst its strong walls. The strip of coast south of Bar equals in beauty the one of Budva but lacks the picturesque small towns and is cluttered by summer houses and auto camps. Ulcinj differs from the rest of the Littoral as the only town with an ethnic Albanian majority and a strong oriental character. This is reflected both in its mosques of trading, small coffee houses, and kebab restaurants.
The scenery changes as well: the last hills are in Ulcinj and from here on opens, a coastal plain with many villages still focused on agriculture. The coast forms into a single 13 km long beach, deservedly called the Great Beach (Velika plaža). At its southern and lies Ada Bojana, an unusual feature –a river island at a confluence a naturist-only resort but is also known for the excellent fish restaurants and peaceful apartments lining the banks of the river Bojana.
The Adriatic Highway (Jadranska magistrala) runs the full length of the region following along the coastline. Though it becomes quite hectic in the summer, the driver along it is an experience in itself with different views of the coast opening after every curve. Smaller roads branch off from it leading on one side to numerous coves and beaches, the smallest of which are impossible to see from the highway, and on the other to the monasteries and rarely visited villages imbued with peace of the olden times.
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With its excellent sandy beaches, the multitude of hotels and scenic walled old town Budva, including the surrounding area, it is the single most important summer resort in Montenegro. The old town lies at the cape of Budva’s spacious bay, while the rest of the flat terrain around it is quickly being filled with houses and apartments gaining ground each year. During the beginning and at the end of the season Budva is a very pleasant place. Budva is one of the oldest settlements on the Adriatic. The legend holds that was founded by the Theban king Cadmus while the written sources tell us about the Greek colony Buthoa already in 4th c. BC.
The town existed quietly throughout the Roman era but was plundered in 841 by the Saracens. It recovered as the Romans embraced the Slavic and Avar populations who settled locally and gradually mixed with them. In the period of Nemanjić Serbia, it was a sizable merchant town but lingered far behind the importance and wealth of Kotor. The town acquired a statue (whose text is preserved) that regulated its autonomy and all the important communal questions as well, for the house of Balšić it served as the main port both for trade and for sending ships to war with the other nobles. After changing masters several times, Budva decided to accede to Venice in 1443. Bit by bit, the Turks closed in on its walls leaving Budva cut off from its surroundings and dependent on Venetian help.
However, Venice provided to be too far away when in 1571 Turkish pirates from Ulcinj captured and burnt down the town. It was wrestled back the followings year but took a long time to recover to its former condition. The town was damaged by an earthquake that rocked the southern Adriatic in 1667. With the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, Budva began a turbulent period in its history. The aristocrats opted for the Habsburgs and the citizens and the peasants for Montenegro, the latter party prevailed and metropolitan Petar I administrated it for several months until the Austrian army arrived. After their defeat at the Austerlitz, the Austrians ceded Budva and other towns of Boka Kotorska to join forces made up of the Montenegrins and the Russian Adriatic fleet. The French attempts to capture the town were fought off and the joining government protracted until Tilsit peace was signed in 1807. The French administration was loathed for its clashes with the neighboring clans its attempts of conscription, and the liberation in 1813 by the Montenegrins was met with relief. In 1814 Budva become a part of Austria. The Austrian attempts to mobilize men for its army was met with tow insurrections in 1869 and 1882. In 1915, during World War One, Budva was briefly liberated by the Montenegrins during which period many people joined the Montenegrin army. These volunteers returned victoriously in 1918 leading the Serbian army of unifying their town into the new state of Yugoslavia.
Tourism flourished already in the 1930s when the first modern hotels were built. In 1979 a strong earthquake reduced Budva to rubble. The recovery of the walled town for many years but when it was finally finished Budva shone like never before. The hub of Budva is its Old Town which became too small for its population only in the second half of 20th c. The reconstruction following the 1979 earthquake purged it from several newer buildings and brought back fully its medieval character with narrow zigzag streets and tiny squares. This also the main shopping district in the town with many small boutiques, jewelers, and souvenir shops, but it also home to many fine restaurants and cafes.
OLD TOWN BUDVA
The Old Town is enclosed by sturdy town walls that stand in the place of the medieval ones but date mostly from renewal following in the 1667 earthquake. The entrance to it is gained through six gates: the main Land Gate from the spacious square facing north, the small Sea Gate towards the small beach, and four others from the direction of the yachting marina.
It is possible to climb up the walls in three places and walk along the ramparts from the Land Gate to the Citadel. Above the Land, Gate stands the winged lion of St Mark, the symbol of Venetian Republic. From the Land, Gate starts Njegoševa St., the main street of the Old Town which leads to the Trg Pjesnika (Poets ‘ Square) with and info point and the tiny Sea Gate to its right.
THE SQUARE BETWEEN THE CHURCHES
Two small snaking lanes connect the end of Njegoševa St. with Trg Between The Churches, a square with many street cafes, and the four churches of Budva. Leaning on the walls to your right is the Santa Maria in Punta (“Saint Mary in the Cape”) named after its prominent location. It was built in the year 840for a Benedictine monastery but was later taken over by the Franciscans who used it until the abolishment of their order by the French in 1807 when it was converted into an armory. Next to it is even smaller (only 5 by 3 m) church of St Sabbas of Jerusalem (Sveti Sava Jerusalimski not to be mistaken with St Sava Serbian).
It was built in 1141 and used by the Orthodox up to the up to the 16th c when forced to share it with the Franciscans. In the middle of the square stands the beautiful Church of Holy Trinity (Crkva Svetog Trojstva) built with interchanging rows of red and white rock modeled after the one in Podmaine monastery. It was erected in 1804 by which time the Orthodox population became a majority and used of fall of Venice to gain religious equality with state-sponsored Catholicism. Inside it is splendidly gilded iconostasis from 1864 painted by Nicholas Asppitios from the Greek island of Corfu. In front of the church is the modest grave of Stjepan Mitrov Ljubiša.
The church with the tall belfry is St. John’s (Crkva Svetog Ivana)until 1828 the seat of the Catholic bishopric while today it is only a parish church. Founded in the 7th c. it bore witness to many changes, destructions and reconstructions until it got its present-day look in the 17th century. The belfry, one of Budva’s landmarks, was added in 1867 while the adjoining bishop’s residence was remodeled in a neo-gothic style in 1903. Inside this three-nave basilica, several icons of Byzantine style are displayed, the most important amongst them stands in the marble altar and is called Santa Maria in Punta (brought from the church of that name after its closing), revered at the patroness of the town. Next to this church in Budva, a large basilica from the early Middle Ages built probably in the 5th century.
At the highest point in the Old Town rises the Citadel, sheltered on all sides by high walls. It stands in the place of the Hellenic acropolis. Its present-day looks date from the time of the Austrian adaption in 1836. One enters the Citadel through its barracks.
The ruins of the Church Santa Maria di Castello can also be found here, of which only one wall with medieval frescoes remains.
The museum is situated in a stately stone edifice in the south-eastern corner of this town. The ground floor is dedicated to temporary exhibitions, the first and the second floor present the archaeological finding from the era of the town’s founding, the Roman and medieval period, while the exhibits on the last floor depict the life of town families and of peasants from the surrounding area.
The most important of the exhibits are surely those from Greek and Roman eras such their jewelry, poetry, extraordinary well-preserved flasks of all types, and a coin collection.
STEFAN MITROV LJUBIŠA MEMORIAL HOME
Ljubiša (1824-1878) was a writer and a Serb patriot who rose to the position of the head of the Dalmatian parliament and became one of the most influential figures amongst both the Orthodox and Catholics in Boka Kotorska and the rest of littoral. He is even known as a writer of stories dealing with subjects of local history and colored strongly by local folklore and language. The exhibitions in the house where he was born to present copies of archival documents on his life, original editions of his works as well as news articles and testimonies from the later era about his life and work. Next door to the Memorial Home ( up the steps) is the Gallery of Modern Art (Moderna galerija) which houses temporary exhibitions of contemporary Montenegrin artists.
During the digging of the foundations of “Avala”, Budva’s first hotel, in 1938 the workers came across a foundation of a Roman necropolis. Later excavations showed that it lay above the Illyrian-Greek one, while the oldest layer is a burial from the Neolithic. The best-preserved tombstones found here and a large Roman mosaic can be seen in the green area between hotels “Avala” and “Mogren” facing the Land Gate.
At the beginning of Slovenska obala, a promenade parallel to the coast stands the bust of Stefan Mitrov Ljubiša, a work of Slovenian sculptor Lojze Dolinar from 1935. After their defeat in Brajići above Budva in July of 1941, the Italian occupying forces first ceremonially shot the bust and then pulled it down.
Until a decade ago this monastery stood solemnly on the slopes of the first hill to the west of Budva but due to the rapid expansion of the town today it is well inside its limits. To reach this monastery by car is the best to take Žrtava fašizma St. and (if coming from the west i.e. the Old Town) after crossing the bridge over the small Grdjevica River to turn left at the first intersection; proceed following the wooden signs. The monastery (alternatively also called Podostrog) and surrounding area belonging to Maine clan were the spurts of Montenegrin territory closest to Budva until 1837 when Njegoš following many years of pressure sold it to the Austrians and thus regulated the border with the Habsburg Empire which was then established on top of the first mountains. It is known who when founded this monastery but we know that it was renewed in 1630. Enjoying mild, Mediterranean climate it was popular with metropolitans of Cetinje, especially during winters. Vladika Danilo, the main character of Njegoš’s “Mountain Wreath”, spent here his last days; his body lay here until 1856 when it was carried to Cetinje and buried on Orlov krš. It was also one of the residences dearests to Njegoš who wrote here several of his books. The Austrians used it as a barracks and a prison.
Podmaine has two churches. The large one standing in the middle of its stone-paved courtyard was built in the mid 18th century by metropolitans Sava and Vasilije. It is built in rows of white and reddish stone and has a large cupola with small windows. Its west face has a richly decorated portal while above it stands a nice rose window. The interior is decorated with new fresco paintings. The older church is actually a small underground chapel beneath the monk’s dwellings and was constructed at the time of the monastery’s renewal in 1630. Inside it one can see quite damaged frescos from the period of its construction. On the other side of the dwellings is a large terrace with a view of the fields of Budva, built on the level with the monastery’ walls. On the west side, there is a small tower and stone well decorated with reliefs of a two-headed eagle, a lion, and a cherubim’s head.
SVETI NIKOLA ISLE
The isle, called after the church of St Nicholas, standing on its west promontory, is a wedge-like piece of rock closing the bay of Budva. The side facing land has several small coves but the ground then steeply rises to the highest peak of 120m above the sea level, from where one can enjoy a panoramic view of the whole of the Budva riviera. Practically covered in lush greenery known from many rare plant species, among them is a unique kind of wild lily called Lilium buthuense. It is inhabited by doves and deer.
The small St Nicholas church is first recorded on a drawing of Budva from the 16th c. but it is possible that it predates this portrayal. Until 1836 the gravestones can still be seen around it. The vicinity is much merrier: the lone dock and restaurant “Hawaii” whose name is now synonymic with the whole island. The elongated beach in front of the church is attended by boats coming from Slovenska plaža and other parts of Budva.
South of Budva and almost joined with it is the resort of Bečići known for its sea of fantastic blue color and long sandy beach that has been voted as one the finest in the Mediterranean as far back as 1937. At the side closer to Budva is a group of hotels, led in grandeur by the recently renovated “Splendid”. On the other side of the beach is the tourist village of Rafailovići with old stone houses adjoined by hotels and several well-known restaurants.
On the beach, there are facilities for water sports and tennis courts. After final demarcation with Montenegro in 1841, Austria decided to secure its maritime possessions with a series of fortifications. One of the most impressive among these is Kosmač, located in the village of Brajići (11km from Budva), on the highway towards Cetinje. The derelict fort was built with large stone blocks with loopholes for cannons. Kosmač was attacked in the 1869 insurrection by Brajići clan but was never taken. The importance given to it can be seen from the fact that it was visited in 1875 by Emperor Franz Joseph.
CADMUS AND THE ILLYRIANS
Cadmus was the son of the Phoenician king Agenor. When Zeus kidnapped his daughter Europa, Agenor sent his son to find her. During his search, Cadmus came to the Delphi oracle where he was advised to give up and instead established a town at the place where a cow with half moon on both sides of her things lies down exhausted. Cadmus did so and founded Thebes on that spot. After he killed the serpent guarding the nearby springs he sawed off its teeth from which sprang armed men who started killing each other until only five remained, until only five remained, from which descend the noble families of Thebes. However, the dragon was sacred to Ares finishing this he was given Harmonia (daughter of Ares and Aphrodite) as a wife.
Hephaestus was enraged since Harmonia, the daughter of his wife and lover, received so much attention from the other gods. He, therefore, presented her with a necklace which brought many misfortunes to Cadmus and his family in future years. In the end, Cadmus decided to leave Thebes for Illyria, barbaric land to the north of Greece. Seated on an oxcart Cadmus and Harmonia reached the tribe of Enheleans who, as advised by Dionysus, chose them for their rulers. Under their leadership, the Enheleans overcame other Illyrian tribes and Cadmus became their king and also founded several towns, amongst them Buthoa, modern-day Budva (supposedly named after the oxen-bous in old Greek-that brought them there). Reflecting on his life, Cadmus one day lamented that if the gods where so vengeful of him killing a serpent, he would like to become one himself. This wish was granted to him and he was turned into a black snake with blue spots. Harmonia decided to follow her husband and in their honor Illyrians built a temple where snakes were worshiped.
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The panoramic view of Sveti Stefan is surely one of the most memorable sights along Montenegro’s coast, photographed so many times that it is almost impossible to imagine a promotional brochure or video without its enchanting look. This miniature island is dotted with stone houses and joined with the mainland by a narrow sand isthmus which the sea currents have built during the ages. It is an exclusive tourist resort visited by rich and famous with each house serving as a separate luxurious apartment.
The history of Sveti Stefan goes back to the 15th century when Paštrovići clan helped the besieged Kotor by attacking the Turks from their rear. Returning from this victory, Paštrovići learned that the Turkish fleet is harbored near Budva. The surprise attack was a success and great booty was obtained from the sunken ships. Expecting the Turkish reprisal, they decided to use the loot to build a fort on this craggy island. On the island, each of twelve families had a house while jointly they built a church dedicated to St Stefan which gave the name of their settlement.
The attack indeed comes and was later repeated many times, but the island fort withstood them all, serving as a refuge for all the clan members during the worst of times. Gradually more houses were built in this stronghold by Paštrovići merchants and by those who turned to attack the Turkish ships and the small town soon became an unofficial capital of the clan. At the beginning of the 19th century, the “smallest town in the Adriatic” grew to 400 inhabitants but shortly afterward it started to decay due to the demise of the sailing ships. When in 1954 the number of inhabitants fell to just 21 it was decided to resettle them and turn the island into an apartment hotel.
The coast facing the island boasts a fine sandy beach, several small hotels, and all the tourist practicalities one might need. The only approach to the former island is by isthmus, built-in 1907 in place of the seasonal sand bar. Just by the gate of the heavy town is a small church dedicated to the Transfiguration from 1693 with the remains of the frescoes from that period. The narrow crooked lanes lead to the highest spot on the island which is crowned by two churches, both dedicated to St Steven. That smaller church was founded with the town in the 15th century while the largest dates from 1885. The larger later served as a court church to King Aleksandar of Yugoslavia and was re-dedicated to St Alexander Nevsky, a Russian saint known for his victory against the Teutonic knights, not a great surprise if we consider that Aleksandar was a close relative of the Russian court and held ambitions to the throne emptied by the Bolsheviks. In the church, there is an iconostasis by Marko Gregović.
The first cove to the north of Sveti Stefan is the famous Miločer beach. This quaint inlet has the one-time residence of King Aleksandar, a nice 1934 villa in the style of local stone houses. Its sides are sheltered by thick groves while the wooded park behind the villa was populated with tropical plants during the time it was king’s reserve. One rocky hill further beyond Miločer is the small Kraljičina plaža (“Queens Beach”) named after Aleksandar’s wife Marija who regularly enjoyed its 120 m of sand surrounded with cypress trees and olives.
This monastery is set in a peaceful landscape above the main highway not far from Sveti Stefan. The picturesque cypress-lined approach to the monastery complex is an experience in itself. Praskvica got its name after a well whose water supposedly had an aroma somewhat like peaches (praskve). The monastery consists of two churches, the monk’s dwelling, and an old school. The large church is dedicated to St Nicholas, protector of travelers and sailors. It dates from 1847 and stands on the foundations of the one built by Balša III Balšić in 1413. This old church was destroyed in a French attack on Paštrovići in 1812 when the clan rebelled against the banishing of their privileges. Inside there is an excellent 1863 high iconostasis by Nicholaos Aspiotis from Corfu. To the left of the iconostasis is the only remaining part of the old church painted with frescoes dating from the 15th century.
The small church of Holy Trinity lies uphill from the large one on the cemetery. The local tradition holds that was founded in 1050 but the first written evidence of its monastery’s existence comes from 1307. The small church was even tinier before it got the narthex with the belfry. The interior was painted in 1680 by painter Radul who was assisted by Dimitrije, the founder of the Dimitrijević- Rafailović school of painting which left a permanent mark on icon-painting in Montenegrin coast-land.
The ceiling portrays holidays of the Orthodox Church while the walls stand out of the frescoes of the Holy Warriors, Christ between kings David and Solomon and of St Sava with his father Simeon Nemanja. Adjoining the church is the building that once graves home to the first school in the region of Paštrovići clan.
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Petrovac is one of the loveliest places on the Montenegrin coast. It enjoys all the amenities of a holiday resort with plenty of places for wining and dining, but one the other hand, it remains of fairly moderate size. In Roman times local landowners built several villas here whose geometrically shaped mosaics can still be seen in two places in the town. In medieval times, the settlement withdrew up the slopes and existed under the name Lastva. With the agreement of Paštrović bankada in the 16th century Venetians built on the seafront a quarantine for the sick and small fort which protected the sailing ships along their strip of coast. Gradually next to the fort appeared the storehouses for wine and olive oil brought from the surrounding area to be sold overseas. The beginning of the 19th century saw the first houses erected and the new settlement adopted the name of Kastel Lastva after the fort it grew beside. This was changing in 1918 in the memory of Serbian king Petar the “Liberator” when the town became a part of Yugoslavia.
He hub of life in Petrovac is a pine-shaded promenade that stretched along its 600 m long beach well-known for its fine reddish sand. Amongst the row of modest stone houses lining the promenade stands out of cultural center “Crvena komuna” ( “Red Commune”) which got its name in memory of the communist victory in the local elections in 1919. The promenade ends with the small Venetian fort, known locally as Kastio, recently turned into a nightclub. In a prominent position next to its stands the tall monument resembling a form of a lighthouse; it is dedicated to Paštrovići who died while fighting on the communist side in World War Two.
In the middle of Petrovac cove stand, while not bigger than large riffs, they were large enough to allow protection to the people of Lastva in case of a Turkish attack. The one on the left, Katič, is bigger and covered with thick shrub. The small stony one is Sveta Nedjelja, called after the church built by a donation from the local sailors. The legend says that is the main benefactor was a Greek who was a shipwreck and found refuge on the island on a Sunday (nedjelja).
The oldest monuments in Petrovac lie inland from the coast. To find the 4th-century Roman mosaics the tourist signs won’t be enough and is, therefore, best to inquire locally. The two churches, one dedicated to St Elijah (Sveti Ilija) and the other to St Thomas (Sveti Toma), were built in the 15th century but were later was the sight of the legendary heroic act of priest Rade Andrović In 1785 Kara Mahmud Bushati, a Turkish pasha from Skhoder looted and burned the whole of Paštrovići although he promised not to do so. The priest Andrović decided to take revenge and kill the Turkish villain. While seemingly unarmed he was allowed into the pasha’s tent where he took out his concealed gun but the chance it did not fire and Andrović died to no avail.
The monastery is located halfway between Sveti Stefan and Petrovac. Coming along the highway from the direction of Budva it lies on the right-hand side, immediately after the junction for Perazića Do beach, and it is clearly visible from the road. The legend retold from one generation of Paštrovići to the next tells that the monastery was founded next to the main medieval road running down the coastline. By the road stood a pillar and on it a jug with wine for the thirsty travelers, kept full devotedly by Paštrovići clan members. One day in the year 1226 Serbian king Stefan the First Crowned drank from the jug and its returns for this generosity decided to found a monastery here. The second church in the monastery was added by Serbian Emperor Dušan the Mighty in 1351, the same year he granted Paštrovići the rank of nobles of the region. During its history, Reževići remained closely knit with Paštrović clan and whenever their freedom was endangered the monastery suffered as well. The first trouble came upon in the 1785 campaign of Mahmud pasha Bushatli when it was destroyed. In 1812 it was burnt by the French for opposing their rule and siding with the Montenegrins. The last of the destructions came in 1941 when the Italians pillaged and set it ablaze.
The shady courtyard overflowing with flowers has a souvenir shop which amongst other things also sells stone-pressed olive oil and honey made by monks. The larger of two monastery churches was built in 1770. It is a typical maritime church of the time, with a sturdy stone exterior and a modest rose window. The unusual belfry with five crosses was added in 1839. Its interior has newly painted walls and an iconostasis was done by Marko Gregović (1867-1941), an academic painter from Petrovac.
The small church is supposed to be one built in the 13th century but adaptions made through the centuries have blurred its origin design. In it one can see very good frescoes from the end of the 17th century and an iconostasis painted by Aleksije Lazović of Bijelo Polje in 1833. Further to the left of this church, underneath the steps of the monastic residence, stands the only surviving wall of the second, 14th-century church, complete with the frescoes from the period. In front of the monastery complex is a stone threshing floor with a nice view of the sea.
The monastery is situated 2,5 kilometers from Petrovac on the main road towards Bar. If driving, be prepared for a sharp turn to the left and a steep uphill climb leading between the houses to a parking lot. A short but quite steep, the walk will take you to the monastery gates. It is not known who or when founded the monastery; tradition holds that it was in 1116 but the first written proof of its existence comes from 1307 when Serbian King Milutin mentioned it in one of his chapters. The monastery was looted several times by Turks but managed to survive and live through a small artistic renaissance in the 6th century when many prominent artists worked here. In WWII it was the scene of heavy fighting between the Italians and the Partizans and after the war, it was abandoned. After the 1979 earthquake, it fell into decay and was renovated only a few years ago.
The monastery stands on a prominent position enjoying fine views to Buljarice cove and yet its courtyard with lots of flowers and drinking well seems a world away from the hustle and bustle of the beaches. The monastery complex consists of three churches. The one closest to the entrance, dedicated to St Sava, is the youngest; it was built in 1863 on the spot of an older temple from the 15th century, but with its interchanging rows of red and white stone fits in perfectly with the whole. Inside there is an interesting iconostasis made by Greek painter Nicholaos Aspiotis.
The unusually orientated Church of St Nikolas was built around 1618 by Dioniosije and Stevan Davidović, as stated on the inscription above the entrance. Its interior is entirely covered in will paintings, work of the famous priest Strahinja of Budimlje and the painter Jovan in 1620. The frescoes represent episodes from the Old and New Testaments, the Durmitor of the Virgin, the Nemanjić rulers and the large bust St Nicholas. The fine iconostasis was carved and painted by Vasilije Rafailović of Risan in 1796. On one of the icons, you will notice a dog-headed saint, which was actually a usual depiction of St Christopher in Eastern Orthodox iconography where his beastly looks were given the contrast to his saintly life.
The third church dedicated to the Dormition of the Virgin stands on a mound with a small cemetery. Very small ( 6 by 4m) and without any outer décor, it is typical for the old village churches of the coast-land. The interior was painted by priest Srahinja seemed to prefer smaller, intimate spaces since he made a better disposition of scenes and characters here, producing a harmonious whole ranked as his best work. Among the ecclesiastical themes, we encounter once more the busts of the Nemanjić rulers.
PAŠTROVIĆS AND THEIR BANKADA
The Paštrovićs clan is the largest and the most important one the Montenegrin coastline. Also, it is very old, being first mentioned in 1355 when some Paštrovićs were nobleman in the service of Serbian Emperor Dušan. From the beginning of the 15th century, we have records of the 12th families of Paštrovići united into one clan. In 1422 they decided to accept Venetian supremacy and to wage war for her between Kotor and Shkoder but on conditions that the Republic should guarantee their trading rights and a wide autonomy in dealings amongst themselves.
The meant above all that the Paštrovićs settled the conflicts between their clansmen in their own court called “zbor” ( “gathering”), “bankada” (from Italian banco-“table”)or “the Place of Justice”. In dealing with civic disputes the court used the Code of Emperor Dušan and common law while in deciding on questions of common interest for the clan every man had the right to speak out. The Bankada was made up of four judges and 12 “nobles” who were elected for a one year term on Vidovdan (28th of June), a very important Serb holiday. The court’s patron saint is St Stevan Štiljanović, a late 15th-century duke of Paštrovići, who had a flee from initially convened at the Drobni pijesak beach but later also in Sveti Stefan and in the Praskvica monastery. Although the Paštrovići were stripped off their rights, first by the French and later 1926. It was renewed in 1999 and nowadays against resides on Vidovdan in Drobni pijesak. Today the Bankada’s main concern is preserving the old traditions, religious festivities, economic development of the Paštrović area (from Budva to Sutomore), and protection of historical monuments.
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Bar was founded in 1878 when the Montenegrins acquired this region in a war that devastated the town of Old Bar. It is original name was Pristan („Anchorage“) as it was Montenegro's first harbor developed rapidly after WWII when it got a new modern harbor which was in 1976 connected with the Bar-Belgrade railway to which gravitated all of Montenegro and all of Serbia. Bar is also the only maritime town in Montenegro with a regular ferry line connecting it to Bari in Italy. Today, the town serves as an important traffic center, second only to Podgorica and there is barely anything touristy about it as it consists almost exclusively of socialist-era apartment blocks.
North from the harbor lies the pleasant Topolica Park and on its edge, facing the sea and promenade is the Palace of King Nikola. This nice villa was built in 1885 and is adjoined by a chapel and a winter garden. The palace houses a local museum presenting numerous archaeological findings, the vivid traditional dresses of Orthodox, Muslim, and Catholics from the local area and a section devoted to the narrow gauge railway Bar-Virpazar, the oldest in Montenegro (1908).
Around the palace are planted many exotic trees and shrubs, the gift to King Nikola from around the world. In front of the palace is a long beach, the only one in the town itself, but the proximity of the harbor makes you wonder whether the water is clean.
In small green spot close to the corner of the main street- Jovana Tomaševića- and Branka Ćalovića St. are the excavated foundations of a large trefoil church, in fact, the first cathedral of Bar. It was built in the 6th century by an unknown bishop whose grave can be seen in the northern leaf of the cathedral.
As a town of considerable size, Bar is a good place to stock up on supplies and the best place to do so its green market, probably the most picturesque one in Montenegro. This comes not only from the variety of fresh Mediterranean products on sale but also from the boisterous vendors and early ladies often adorned with details from the local folk dress. The most important tourist sight in Bar is its predecessor, Stari Bar ( Old Bar). It is local to the southeast of the town, on the first slopes of the impressing Mt Rumija. The old, walled part is a ghost town turned into an open-air museum. Underneath is huddles the inhabited part immersed in oriental legacy.
The hill occupied by the walled town was settled in prehistoric and Illyrian times but was abandoned during the Roman era when it was moved to the coast, to the same location where modern Bar stands today. With the Avar and Slavic invasions in the 6th century, the Roman population left the shore for the safety of this hill which they encircled with walls. As the situation settled Bar became the most important center of Duklja, often visited by is princes and kings. In 1089 it became the seat of the archbishopric, which still exists to this day. Its name comes from Latin Antibarium „Facing Bari“ the town in southern Italy to which it was closely connected by religious affairs and trade. The town reached its heyday during the rule of Nemanjićs when it doubled in size and population. Later on, it was squabbled over by several feudal lords until in 1443 the townspeople decided to take on the protection of the Venetian Republic. The protection worked well for more than a century during which Bar became an isolated commune, encircled from all sides by Ottoman possessions. Venetian rule ended in 1571 when Bar fell to the Turks. Soon, the churches were turned into mosques and the remaining population become Muslim. Three hundred years later the town was besieged and taken by Montenegrins in 1878, after which it gradually lost its importance to its coastal namesake. Careless stocking of gunpowder by the Montenegrin army led to two large explosions (1881 and 1912) which destroyed many of the old monuments. After additional damage inflicted by the 1979 earthquake the enwalled town is gradually being repaired and renovated.
To reach Stari Bar follow the sign from the road to Ulcinj, take the first left then first right. The steep road will lead you to a spacious parking lot in front of the captivating ruins. Next to the parking lot is an unusual monument to the “knightly liberator” prince Nikola, assembled in 1881 from an array of interesting fragments found in Stari Bar-Roman, medieval and Venetian inscriptions, coats-of-arms of local families, columns and capitals, all crowned with a gun shell. The main street begins with a small green market followed by several shops and kebab grills. The street continues steeply uphill and follows the line of the town walls whose slating appearance dates back to the 16th century. Venetian renovation when they were adapted for defense against cannons. Entry to the inside of the walls is gained through an imposing gate near the upper tower. This spacious gate was, until the Venetian renovation, a church standing by the town walls; today contains a relief of St Mark’s lion and huge olive press. Facing the entrance there stands the Omerbašića Mosque, a small structure from 1662. The domed structure next to it is the tomb of Dervish Hassan. In front of the whole complex stands dry drinking well displaying an Arab inscription. To explore the town you will need to purchase a ticket. The first building to the left of the ticket office is a 15th-century custom office turned into a small museum with archaeological material and photos of Stari Bar from before and after the earthquake. Further uphill you will reach the Tatrovica citadel, whose oldest layers date back to the 0th century, but which has been continually rebuilt all the way to the 19th century and was even used by the Italians in WWII as a prison.
From its walls, you can observe the Turkish aqueduct and the old road following the stream Rena deeper inland. In front of the citadel gate stand several surviving walls of the Church of St Francis and on one of them, there are 14th-century frescoes of two saints. To the left of the citadel, you will pass the old town gate: the part remaining behind you is a 13th and 14th-century enlargement while you now enter the original town core. On what used to be a small town square stands a modest church and a two-storied bishop’s palace, a late Gothic edifice renovated to its original appearance. Behind it is the 14th century Church of St Veneranda. The path leads you to the southern plateau where the cathedral dedicated to St George, the patron of the town, once stood. The main street descending downwards passes the former Church of St Catherine which used to stand on the vaults above the street. In the middle of the ruins of Stari Bar are the 17th-century Turkish baths. The Turkish clock tower ( late 16th century) is close to the palace where the southern town gate used to be. By the western tower, the 15th century Duke’s Palace ( in ruins) and the unidentified church can be found.
The area around the town of Bar is an olive growing region and has been since time immemorial. A living monument to this useful three and the craft of its cultivation is the old olive tree (stara maslina) in the suburb of Mitrovića. It is estimated that it was planted around the time of Christ’s birth, which makes it one of the oldest olive trees in the world. The remarkable thing is that although cracked and curved it still bears fruit. The three has grown into one of the symbols of Bar and the area around it has been smartened up.
If you turn to the left after coming out of the Sozina tunnel the first place you will come across is Sutomore. This favorable connection with the hinterland makes it a preferred one-day excursion spot for people from Podgorica, from whom it is only a 45 minutes train ride or even less by car. Its train connection also makes it very popular with people from Serbia and elsewhere from Montenegro. Sutomore has a 1,250 sandy beach, several hotels, and numerous houses that offer rooms for rent. The pleasant scenery is highlighted by the sides of Mt Sozina (805m) towering steeply behind it.
The area surrounding Sutomore, known as Spič, was once characterized by small country churches used by both Orthodox formed a large majority, but during the Venetian and later Austrian domination no matter how few Catholics lived in a village the service had to be held regularly and therefore many village churches were shared by these two confessions. The only remaining example of this phenomenon is St Tekla, to the east of Sutomore. This modest edifice in the middle of the local cemetery was built in the 13th century. Inside the church, on the left-hand side is a small iconostasis for the Orthodox and on the right altar for the Catholics.
On Ratac, the first promontory to the south of Sutomore, stand the ruins of the Benedictine abbey known as Bogorodica Ratačka ( “Our Lady of Ratac”). The monastery was founded at the beginning of the 11th century by Italian Benedictines who originally dedicated it to St Michael. It soon became one of the most important sacral sites of Duklja and was often visited by its rulers, but more importantly, it was also a prominent place of pilgrimage. It’s already large estates were further expanded in the 13th century by Serbian queen Jelena and from then onwards the monastery held control of most of Spič and a good part of Paštrovići as well. The illustrious abbey met its end in 1553 when the Turks sacked it; the imposing edifice was laid to ruins in the fighting between Venetians and Turks in 1571. The last destruction came in WWII when a part of it was adapted for Italian bunkers. Today, its extensive ruins testify to its former grandeur. The most notable among the ruins are those of the main church, 27 long with its walls in rows of red and white stone and three apses.
The ruins of fortress Haj Nehaj stand on alone and inaccessible hill (255m above sea level) to the north of Sutomore. To get to it, take the road for Zagradje village, the hill and the fortress are to your right, and, as the path ascending from the road is not marked, you should ask the locals for direction on relying on your own estimate. The steep climb passes through a forest and ends up in front of the gate Haj Nehaj. This impressive stronghold was built by Venetians in the mid 16th century as the main defensive point of Spič.
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The southernmost town on the Montenegrin coast has a distinguishing Oriental flavor and feel to it, partly because of the long Ottoman presence here ( till 1878) and, more due to the fact that this is an only coastal town with a Muslim Albanian majority. This makes Albanian the first language here and most of the signs are bilingual. Ulcinj is one of the oldest cities in the Adriatic. It was probably founded as a colony of the ancient Greeks from the town of Colchis (in present-day Georgia). The Romans captured the town in 167 BC. Destroyed in the barbarian onslaughts, the town was rebuilt by Emperor Justinian in the location of today’s Old Town. In the middle ages bishopric and important trading center, exporting wood and salt from the surrounding area.
In the time of the Serbian Nemanjić dynasty, it was often visited by heirs to the throne and queen mothers whose presence made it into a sort of unofficial capital. Later on, it was an important stronghold of the Balšić family. In 1422 it came under Venetian “protection” which lasted until 1571 when it was conquered by the Ottomans. Soon afterward, in 1580, the town was captured by Uluz-Ali, Algerian pirate, and later viceroy of his province. His rule began a period of more than a century in which Ulcinj was the dreaded seat of pirates, who with their light vessels attacked not only Venetian or other Christian trades but also Turkish ships in Adriatic. The local pirates were known far and wide, acquired vast wealth in valuables especially from slave trading. It is speculated that the famed Spanish writer Cervantes was sold as a slave to Algerians in Ulcinj when he fell captive.
The corsairs also kept good connections with other parts of the Ottoman Empire and especially with their “colleagues” form Africa. In this way, in Ulcinj also settled a number of black slave families, and if you’re lucky you might even see some of their mulatto descendants. This era was ended in 1737 after the Sultan banned corsairs on the Adriatic and destroyed their fleet. In 1878 the town was taken by Montenegrins becoming a valuable harbor for their previously land-locked state. The city wraps around and climbs a hill standing in its midst; the center is behind it, away from the sea while the area most visited by tourists is around Mala plaža (Small Beach) and the adjoining Old Town. The Small Beach is a 360m long sand cove between two promontories. On its northern side rises the cliff on which stands the Old Town, a muddle of small streets framed by both old and new houses.
The tall Venetian walls are its best-preserved part and make a dramatic impression atop the high cliffs. There are two entrances inside its walls, one ascending from the cove and other from the top of the hill. Close to the latter is the former Slaves’ Square, where the unfortunate were sold to their masters. In it stands pretty drinking well from 1749 with an Arabic inscription. Enclosed by a fence is the local museum which is housed by several buildings. The shapely medieval church was built in the early 13th century and was converted into a mosque in 1693 as demonstrated by the ruins of the minaret found next to it. The archaeological collection with the Greek red-figure vases, Venetian cutlery, and Turkish jugs is displayed in the church. Of special interest are 9th-century ciborium from Ulcinj, a sacrificial altar dedicated to Artemis Elafavolis, patroness of deer hunting (5th century BC), and a cameo with a depiction of Athena. In the former Bishop’s Palace (13th century) is the ethnographic collection with varied costumes of local ethnic groups. To the right of the entrance is the building of the Venetian customs office which is today used by the museum management; inside it, one can see the scale model of the town. Rising next to the church is the 15th-century Balšić tower on whose top floor resided Sabetha Zwi and where two Jewish altars still stand preserved. The tower leans on the walls of the inner citadel.
Just outside the city walls lies the orthodox church St Nicholas, built-in 1890 on the site of a medieval monastery and surrounded by a pleasant olive grove. Further down you will find Pasha’s Mosque built in 1719 with Turkish baths next to it. At the top of the long 26th November Street stand the Namzgah Mosque (1828) and the 18th century Clock Tower. On the other side of the Small Beach is a headland descending to the sea in a cascade of flat rocks turned into small beaches. Further to the south stretches a series of similar rocky inlets shaded by a wonderful pine forest. One of these is called Women’s Water that got its name after the sulphuric mineral spring that assumingly helps infertile women.
The road south of the town leads across the Milena Canal ( named after King Nikola’s wife) leading to the vast Ulcinj saltpans. On the canal, one can see kalimere, traditional fishing devices with the net on the end of a long pole designed to catch fish.
From here stretches the long Great Beach (Velika plaža). With the length of 12 km of fine gray sand, it is the largest in Montenegro. Its two main disadvantages are that the water is very shallow and in windy days, when the waves are high, it is forbidden to swim here. The breach can be reached by a number or roads branching off the highway. Several small hotels behind the highway and cafés on the waterfront have their own parking lots; otherwise, parking is a bit chaotic. The sand of Great Beach has therapeutically traits, especially helpful for curing rheumatism and similar ailments.
THE FALLEN MESSIAH
Sbetha Zwi ( 1626-1676) was the best known and most successful of the Jewish “messiahs” of the 17th and 18th centuries. He was born in Smyrna and spent his youth in Jerusalem and Saloniki but later moved to Germany and Poland. This adventurer studied kabala and led an ascetic life preaching in poor Jewish communes and eventually pronouncing himself to be a messiah. He profited from the art of painting, sending his pamphlets across Europe, causing an unknown frenzy among many Jews. His prophecy marked the year of 1648 as the Second Coming, but when this turned out to be incorrect he announced that the world will end in 1666.
That year he hired a boat from Hamburg and with a group of followers set of for Holy Land ( Palestine). A part of his scheme was to be crowned the King of Jews by the Ottoman Sultan. However, the Ottomans seized him and convicted him as a false messiah. He and his men offered to die or save their lives by accepting Islam. They opted for the latter forming a specific Muslim sect with many elements of Judaism. Under his new name Mohamed –effendi Zwi spent his last years in house arrest in Ulcinj, making the town seat of his sect and famous in Jewish history.
The ruins of this medieval town lie some 22 km north-east of Ulcinj, in the direction of Sukobin border pass with Albania. When you reach the village of Vladimir ( named after St Jovan Vladimir who reigned in this region) take the right turn at the main crossroad and follow the road that leads towards the Šas village. Look for the ruins on a hilltop on your right or for the black stone monument by the road, this is the best place to leave your car. The walking path leads to the top of the hill and it will take you some 10 minutes to cover it. Svač was mentioned already in the 8th century as the seat of the local bishop. It was less known in times of Duklja but prospered in Nemanjić Serbia. The town was destroyed in 1242 when fierce Mongolians swept through the Balkans looting and pillaging however it was quickly rebuilt soon after particularly due to the help of Serbian King Uroš and his queen Jelena came from catholic background OF French Anjou family.
The city’s fortifications remained weak and in times of feudal petulance and against the Turkish advance they provided little protection. The town dwindled in size and importance and already at the beginning of the 5th century, it was recorded as a village. Its existence was ended when in 1571 the Turks captured and destroyed it, never to be rebuilt again. On your way up you will first reach the remarkable ruins of the Church of St Mary which was once part of the city suburbs. It was built as a part of a Franciscan monastery in the mid 14th century. The surviving western façade and the square apse have Gothic windows while the portal is of Romanesque style with small decorative heads on the consoles. On the top of the hill, the most notable ruins are those of the Cathedral Church dedicated to St John, which was built in the year 1300.
On the other side of the hill lies the Šasko Lake. It is connected by a small canal to Bojana River and 1,5 by 3,2 km in size during the summer but in the winter it doubles its size expanding to the surrounding hills. The lake is rich in fish ( carp, perch, mullet) attracting birds that are at their autumn migrations to the south.
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This unusual river island (ada) lying between two branches of River Bojana is the southernmost point of Montenegro. It is a heaven for nudists and off-limit for all those who don’t want to adapt to their ways. Yet, a little bit of nudity is bountifully rewarded with its untamed nature and feeling of isolation from the world which leaves a permanent impact on all those who visit it.
The island’s origin is an interesting story in itself: it came to be after a merchant ship sailing in 1858 towards Shkoder sank in the mouth of river Bojana, gradually the wreck collected sand around it until the river was forced to split its course. The result is a sand island covered in low shrub except for these sides close to the river that have more verdant vegetation. Ada’s beach is 3 km of fine sands washed by the high waves that are given impetus by the ever-present breeze. This fact makes it popular with wind and kite surfers, although their clubs are located on the southern tip of Velika plaža beach. However, the number one sport here is beach volleyball played for fun by almost everyone, either on the sand or, due to the very gradual descent into the sea, in knee-deep water.
You can roam around the island dressed but to bath, on the beach, you will have to undress. Possibly the nicest spot for swimming is at the northern tip of the beach where fresh river water mixes with the salty sea forming brackish water that attracts not only swimmers but also a colony of seagulls.
The only approach to Ada Bojana is from the Ulcinj side where a bridge linking it to the mainland stands. On both of its sides, there is a number of seafood restaurants rendered by many as the best in Montenegro, not only for their fresh fish but also for the special kind of easygoing clientele. Amongst this merry group of eateries, many are built on stilts above the river and some kalimera fishing nets.
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