autumn2 kucka korita autumn1 kucka krajinaIn October and November, the weather conditions in Montenegro have been perfect for the time of the year. The warm, pleasant, sunny days surprised both the citizens of Montenegro and the tourists who were lucky to enjoy this beautiful season.

In general, autumn is a great time to visit Montenegro: it is gentle and colorful, quiet and sometimes even mysterious. You can still swim in the Adriatic Sea until the end of October or even longer. As the summer crowds have disappeared, driving is relaxing and many “seniors” with campervans travel along the coast and through the Balkans, taking advantage of the low off-season prices.

autumn3 Lovcen stone seaHikers have excellent conditions for long hiking tours, both in the central part of Montenegro and on the coast, for instance along the Montenegrin Coastal Transversal, as these trails are often too hot during the summer.

But this weekend, the rains finally started. Podgorica was wet, windy and foggy. We can already see the first snow on the mountains around the city. This is a good moment to remember some beautiful tours we have made in the last few weeks. But although I made a lot of photos on those trips, I don’t have the feeling that I managed to capture all the beauties of nature.

autumn4 Lovcen NjegusiIt is so nice to live in Podgorica, from where it takes you just a few hours to explore the country! In October, a trip through Piperi and a day in Kučka Korita (see my blogpost: Circuit around Korita) were very special experiences. The intensity and colorfulness of the beech forests in sharp contrast with the grey karst rocks – it just seemed to be unrealistic (photo 1 and 2).

In late October we also traveled to Kotor, taking the old and curvy Lovćen road that starts in Cetinje, passes through the famous ”Stone Sea” (photo 3) and the traditional village of Njeguši. This 38 km long road that is considered to be one of the most dangerous and spectacular roads in Europe, is very quiet in this time of the year. There was no traffic, just the silence of nature and the green and golden shadows of the forests on the slopes of Mount Lovćen (photo 4)

autumn5 Boka kotorskaAs always, the most challenging part of the road was the last stretch, steep and narrow, with 25 hairpin turns, the so-called “Lovćen Serpentines”, with breathtaking views of the Bay (photo 5).

A visit to the old town market in Kotor gave us an idea about all the treasures of autumn: pomegranates, olives and carob, domestic juice and marmalade of Cornelian cherries, herbal teas, smoked meat, home-made olive oil… A feast for the eyes!

autumn6 katunska nahijaOur last trip, in early November, took us through the villages around Skadar Lake and Cetinje. We were just roaming along the narrow roads, edged by wild pomegranates, junipers (photo 6) and the vibrant red foliage of smoke trees (photo 7). Picturesque kaki trees (also called Japanese persimmon) and the red-brown colors of the vineyards around the village houses made the picture complete. By the way, do you know that the leaves of smoke trees were used in old Montenegro for dyeing textiles in all shades of blue?

autumn7 smoketreeOn our way back, we were surprised to see a happy group of hunters along the road. They proudly showed their bag: four wild pigs, one of which was almost 200 kg heavy (photo 8). I am no hunting fan, but I know that wild pigs cause a lot of damage to crops and forests…

Well, I am sure that there will be other beautiful and sunny days in the next weeks. But after the heavy rains, the stunning backdrop of vibrant leaves has disappeared… Thus, our next trips will lead to the northern part of Montenegro: we want to see the snow!

autumn8 wild boar Cetinje


donkey farm Martinici1The donkey farm that was founded by Darko Saveljić, ornithologist by profession, has often been in the news this year. Seven months ago, Darko started to purchase donkeys – often neglected and abused – with the wish to offer them a refuge and to protect the Balkan breed against extinction (photo 1).

donkey farm Martinici2Once, donkeys were used for the transport of wood, agricultural goods and other heavy burdens. Once, they were the best friends of Montenegrin villagers. Nowadays, they are about to disappear and, according to the last Census, less than 600 donkeys are left in Montenegro. What a contrast with neighboring Albania, where you can still see hundreds of donkeys all over the countryside!

Another basic idea of the farm was to produce donkey milk that is highly appreciated (and expensive) as a powerful therapeutic medicine, in particular for children in the earliest infancy. It is mostly used when a child is of delicate health or recovering after a serious disease. Its healing virtues have been known since Antiquity, when doctors would recommend it to cure diverse affections: liver troubles, poisonings, fatigue, asthma, etc. By the way, already the Egyptian queen Cleopatra bathed in donkey milk to preserve her beautiful skin.

Donkey farm3 MartiniciLast weekend we visited the donkey farm in Gradina Martinićka, which is situated at a distance of 17 km from Podgorica, between Spuž and Danilovgrad. The property has a marvelous position, just above the valley of Bjelopavlići. It is not so easy to find, but if you follow the signposts for Gradina Martinićka (Градина Мартинићка) when traveling from Podgorica to Danilovgrad , you will certainly arrive in the right place. Just keep left at the signpost Ђурков до – Савељићи on the junction where the asphalt road stops: a narrow dirt road takes you uphill to the farm (photo 2). You will see a beautiful house, surrounded by fertile land, vineyards … and a lot of donkeys around.

Donkey farm4 MartiniciAfter our arrival, we were “introduced” to Sneška (photo 3), a newcomer. Almost blind, her legs destroyed by years of carrying heavy burdens, she is now “retired” and quietly enjoys her last years.

The other donkeys are already used to visitors (photo 4) – in particular families with children, but also tourists and representatives of foreign embassies. Visitors are expected on Sundays between 10 AM and 1 PM, provided that they have announced their visit in advance (phone no. 067 245006). The farm is also a popular excursion goal for kindergartens and elementary schools.

Donkey farm4a Martinici souvenirsAlthough an entrance fee is not charged, visitors are requested to bring 1 kg of carrots or apples or 2 loafs of dry bread per person. For the time being, the farm doesn’t have any revenues, but investments are also needed during the winter. Darko hopes to cover a part of the expenses by the new milk production that will start again in August 2016. He has also prepared some small souvenirs, such as lavender bags and towels with the trademark of the farm, for those who are ready to support the sanctuary (photo 5).

Recently, one of the first inhabitants of the farm – Marta – was killed by a wolf that succeeded in entering the property in the dark. A sad story! Now the donkeys are kept within a pen above the house during the night, behind strong fences.

Donkey farm5 Martinici Darko SaveljicBut in the meantime, the farm has got a new inhabitant: Ruška, a horse that was bought on the Podgorica cattle market, heavily neglected and sick. Now she is a beauty with a shiny black skin and a gentle character, the pride of her owner (photo 6)!

After having enjoyed the real Montenegrin hospitality of the Saveljić family (pure apple juice, home-made cake, dried figs…), we returned to Podgorica, convinced that this donkey farm, the only one in Montenegro, is an excellent initiative. Donkey sanctuaries exist in many countries, even in neighboring Croatia on the peninsula of Pelješac, where the donkey farm is part of the tourist offer and thus generates income.

But as the number of donkeys will certainly be growing in the future, how will the Saveljić family succeed in covering the expenses? I would propose a solution, at least for the old “retired” donkeys – currently there are 3 or 4 of them. These animals deserve a few good years, after a hard life of abuse, hunger and hard work. Would it be a good idea to start an adoption campaign for the old donkeys? Food for one animal costs around 30 € per month. I appeal to all good people or organizations (foreign companies, embassies, for instance?) to adopt a donkey. They are so cute (photo 7)!

Donkey farm7 Martinici









Sarajevo1Sarajevo2 Gazi-Husrev begmosqueWhen you live in Podgorica, it is very easy to travel to Sarajevo, the capital of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Spending the weekend in this beautiful city is a great experience!

We took advantage of the sunny November weather and it took us 3.5 hours only (by car), or 250 km, to arrive in „another world“. The journey was thrilling: the winding road with numerous tunnels passed through the Piva and Tara canyons, reached Foča and continued through the mountainous scenery of Bistrica canyon to Sarajevo.

Sarajevo3 Gazi Husrev begmosqueMany foreign tourists primarily visit Sarajevo to see the consequences of the Bosnian War (1990s). Obviously, the most popular place to visit is the Sarajevo Tunnel Museum. But although the scars – after twenty years – are still visible, Sarajevo offers much more than bullet hole strewn buildings and war souvenirs in the form of artillery casings transformed into vases and ballpoint pens made from sniper bullets.

In spite of the dominating Muslim influence (photo 1), in Sarajevo you can still step through centuries of diverse history: from Ottoman mosques to Austrian public edifices, from old „Yugoslav“ prefabricated buildings to modern glass skyscrapers.

Sarajevo4 Bas carsijaJust ignore the numerous graffiti and the garbage, don’t pay attention to the beggars and enjoy the charming atmosphere, the friendly locals and the delicious food.

We booked the Old Town Hotel, situated in the middle of Baš Čaršija, the old Ottoman bazaar. From our window we could see the Gazi Husrev Bey’s mosque, the only place from where the muezzin personally climbs the minaret and calls to prayer – also at 6 AM, so that we didn’t need an alarm clock… (photo 2).

Sarajevo5Of course, the first district to visit was Baš Čaršija, the heart and soul of Sarajevo. We had lunch at „Željo“ (on Kundurdžiluk), the most famous restaurant for „čevapi“, finger shaped sausages served with pita bread and raw onions. Delicious!

The interior part of the Gazi mosque, built in 1532, was amazing (photo 3). Of course, we also took a walk down Kazandžiluk Street, home to the city’s coppersmiths (photo 4). We saw the Sebilj Fountain on the „pigeon square“ and explored the Gazi Husrev Bey’s „Bezistan“, i.e. covered market building.

Sarajevo6 National MuseumContinuing our walk through the busy Maršala Tita Street, we passed the catholic cathedral of Jesus’ Heart, two parks with war monuments and old Ottoman graves, and the beautiful Ali Pasha’s mosque.

It was our goal to visit the National Museum in the new part of the city. I was astonished to see how Sarajevo is developing. There was a sharp contract between the huge and luxurious shopping malls, hotels and business centers – and the old and often dilapidated buildings in between them (photo 5).

Sarajevo6a Latin bridgeThe Museum with its botanical garden was especially interesting for its exposition of medieval tomb-stones called „stećci“, guardians of a mysterious period in Bosnian history. But also the Ethnological Department with typical “Bosnian rooms” was worth a visit (photo 6).

It was a long and exhausting day. Finally we had a delicious dinner at „Nanina kuhinja“ (Kundurdžiluk 35, Baš Čaršija): Sarajevski sahan, consisting of various stuffed vegetables, and, of course, “tufahije”, a Bosnian dessert made of walnut-stuffed apples stewed in water with sugar and cream. An insider’s tip!

Sarajevo7 LibraryThe next day was planned for other sightseeing. We walked along the Miljacka river, admiring the impressive public buildings in the Obala Kulina Bana street. Opposite to the Latin Bridge (photo 7), Gavrilo Princip assassinated Franz Ferdinand of Austria and his wife Sofia in 1914, ushering in the start of World War I. For a long time, Sarajevo was mostly known in the world for this assassination. You can learn more about this historical event at the Museum on the street corner near the bridge.

Sarajevo8a Spite House Inat kucaThe most representative building from the Austrian-Hungarian period in Sarajevo is the City Hall, which accommodates the National Library. It was destroyed in 1992 by Serbian forces and many thousands of rare and precious books could not be saved from the flames. The building was restored and is now open to the public (photo 8).

An interesting story could be told about the „Spite House“ (photo 9). This house had to be destroyed in order to build the City Hall in 1892, but the house owner, old Benderija, wanted the house to be moved, one by one brick, to the other bank of the Miljacka river, opposite to the City Hall. So it was done, and because of the spite of the owner, the house was named the Spite House or Inat Kuća.

Sarajevo9 Svrzo's HouseBut one of the highlights of our stay in Sarajevo was Svržo’s House, certainly the most beautiful preserved example of the exceptional Sarajevo housing architecture from the Ottoman period (photo 9). Dating from the 18th century, this museum offers an excellent insight in the life of a rich Bosnian family (photo 10). Don’t miss it!

After so many impressions, we deserved a relaxing evening. Relax is what we found in Caffe Mevlana, where we smoked a “narguile” accompanied by a glass of Turkish tea. I was astonished to see that many young people enjoy smoking a water pipe – and at the same time, I didn’t see any smart phones around… Funny, isn’t it?

Altogether, Sarajevo is really worth a visit in any time of the year. We enjoyed it and we will certainly be back!

Sarajevo10 Svrzo's house





Circuit Kucka Korita1Circuit Kucka Korita2Kučka krajina is one of my favorite areas in Montenegro. We discovered it years ago, when local shepherds were the only inhabitants of the mountain pastures of Kučka Korita and when there were no signposts and marks at all.

Whenever we wanted to show the wild beauties of Montenegro to our foreign guests, we made the tour that is now called „Circuit around Korita” or Panoramic Road No. 4, according to the project of the Ministry of Sustainable Development and Tourism that started two years ago. And as we were informed that the official promotion of the circuit will take place soon, we decided to satisfy our curiosity and assure ourselves of the changes, which should bring this region closer to tourism and foster its economic development.

Circuit Kucka Korita3The Circuit around Korita, only 65 km long, contains a two-hour hiking trail along the old patrol path that leads to “Grlo Sokolovo” or Falcon’s Throat, a panorama point that offers a breathtaking view of the Cijevna Canyon and the Albanian Prokletije mountains, also called Albanian Alps. Other highlights are the Medun Fortress and the Marko Miljanov Museum – and all this situated against a magnificent backdrop of high mountains, authentic villages, picturesque forests and pastures. Good for a fascinating experience!

Circuit Kucka Korita4We made the tour on a sunny day early in November, while the golden autumn colors of the beech forests illuminated the picturesque winding road (photo 1). The road (recently reconstructed) was excellent until the junction to Bukumirsko Lake. Signposts had been put everywhere and the first panorama point was equipped with benches, a map of the circuit and appropriate information boards about the highlights and the road (with a warning for large campervans not to proceed further, as there are narrow stretches and many bends). The Orljevo monument and the bust of Novak Milošev, one of the greatest Montenegrin heroes, were impressive (photo 2).

Circuit Kucka Korita5We continued through Medun – a visit of the fortress and the museum is certainly recommended – and finally arrived at Kučka Korita. How nice to see the new signposts and marks for the hiking trail! A great job indeed, as this is one of the most impressive “easy” hiking routes in the central part of Montenegro!

Approaching “Grlo Sokolovo” (photo 3), we enjoyed the colors of the green pastures, yellow golden trees and grey-white karst rocks, which hardly differed from the dry walls that could be seen everywhere.

Circuit Kucka Korita6The panorama point itself (1370 m) was a great surprise (photo 4). Imagine: instead of the old dilapidated military post, a beautiful terrace was built with comfortable benches, information boards and a picture/map that showed the names and altitudes of the mountains in Albania. Everything was clean and tidy, obviously prepared for the official promotion!

The trail continued through the beech forests (photo 5), uphill, and finally downhill again, with a fantastic view of the weird rocky landscape of Kučka Korita (photo 6).

After a cup of coffee in a small pub at the beginning of the trail, we continued the circuit along the Cijevna Canyon, enjoying, once more, the autumn colors along the road (photo 7).

Circuit Kucka Korita7This time we decided to make the recommended detour of 3 km to the village of Rašovići. The monument of the Battle of Fundina – the place where 5,000 Montenegrin soldiers defeated an army of 20,000 Ottomans in 1876 – offered a magnificent view of Podgorica and Skadar Lake. And guess what? We found a group of old and primitive graves between the monument and the village (photo 8) – I think it would be interesting for foreign tourists to learn something about the history of these graves!

The information board at the beginning of the circuit told us that you can spend 7-8 hours to see all the beauties of this tour – and it is true! I would recommend the trip to all foreign tourists and expats: it is not far from Podgorica and offers you many different natural and cultural experiences. But if you are Montenegrin and you have never visited this area: don’t miss it, it’s just wonderful!

P.S. When you visit the Marko Miljanov Museum, don’t forget to ask for the new audio guide, which will enable you to learn a lot about the area. It is also available in English and it is free of charge.

Circuit Kucka Korita8 Fundina



kornati1Many years ago, in the 70s and 80s of the last century, a boat excursion to the Kornati Islands was a „must“ for all tourists visiting Dalmatia. I always wanted to visit this group of harsh and bare islands, scattered like pebbles in the Adriatic Sea – but I never had the opportunity.

kornati2 herronsOn our way to the Netherlands in September this year, we made a stop in Biograd na moru, where we met an old friend, Stipe, who had been organizing such boat trips since many years. And yes, the last trip of the season should take place on the following day! Of course, we were lucky to participate, although the weather forecast was not so favorable.

And we were not the only ones… Next day, many foreign tourists joined us on the „Pino“. The wind, a classical „Jugo“, was rather strong, but the sky was clear. The waves were rough, but the water was deep blue.

kornati3Leaving the port of Biograd na moru, we made a first stop in Tkon on the island of Pašman, where several other tourists joined the group. Continuing the trip to the National Park of Kornati Archipelago that is also listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List, we were impressed by the changing colors of the barren islands: from stony white to pale ochre, mottled with patches of pale green sage and decorated with shallow caves and craggy cliffs (photo 1).

We passed several colonies of herrons (photo 2) and the skipper had a hard job to maneuver his boat through the narrow canals in between the islands. He was guided by old „traffic signs“ that consisted of white stone heaps with black stripes (photo 3).

kornati4It was interesting to hear that the islands were originally owned by the nobles of Zadar, who allowed the peasants from that region to raise flocks of sheep and grow olives for a share in cheese and oil thus produced. The islands are still in private ownership, but there are no permanent residents.

„Private properties“ are still clearly divided by dry-stone walls (photo 4). Once upon a time, they served to pen the sheep. Unfortunately, the sheep disappeared, but the owners of the land still use their cottages during the summer to tend the olive groves, the vineyards and orchards – and of course, they also take advantage of the opportunities offered by tourism and yachting.

kornati6Fish breeding facilities are expanding more and more, as this is an ideal area for such an activity. Stipe fried sardines on the boat and served his home-made wine. A good snack, but I must admit that the strong wind and the high waves made me lose my appetite!

We stopped in several small inlets for a swim and lunch was served in a traditional fish restaurant on one of the 140 (!) picturesque islands (photo 5).

It was a great day! No wonder that George Bernard Shaw fell in love with the Kornati Islands and said: “On the last day of Creation God desired to crown His work and thus created the Kornati Islands out of tears, stars and breath.”(photo 6 – published by National Park Kornati).




skadar lake1skadar lake2One of the most fascinating features of Skadar Lake is its ever-changing atmosphere through the seasons. No matter if the lake is calm or wavy, if the sky is bright or cloudy, Skadar Lake is magnificent in all seasons.

Maybe October is one of the most beautiful months for a boat ride on the lake. With Skadar Lake Boat Milica, guided by skipper Andrija, we made a trip to Kom Monastery with our guests from the Netherlands.

The lake looked like a mirror (photo 1) and the sky was pale blue. Airplanes heading to Podgorica airport were painting long white lines crisscross through the sky. In the vicinity of the Vranjina bridge, fishermen were angling or checking their nets (photo 2). The landscape was serene and peaceful.

skadar lake3a garbageBut alas! Approaching the area where the Morača River enters the lake, we saw a lot of floating garbage on the water (photo 3). Many birds, mostly seagulls and cormorants, were looking for some food, surrounded by plastic bottles and other trash – of course, with all the consequences that might be expected.

Andrija told us that the garbage problem is an „old issue“. After the first heavy autumn rains, the river carries tons of solid waste to the lake, coming from the urban surroundings of Podgorica, Nikšić and other places.

skadar lake4 vranjinaWaste management ist still a weak point in Montenegro that annoys many foreign tourists. Obviously, nothing is done to protect the lake – no grids, no trash collection boats, although the price of an entrance ticket for the National Park amounts to € 4,00 this year.

So it was better to lift our eyes to the two characteristic hills of Vranjina, also popularly called the „Breasts of Sofia Loren“ (photo 4) and continue our ride to Kom Monastery. En route, we picked up the last waterlilies of the season and ate a few water walnuts (Trapa longicarpa, called kasaronja by the locals). This edible fruit was once used for making bread, but can also be eaten raw: it tastes somehow like a coconut.

skadar lake5 kom monasteryThere were a lot of activities going on in Kom Monastery. The buildings are being reconstructed, with new panorama terraces… but fortunately, the beautiful church can still be admired in its old form, with original frescoes from the 14th century. It seems to be the only church around Skadar Lake that was not „renovated“. And I would like to ask the church authorities: please, don’t touch it!!

The monk invited us to see his „winery“ and offered us a glass of strong red wine, made by himself in the traditional way (photo 5).

skadar lake6The first rains had already flooded the only access road to the monastery (photo 6) and until next spring, Kom will be an isolated island that can be reached by boat only.

On our way back, we were lucky to see many birds: cormorants, white and grey herrons (photo 7) and even a kingfisher hiding in the reeds.

Our last boat ride on Skadar Lake in 2015 was a perfect trip. Thank you, Skadar Lake Boat Milica! See you again next year!

skadar lake7 grey herron




Texel2aDuring our stay in Holland in September, we were lucky to enjoy a real Indian summer with sunny weather and temperatures around 20 degrees Centigrade. My cousin’s invitation to spend a weekend on the island of Texel was thus accepted with great pleasure.

Honestly speaking, I am particularly fond of wild and untouched mountain sceneries, as you can find in Montenegro. As a matter of fact, I almost forgot how beautiful Holland can be, and especially its UNESCO protected Wadden Islands with their spectacular cloudy skies, long sandy beaches and dunes, flatland and polders and, of course, thousands of birds.

Texel2 De SlufterTexel is the biggest island and it is famous for its sheep, fantastic beaches and beautiful natural landscapes. It has a good ferry connection with the mainland (20 minutes) and that is why so many tourists visit the island during the summer season. It is an ideal place for outdoor activities, like walking and cycling (photo 1), but it is also very attractive for birdwatchers and other nature lovers.

After our arrival, we were accommodated in a beautiful hotel near the village of De Koog, called Pelikaan (what a funny name, I never saw any pelicans in Holland!), an excellent starting point for hiking and biking tours.

Texel3a jellyfishOn the first day, we made a long walk along the western shore of the island with its endless beaches and ever-changing clouds (photo 2). Young families, often with dogs, were walking and playing along the shore. The pub with open terrace called Paal 17 was a great place for a cup of coffee and a snack. I felt totally relaxed and soaked up the atmosphere.

We explored nature reserve De Slufter, a shallow wetland with small creeks to which the North Sea is allowed unhindered access (photo 3). The beach was covered with shells, jellyfish (photo 4) and remains of sea crabs – good food for the seagulls that could be seen (and heard) everywhere, accompanied by big groups of little stints (photo 5). And behind the beach – the dunes (photo 6), proclaimed as national park, with numerous walking trails passing through heath, salt fens and grassland.

Texel4a little stintsOur cozy dinner took place in the largest town of Texel, Den Burg. A nice place with many shops and restaurants, picturesque old houses and a real Dutch atmosphere..

A long biking tour was planned for the next day. First in northern direction up to the 150 years old red light house from where you can see the neighboring island of Vlieland, and then back along the eastern side of the island, where the cycling path mainly follows the dyke. It was such a strange feeling to see the Wadden Sea on one side, while the grassland on the other side was at a lower level.

Texel6 the dunesThousands of birds could be spotted along the shore. Above us, a group of wild geese headed towards southern areas (photo 7). Birdwatchers were quietly sitting on the dyke, watching the birds in the shallow water with their binoculars. Especially the protected area called De Schorren offered a spectacular panorama (photo 8). The colors of the plants growing in this wetland varied from red to green and brown..

We stopped for lunch in the picturesque fishermen’s village of Oudeschild: what a pleasure to eat the traditional Dutch herring, a raw salted fish served with onions and white bread. Delicious!!

Texel7 wild geeseI never expected that I could still feel completely relaxed in the overcrowded, overregulated Netherlands. But on Texel I really felt free, calm and very close to the untouched nature. Once more, I was happy to be part of the universe!

Texel8 De Schorren



Komani Lake1Komani Lake2 LakeShkodra ResortWhen so many foreign guide books describe the boat ride on Komani Lake (photo 1) as one of the highlights of a journey through Albania, there must be a reason. That is why we wanted to show my daughters this wild and unique landscape, situated at a few hours’ drive from Podgorica.

As starting point we took Lake Shkodra Resort, by far the best campsite of Albania, situated 7 km north of Shkodra. This is one of the places where you can book for a Komani Lake day trip. The price is € 35 p.p., transfer and lunch included; you can also book online for the boat trip only (email:mariomolla@outlook.com).

Komani Lake3It was a warm and sunny day in August; a nice opportunity to refresh ourselves in the lukewarm water of the lake and to relax on the beach (photo 2). After a good traditional dinner we went to bed early, as the minibus would leave at 8 o’clock in the morning.

Traveling by minibus is Albania is always an adventure and this drive to Komani Lake was a strenuous two-hour undertaking. After passing through a few villages we started climbing, the road becoming narrower, the potholes larger and the abyss profounder. The bus slowly made its way around the hairpin bends, skirting mountain slopes and lakes. Nature was almost untouched in this area. To reach Komani we climbed to the top of the dam, emerging into a narrow tunnel, wide enough for one vehicle only; there was no lighting at all…

Komani Lake4Komani itself consisted of a few shabby buildings – restaurant and pub included – and a concrete slab overcrowded with people, cars and two-three campers (photo 3). They all wanted to be transported across the lake.

By the way, Komani Lake is part of a huge hydro-electric power system constructed in the 1970s and 1980s. The old ferry boat that had connected Komani and Fierze for many years stopped running in 2012, as the new A1 highway from the Albanian coast to Kukes and further to Kosovo made it redundant. But after a complete makeover, the ferry line restarted its activities in May 2015. The line is known for its breathtaking views of the mountain gorges, unscheduled stops along the way for serving locals, and the peculiar atmosphere of both locals, foreigners, and even animals being fitted on board up to full capacity. It departs every day at 12:00 (noon) from Komani and arrives in Fierza at 14:00, which makes it impossible to return on the same day (the departure from Fierza to Komani is at 09:00 with arrival in Komani at 11:00).

Komani Lake5That is why we decided for a boat ride with Mario Molla’s excursion boat. Departure was at 10:00. We took a seat on the wooden benches and from the narrow and twisting lake, with its sheer cliffs right down to the water, we could admire the magnificent mountains around us with 1000-1500 meter high peaks.

The scenery was breathtaking. There were hardly any signs of human activity on the shores. At some places we saw old stone houses with small pieces of land, used by the farmers to pasture their livestock and grow their maize and other crops (photo 4). It must be a harsh existence in these lakeside hamlets, where the only form of transport is a boat and where in bad weather and especially in the winter season, you are completely cut off from any form of civilization.

Komani Lake7Passing through the canyons of Stena and along the Island of Peace, we finally arrived at Shala River, where we took a break at a wonderful place: a kind of pebble beach where the Shala River joins the Lake (photo 5).

Finally we returned to a guest house on the shore, where we got a traditional lunch (photo 6). Fish from the lake, a very tasty bean soup, vegetables and bread… And another relaxing hour could be spent sunbathing on the shore or swimming in the lake.

The boat ride back offered great panoramas – now from the other side (photo 7). We arrived in Komani at 17:00 and I must admit, after the drive by minibus back to Lake Shkodra Resort and further to Podgorica we were absolutely exhausted. But believe me, it was worth the effort!

Komani Lake8


Durmitor1 PrutasDurmitor2 Camp Ivan DoPeople often ask me what is my favorite place in Montenegro. My answer never changes: it’s DURMITOR.  In my opinion, Durmitor National Park represents one of the most memorable landscapes in the Balkans and maybe in the whole of Europe (photo 1).  I don’t know any other area where the mountains are so impressive, where the colors of nature are so brilliant and the air is so pure. Durmitor offers many different sceneries: from sharp rocky peaks  to dense needle forests and from glassy mountain lakes to rolling green plateaus.

Durmitor3 Black LakeAs the summer hiking season is quite short, we took advantage of the warm weather last week and spent a few days in Žabljak with our camper. The town of Žabljak itself is not very attractive, but the campsite in Ivan Do (photo 2) appeared to be a good choice, as it offers a magnificent view of the surrounding rocky peaks: Bobotov Kuk, Medjed, Crvena Greda… Ivan Do is situated at ten minutes’ walk from the popular Black Lake (Crno Jezero), the starting point of many hiking trails, both for beginners and more experienced mountaineers.

Durmitor4 Black LakeWe made a walk around the Black Lake that is dominated by soaring peaks on one side and deep forests on the other. The path along the shore was easy and short (45 minutes) and it allowed us to see the lake from all angles. You would expect that the waters are black, but, on the contrary, they take a variety of different colors during the day – from light blue to dark green (photo 3 and 4).

Next day, another easy trail (1.5 hours) took us to Zminje Jezero (Snake Lake). This lake is smaller, stiller and darker than Crno Jezero and it is situated deep in the forests (photo 5). After a short rest, we continued our hike further uphill to Crepulj Poljana, a beautiful plateau covered with grass, at an altitude of 1650 m. Two abandoned shepherd’s cottages contributed to the photogenic scenery and the shadow of some high trees invited for a break before returning to Ivan Do (photo 6). From this plateau, we saw the narrow and steep trail leading further to Škrčka Jezera, a popular hiking target with a mountain hostel.

Durmitor5 Zminje jezeroAfter these easy hikes, Paul and his son Jure (photo 7) felt fit enough for a real hiking effort: the peak of Mount Prutaš (2393 m), one of the most beautiful Durmitor peaks that offers a magnificent panorama on all sides (photo 8). It was a long and exhausting hiking tour from Dobri Do (altogether 5-6 hours), but the view from the top made them forget all the efforts: the two Škrčka lakes, steep grassy slopes, layered karst plates and twisted cliffs,… By the way, do you know what the name Prutaš means?  The name was given by the parallel white limestone cliffs that extend from the foot to the summit. These cliffs are called “Prutovi”, which is plural of the word “Prut” that means a twig or branch, such as those of which baskets are made. So Prutaš looks like a mountain made of twigs (see photo 1)!

Durmitor6 Crepulj poljanaBut there are many hiking possibilities. I know, most visitors just like to enjoy the clean mountain air (Žabljak lies at an altitude of 1450 m), to have a cup of coffee on the shore of the Black Lake or to make a short walk downtown, where they can have lunch or dinner in one of the traditional restaurants. They don’t know that there are so many beautiful spots to explore in Durmitor National Park. What about Ćurevac – the panorama point, from where you have a breathtaking view of the Tara Canyon? Or Debeli Namet, the only eternal glacier in Southern Europe? And don’t forget to make a hiking tour to Jablan Lake (1.5 hours), framed and sheltered by the sheer cliffs of Crvena Greda. Of course, I am only mentioning easier tours; when you are a real mountaineer, you will find numerous challenges in Durmitor. Information boards (with difficulty level) can be found on the shore of the Black Lake, and for more detailed information you can address to Summit Travel Agency.

Durmitor7 Prutas summitBy the way, it was a surprise for me to see that tourists, accommodated within the borders of the national park (I mean Ivan Do), have to pay entrance tickets (3€ p.p.) EACH DAY. Whenever we started a hiking tour from Ivan Do, an angry-looking young man suddenly appeared on our path and asked us where we were going. Each day we had to pay a new entrance ticket and he never informed us about the possibility to buy less expensive tickets valid for 3 or 5 days. We got the impression that he was doing his job in an arbitrary way – most people only pay when they pass the booth on the road towards the Black Lake. Is this legal? I just don’t believe so.

But nevertheless, it is clear that Durmitor has become a very popular hiking area for hikers from all over Europe. No wonder: the trails are well-marked and clean, the routes are interesting and varied. It is true, Durmitor is a paradise for hikers.

We spent a great time in Ivan Do and, of course, we returned to Podgorica by the Sedlo pass route, one of the most beautiful mountain roads in the country (see my blogpost about the Sedlo Pass route). It takes more time, but it is worth the effort!

Durmitor8 View from Prutas



lipa cave1On July 13, 2015, Lipa Cave (Lipska pećina) near Cetinje was finally opened to the public. Guided by website www.lipa-cave.me, we decided to visit this speleological pearl as soon as possible (photo 1). We had already tried to enter the cave several times in the past few years, but in vain. Many things changed since then. It was a surprise to find new buildings, a ticket office, a souvenir shop, a pub with open terrace, a huge parking lot and, above all, a small tourist train for the visitors.

lipa cave2aBy the way, we have visited caves all over the Balkans: from Postojna in Slovenia to the Magura Cave in Bulgaria, from Vjetrenica in Bosnia & Herzegovina to the Stopića Cave in Serbia. They were all impressive, and each cave offered something special. What would be our impression of the Lipa Cave?

Let me tell you something about the cave’s history: First of all, Lipa Cave is one of the largest caves in Montenegro, with 2.5 km of passages and halls. It starts in the village of Lipa and ends in the mountains directly over the Adriatic Sea. The cave was mentioned for the first time by the Englishman Lejard in 1839. Even prince-bishop and poet Petar II Petrović Njegoš mentioned the Lipa Cave in his famous work “Mountain Wreath”. Can you imagine that the Austrians valorized the cave in 1918 and opened it for tourists? As it was opened for the second time after World War II, this is the third opening of the cave, which was enabled by a public-private partnership with the Slovenian company “Lipska pećina”.

Lipa cave3aStrange enough, the cave was “discovered” by a dog that fell through a large opening in the karst rocks (photo 2). The dog succeeded in getting out through a small gap in the rocks and that was the sign for local inhabitants to explore the beautiful underground world.

There are three possibilities to experience Lipa Cave: the family tour (7 €), adventure tour (20 €) and “treasure hunt” adventure tour (50 €). Our choice was the “Adventure Tour”, which is about 1.5 hour long and covers around one kilometer of cave halls and galleries.

Lipa cave4aWe were transported by train to the entrance and the friendly English-speaking guide gave us rubber boots, a helmet and a head lamp. A coat was also available, as the temperature in the cave is between 8 and 12°C (but of course, you can also take your own jacket)!

Through an icy and windy corridor, we walked 400 m along a comfortable trail to Njegoš Hall with its impressive stalactites and stalagmites. At the backside of the hall was another gate – the entrance for real cave adventurers! Exploring this authentic part of the cave is a fantastic experience that is not offered by any cave we have visited so far.

Lipa cave5aAnd why is it so impressive? Walking through mud and water, climbing the slippery underground “hills” and passing through low and narrow corridors, you get the feeling as if you are a real speleologist (photo 3). There is no lighting, there are no trails. We admired the so-called Gusle (a typical Montenegrin instrument – photo 4), with a spring where we could refresh ourselves and drink the pure water. Stalagmites and stalactites in different sizes and forms threw huge shadows on the walls (photo 5). The guide was equipped with strong lamps and showed us many strange formations: at the end, we even saw the black heart of the cave. From there, a narrow trail led farther into the deep underground. This was the place where the “Treasure Hunt Adventure Tour” will be organized in the future – an ultimate cave adventure for “professional” speleologists and explorers, combining adventure and fun.

Lipa cave6aApart from stalagmites and stalactites in all forms and colors, we passed through water currents, galleries and huge chambers, we saw lakes and springs, we walked through wide passages and narrow dark corridors (photo 6). Some old graffiti dating from 1905 showed that an early cave explorer in the Austro-Hungarian army already achieved a depth of 850 m from the entrance.

Visiting Lipa Cave “as an adventurer” was very special, in particular as in this stage you still have the possibility to see an authentic cave, without illumination, without hand rails and concrete trails. The Adventure Tour is organized for small groups (up to 10 persons), which is a good precondition for such a unique experience.

Lipa cave8aNo wonder I wanted to show my grandchildren (age 6, 8 and 10) this beautiful attraction! And so we booked a family tour last Saturday. And we were not the only ones! Many locals, but also foreign tourists were waiting for the next tour. The children were excited to take the tourist train to the entrance of the cave. What a pity we had to wait at the entrance for almost 20 minutes until the second part of the group appeared, as the train has a very limited capacity. Of course, this made the visit shorter (around 30 minutes instead of 45). Fortunately, the children really enjoyed the cave (photo 7) and the guide was very helpful and friendly.

As the cave has become a top attraction within a very short time, I think that the organization scheme should undergo some changes. More guides? A longer train? Two trains? Another time schedule? I am sure the manager will find a satisfactory solution, as Lipa Cave will certainly become one of the top attractions of Montenegro in the future. Don’t forget: it is situated at 35 km from Podgorica and 33 km from the sea coast. A good chance for many tourists to make a day trip to this extraordinary karst cave (photo 8)!

Lipa cave9