After a few weeks of rain, we took advantage of the first sunny day in January to make a trip to the medieval fortified town of Žabljak Crnojevića, once capital of the Crnojević dynasty. This beautiful place is situated on a hill near Skadar Lake, at a distance of only 15 km (a 20 minutes drive) from Podgorica. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find it, as there are no signposts at all!
We took the road to Golubovci and in the center of this town, at the traffic light, we turned right to the direction of Vukovci. Turning left again, we soon passed the railway and then the narrow bridge over the Morača river. Continuing, we saw a big sports ground and there we turned left once more, passing another quite narrow bridge. Following the asphalt road, we soon reached Žabljak Crnojevića.
It was very quiet in the village. An old woman in a “čun”, a typical fisherman’s boat, moved slowly through the water. She had collected some wood and went home. She told us that she was nearly eighty years old and kindly invited us to her home for a cup of coffee. So, at only fifteen kilometers from the capital, we had the opportunity to see the “old Montenegro”, without tourists, without noise and with the old tradition of Montenegrin hospitality. It was a good feeling!
When we parked the car, we saw an old Turkish bridge, nearly covered by the water. Small fishes were jumping above the lake and two fishermen were carefully preparing their nets. Cows and horses were grazing on the humid wetlands.
We made a walk to the castle that was totally abandoned. Only a flock of sheep was roaming through the ruins, enjoying the green grass. I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was no litter around. Climbing the stairs and entering the gate, we passed through a narrow and arched corridor. Now we could see the remnants of old buildings and walls. The view on Skadar Lake was breath-taking on all sides. Far away, we saw the mountains covered with snow, but here, high above the Lake, it was nearly warm in the winter sun.
But let me tell you something more about the castle itself. It is assumed that the fortress was built in the 10th century, when the Romans ruled these areas. During the Crnojević dynasty, in the 15th century, it resembled a Venetian fortification, unique in the region. At that time, the city consisted of 300 houses.
And during the period of Ottoman rule it was one of the most important strongholds of the area, around which fierce battles took place. The fortress itself has huge walls, two meters wide, and up to 15 meters high, with towers and one gate. Within the walls are the ruins of the Church of Saint George (that was turned into a mosque during the Ottoman rule), housing and military facilities, a warehouse and a water tank.
Žabljak Crnojevića is, no doubt, an important cultural monument in Montenegro, but it is still a hidden secret, as we could not see any sign of tourism activities – except for an information board of the National Park. There are no pubs, restaurants or souvenir shops. And maybe that is exactly the charm of this beautiful place – we had the feeling that we had made a trip “back in time” and we really enjoyed it!