Central Montenegro hides many secrets. Abandoned churches, mysterious graveyards, old wells, archeological sites …. but also fortresses, some of them totally devastated, which show the rich history and culture of this part of the country.
In the following post I will present you 5 fortresses, located in Podgorica and its wider surroundings. It’s true, most of these fortresses lie in ruins, but nevertheless, with some imagination they will tell you a lot about Montenegro’s turbulent past. Some of them were built on the top of a hill and offer amazing views. I visited all of them and I can assure you: they can easily be reached.
This interesting historical village in the hills of Kučka Krajina is situated at a distance of 12 km from Podgorica. A few years ago, it has become part of Panoramic Road No. 4 called Circuit around Korita.
The Illyrian tribe of the Labeates built a castle here between the 4th and 3th century B.C., but the Romans conquered the place in 167 B.C. and captured the last Illyrian king, Gentius.
Several centuries later, the castle was transformed into a medieval fortress. Its ruins are standing on a lonely rock, above the Marko Miljanov Museum, once the house where the Montenegrin hero and poet Marko Miljanov was born (audio-guides available).
Follow the signposts and park your car in front of the museum. A steep and narrow path leads to the fort on the top of the hill, from where you have a magnificent view of the surrounding highlands and the valley of Podgorica.
In the center of Podgorica, at the confluence of the Morača and Ribnica rivers, are the ruins of the Ribnica Fortress, built by the Ottomans after their conquest in 1474. It is said that the settlement of Ribnica was founded in the 12th century and that it was the birthplace of Stefan Nemanja, the father of the famous Nemanjić dynasty. It is therefore also called Nemanjin Grad (Nemanja’s Town).
A old photograph shows how the fortification looked like in 1888. Nowadays, it is totally devastated but fortunately, the capital city of Podgorica has started some reconstruction works. The “steps” (called Sastavci) around the old stone bridge at the river confluence are a popular hangout of young and old, as they offer shade and refreshment during the hot summer months.
A detailed description of this Turkish fortification doesn’t exist. The Red Rock fortress on Velje Brdo was just one of the strongholds from where the Turks controlled the border with Montenegro during the Ottoman occupation. It was probably built in the beginning of the 18th century.
The fortress is accessible from the back side. You can park your car in the Mareza district, north of Podgorica, but you have to ask around, as there are no signposts. The walk uphill, through an arid karst landscape, takes around 40 minutes.
When you enter the oval-shaped gate, turned towards Podgorica, it is obvious that nothing has happened here since the Turks left in 1878… The place is totally abandoned and the walls are crumbling, but the ruins of a watchtower, an old well and the remnants of a big rectangular building show how important this Turkish stronghold must have been. Just use your imagination… By the way, the view of the surroundings is amazing
Spuž is situated on the Zeta river, at a 10 minutes drive from Podgorica, on the old road to Danilovgrad. The town is dominated by the remnants of a Turkish fortress that was built on a conical hill (“glavica”) rising from the middle of the green Bjelopavlići valley.
How to get there? Follow the road from the center of Spuž in the direction of Martinići (turn left after passing the bridge). You will soon see a red-and-white mark on the right side, in front of a private house. Park your car along the road, pass the private parking lot and follow the trail uphill (around 20 minutes). Once on the 100 m high top of the hill, the view of Spuž and the surrounding hills is magnificent.
This fortification, built in 1704, is perfectly adapted to the configuration of the steep and rocky hill. The hardly accessible main gate – oval-shaped, similar to Velje Brdo – made it very difficult for the enemy to attack. Unfortunately, also this once so powerful fortress has been left to the ravages of time…
Tourist signposts along the road from Podgorica to Danilovgrad will show you where to go if you want to visit the old fortification of Gradina Martinićka. Unfortunately, when you follow them, you will finally arrive – nowhere. It’s better to follow the signpost to the donkey farm in Martinići that is quite near to the ruined fort.
The remnants of Gradina Martinićka are hardly accessible. Following a narrow trail through dense grass and shrubs you will soon reach the top of a plateau. Don’t be surprised about the enormous size of this ancient city that was built by the end of the 8th and the beginning of the 9th century. The walls – now only ruins – were, once, more than one meter thick and 6-7 meters high. The history, role and function of Gradina Martinićka remain a mystery. In the eighties of the last century, many archeological objects were taken to the Museum of Danilovgrad. Other fragments just disappeared and in some cases, the villagers used the stones of the centuries-old walls for building houses and walls. But Gradina Martinićka still exists, lonely and forgotten, almost invisible…
I do believe that these 5 forgotten fortresses represent an important slice of the architectural heritage and turbulent history of Central Montenegro. History can be attractive, also for foreign tourists who want to see undiscovered, unknown places. If you are looking for more information about the individual fortresses, click on the purple words. A visit of the above fortifications is a great experience!