Although I am aware that Bjelopavlići is not exactly the most attractive tourist region in Montenegro, I have made many nice trips through this fertile and densely populated valley between Podgorica and Nikšić. For me, it is a big advantage that this region has not been discovered by hordes of tourists so far. And apart from war monuments, there is so much to see!
The most varied tour leads over the old road along the right side of the Zeta river, all the way to Nikšić. You can take the main road back to Danilovgrad and then follow the local road – along the other side of the Zeta river – from Danilovgrad to Podgorica (see map).
This round trip through the valley of Bjelopavlići does not only give you an insight in interesting cultural and natural sites, it also offers you the possibility to see a variety of monuments from World War II. There are dozens of memorial complexes, plaques, abstract structures and socialist-realistic statues in memory of the fallen partisan fighters and citizens in this region. This route enables you to see the most important ones.
But why should you undertake a war monument route? Well, war monuments are getting more and more interesting in tourism development. Maybe you should know that the Regional Cooperation Council recently awarded a grant to NGO Expeditio (www.expeditio.org) from Kotor for the project WWII-MONUMENTSEE, relating to the evaluation of post-WWII monuments with a view to developing a new regional tourist product / cultural route in Southeastern Europe.
The website of WWII veterans of Danilovgrad has given a complete catalog of the monuments and memorial plaques in this municipality. It is hard to believe, but only in this area there are around 40 war memorials. It is surprising that they all have different styles: socialist-realistic statues or abstract structures, memorial plaques and complexes, simple plates with a red star and even memorial homes. Some of them are well-maintained, but most of them are abandoned and dilapidated.
I have marked the map at the bottom of the text with numbers; the appropriate photos will be given in the text. So, where do we start?
(1) I would suggest in Podgorica, with the abstract war monument in front of the ‘Sutjeska’ Elementary School in the Momišići quarter (Preko Morače). This monument, erected in 1978, was dedicated to the fallen fighters from Momišići (1)
(2) Take the old road to Danilovgrad, turn right and pass the bridge over the Zeta river (direction Rogami-Pričelje). On the Trijebač hill, opposite of you, you will see a white war memorial in memory of the war victims of the Piperi area (Photo: ACS). If you want to explore this place in detail, follow the road uphill. If not, turn left and continue the road along the Zeta river, direction Pričelje, and pass the village of Spuž (don’t pass the bridge to the left) until
(3) the village of Ljutotuk/Jelenak. On the right side of the road is an abandoned abstract memorial complex, with a large monument made of rough concrete that was erected in memory of 337 fallen fighters from this area. There is a small park and half-round tribunes that were once used for celebrations and performances. The public buildings around the complex (post office, administrative office) are deserted and dilapidated. Don’t ask me what is the symbolic meaning of this structure that was designed by architect Ranko Radović – I really don’t know…
(4) Make a detour to the center of Danilovgrad (turn left and pass the bridge), where you will find a huge war monument in the form of a high pillar surrounded by four human figures, in socialist-realistic style. This impressive monument, dating back to 1959, was dedicated to all fallen fighters and war victims in the Danilovgrad Municipality.
(5) Drive back over the bridge and then turn left, continuing your trip along the picturesque Zeta river. Beside the road, in the village of Viš, is a typical example of a simple memorial plaque. This is the place where 13 partisan fighters were killed in March 1942.
(6) The village of Bogetići, starting point of the road to the Ostrog Monastery, is a perfect place for a break. Have a cup of coffee or try the delicious veal or lamb ‘under the hood’ that is served in the traditional ‘Konoba’ restaurant. Opposite to this restaurant is a kind of brutalist structure that was once meant to be a ‘spomen dom’, i.e. a memorial home. In front of this grey and deserted building is a tower-like war memorial crowned with a red star, with the inscription of dozens of names.
(7) From here, you can take either the local road or the main road to Nikšić, where a visit of two significant war monuments is a must on this route. On the central square is the statue of war hero Ljubo Ćupić, who became famous for a photo taken before he was shot, showing him with shackles on his hands and smiling in the face of death. Below the Trebjesa hill is the majestic memorial complex to 32 Partisan soldiers who were shot here. The monument, now neglected, was designed by Ljubo Vojvodić and erected in 1987.
(8) Take the main road back to Danilovgrad. On the left side of the road, on Obadov brijeg, is an abstract structure dedicated to the Partisans who defended the road Danilovgrad-Nikšić in November 1944 against more than 3,000 Germans. Unfortunately, somebody stole the brass plaque with inscription…
(9) The old road from Danilovgrad back to Podgorica shows two particularly impressive war monuments. The first one is the memorial park in Lazina, where 50 citizens were shot in July 1944. A huge statue of a desperate woman in socialist-realistic style stands in a park that is surrounded by an iron fence, made of old rifles. The inscription reads: ‘There is no victory without victims, there is no freedom without blood’ (Photo: Danilovgrad Municipality).
(10) And finally, approaching Podgorica, you can’t miss a very strange concrete monument in the form of a fork pointing at the road in the village of Vranjske Njive. It is a monument to hanged patriots, made by the famous female architect Kana Radević. The text in red letters on the side of the monument reads in English: ‘Look at the sun above this hill, may its light warn you what it feels like to be in the darkness’. An impressive warning indeed!
War monuments … how difficult is it to imagine all those people, soldiers and citizens, who were killed in this region during World War II. It gives you just an idea how much Montenegro, as part of Yugoslavia, suffered, how many lives were lost…
And a final tip: a war monument tour around the Zeta river can easily be combined with the following activities, which are all described in my earlier blog posts (see the letters on the map):
F. Visit the famous Ostrog Monastery; and, last but not least,