If you are just arriving, please read Part 1: The Village of Njeguši. If you don’t feel like it or already read it, welcome to part two of our post about historic Montenegro. Woo-hoo!
Historians, we are not. (Love history.) Politicizers, we are also not. (Hate politics.) This is the story as we have it and we experienced it, so please don’t get all bent out of shape if you think someone is a bad guy, a good guy, or looked at you funny two hundred years ago. Cool? Right then…
When we parted ways last time, we had just wrapped up a report about our experience in the town of Njeguši, Montenegro, also known as the birthplace of the statesman/bishop/poet/ladies’ man/everything-guy, Njegoš. We also drank honey-wine and drooled uncontrollably at tons and tons of prosciutto. (Read that here.)
After an “okay, we go” from our landlord, we hopped in the car and climbed further into the mountains. I took a lot of pictures of the fall/winter colors because my parents love that sort of thing. And because the colors were good looking.
Yeah. We drove into the trees, through Lovcen National Park, and up to one of the highest peaks in the country, Mount Lovcen.
Well, it’s actually one mountain with two peaks: Štirovnik and Jezerski vrh. The former hosts a radio tower and other equipment. The latter hosts people like you and me when we want to come visit. Oh, and an extravagant mausoleum of the highly revered guy I mentioned above, Njegoš.
But it wasn’t originally an ‘extravagant mausoleum.’ As it was this revered patriot’s wish to be buried on top of the mountain that overlooks his hometown and his nation, a small chapel was built at the summit.
This is not a small chapel.
The problem here is that World War I happened. Being a summit and having a spectacular view of the country did not bode well for said chapel. Gunfights and shelling and naval battles in the nearby Adriatic Sea eventually destroyed the chapel, and Njegoš’s remains had to be moved to the nearby historic capital of Cetinje.
The government rebuilt the chapel in the 1920s. However, that was then destroyed to make way for something a bit more ludicrous – despite the fact that Njegoš really only wanted something a bit more humble on the mountaintop.
The people weren’t having the fact that the government wasn’t obeying Njegoš’s last will and testament, and neither was the Serbian Orthodox Church. Regardless of court cases and protests that went down because of this, the government won out – shocker – and the mausoleum designed by Ivan Meštrovic is what was built in its place.
While we’re not fans of destroying someone’s last will and testament – especially when it was so engrained in the hearts and history of the local people – we’d be lying if we said the whole thing wasn’t pretty damn sexy. Gaudy? Sure. But it’s on the top of a mountain, and come on, it’s on the top of a mountain.
Anyway, once you drive up the mountain and park your car, you have to walk up a zillion steps to get to the actual top of the mountain.
Doesn’t look like a ton of steps, right? That’s because the majority are after the entrance to that tunnel. Yay, fun.
Because it’s like a video game, you have to complete certain tasks before you get to the next level. And if you’re with our landlord, one of these tasks and levels is drinking some rakija with the folks who run the joint.
Once you’ve done that and made your way up the steps fueled by the aforementioned rakija, you’re treated to panoramas that will leave you constantly wondering which way you should look.
Talk about a rugged landscape. If you’ve ever wondered why it takes three hours to drive 50 miles (80km) in this country, the vistas up here will answer that question.
It’s incredible to see the little pockets of cities and towns that lay in the valleys…
…and quite incredible that you can see the famed Skadar Lake to the southeast, and Albania beyond that.
When we finally stopped looking at these panoramas, we paid a small fee to enter the mausoleum itself. We were first greeted by these two ladies, who weigh some six-bazillion tons (scientific fact, naturally).
The ladies were generous enough to let us pass without stealing our souls, and we were then greeted by an enormous statue of Njegoš. Who has a ginormous eagle.
Why does he have a ginormous eagle. Because he’s Njegoš. Obviously. Not to mention the gold ceiling. Ballin’.
The mausoleum is a high-walled maze of darkness. I have no idea if this is what all mausoleums are. We’re not frequenters of such establishments. However, we did manage to find his tomb; and for a split second, I felt like Indiana Jones when he found that knight’s tomb in The Last Crusade. Fortunately, it was clean and crisp and dry in there. Unlike Indy’s experience, which was full of sewers and bones and rats and fire.
Top of the world, ma! Take a picture of us…
…and we’ll take a picture of you. Here’s our landlord and landlady, representin’.
Noticing a small, rocky path along the entrance/exit to the summit, we took it upon ourselves to straddle the lines between ‘where you’re supposed to walk’ and ‘fall off the mountain and die.’ Not for kicks – well, maybe for kicks – but because we saw a bunch of stone towers built in the rocky landscape.
We’re not 100% sure, but we seem to remember that people build these in honor of Njegoš and the chapel that used to be here. It was kind of eerie, kind of cool, but mostly impressive that thousands of people climb up here to build tiny monuments. We didn’t build anything, but we took plenty of photos.
And off we went, driving down the mountain and over to the historic capital city of Cetinje, which we’ll cover in part three of this voyage.
Once again, the history and natural beauty of Lovcen and Montenegro are something to behold. Every time we went somewhere in this country, it was so completely new to our perspective and so full of history that we spent half our time standing around jaw-dropped, and the other half of our time shooting our hosts with a pitter-patter of questions and inquiries. What a wonderful experience.
Click here to read “Historic Montenegro Part 3: The Old Royal Capital of Cetinje.”
(Note: Some accent marks have been left off of Serbian and Montenegrin names. Sorry about that: WordPress hates every version available for the web for some letters.)
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Have you ever been to the top of Lovcen? Have any thoughts about the journey? Join us in the comments!