If you’re following our journey through historic Montenegro and the life of Njegoš, you’ve now come to the third and final part of this series. If you missed them, you can read Part One and Part Two before you delve into this one.
We made our way down from the summit of Mount Lovcen and through the mountains, winding up in the old royal capital city of Cetinje. Founded over 500 years ago, it has been the historic home of Montenegro’s rulers and dynasties, and is its cultural center.
Our initial thought was to go visit the National Museum of Montenegro. So much for that, though, as it was closed on this particular day for a diplomatic function.
Not even our wily landlord could get us into this event, so we were stuck shaking our heads at the extravagant vehicles parked outside and all the security standing around with their black suits and cute little ear buds. We instead decided to walk through the adjacent park, which was probably more scenic anyway.
You’ll remember from our previous posts (here and here) that we talked a lot about Njegoš, and have sort of been following his path during this journey. Here’s where we’ll tell you that, after hundreds of years of fighting and political drama, Njegoš’s dynasty helped regain Cetinje’s flourish by building his royal palace, the Biljarda (Billiard House).
Named after the billiard table that was transported here for his leisure, the palace actually looks like one huge billiard table itself. It is now a museum that holds artwork and artifacts belonging to, or showcasing, the family dynasty.
We weren’t able to take photos inside, but the docent gave us a detailed tour through the palace, telling stories about the family and describing portraits, paintings, and other items in great detail. He didn’t speak much English, so we settled on German for most of the stories, interspersed with Serbian when German wouldn’t do.
Rocks are cold! As in, rocks that make up the entire structure of the palace. And it was a cold day. And since the museum was more or less closed during this season, we were freezing our tails off. After being schooled on the royal family, he pointed us to a huge topographical map of the landscape of Montenegro. My terrible pictures don’t do it justice, but this must have taken forever to create. It was at least 50 feet x 50 feet (230 square meters).
No one seemed to be able to tell us when it was made, but it was clear that modern technology was not available when people got down on their hands and knees to draw all of the tiny towns, roads, and other details we could see here.
After dodging a fancy wedding party in the park outside the palace, we made our way to Cetinje Monastery, which dates all the way back to 1450. And get this: The fence outside was made from barrels of rifles captured from enemies in battle. Bad-ass. (Can I say that about a monastery?)
The policies here, however, were not so bad-ass, and we weren’t allowed to take photos inside. Respect and all that.
After walking around a bit, my imagination was once again moving at a furious pace, thinking about Njegoš’s family dynasty and what went on here 100, 200, or over 500 years ago. If only the walls could talk.
Cold and hungry, we hopped in the car and headed to the outskirts of town to eat at the famed Restoran Konak. High-class, traditional Montenegrin fare at its finest, we dined as if we were part of the dynasty that followed us throughout our journey.
As we ate, we talked a lot about Njegoš and the history of a small but extremely proud nation. It is amazing to think that after so many trials and tribulations throughout the ages, this country is still proud and knowledgeable of its culture and how it arrived at this point: Once again independent and forging its own path into the twenty-first century.
(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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