The road less traveled – by the footsteps of Prince Vladimir around Skadar Lake

 

re you the type of tourist who likes to follow well-known routes, or are you Indiana Jones type always seeking out adventure and excitement? Do you like to explore places far from city noise? These places are usually remote, but the fact that the nature there is intact, peaceful and silent is exactly what makes them outstanding.

Montenegro is paradise for those who seek isolated, forgotten, but magnificent nature. The Skadar Lake is well-known among tourists, but nevertheless it offers so many places where you can enjoy spectacular views of nature, many charming fishing spots, forgotten fortresses, churches and monasteries. It is the largest lake on Balkans, surrounded by many winding roads, too narrow for buses – maybe that is what makes it so special. Here, at the lake, everyone will find exactly what they need.

I started my trip around the lake from Bar, driving along the border with Albania to the picturesque village Vladimir. As Lake Shas, also known as “miniature Skadar Lake “, happens to be near this village, I decided to go there and have brief and look at it. The lake level was considerably higher than usual, flooding the area of a local restaurant. As my main goal was to visit another lake, I will leave the story of the Shasko Lake and the town Svac with its legend about having as many churches as days in a year for some other time.

I made a turn to the village Ostros, and along the way, I could see Albanian city Skadar and winding Buna river in the background, flowing towards the sea. I could see the mountain Tarabos in a distance, Montenegrin and Serbian soldiers graveyard, the place where they left their bones while liberating city from the Ottomans in 1912.

The first viewpoint of the lake comes all of a sudden and unexpectedly. Its colors shone in exceptional clarity. From this point you can almost get the idea how big this lake actually is, because you can see the most of it from here. On a tour or on a cruise you can’t see the lake from where I stand now, only from the opposite side. I am standing much closer to the city Skadar and I have a feeling I can almost touch it. Lake islands stand shyly giving me just a hint of how many of them there actually are.

Further, the road goes along the rocky edges of the lake and the view of the islands gets much clearer. The lake counts as many as 55 islands, most of which form an archipelago and are located on this, southern side. The opposite side of the lake is swampy and the birds love it.In the summer there area lot of curious birdwatchers.

In this region one can feel legends in the air, something unreal and magical, and everything reminds you the famous prince Vladimir and his first Montenegrin state Duklja, which bordered Byzantium and the neighboring Slavic states in the tenth century.

In the village Ostros, about 30 meters from the main road, there is a well from 1001, from which,even today,  the population of surrounding villages is being supplied.The construction of the well is related to prince Vladimir. The legend says that Vladimir “flew” on a horse, which then hit its hooves on the ground and dug up the source of water in the middle of the dry region. Unfortunately, the well was restored in 1995 in an atypical and non-traditional manner, and only the sign near the road speaks of its age. Nevertheless, his intact original form and function gave it the status of a cultural and protected heritage.

It is just one of the 12 medieval wells in the area, which undoubtedly had great significance for the local population in the past.Today they are tourist attractions, especially for mountaineers. These inexhaustible sources of water,cold in the summer andlukewarm in the winter, were used for doing laundry, summer bathing and refreshment of livestock. The skilled masters made them of hard stone, on a red clay soil that does not allow water to flow out of the well.

Some of the local legends speak of a young man who, in order to win and impress his future bride, according to the vision he had in a dream, dug up 12 wells in one night. After doing this, twelve children were born to a happy couple whose descendants lived peacefully in this area. The water from these wells is considered blessed, and to those who drink it, water brings happiness and healthy offsprings. Even today, at all weddings in the Krajina, cold water from icy wells is served as a drink for a wedding toast, it is believed to bring a happy and healthy lifeand many offsprings to the happy couple.

The famous old well is located not farfrom the remains of the Precista Krajinska Monastery, which is thought to have been founded by Prince Vladimir in the tenth century, and from which, because of Ottoman conquests and demolitions in the 17th century, only the basement and the five-story tower remained. According to the oral tradition, Kosara, wife of the famous prince Vladimir (today the saint), became a nun in this monastery, and finally, at the end, she was buried with her beloved husband, whose tragic death was too hardto get over.

The village Ostros is one of many villages around Skadar Lake, which has several hundred inhabitants, mostly Albanians. It used to be the capital of Vladimir and Kosara’s state, but also one of the most important centers of Duklja state. In this village, as well as in the others, one can still feel the pulse of life: spring field work.School and an ambulance are also built here. Still, everything is far from perfect and decent life – they are located only a hundred yards from the largest drinking water reservoir in the country, but they still do not have a water supply. The road to the village is narrow and winding. There is no Internet. It’s like the time has stopped decades ago.

And then you step into the chestnut forest… It feels like you have just stepped into another world. Never ending forest of chestnuts, some of which are several centuries old, makes an idyllic sight. It’s a pity the leaves haven’t grown yet. I promised myself that I would return here some other time to enjoy a picnic in the shade chestnuts. According to some stories, Prince Vladimir passed a law that no one can marry without planting a chestnut tree. This is the largest chestnut forest in Montenegro. Delicious fruits, rich in starch and sugar, bear fruit in October, and they are consumed cooked or roasted. Every November Chestnut festival is held in Ostros, with an exhibition and promotion of products made of chestnuts.

Further down the road one can see islands, and well-arranged, new viewpoints. Unfortunately, the famous medieval monasteries, Moracevo, Beska, Starcevo, are only visible from distance. I guess it would be ideal to come to Donji Muric village, take a boat trip from there,  have a closer look at all these islands and enter one of the monasteries. I just wonder would it be better before or after the picnic in a chestnut forest?

After a while, the road will take you to the village Godinje, one of the most preserved villages of historical significance in Montenegro. The shadow of Prince Vladimir is in the air again. Oral tradition says that his stay in this place was so pleasant that it got the name Godinje (Engl. to be pleasant – goditi). This place was also mentioned in the 13th century, and in the 15th Balsic family had summer houses in this village. Traditional architecture is dominant, with stone houses built close to each other, with taverns, terraces, and typical structures such as threshing floors and mills. The houses are so close built that they resemble medieval fortified settlements, with armories, with one meter thick walls. Godinje is a true treat for lovers of traditional architecture, untouched nature and good wines, which are produced here for an incredible five centuries!

From Godinje to Virpazar you can see different landscapes, the lake is replaced with the hilly shore visible on the other side, and suggests that the lake adventure is getting close to an end … until the next encounter with some other, well-kept, lake secrets…

2 Replies to “The road less traveled – by the footsteps of Prince Vladimir around Skadar Lake”

  1. Oh Boy ! Your history lessons just get better and better – well written and well illustrated with super pictures. I might have to make an annual pilgrimage to your wonderful country to fully appreciate its beauty.

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