Krajina is name of the region of west coast of Lake Skadarsko stretching from Virpazar in the north to the Albanian border in the south . Bordered on the side by the Lake and on the other by Mt. Rumija it forms a natural whole and was treated as an administration unit already in the Middle Ages when it was an important region in the state of Duklja. Today on the 22 km long road from Virpazar to Ostros village you will pass through numerous hamlets with preserved rural architecture and see many remnants of ancient times. It is also visited by many nature lovers for its interesting scenery, plants and bird species. Note that the abovementioned road is narrow and very curvy with many blind corners so one should pay special attention while driving on it.
The village immediately to the south of Virpazar is Godimlje. The first turn to the right will take you to the village cemetery with its old church. From here one can observe the oldest and best preserved part of village, a cluster of stone houses hanging on the hill facing towards you. The houses are built close to each other with thick walls and arched entrances, all of which are influences of Mediterranean architecture. Godimlje is famous for its red wine so be sure to sample it or by it if you come across some.
Opposite the village is a tiny islet of Gromžur with a fort that covers almost the whole it. Built by the Turks and taken by Montenegrins in 1878, it was consequently used as a prison for serous violators. As the first institution of his kind in Montenegro the prison had its own book of regulations, which proscribed that all the detainees as well as their guards should be non-swimmers and one of its most peculiar rulers was that if someone escaped the guard responsible for it should have had served the rest of his sentence. The only resident of Gomžur today are numerous cormorants and pelicans who nest in its walls.
The next village you will reach in Seoca. While the center of this village enjoys an agricultural setting seemingly far from the lake, its nearby hamlet of Raduš is an interesting example of a small fishing community. It nests above “oko” of the same name, which is depth of 60m is the deepest spot in the Lake and a protected spawning place of bleak.
After Seoca the road continues high above the shore with a nice views of the coast and its many small islands, called locally gorica (“small hill”). This is also where the Christian villages end a Moslem ones start, with Albanians as a predominant population.
The village Murići is divided into two-Gornji, above the road Donji , closer to the Lake. The latter has a long pebble beach, which is probably the best place for swimming in Lake Skadarsko if you don’t mind the muddy color of the water and the algae around you. On the beach you will also find a restaurant, one of the rare places to eat along his route. Facing Murići are two isles with orthodox monasteries. To visit them you should use local boat ride.
The monastery on the isle of Beška directly in front of Murići consists of two churches. The larger one (still in ruins) is the endowment of Djuradj Balšić from the end of 14th century and has a central cupola and the belfry “on distaff” . The smaller one was built by his widow Jelena, daughter ofthe Swerbian Prince Lazar, a well educated noblewoman that left behind several poems and built many monasteries in Zeta. In the narthex of the small church, above the door, stands carved the original inscription about its construction which took place in 1438, while inside it is the grave of the church patroness. The monastery, still being renovation, is inhabited by friendly and welcoming nuns. If offered, try their pomegranate juice (sok od nara), the refreshing specialty of Murići and adjoining region.
A bit further to the north is the smaller isle of Starčeva Gorica. It dates from 1378 and was founded by the monk Markarije, famous spiritual leader, hermit and practitioner of hesychasm, a technique of meditation popular in the 14th century throughout the Orthodox world. In bond to this tradition the monastery is today inhabited by a solitary monk, a true loner reluctant to communicate with tourists. The monastery is famous for the grave of printer Božidar Vuković who was buried here with his wife in accordance to his last week.
To south of these two is the isle of Moračnik, also giving home to a monastery. Negotiating a trip to it will almost double the sum you pay for seeing just Beška and Starčeva gorica. The monastery was built by Balša III, son of Djuradj and Jelena, prior to first mention in 1417. Today on this small isle stands an equally tiny domed church of the tree-leaf type, next to it a bulky tower four floors tall and, to complete the setting, a small monastic dwelling.
Continuing southwards along the road will take you through wild and desolate scenery of rocks and shrubbery. After several kilometers the road starts to take a more inland course and the inhospitable terrain is replaced by increasingly more fertile grounds and greener surroundings where people still practice agriculture and hang to their old ways. Especially nice are the old trees of oak and chestnut, an example of which is one by the road in the center of Livari. Before and after the large and dispersed village of Kostanjica you will pass through two chestnut woods that gave the village its name (kastanj in Old Church Slavonic is a chestnut, modern word is kesten). Here the fascinatingly large trees, all several hundred years old, overhang the road and dim the sunlight even during the sunniest of days. These natural rarities are remains of much larger forests that existed here and give you some idea how the are looked in the time of Duklja and its Prince Vladimir. Between these two lies the centre of the village, a fertile dale in which many of the inhabitants grow tobacco.
The last interesting place along the road is Ostros, a large ethnic Albanian village with a restaurant (with rooms to rent), supermarket and bakery where you can stock up on your supplies. The village is at its nicest on Wednesdays when peasants from surrounding villages come and offer their produce on the local market. Half a kilometer after the center of the village, look for a stone tower to the left of the road. These are the ruins of Prečista Krajinska monastery. Founded in the mid 10th century it gained its glory as the burial sight of St.Jovan Vladimir. For a brief period in the 15th century it was a seat of the orthodox Zeta bishopric before it was transferred to Vranjina and then to Cetinje. The monastery was laid to ruins in one of the punitive expeditions by the pasha of Shkoder in the late 17th century. Today we see walls of the origin church, which are a few feet high, and a narthex with a high belfry, an addition from the time when the church become the seat of the bishopric. On the last level of the belfry you can see the apse of a tiny chapel. The whole sight is neglected and disgracefully polluted. The road continues further to the Stegvoš pass and then descends to the village of Vladimir and beyond.
SACRED LOVE OF VLADIMIR AND KOSARA
Duke Jovan Vladimir succeeded his father Petrislav at the throne of Duklja while still of a very young age. He lived a life of a pious Christian ruler, building churches and taking care of his people. Due to being an ally of Byzantium he was attack by the mighty Tsar Samuil of Bulgaria. However, not wishing to shed blood, Vladimir retreated with his people to the hill of Oblik near Svač. His people suffered from venomous snakes and Vladimir asked God for help; from then on, the legend tells, no snake on Oblik was ever poisonous again. As the siege became drown-out, Vladimir decided to sacrifice himself for his people and surrendered to Samuil, who took him as a captive to his capital on Lake Prespa in Macedonia.
The Tsar had a daughter Theodora Kosara, equal in virtues to the young duke. While washing everyday the feet of her father’s prisoners she fell in love with Vladimir and managed to persuade her father to let her marry him. Thus Vladimir was not only allowed to return to Duklja as a ruler but received from his father-in-law the province of Travunija as well. After Samuil’s death in 1014 his nephew Jovan Vladislav was eager to get rid of his lands. In 1016 the new Tsar send a priestly envoy to Vladimir asking him during his visit. The treacherous Vladislav organized his men, dressing them up as bandits he odrdered them to ambush Vladimir and kill him, but his attempts failed as they reported that duke was guarded by an angel. Enraged by Vladimir’s arrival to Prespa, Vladimir lost his temper and ordered him to be killed immediately. The killers found him praying in a church and beheaded him as soon as he came out ; in his hands he was still holding a cross with which he was lured into the trap. That same night the dead body radiated with light and Kosara had no problems persuading her relative to give her body. Duke Vladimir was buried in his capital, in the church of Prečesta Krajinska where Kosara spent the rest of her life as nun and was eventually buried by his feet. Tsar Jovan Vladislav met his demise the following year. Vladimir’s body was taken in the 13th century to Elbasan (Albania) where it remains to this day, revered as a relics. The cross from his hands is kept by Mrkojevići clan who are settled in the vicinity of Bar. On every Pentecost the procession of Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim believers carries the cross to the top Mt Rumija always arriving before down.
( Days of ecology, tourism and culture, Donji Murići, first week in August)
Montenegro Hostel Team