Montenegro’s second largest city is situated in a large karst field, a feature that made it an important place and crossroad throughout its history. A late Roman era town of Anderva stood here until it was destroyed during the barbaric invasions. In the 5th century AD Eastern Goths, who wrestled the area from the Byzantines, built a fortress here calling it Anagastum, probably after one of their leaders. The Goths who wrestled the area from the Byzantines, built in fortress here calling it Angastum, probably after one of their leaders.
The Goths soon departed for Italy and their places was taken by the Slavs who adapted the previous name on Onogošt. In the Middle Ages the location was an important stop on the caravan routes from the Adriatic to the hinterland and was visited by several kings of the Nemanjić dynasty. With Turkish onslaught a demographic change occurred witnessed in the change of the name, the Old Onogošt became known as Nikšić after a clan that settled in the area. Turks captured the town in 1465 but less than a century later had to wage constant battle with the surrounding Herzegovinian clans who attacked the city regularly. In the end, the Turks decided in 1703 to rebuild the medieval fortress and surround the town with walls. Frequent attacks and sieges by Herzegovinians and Montenegrins finally found success in 1877 when Nikšić fell to Montenegro. The Muslim population left and the fortress fell into decay while the city’s new masters laid out a practical radial street plan, built European styled edifices and started the first industrial enterprises of which the best known is the brewery, established in 1896. However, the real boom that made the town what it is today followed WWII when it became the seat of several large factories, most importantly the ironworks. The demand for workers was grave and the town’s population rose tenfold from 1945 to 1985. With the founding of several faculties during the 1990s Nikšić also became the centre learning. Today students are its second most important feature, the undisputable first being Nikšićko pivo, a very palatable beer popular well beyond the borders of Montenegro.
The main attractions of Nikšić are suitably grouped at the entrance from the direction of Podgorica. Facing the bus station is a fine park with Turkish baths in its middle; interestingly, the baths were built after the Turkish departure and in European style. Behind the park lies the Place of King Nikola, built in 1895 by architect Josip Slade, the chief engineer in Montenegro at the time, who also drew the above mentioned plans for the laying out of the Nikšić streets. This neo-renaissance edifice nowadays houses the local museum. On the ground floor is a permanent exhibition of paintings by Ilija Šobajić. The upper floor presents the history of the town and vicinity , era by era. It begins with archaeological findings, continues with fine Illyrian and Roman collections, the Middle Ages and the 19th century, which are followed by a large collection of folk costumes and armoury from the period and ends with a large section depicting battles waged in WWII.
Next to the museum, elevated on a small hill, stands the grandiose Church of St Vasilije of Ostrog. Before climbing up to steps to its entrance, take a minute to examine several stećak tombstones lying scattered at the foot of the hill. The Church was built in 1900 with the founds donated by Russian Emperor. The architect of this grand temple was also a Russian- Mikhail Preobrazhensky, who mastered the style of the local churches. The church was built in memory of Montenegrins and Herzegovinians ( Nikšić being the most important town in Herzegovina acquired by Montenegro) who fell in the 1875-78 wars for the liberation of this area. Until a decade ago this was the largest church in all of Montenegro. The airy interior is unpainted but boasts a fine iconostasis.
In the square at the front of the church stands a high column with a statue of Virgin Mary, the latest in the series of Russian donations to Nikšić. To the of the church is the Old Cemetery, nicely kept and with many interesting 19th century tombstones which are decorated with folk motives. In its centre is the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, a modest edifice dating from the 15th century. In its interior there are remains of slightly younger frescoes. You can see some more stećci, most of them with a colonnade design, scaterred around the church ( some fragments are even built in its walls) and indeed all over the cemetery.
In the backdrop behind the church and the museum one can see the wooded hill of Trebjesa, with its walking and bicycle tracks. Upon reaching halfway up to hill, a motel which shares the same name can be found from whose terraces one can enjoy the pleasurable view of the town.
On the other side of Nikšić stands the old fortress, called Bedem (“Wall”) by the locals. On fact, its upper fort resembles a long wall which lies along the full length of the low elongated hill. Once, there was also a lower fort where the Turkish Nikšić used to be, but today it is hardly noticeable amongst the private house and their yards. What can be seen today was built in 1703 by the Turks and the some location where the medieval fort and the one the built by Eastern Goths used to stand when they founded that city. Seemingly its design is not too different from the forts of the earlier era, but a closer inspection reveals that its towers have been built to house cannons.
The centre of the town is the Trg Slobode and the streets around it, combing one-storied houses with the social realist buildings of the post WWII era. The central feature of the square is a new equestrian monument to King Nikola. Continuing along Njegoševa St. you will reach a colossal “House of the Revolution” ( Dom Revolucije), a grandiosely project by the locals communists the works on it started in 1975 but faltered due to its sheer size and were never completed. To the left of it Radoja Dakića St. will lead you to the 19th century mosque, one of the rare Islamic places of worship in Montenegro that survived even when it lost its congregation.
The surroundings of Nikšić are unusually rich in old stone bridges. Several streams and rivers that flow through its fileds are bridged by approximately a dozen of them. Taking almost any road from Nikšić you are bound to cross some of them. The largest amongst them is Carev most (“ Tsar’s Bridge”). It lies on the old Nikšić-Podgorica road streaming to the river Zeta, which is now reduced to a canal but was once a munch mightier river judging from the length of 269 m and 16 arches of its imposing structure. It was built in 1894 again from the donation of the Russian.
Emperor, therefore its name, although its imposing size could give inspiration to this name as well. To reach it, start in the direction of Podgorica and than follow the road going straight for Kličevo. The oldest and the most interesting amongst old stone bridges is so-called Roman Bridge over Moštanica River whose unusual openings testify to its antiquity. It is assumed that it was built in the 8th of century AD on the road from Dubrovnik to Nikšić. To reach it take the road towards Trebinje; after passing parallel with another old bridge- Vukov most- take a left turn to the spots airport; the bridge is behind it, close to the houses. Taking the road from the centre of the city towards Foča will lead you across Duklo Bridge.
This bridge which stands over zeta afters its convergence with river Bistrica, was built in 1807 by Hajji Ishmael, a rich Turk from Nikšić. The unusual feature of this bridge is that its arches are of different height, one of them being significantly lower.
The road to Foča will also take you to the village of Vir (“Whirlpool”) that got its name after an interesting natural phenomenon. At 94m deep hole filled with water is linked by a small stream with the nearby river Zeta forming the Europe’s largest estavelle. The estavelle sometimes discharges water from its spring through a stream into the river and other occasion receives water from the river, depending on its water level.
To the west of Nikšić lie two large man made lakes-Krupačko and Slansko. The former is a popular place for refreshment during the summer heats and its “Sky” bar offers possibilities for various water sports.
Stećci (pl. of stećak) are medieval tomb-stones found in Bosnia, Herzegovina, West Serbia, South Dalmatia and North Montenegro (historically a part of Herzegovina). These are large stone blocks standing above graves, most of them with carving and some with Cyrillic inscriptions. The oldest date from the 11th c. and by then already have all the distinctive features that endure until their end in the 15th c: large tablets, single stone blocks-some in a shape of a sarcophagi, decorations depicting crosses, rosettes, swords, shields and bows with arrows, scenes of tournaments and hunt (characterizing the noble rank of the deceased), saints, geometrical patterns, wines, sun, moon, stars, people dancing kolo or the figure of the deceased with one hand raised in greeting. The inscriptions on them remind the reader about the deceased and warm him about the transience, cursing those who dare to desecrate his grave. Though and art form characteristic for medieval Bosnia and its immediate surroundings, stećaks are wrongly associated with the so-called “Bogomils”, a Christian sect active in medieval Bosnia. In fact they were also created by the Bosnian Orthodox and Catholics and later even by the first converts to Islam. Most stećaks in Montenegro are to be found in old cemeteries and the most interesting necropolises are in Nikšić, Grahovo, Velimlja, in Pivska planina and Sokol above Šćepan-polje. They are usually located in old graveyards or on higher grounds.
Montenegro Hostel Team