Herceg Novi sits in a most beautiful position at the entrance of the Gulf of Kotor with which it shares its breathtaking views but not the climate: the town faces south and the open sea and enjoys a favorable climate with many sunny days.
These qualities have made it one of the most visited holiday resorts in Montenegro, popular both in summer and during its mild winters. The town, the largest in Boka, spreads along the coast and has merged with Igalo and Topla, once separate villages, to the west. Another of Herceg Novi’s outstanding characteristics in Mount Orijen (1895m)emerging behind it, where, just a few kilometers away from the mild coastal climate, it is possible to enjoy in the pleasure of snow. If not a prime target in terms of monuments and heritage, the town compensates with its liveliness, high spirits and humor of its inhabitants.
In comparison with other places in the Gulf of Kotor, Herceg Novi is relatively young.
It was founded in 1382 by King Tvrtko of Bosnia who grated wide privileges in his intention to turn it into a trading port, which would rid Bosnia of its dependence on the Dubrovnik merchants who controlled almost all of the Bosnian trade.
The brought an economic standoff between to two in which the reasons of trade prevailed so that the king had to abandon his project. The town was originally known as Sveti Stjepan (St Stevan) after the protector saint of the King’s dynasty, but was referred to by locals (and still is) simply as Novi, literary “New (Town)”.
After Tvrtko’s death and the collapse of central power, the town became a possession of the barons from the Kosača family. Its most prominent member Stjepan Vukčić (1405-66) behaved like a sovereign and followed Tvrtko’s steps, settling the traders and cloth makers into the town and bringing new prosperity to the commune. As Vukčić used the title of Herzog of St Sava, his territory got a name Herzegovina, and his main trading port –Herceg Novi. The town’s new vigor didn’t last for long-Herzegovina dwindled under the Ottoman attacks until Herceg Novi, its last bit of land, was captured in 1482. The Turks realized immediately the potential of the town’s position and fortified it into one of the strongest forts of Adriatic.From here they attacked Venetian possessions in the Gulf and generally terrorized the trade on the open seas to such extent that 1538 the coalition of Christian forces was forged to attack the town. Combined forces of venice, Spain, Papal State and Perast led by the admiral Andrea Doria attacked and after fearsome fighting captured the town, leaving a Spanish garrison to protect it as well as building one more fort.
Ten months later the Turks appeared at its walls, two pashas from land and the famous Hayreddin Barbarossa from the sea.
After 25 days of bloody hang fighting the remaining 300 Spaniards decided to surrender; astonished by their bravery, Barbarossa offered them to stay in the town as the Sultan’s subjects, which fifty of them did, allegedly for the reason that they fell in love with the town and its scenery.
Herceg Novi remained in Turkish hands for the next century and half until 1687 when it was taken by the Venetians. Its capture meant that Gulf of Kotor was free from the Turks and opened a new era of prosperous trading and seafaring. Today Herceg Novi is a prime tourist destination in Boka Kotorska offering a perfect blend of sun, sea and culture.
It is also known for its many festivals such as the Mimosa festival held in February when this flower first blooms announcing the coming of spring, or the Film festival held in the wonderful setting of Kanli kula fortress.Joined with Igalo and Topla, the town lacks a real centre: it is made up of long roads parallel with a seafront and short streets and notorious stairways connecting these and is furthermore soaking in lush subtropical greenery. The heart of Herceg Novi is the area inside the town walls laying in series of terraces on the precipitous cliffs above the sea.
The mighty Forte Mare (Italian for “Sea Fort”) towering above the seaside promenade the most notable of the town’s fortifications. Its walls were originally built by King Tvrtko but have been reshaped and strengthened by all the subsequent rulers continually until the beginning of the 19th century when it got its present appearance.
Today the Fort houses an open air cinema and a discotheque. A few steps away to the east along the promenade will lead you to Citadela , a lone bastion merged with the sea. Built during the Venetians era it sank partially into the sea in 1979 earthquake.
The Clock Tower (Sahat Kula) is the focal point of the main town square –Trg Nikole Djurkovića-with many cafes, shops and institutions around it. Under the tower is a gate through which one gains entrance to the Old Town.Together with the short stairway leading to it, the Clock Tower is the symbol of the town, also seen on the municipal coat-of-arms.
It was built in 1667 by the Turks ( note the ogee arch of the central double window) but was later reshaped to suit European taste.The clock on the tower still proudly displays time accurately.Inside its gate stands a small statue of Virgin Mary carved by grateful devotees out of an oak blasted by a Turkish cannonball during the 1687 siege.
The small stone paved square Trg Hercega Stjepana , popularly known as Blavista, is arguably the most charming place in the town.Old stone buildings encircle the tiny and delighted Church of St Michael. Built in 1905-11, this orthodox church is basically neo-Byzantine in style but with many Gothic and Romanesque details, which together with a four palm trees on its corners add to its maritime appearance.
In the church there is a fine iconostasis from the same period. Next to the church is the picturesque Korača fountain, a rare survivor from the period of the Turkish rule true to its original form.
From the square small streets and stairway spread out leading in all directions. To the east, one reaches a green corner amidst the town walls sheltered by the St Jerome’s Tower, built in 1687 by Hieronymus Corner, the commander of Venetian troops.
Today, the seat of the Town Orchestra s located here. Taking the Stjepa Šarenca then Prve bokeške brigade and on the end Manastirska Street (each lying a bit above the other)will lead you to the pleasant Savinska Dubrava grove and Savina Monastery.
In the lower part of the Old Town lies Trg Miće Pavlovića , another pretty square centered around the Church of St Jeroms. It stands on the site of the main town mosque, torn down after the Christian capture of the town; present day of edifice dates back to 1856.
Its most interesting item is the altar painting representing the Virgin Mary surrounded by saints, a gift of Hieronymus Corner.The scenery behind the saints is actually the panorama of Herceg Novi at the time.
Directly below this church is a small church dating from the same period and built for the use of the capuchin monks. Today it is dedicated to St Bogdan Leopold Mandić (1866-1942), a native of Herceg Novi, canonized in 1983 by Pope John Paul II.
Music school of Herceg Novi is also located on this square.
Best observed from the highway but with entrance facing the narrow stairways leading downwards to Belavista square stands Kanli kula, whose name translates from Turkish as the “Bloody Tower”. Built after the Ottoman re-conquest of the town, it is largest of Herceg Novi’s fortifications, dominating the Old Town and offering exquisite views over the Old Town and the entrance of the Gulf of Kotor.
Together with its defensive role Kanli kula was also used by the Turks as a prison, with people held in a deep cistern. Following the reconstruction after the 1979 earthquake Kanli Kula has been transformed into a beautiful open air theater with a view of the sea and home to the local film festival. In calm setting not far to the left of Kanli Kula’s entrance stands the West Tower, another imposing piece of fortification.
Just across the highway from Kanli kula starts Srbina Street which will lead you to Španjola Fort, the best preserved piece of fortification in the town.
Standing on a hill overlooking Herceg Novi this fort was commenced by the Spaniards during their brief rule but was finished when the Turks returned to the town (1539-48).
It is square in base with massive tower on each of its corners and two gates. Above one of the gates on inscription in Arabic about the building of the Fort can be observed. Inside the walls there are ruins of the original buildings used by its garrison.
Starting from Trg Nikole Djurkovića and the Clock tower and leading all the way to Topola and Igalo, Njegoševa Street is the main commercial and traffic artery of Herceg Novi.
After its first part, enclosed by old stone buildings, on your left side open the views of the sea while on your right there is a row of houses and villas from the end of 19th century. Past the recently renovated “Gradska kafana” cafe and its classy terrace you will reach the Town Park, spreading downwards in a series of terraces.The park once belonged to hotel “Boka”, the most prestigious in the town and opened in 1908, but was soon accepted as a common value and all the townsfolk helped it developed. Hotel “Boka” perished in the 1979 earthquake but the parks remains with its many exotic trees and bushes, shady paths and a fishpond.
town Museum (zavičajni muzej)
Located just above the “Lovćen” beach on the promenade, the town museum is housed in a lovely late baroque mansion dating from the end of 18th century. The building and much of its artefacts are the donation by Mirko Komnenović (1870-1941) the mayor of Herceg Novi, MP and minister in the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. The building of the museum lies in nice park, full with palm trees, agave and aloes which together form and interesting botanical assortment.
In the museum’s collection one can see prehistoric jugs from the vicinity, amphorae and parts of cargo of sunken ships from classical antiquity pre-Romanesque reliefs (9th-11th century) from the ruins of the churches in the hills above Herceg Novi, documents on town’s history. Also on display is the collection of thirty icons of the Rafailović Dimitrijević school (17th -19th century) with their archaic iconography warm naivety and many meticulous details. The ethnographic departments present costumes and jewelry from the area, arms, agricultural tools and tools for processing of olives as well as traditional musical instruments. In addition, there is also an exhibition of painting by local artists from the second half of 20th century.
Up until a few decades ago Topla was a village of its own but is now fully joined with Herceg Novi. The village was known for its mild climate that earned it its name ( topla meaning “warm”) and for its nautical traditions. The importance it held in seafaring is witnessed in fact the during in Venetian era the seat of the local government was in Topla, not in Herceg Novi. Little remains of old Topla today: its centre used to be around two orthodox churches starting in Njegoševa Street-St George from 1688 and the one dedicated to the Ascension from 1713-both typical maritime edifices with nice baroque details and imposing stone gate. Above them is local graveyard adjoined by monastic cell in which young Njegoš was tought to read and write by monk Josif Tropović.
In 1964 the Noble prize winner Ivo Andrić built a modest house in Njegoševa Street No. 65. In this idyllic setting and pleasant climate that did him a world of good Andrić spent most of the time until has death in 1975 writing and hosting many prominent personalities and writers. Later, the house was the seat of the Tribunal founded by Bertrand Russell which gathered prominent intellectuals who investigated American intervention in Vietnam and was in this period visited by Jean Paul Sartre. The house is today used by the writer’s club of Herceg Novi. It retains its original look with features of Bosnian rural architecture while inside one can visit a memorial room dedicated to Andrić and his work.
Further east from Topla lays Igalo (5km from Herceg Novi’s Old Town). It is a long beach slopes very gently into the sea so that after 250 m the water is still only meter deep. The fine sand found here forms mildly radioactive mineral mud with many therapeutic traits in curing rheumatism, bronchitis etc. That has won Igalo its glory. This is the only health resort in Montenegro and the only one of its kind in the entire east Adriatic. Nevertheless in tourist season its large hotels are booked mostly by tourists who are perfectly healthy and here to enjoy its sun and sand.
The area to the west and north of Igalo is called Sutorina. Curiously, up to the 1930 this was administratively a part of Herzegovina and had a different historical development then the rest of the area. A part of Dubrovnik Republic since the middle ages, it was ceded voluntarily to Ottoman Empire after the Venetians conquered Herceg Novi and Topla. The same thing was done on the northernmost tip of the Republic at Neum, today Bosnia- Herzegovina’s only exit to the sea, and thus Dubrovnik only had borders with Turkey with whom it was in a fair relationship. This whole affair took place in order to separate small Dubrovnik from its most serious rival in the Adriatic, Venice,. Administratively part of Herzegovina but much more connected with Herceg Novi, Sutorina lived a twin existence. In all the Herzegovinian uprising against the Turks it was here that the rebels had their safe hideout, helped by their fellow Christians from Novi and Topla. Today the best known locality of this small region is Njivice, a small resort laying on the sea just below the Croatian border which has a regular and nudist beach.
pet danica ( five danica) promenade
This long seaside walkway way runs from Igalo all the way to the other end Herceg Novi. It follows the line of the old narrow gauge railway which connected it via Sutorina to Herzegovina and Dubrovnik and which was operational until 1968.
It was due to this railway that Herceg Novi and its vicinity become leading tourist resort in the Gulf of Kotor. A walk on the promenade will take you through several railroad tunnels and past Herceg Novi’s town beaches.
Close to the Old Town is its most dynamic part called Škver with open air pool, town port and quite a few cafes and restaurants.
At the west end of Herceg Novi, in a pleasant Savinska dubrava grove full of cypresses, oaks, laurels, palms and various herbal plants lies the orthodox monastery of Savina. According to tradition the monastery was founded in 1031 but the oldest of its churches doesn’t predate the 13th century.
What is known for sure is that it was given new impetus by the monks who in 1694 settled here fleeing from the famous Herzegovina monastery of Tvrdoš which was destroyed by the Turks during troublesome wartime years. The rest of Savina’s days passed quietly and the event best remembered here was Njegoš’s stay during his schooling in Topla.Above the complex lies the small parochial church of St Sava from the 13th century after which the whole site and the monastery was named. The monastery complex comprises two churches, both dedicated to the feast of Assumption. The smaller one is older: judging from its gothic features it was built in the time of Herceg Stjepan (mid 15th). There are several layers of fresco paintings on its walls, ranging from 1565 to 1831. The iconostasis was done ad redone on several occasions in 18th century.The central “Emperor’s Door” and crucifix above it were painted in 1703 by Dimitrije, the father of Rafailović-Dimitrijević school of icon painting. The larger church is remarkable edifice built from 1777 to 1799 following the plans of Nikola Foretić from the town Korčula ( today in Croatia) who skilfully blended the Byzantine ground plan and cupola with the traditional Romanesque details and baroque bell tower. Inside the church you will see the marvellous high iconostasis painted in 1797 by Simeon Lazović of Bijelo Polje.
The monastery has a rich treasury ( riznica: free entry ), most of its valuable brought from abandoned Tvrdoš monastery. Here you will see the crystal cross edged with silver supposedly belonging to St Sava ( 13th century), glided enamel several (1648), silver reliquary from 1759 of hand belonging to Jelena, wife of Serbian Emperor Dušan the Mighty, glided ciborium (1675) made to resemble the look Tvrdoš, epitrachileon on blue silk (14th century), should embroidered in silver and gold thread (1659), and wooden cross with intricate carvings (16th century). The collection of old books and documents in equally extensive comprising of the monastic rule of St Sava (transcribed in the 16th century), characters of Nemanjić kings and dukes of of Bessarabia (present day Romania), hand written Octoechos from 1509 and letters written by the Montenegrin metropolitans.
Continuing along the highway from Savina one reaches Meljine quickly, a small resort with sand beach hidden in lush greenery. On its waterfront one can see the ruins of a Venetian lazaretto (maritime quarantine) from 1732. Immediately after the tunnel you arrive in Zelenika, a large village know for its harbour.
Close to the last stop of the narrow gauge railway in 1902 hotelier Antal Magyar from Budapest opened the first modern hotel in Boka Kotorska. The building of his hotel “Plaža” ( “Beach”) still stands on waterfront but was until recently off the tourist path, as it was being used by the army.The family Magyar still lives in Zelenika. At the exit towards Kumbor you will notice the church of Holy Trinity (mid 19th century) standing charmingly on a hill above the highway. The most interesting antiquity in the surroundings of Herceg Novi is the church of Saints Sergio and Bakh ( Crkva Svetog Srdja i Vakha) in the village lies just above Herceg Novi and can be reached uphill from the highway at Meljine, on the main route towards Trebinje.
The church stands above the road at the village cemetery where you will see many nice gravestones of local merchant families who constituted a good part of the prosperous Serb colony in Trieste.
This unusually tall church was built at the beginning of the 15th century but is remarkably well kept. It is made out of local stone and has a round cupola. Its sole ornaments are the blind arches and the baroque belfry added in 1769. Inside is a nice iconostas done by Simon and Aleksije Lazović of Bijelo Polje.
Montenegro Hostel Team