Bar was founded in 1878 when the Montenegrins acquired this region in a war which devastated the town of Old Bar. It is original name was Pristan („Anchorage“) as it was Montenego's first harbour. Iot developed rapidly after WWII when it got a new modern harbur which was in 1976 connected with the Bar-Belgrade railway;to which gravitated all of Montengro and all of Serbia. Bar is also the only the only maritime town in Montenegro with a regular ferry line connecting it to Bari in Italy. Today, the town serves as a important traffic center, second only to Podgorica and there is barely anything touristy about it as it consist almost exclusively of socialist era apartment blocks.
North from the harbor lies the pleasant Topolica Parkand on its edge, facing the sea and promenade is the Palace of King Nikola. This nice villa was built in 1885 and is adjoined by a chapel and a winter garden. The palace houses alocal museumpresenting numerous archaeological findings, the vivid traditional dresses of Orthodox, Muslim and Catholics from the local area and a section devoted to the narrow gauge railway Bar-Virpazar, the oldest in Montenegro (1908). Around the palace are planted many exotic trees and shrubs, gift to King Nikola from around the world. In front of the palace is a long beach, the only one in the town itself, but the proximity of the harbor makes you wonder whether the water is clean.
In small green spot close to the corner of the main street- Jovana Tomaševića- and Branka Ćalovića St. are the excavated foundations of a large trefoil church , in fact the first cathedral of Bar. It was built in the 6th century by an unknown bishop whose grave can be seen in the northern leaf of the cathedral.
As a town of considerable size, Bar is good place to stock up on supplies and the best place to do so its green market, probably the most picturesque one in Montenegro. The comes not only from the variety of fresh Mediterranean products on sale but also from the boistrerous vendors and early ladies often adorned with details from the local folk dress.
The most important tourist sight in Bar is its predecessor, Stari Bar ( Old Bar). It is local to the southeast of the town, on the first slopes of the impressing Mt Rumija. The old, walled part is a ghost town turned into an open air museum. Underneath is huddles the inhabited part immersed in oriental legacy.
The hill occupied by the walled town was settled in prehistoric and Illyrian times but was abandoned during the Roman era when it was moved to the coast, to the same location where modern Bar stands today. With the Avar and Slavic invasions in the 6th century the Roman population left the shore for the safety of this hill which they encircled with walls. As the situation settled Bar became the most important center of Duklja, often visited by is princes and kings. In 1089 it became the seat of the archbishopric, which still exists to this day. Its name comes from Latin Antibarium „Facing Bari“ the town in southern Italy to which it was closely connected by religious affairs and trade. The town reached its heyday during the rule of Nemanjićs when it doubled in size and population. Later on it was squabbled over by several feudal lords until in 1443 the townspeople decided to take on the protection of the Venetian Republic. The protection worked well for more than a century during which Bar became an isolated commune, encircled from all sides by Ottoman possessions. Venetian rule ended in 1571 when Bar fell to the Turks. Soon, the churches were turned into mosques and the remaining population become Muslim. Three hundred years later the town was besieged and taken by Montenegrins in 1878, after which it gradually lost its importance to its coastal namesake. Careless stocking of gunpowder by the Montenegrin army led to two large explosions (1881 and 1912) which destroyed many of the old monuments. After additional damage inflicted by the 1979 earthquake the enwalled town is gradually being repaired and renovated.
To reach Stari Bar follow the sign from the road to Ulcinj, take the first left then first right. The steep road will lead you to a spacious parking lot in front of the captivating ruins. Next to the parking lot is an unusual monument to the “knightly liberator” prince Nikola, assembled in 1881 from an array of interesting fragments found in Stari Bar-Roman, medieval and Venetian inscriptions, coats –of-arms of local families, columns and capitals, all crowned with a gun shell. The main street begins with a small green market followed by several shops and kebab grills. The street continues steeply uphill and follows the line of the town walls whose slating appearance dates back to the 16th century. Venetian renovation when they were adapted for defense against cannons. Entry to the inside of the walls is gained through an imposing gate near the upper tower. This spacious gate was, until the Venetian renovation, a church standing by the town walls; today is contains a relief of St Mark’s lion and huge olive press. Facing the entrance there stands the Omerbašića Mosque, a small structure from 1662. The domed structure next to it is the tomb of Dervish Hassan. In front of the whole complex stands a dry drinking well displaying an Arab inscription. To explore the town you will need to purchase a ticket. The first building to the left of the ticket office is a 15th century custom office turned into a small museum with archaeological material and photos of Stari Bar from before and after the earthquake. Further uphill you will reach the Tatrovica citadel, whose oldest layers date back to the 0th century, but which has been continually rebuilt all the way to the 19th century and was even used by the Italians in WWII as a prison. From its walls you can observe the Turkish aqueduct and the old road following the stream Rena deeper inland. In front of the citadel gate stand several surviving walls of the Church of St Francis and on one of them there are 14th century frescoes of two saints. To the left of the citadel you will pass the old town gate: the part remaining behind you is a 13th and 14th century enlargement while you now enter the original town core. On what used to be a small town square stands a modest church and a two-storied bishop’s palace, a late Gothic edifice renovated to its original appearance. Behind it is the 14th century Church of St Veneranda. The path leads you to the southern plateau where the cathedral dedicated to St George, the patron of the town, once stood. The main street descending downwards passes the former Church of St Catherine which used to stand on the vaults above the street. In the middle of the ruins of Stari Bar are the 17th century Turkish baths. The Turkish clock tower ( late 16th century) is close to the palace where the southern town gate used to be. By the western tower the 15th century Duke’s Palace ( in ruins) and the unidentified church can be found.
The area around the town of Bar is an olive growing region and has been since time immemorial. A living monument to this useful three and the craft of its cultivation is the old olive tree (stara maslina) in the suburb of Mitrovića. It is estimated that it was planted around the time of Christ’s birth, which makes it one of the oldest olive trees in the world. The remarkable thing is that although cracked and curved it still bears fruit. The three has grown into one of the symbols of Bar and the area around it has been smartened up.
Montenegro Hostel Team