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Cultural Route

  • 1. The Towers of Plav

  • 2. The Mosques of Plav

  • 3. Lake Plav

  • 4. Botanical Garden

  • 5. Holy Trinity Monastery

  • 6. Gusinje

  • 7. Churches and Mosques

  • 8. Ali-Pasha Springs

  • 9. Murino

Tabla 1 - Plavske kule

Tabla 1 – Plavske kule

 

The towers of Plav and Gusinje are unique phenomena in the architecture of this region. They were built in the period from the 16th century to the beginning of the 20th century and they differ from the ordinary wooden houses in terms of their appearance and structure. Adapted to the demands of defence from attack and survival under siege, these stone towers were made without large openings. The top floor was often made of wood with windows on all four sides which served as advantage point or a watchtower whereas in the stone façades narrow rifle holes were made.

The towers provided protection not only for one house but for the whole location as well. They were encompassed by a tall wall, within which there were several smaller houses and structures including a mutvak – a baker’s – as well. Most towers in the region of Plav and Gusinje were built by masons from Debar, a town in Macedonia, famous for its stone and wood carving workshops. The stone for its construction was dragged by the bullock cart from Mt. Visitor across the frozen Lake Plav. The Redžepagić Tower is the oldest and most beautiful tower in Plav. It is thought that this impressive structure was built by Hasan Bey Redžepagić in 1671, although there is a folk tale saying that it dates from the 15 th century, when it was built by Ali Muče, the descendant of Ali Bey Redžepagić, for the defence of Plav from the Kliment clan. The tower was originally built as a twostorey structure, covered with stone slabs, whereas the third floor of wood, a so-called čardak, was added later and the stone roof was replaced with shingle. Inter-storey constructions were made of wood, and there are also wooden stairs leading from the ground floor to the third floor. The ground floor served as stable for horses and a grain storehouse. The first floor had a defensive role, with rifle holes on its north-, east- and south-facing sides. The thickness of the stone walls at certain places exceeded one metre.

The second and third floors served as living areas, with a reception room, bedrooms and dining room, which were richly decorated and furnished with closets, sofas, carpets and beautifully carved shelves. The trademark of the Redžepagić tower are the roofed wooden balconies built above the rifle holes, called the ćošak (corner). In the 1980s the Redžepagić Tower was fully restored. Although located at the crossroads of the emperor’s roads it is not remembered whether Plav ever had an inn. It is said that there was no need for that since the whole town served as the inn. Almost every house in Plav had a guest room which was most beautifully furnished and always open for a guest. To host a guest was a special honour and it was often said that: “It is not good for a house if you do not share your meal with a guest.” Therefore in Plav’s houses for every meal a little more food was cooked in case an unplanned guest should stop by. Wealthier houses could host several travellers.

These were guest houses or guest inns, which travellers could recognise by a characteristic detail on the roof which was called a Baba Finka. It was a little minaret, 1.5 metres in height, with a wooden apple in gold or bright red on its top. Such houses were built by prosperous feudal lords, therefore these were often richly decorated with calligraphic inscriptions and geometrical figures. A typical example of such towers built at the end of the 19 th and the beginning of 20 th century was the Bećiragić Tower, built at the entrance to Plav. At the entrance to the tower there are stone-carved geometrical shapes, two sabres, scissors and a pistol, as well as the longest preserved calligraphic inscription in the Turkish language.

Tabla 2 - Plavske džamije

Tabla 2 – Plavske džamije

 

You are standing in the centre of Dizdar’s former town, in the vicinity of the Emperor’s Mosque, which is believed to be the first mosque built in the territory of present-day Montenegro. It is thought it was built in 1471 as an asker (soldier’s) mosque for the needs of the Ottoman Turkish soldiers. Besides the Emperor’s Mosque, within this medieval fortress which was built by Zejnel Dizdar, the Bey of Plav, there were also towers used to house soldiers, weapons and food as well as the first reading room/bookshop in this region, built more than five centuries ago.

Of Dizdar’s town, today only traces of the former high ramparts and the Emperor’s Mosque, as one of the oldest and most significant cultural monuments in this area, remain. It has been rebuilt several times, and its present-day appearance dates from the 18 th century. The Emperor’s Mosque fascinates with its original architecture, rich wood carvings and arabesques. The access section called the soferluk, the ceiling and a slender minaret were built out of wood, while for the other sections of the mosque cut stone covered with mortar was used. On the second floor there is a spacious wooden gallery decorated with artistic wood carvings. In the mid-1980s the mosque was fully restored. In the Emperor’s Mosque a Ramadan cannon, used to announce the beginning and the end of the fast of Ramadan, is also kept. The cannon dates from 1909 and it is assumed that it belonged to the Sultanija Mosque, the newest and largest mosque in Plav. The Sultanija Mosque was built by Sultan Abdul Hamid II in 1909 and it is probably one of the last large mosques which the Ottoman Empire built in the Balkans. It was being built for almost ten years by the famous masons of Debar, who were applying for the first time the technique of stone carving by the use of gouging. This magnificent mosque served as a religious structure for a short period of time. During the 20 th century it was used as a school, police station and prison, as well as the building of public utility providers, and social services and the fire brigade.

After more than nine decades, in 2005 the mosque was restored and it regained its original purpose. Today it is a large-domed structure with a concrete minaret with a height of 41.5 metres. Notable also is the Redžepagić Mosque, which in gratitude to her father Redžep Aga, Fatima, the wife of Kara Mahmut Pasha Bushatlija, the Vizier of Skadar built in 1774, when, according to a folk story, the vizier built his famous mosque in Gusinje as well. A tall wooden minaret reaching a height of 14 metres and an entrance door with details in wood are some of the features of this mosque, over two centuries old. In the vicinity of the Redžepagić Tower another old mosque of Plav is located. The Ferović Mosque, today better known as the Šabović Mosque, was built in 1880 by merchant Haso Ferović as his memorial mosque. Like most mosques dating from that period, it was built of carved stone with a minaret of pine wood.

Tabla 3 - Plavsko jezero

Tabla 3 – Plavsko jezero

 

Once upon a time an aristocratic brother and sister wandered the world in search of their dreams. After a long journey they decided to have a rest beside a lake. The beautiful noblewomen wished to bathe in the crystal clear lake. The moment she entered the water, it turned blue from her hair which mixed with the waves. That awakened a terrifying dragon from the lake which grabbed the girl. For nine days water as blue as the blood of the unfortunate girl flowed through the lake. That is how, they say, Lake Plav got its name.
During the Nemanjić era, the valley around the lake was a part of the Plav Valley county, which mainly consisted of monastery homesteads – the estates of the Visoki Dečani Monastery and the Monastery of the Peć Patriarchate. They had exclusive fishing rights in Lake Plav resulting in the development of the fishermen’s settlement called Ribare around the lake. It is supposed that Plav, which was the name initially used to denote the entire area, was named after the Roman emperor Flavius from the time when this area belonged to the Roman Empire. Documents from the 15th century show that Plav was a prosperous commercial and transit centre in which merchants from all regions used to come. It took three days for caravans laden with wool, grains, cheese and wax to reach Kotor, whereas Istanbul could be reached in nineteen days by foot. When a census (of the population and property) was conducted in 1485, it was found that in the Plav vilayet (county) lived 1,157 households, that is to say, seven times more than in Podgorica at that time. The town of Plav was formed upon the arrival of Ottoman invaders in this region. In order to prevent raids of the Kliments and other clans on commercial caravans, the Bosnian governor Mustafa-Pasha built in Plav a fortified town with a high walls which was inhabited by agas and beys.

Famous for its beauty and rich in fish, Lake Plav has been a trademark of this region for centuries. Covering a surface area of around two square kilometres, in front of you lies the largest glacial lake in Montenegro. It is the source of the great River Lim, hydrographically most important Montenegrin river and the most immortalised river in poetry as well. In summer you can swim here since water warms up to 22ºC, while in winter the lake turns into an ice-skating rink, on which an ice cover sometimes up to 20-30 cm thick is formed. The tributary of Lake Plav is the fast mountain river, the Ljuča, and experts have calculated that the water in this lake changes as much as 82 times a year, that is to say, on average once every four days and ten hours. Because of this it has lush vegetation and diverse wildlife. Besides water lilies, reeds and reed maces there are also tens of other types of plants, so locals often mow the flood meadows providing winter food for cattle that way. They say that Lake Plav is a place where all the wishes and dreams of an angler come true. It is the habitat of various fish species such as huchen, pike, nase and chub, and here one can also find the muddy trout – an endemic species of trout.

Tabla 4 - Botanička bašta Velemun

Tabla 4 – Botanička bašta Velemun

 

Mountain Visitor, at the foot of which you are standing right now, is full of trumpet gentian (Gentiana kochiana), a large flower dark blue and sometimes violet in colour, after which this unique botanical garden situated at an elevation of 920 metres above sea level was named. Covering a surface area of 520 m2 there are over 350 plants, predominantly from the region of the Prokletije Mountains and the other surrounding mountains, and special attention has been given to endemic and protected plant species. Here one can also find some recently discovered species, such as Vincek’s lady’s mantle or nymph’s dew (Alchemilla vinceki), which was named after Danijel Vincek, the owner of the famous botanical garden in Dulovine near Kolašin, which was the model and inspiration for creating Velemun.

Created as a result of the longstanding work of the teacher and botanist from Plav, Milutin Praščević, the Velemun Botanical Garden started to take shape in 1993. This great lover of the Prokletije Mountains even gave up football, which he had been involved in for a long time in order to devote himself entirely to the exploration of the flora of the Prokletije Mountains. He also climbed the highest peaks, on which he found plants which are yet to be scientifically analysed. He says that the plants of the Prokletije Mountains are exceptionally beautiful because that is the only way they manage to attract bees or birds in their short flowering season and survive in the harsh conditions of this mountain, where snow can fall from October to May, and temperatures in winter can drop to -40ºC. Each plant in Velemun has its own special story and its owner remembers when he brought each one there. In terms of beauty and biological significance, besides the trumpet gentian, other notable species include Wulfenia blecicii – Blečić’s wulfenia, Picea omorica – Serbian spruce (a guest of the garden), Potentilla montenegrina – Montenegrin cinquefoil, Viola orphanidis subsp. Nikolai – Nicholas’ violet, Gentiana lutea – yellow gentian, Leontopodium nivale – Edelweiss, Corylus colurna – Turkish hazel, Aconitum penteri – Penter’s monkshood, Achillea abratonoides – mountain yarrow and many others. From this spot you can head towards Visitor, a steep mountain covered in forest, whose highest peak – Plana Summit (2,211m) is reflected in the water of Lake Plav.

On the north-eastern side of the mountain, at an elevation of 1,642 metres above sea level, Lake Visitor is located. This small glacial lake, better known as the mountain eyes of Visitor, is surrounded by tall coniferous trees which reflect in its water giving it a special dark green colour. In winter this lake freezes, but in summer you can swim in it, since the water temperature reaches 18ºC. A special charm to the lake is given by a small peninsula covered with grass. It was once a floating island which over time was connected to the shore by fallen pine tree trunks. According to legend, the island was formed a long, long time ago from a raft which was built by the Thracians while they grazed their cattle by the lake. In order to protect them overnight from wolves and other wild animals, they would go onto the raft, where floating far from the shore, they protected their cattle during the night.

Tabla 5 - Manastir Sv. Trojice u Brezojevicama

Tabla 5 – Manastir Sv. Trojice u Brezojevicama

 

The monastery in front of you has for centuries been a spiritual centre and gathering place of the Orthodox population of Plav and Gusinje. Once the processional church banner used to be raised here, and people gathered around the same dining table and then went on religious processions. Even today, as several hundred years ago, the Monastery of the Holy Trinity in Brezojevice is a gathering place to which visitors from the whole region come. There are no written sources regarding the time of the church’s construction. According to local tradition, the church in Brezojevice is somewhat older than the Visoki Dečani Monastery from 1330, so it is supposed that it was built in the 13th century.

The church is situated at the foot of Gradac Hill, on the left bank of the River Lim, in the vicinity of the former fortified town whose remains can be seen even today. The church was built in the Byzantine style as a single-nave stone structure with rebated arches onto which the narthex was added later. With a large semicircular apse and without a dome, in terms of its architecture, it resembles the old coastal churches. It was built from roughcut stone of varied colours and sizes, arranged in horizontal rows and bound together with mortar. It is interesting to note that the bell tower was not built next to the church, as was common, but somewhat higher above it, on Gradac Hill. That enabled the call for prayer and information about other important events to reach a large number of the Orthodox population in the neighbourhood. Like most churches in this region, the Church of the Holy Trinity has also been destroyed and rebuilt several times. A murasele—a short legal proclamation—of Ali-Bey of Gusinje from 1864 regarding the restoration of the church has been preserved. It is recorded that the monks of the Visoki Dečani Monastery also participated in the restoration. The church was also restored after the destruction in the First Balkan War, only to be destroyed again after World War II. Due to a frequent destructions most frescoes of great value, painted between 1566 and 1567, were destroyed. The fragments of frescoes are preserved in the altar, naos and narthex of the monastery, and some of the most notable among them include the composition of the Final Judgment in the narthex and the scene of the Nativity of the Mother of God on the western wall of the naos.

The fresco icon of St Sava located in a prominent place in the altar space has particular significance, on which— in accordance with medieval tradition—he is depicted as a halflength figure, blessing with his right hand and holding an open gospel in his left hand. It is thought that the frescoes of the monastery in Brezojevice were created by the same fresco painting workshop which produced the frescoes of the Morača Monastery. According to the preserved local tradition fresco painting was conducted under the supervision of Prior Nestor. This monk from the Belaja Desert above Dečani was a highly esteemed person of his time, and the cult of old man Nestor as the constructor of Brezojevica Monastery has been preserved among the local population. It is believed that the anchorite’s cell of old man Nestor as well was located in Brezojevice. On the eastern side of the church, on the remnants of the former residential building the first secular school in this region was built. This minor stone structure has been recently restored for the needs of the church.

Tabla 6 - Gusinje

Tabla 6 – Gusinje

 

There are several folk stories concerning how Gusinje got its name: some say that it was named after the dense forest (gust – dense, thick) in which it was built, others say it was after the thick hoar frost (inje – hoar frost) which covers the area in winter, and there is also a famous legend about a young nobleman who settled in the dense undergrowth near the lake when a dragon from Lake Plav killed his sister. The present day town was formed from this undergrowth. Inhabited since prehistoric times, Gusinje was mentioned in the 14th century as a caravan station, a place where travellers and horses could get some rest on the road leading from Dubrovnik, Kotor and Skadar to Peć and Istanbul. Always on the frontier, on the spot where roads crossed and various cultures, religions and nations encountered, Gusinje developed rapidly and became a well-known centre of commerce and crafts.

Upon the arrival of Šaban-Aga in the 17th century, who was appointed deputy by the Vizier of Skadar, Gusinje gained in importance and became the centre of the Upper Polimlje district taking over the administrative functions of Plav. Then Gusinje was a larger town than it is today. A document from 1852 has been preserved in which Gusinje was described as a large provincial town with 1,500 houses, five mosques, eight religious schools and a ruždija (gymnasium school). Then there were also 350 shops, 7 inns and 27 coffee shops in Gusinje. Besides that, the fact that the people of Gusinje were well-known and skilful merchants was also confirmed by the French consul in Skadar, during his visit to this region in 1859. This little town has been demolished and rebuilt several times. During the last restoration at the beginning of the 16 th century, Gusinje was built in a planned manner. Even today many people call it a little urbanistic miracle. The entire town is concentrated around one semicircular street with a central square surrounded by numerous shops, coffee shops and inns. Nine streets lead radially from the centre and their ends are connected by a circular street. Many Oriental elements in the appearance of the houses and streets have been preserved. Even today small shops and narrow cobbled streets with the houses with small windows and porches are located here. Traditional house of Gusinje was built as a two-storey structure. The stone-built ground floor was used as a cattle stall or a grain storehouse, whereas the upper floor, on which people lived was made of wood, with a “corner” – a covered wooden terrace. Houses were beautifully decorated and richly furnished.

They had a hamam (bath house), abdesnica (a wooden washbasin), brick stove, a closet for bedding, built-in cupboards, shelves and sofas (raised sitting platforms) decorated with carvings. The arch-shaped barriers separated the entrance section from the rest of the room and these served as a curtain – the spot which female servants did not cross when serving food and drink to the guests. Gusinje is well-known for its old stone towers, a unique example of defensive and residental architecture, characteristic of the region of Plav and Gusinje. Built with a rectangular base and two or three storeys, the towers were protected by thick stone walls. Some of them had their top floor built of wood, with windows on all four sides which served as a vantage point or a watchtower. The towers were built in the time of Ottoman rule and often on the façade they had an engraved quotation from the Qur’an in Arabic or a dova (prayer) which protected the home from evil spirits and bad spells. On one of Gusinje’s old towers above the door an engraving of a rifle with the barrel pointing down as a symbol of peace and security, as well as readiness for defence in case of attack has been carved.

Tabla 8 - Crkve i džamije

Tabla 8 – Crkve i džamije

 

If you head along the main road in Gusinje, within a distance of one kilometre you will come across the old Vizier’s Mosque and the churches of St. George and St. Anthony, both almost a century old. These temples of different religions and confessions witness to the fact that despite the turbulent history of this region, good neighbourly relations and mutual respect of different cultures and traditions have held sway in Gusinje. Here, in the very centre of Gusinje, is situated what is, according to many people, the most beautiful mosque in the whole region, the Vizier’s Mosque. It is also the oldest mosque in Gusinje, although it is difficult to determine the exact date of its construction. It is supposed that it was built in 1765 by Mahmud Pasha Bushatlija, the Grand Vizier of Skadar, and for that reason it was named the Vizier’s Mosque. According to one legend it was built much earlier, at the end of the 15th century, at the beginning of the rule of the Bushatlija family in this region, while some documents also mention 1626 as the year of its construction. The mosque has a quadrangular base and it was built of stone dipped in lime mortar. A wooden soferluk (access section) with a wood carving and a slender wooden minaret are of particularly special value. Within the mosque once there also were the ruždija – the Ottoman gymnasium (general high school) – and a pupil’s boarding school. The mosque underwent various alterations over the years, most recently in 1994, when it was restored to its original appearance. On that occasion a fountain of white stone was built as well. At the entrance to the Vizier’s Mosque there is a showcase with many pebbles witnessing to the severe drought, which in 1917 struck the whole region of Gusinje. It is said that, fearing serious consequences from the drought, believers – members of the congregation – asked Mula Hafiz Mehmed Laličić, a mufti and muderis, to pray for rain. On one Friday, after jum’ah (weekly prayer) he gathered 700 congregation members organised into 70 groups, who had the obligation to take one pebble each from the River Grnčar and pray 1000 Istighfars – prayers for forgiveness, or the same number of prayers for salvation from all troubles (Salatan Tunjina).

And while Hafiz was praying the Rain dova – a special prayer for rain – a heavy, hot rain started falling and it rained for an hour. The collected pebbles were stored in the Vizier’s Mosque with a warning that none of them may be thrown into the water. The Orthodox Church of St. George was built in 1926. Before that in Gusinje there was a churchchapel, situated on the second floor of the school, in the building which in terms of its appearance did not stand out from any of the others. The Church of St. George is a single-nave structure with a semicircular apse and a bell tower. It is famous for its iconostasis, made in a wellknown crafts workshop in Novi Sad, which is said to be one of the most beautiful in Montenegro. In the treasury of the church there are many valuable icons, including wood-carvings which depict the Dečani Monastery and the Monastery of the Patriarchate of Peć, the most prominent monasteries of pilgrimage in the Upper Polimlje region, as well as an icon of the Mother of God and the Infant Christ from 1897, the work of one of the last iconpainters to work according to the medieval painting conception. A kilometre away from the centre of Gusinje, in the village of Dolja, the Catholic Church of St. Anthony is located. It was built between 1933 and 1936 as a single-nave structure with a bell tower on its main façade. Among the oldest mosques in this area is the Čekić Mosque, built in 1687. It was built by the Čekić clan with donations from the people of Gusinje. The mosque was built during the Morean War which the Ottoman forces fought against Austria and the Venetian Republic, and the Kuči clan, Kliment clan and other clans fought with the local forces in the Sanjak of Scutari.

Tabla 9 - Ali-pašini izvori

Tabla 9 – Ali-pašini izvori

 

It is said that the famous Ali-Pasha of Gusinje used to come here every morning to enjoy the beauty and serenity of this place in which a magnificent play of nature created a large karst spring comprised of 25 minor springs. Stretching along a length of 300 metres, these rich springs, depending on the season, release between 3 and 9 cubic metres of water per second and their temperature never exceeds 6ºC. They were named after Ali-Pasha of Gusinje, a famed military commander from the 19th century, from the Šabanagić family which for nearly two hundred years governed this region.

Beside the springs AliPasha built a large house in which the most prominent people of the area gathered, where trade deals were made and clans mended their differences, while travellers who would find themselves there could refresh themselves and spend the night here. In the midst of these springs there is an old stone watermill, one of the rare ones which right up until the present day has preserved an old mechanism for grinding grain, which was brought here from the whole area of the Prokletije Mountains, and when there was not enough, from Peć and Prizren as well. The watermill at AliPasha’s springs is also special for having living quarters on the floor above the mill. Here the girls from Gusinje used to come around St. George’s Day to take water in a special pot which they would later adorn with spring flowers.In the vicinity of Gusinje, at the very foot of the Prokletije Mountains, near the village of Vusanje, there is another karst spring of outstanding beauty. Hidden deep in the valley and surrounded by a dense forest Oko Skakavice (the Eye of the River Skakavica) or Savino oko (Sava’s Eye) attracts visitors with its crystal-clear water through which every stone, even one at a depth of eight metres, can be seen, and which constantly changes its colour from shades of blue to green throughout the day.

Circular in shape, 30 metres long and 25 metres wide, this unusual spring emerging at an elevation of 1,010 metres above sea level, during the hot summer shrinks completely and its water retreats and stops bubbling up. Even then only the bravest dare to swim in the water of Oko Skakavice, the freezing cold snowmelt from the Prokletije Mountains. Fed by water from this spring, the River Skakavica, after slightly more than two kilometres of its course suddenly disappears under the surface, forming a 30-metre-high waterfall of the River Grlja, one of the largest and most beautiful waterfalls in the Prokletije Mountains. Even though its roar can be heard far away, this poorly accessible waterfall was discovered only in 1982. Although it has been a commercial and administrative centre of this region for centuries, during the 20 th century Gusinje gradually lost its importance and its economic development stopped, resulting in a considerable emigration of people from this area. Throughout the 19 th century this area had more inhabitants than today. Well-known for a strong sense of belonging to their homeland, they say that at least one man from Gusinje lives in each town in the world, and when sleeping, wherever he is, his head is turned towards his homeland. Every summer, on 2 nd August, the St Elias’ Day, natives of Gusinje and Plav from all over the world gather right here, at Ali-Pasha’s Springs.

Those are probably the largest homeland gatherings in Montenegro, attended by over 15,000 people. The programme lasts for days, old songs of Gusinje are sung, traditional folk dances are danced, and in the evening the happenings continue on the famous Gusinje promenade, which then becomes the centre of the world.

Tabla 9 - Murino

Tabla 9 – Murino

 

Once all roads from Montenegro to Greece, Macedonia, south Serbia and Kosovo and Metohia led through Murino. In the period between two World Wars, the Murino–Čakor–Peć road was one of the most important roads in the whole region. It was unveiled by King Alexander in September 1925. In the nineteen-sixties large numbers of tourists from all over the former Yugoslavia came along this road to enjoy the beauties of Lake Plav and the allure of the surrounding mountains. At that time, this region was more visited by tourists than any coastal town in Montenegro.

Since ancient times Murino has been well-known as a climatic spa, a place ideal for enjoying untouched nature. Nearly a century ago, domestic and foreign newspapers described this tiny town as a place with kind people and an exceptional location which enables mountaineering in its surroundings and swimming in the River Lim. Then, both the traditional hospitality and the turbulent past of this region were also being written about. Although inhabited since prehistoric times, this region has not preserved many traces of the past. It has always been at the crossroads where both encounters and collisions of nations, religions, armies and civilisations occurred, often resulting in the total destruction of the area. However, there is something in Murino that resists the passing of time. It is Malevka, an old drinking fountain which has never dried up. This cold, clear spring water emerging from under Mt. Goleš is always running both in summer and winter. Whoever visits Murino takes away at least one bottle of water from Malevka as a souvenir, and if one is to believe the song, the one who tries it once will always come back to Murino: “ …He who has drunk water from Malevka Can never bring himself to leave Murino…”

Mt. Čakor, with an elevation of 2,058 metres above sea level, towers above Murino. In summer it is one of the most beautiful mountains in the area, with dense coniferous forests, crystal clear springs and rich pastures, while in winter it turns into a capricious and cruel mountain, where due to its freezing cold winds and avalanches very few people dare to venture onto it. Mt. Čakor is well-known for the eponymous mountain pass which for centuries has been the only way through this region. Caravans, messengers, armies, monks and outlaws have passed along this way. Čakor has always been a frontier along which battles have often been fought. Because of this there are so many monuments, graves and tombstones on this mountain. On the slopes of Čakor the village of Velika (Great) is located. This unusual name corresponds more to the suffering and courage of its residents than the size of this little mountain village. During the 19 th century it was the only place in the region under French protection. Suffering frequent acts of terror from the Ottoman invaders, the village leaders sought help from the French consul in Skadar. Therefore, in the period between 1850 and 1857, Velika was proclaimed an autonomous French principality.

During World War II, in 1944, fascist troops killed over 400 locals here, mostly women and children, in just one day. In memory of these victims the Church of the Great Martyrs Quiricus and Julietta was built in the village. Located beside the foundations of a former log cabin church, at an elevation of 1,037 metres above sea level, this church was built in the Byzantine style. The interior of the church was frescopainted and one of the frescoes was dedicated to massacre of 1944. Near the village one of the most beautiful and highest caves in Montenegro is located. Until several decades ago only local people who used it as a refuge in war time knew about it. That is probably the reason why this rather inaccessible cave, which has two openings at an elevation of 1,780 metres above sea level, is still called Bezimena (Nameless). The total length of tunnels explored so far is 440 metres, and its numerous halls are decorated with sparkling coral jewellery, petrified waterfalls, unusual sculptures and small lakes with crystal clear water.