We’ll be popping up the hill!

Our walk on this day involved driving up and up until we reached a starting spot for the walk. Our aim was to get to the Summit and see the Mausoleum. There was the added incentive of a Restaurant on the top, where we were to have a ‘spot of luncheon’ as we say.

The area had suffered forest fires recently giving an unusual aspect to the landscape with blackened tree stumps and the undergrowth regenerating on the ground. “VB” Tony was, as usual in the lead with our leaders: Misa and Stefan. I was normally at the back of the sm,all troop.

We climbed through a landscape full of wildflowers on a lovely day.

Flowerbigrock

Regenerating woods

That little block on the top of the mountain was where we were heading. Rocks and wildflowers of all sorts and the odd little creature like this little lizard who seemed to be giving me a high five!

Highfivelizard

It took us some time and the last lap to the very top was all concrete steps. Great lunch and then downhill through these blackened woods. With the white stone ( limestone ) you’d think this is a black and white photograph, but it’s not!

Blackandwhitewoods

There was a camera crew on the top doing a bit of a documentary, which we very nearly photobombed. The producer was very pleasant about it and afterwards offered me a drink of his bottled juice. A clear liquid that I thought might be water but was in fact his own brand “brandy”. It tasted a little what I thought rocket fuel might taste like, taking what little breath I had left from the walk right out of my lungs for a second or two. Just as well I was not the driver on the hairpin bends going back.

For more information about the area I’ve copied in below some stuff from our guide. Might be worth more of a read than my ramblings.


Lovćen National Park 

Rising above the Adriatic basin and sitting directly behind Kotor is Mt Lovćen with its two imposing peaks, Štirovnik (1,749m) and Jezerski vrh (1,657 m). Best accessed via the serpentine road which winds uphill from Kotor to the village of Njeguši, birth place of the Montenegrin royal house of Petrović, Lovćen is the ‘black mountain’ that gave Crna Gora (Montenegro) its name. 

This is a very special place for Montenegrins as for much of its history it represented an entire nation. During the centuries that the Balkans were ruled by the Ottomans, Lovćen stood as a bastion of Slavic resistance, with the old capital of Cetinje having been founded by Ivan Crnojević in C15. The rocky mountain slopes with their numerous fissures, pits and deep depressions meant that the Turks, for the most part, left the Montenegrins to their own devices and it was from here that they later advanced to drive the occupiers out. 

The National Park surrounding the mountain was designated as such in 1952 and encompasses the central and the highest parts of the Lovćen massif, covering an area of 62.20 km². Two-thirds of the park is covered in forest, particularly the black beech that gives it its dark complexion. The park also contains more than 1,150 plant species, of which four are endemic, including wild herbs such as St John’s wort, mint and sage. This abundance of life is the result of the park’s two different climate zones, these being Mediterranean and continental. 

There are said to be 200 different bird species in the park (including peregrine falcons, golden eagles and imperial eagles), some of which migrate between Lovćen and Lake Skadar. Other types of fauna include various reptiles, 85 species of butterfly and large mammals such as brown bears and wolves. 

Lovćen also contains numerous traditional architectural elements. The old stone houses are authentic, as are the katuns (summer settlements of the cattle breeders whose livestock graze here in summer months). Perhaps the most significant piece of architecture to be found here, however, is the mausoleum of Petar II Petrović Njegoš. 

Mausoleum of Petar II Petrović Njegoš: Atop the summit of Jezerski vrh, 461 steps lead up through the mountain to a building guarded by two giants made of granite, where a national hero sleeps beneath a canopy of gold. This is the mausoleum of the man widely credited as having 16 

modernised Montenegro; the ruler, poet and philosopher, Petar II Petrović Njegoš. 

Said to have been chosen by Njegoš himself as his final resting place, he was first buried in a small chapel which he had built here in his lifetime. Unfortunately this early building was destroyed by Austro-Hungarian troops after they invaded during WWI. Njegoš’s remains were initially transferred to Cetinje Monastery before, in the 1920s, the chapel was rebuilt and the remains reburied. This was not to be the end of the story however, as contrary to Njegoš’s wish to be buried in the small chapel, the ruling communist powers decided to tear down the humble building and replace it instead with a monumental mausoleum in the Viennese Secession style. 

Construction started in 1951 and lasted 23 years but the process was not without its controversy. The local Bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church opposed the destruction and even took the matter to the Constitutional Court but with no success. Then in 1970, protests erupted with many public figures, of both Montenegrin and non-Montenegrin origin, complaining about what they saw as an unacceptable breaking of Njegoš’s last will. It did not help that the new building was designed by Ivan Meštrović who, although world-famous, had never set foot on Lovćen. 

Whatever the case, the mausoleum opened to the public in 1974 and since then it has drawn many up to the peak. Today this is surely as much for the architecture and the views as it is for the great man laid to rest here. On a clear day you can see much of Montenegro; from the Bay of Kotor to Lake Skadar to Podgorica. When it’s particularly nice, people say that even Albania and Croatia become visible. 

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