Lovcen National Park, Montenegro
I initially tried to access Lovcen National Park yesterday, thwarted by a closed road outside the old Montenegrin capital of Cetinje. They seem busy upgrading the country’s windy one-lane roads; there is a lot of messy roadside construction going on, not to mention a dearth of appropriate ‘Road Closed’ signage. Yesterday’s failure meant an alternate approach to the park was called for today. And what an approach it was, the steep, narrow hairpin-happy P1 snaking up the hills behind Kotor providing epic Bay of Kotor vistas. I lost count of the amount of times I stopped to savour the views on the so-called Kotor Serpentine, and that was even before I reached the the lofty heights of the highest mausoleum in the world.
Region – Southeastern Europe/The Balkans (dMb tag: The Balkans). Capital – Podgorica. Population – 680,000. Official Language – Montenegrin. Currency – €uro. GDP (nominal) per capita – US$6,630 (80th). Political System – Parliamentary republic. EU Member? – No (as of April 2017). UN Member? – Yes (admitted June 2006). G20 Member? – No. Size – 14,000 km² (Europe’s 10th smallest country, slightly larger than the US state of Connecticut, or about two-thirds the size of Wales). Topography – Varied. Mostly mountainous interior with a narrow coastal plain. Formation/Independence – 2006 (following the peaceful dissolution of the former State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, itself formed in 1992 following the breakup of Yugoslavia). UNESCO World Heritage sites – 4. Tourism Catchphrase/Slogans – Breathtaking Beauty; Wild Beauty. Famous For – Being Europe’s baby, its newest country; historic walled old towns, scenery; the azure Adriatic; partying. Highlights – The Bay of Kotor; the Adriatic coast; Durmitor National Park. Montenegro Titbits – Officially Crna Gora, Montenegro is the country’s better-know Italian name (which translates into English as ‘Black Mountain’); the country’s 294-kilometer-long azure Adriatic coastline boasts 117 beaches. Montenegro Observations – The roads are tight; as in most of the Balkans, unfinished construction projects are everywhere & blight the otherwise stunning landscape; most essentials – coffee, beer, meals out, a hostel bed, parking – are very economical, petrol not so much; everyone seems to smoke everywhere including in cafes & restaurants; the locals are, for the most part, very welcoming & friendly; you’re never far from a church or monastery (or from anything in tiny Montenegro); coffee is served with a straw. You don’t have to use it of course but it’s a somewhat bizarre accompaniment to an espresso.
Visits – 1 (April 2017). Where I went/What I saw – The Bay of Kotor (Perast, Kotor & Porto Montenegro); Lovcen National Park & the Njegos Mausoleum; The Adriatic Coast (Budva & The Budva Riviera (Sveti Stefan)); Lake Skadar National Park; Podgorica.
Mount Lovcen National Park & Njegos Mausoleum
Rearing up directly behind Kotor, Mount Lovcen is the symbolic black mountain that gave Montenegro its name; Montenegro is the country’s better-know Italian name which translates into English as ‘Black Mountain’. Lovcen’s overwhelmingly rocky terrain has hiking trails, narrow roads & stunning views (some say you can espy Italy on a good day). It’s also home to Mount Lovcen National Park. Proclaimed in 1952, the small 62 km² (15,400 acre) park encompasses the central and loftiest portion the mountain massif, a barren region where twin peaks dominate. The highest point, 1,749-metre-high Mount Lovcen itself, is home to some ugliness in the form of antennae, but it’s the second-highest peak, 1,657-metre-high Jezerski Vrh, where you’ll find the road ending and the steps – oh the steps – to the park’s Njegos Mausoleum taking over.