This morning we woke up around 7:45 and got dressed. We met Vineta in the kitchen, where she had prepared a breakfast of kiflice (kiff LEE chee) – a sort of roll with egg and cheese baked in it. There was Ajvar, a “paprika” spread of roasted peppers and eggplant with oil. She also gave us a plate of turkey ham and cheeses. I had a coffee and the kids drank juice. She seemed surprised they did not drink milk in the morning.
B’s oldest son arrived shortly after, and we all went down to the garage, where Mike and another driver were waiting for us. They had picked up DH and FIL at the grandma’s house and we piled into the three cars and headed to Cetinje, the old capital of Crna Gora.
Our first stop was the royal palace of King Nikolai, now a national museum.
The museum was a fascinating place. We started out in the “chimney room”, which contained 9 captured Turkish flags, plus some Montenegrian money (pre-Euro, of course), stamps, and examples of the national costume and weapons. As our guide said, “Montenegrian national costume without weapon is not full costume!”
King Nikolai is sometimes referred to as the “Father-In-Law of Europe”. He had 10 daughters and two sons. One daughter, Sofia, died at 10 months. 2 daughters did not marry. Five of the remaining daughters married into other kingdoms. The most famous was Helen, who became Queen of Italy. Two other daughters married russian Csars, one married a Serbian prince, and one married a German prince.
The palace is as it was in 1910, except for the wallpaper, which has been restored. We saw many gifts from other heads of states, such as a drinking horn from Georgia. This elaborate vessel holds about a litre of wine, and one must drink the entire contents without stopping before setting it down, at which point one may consume food.
We walked through the formal dining room into Nikolai’s diplomatic salon, which is decorated in Louis XIV style. There are two 14th century Ming Dynasty vases in his salon. Next was Queen Milena’s salon, then the King’s bedroom (they had separate chambers). In his bedroom is a lifesized 3-D portrait of the king, done by Johann Blizt of Austria in 1864. The eyes, pistol and boots of the king appear to follow you around the room and point at you whereever you stand.
We learned that one of the king’s unmarried daughters, Ksenja, was the first female driver in Montenegro. She was also a photographer and the king’s personal secretary. Vjera was the other unmarried daughter. She liked art and played the piano.
Next we toured the trophy room, which contained many captured Turkish firearms and sabres.
In 1875, Montenegro became the first Balkan country to join the Order of the Red Cross.
After our fascinating tour ended, we walked outside and past a monastery on our way to the national Art museum.
The art museum has five collections, one of Yugoslavian artists, one of Montenegrian artists only. There was modern art, sculpture, and a beautiful ikon housed in a dark room. The ikon is a religious “picture” typically inlaid with metal and/or jewels, depicting either a saint or a saintly scene; they are usually found in orthodox churches. This one is the Ikon Filermosa, and is estimated to be from about the year 700.
We ambled a bit through old Cetinje before heading out to our next stop.
Our caravan left Cetinje and headed to the famous mountain Lovcen, where the guidebooks say:
It is here on the summit of Jezerski that the Mausoleum of Petar 2 Petrovic Njegos rests, a symbol to his people and a message to all corners : the heart of montenegro is unassaible.
The summit of the mountain is accessible by a series of 450 steps, which Cousin B did not think the girls would be interested in climbing. We did not have much say in the matter; it had already been decided that Mike would drive DH, FIL and me up, and everyone else would stay behind at the restaurant where we would have our dinner (“lunch”) afterwards.
We began a steep and winding climb to the summit.
Halfway up, we left two cars behind, and our mini-party continued on to the summit.
As we climbed we had stellar views of the countryside below. It sort of made up for the fact that the two-lane road is narrower than my driveway and has no guard rails or shoulder whatsoever.
Eventually, the road just sort of ends in a weird parking circle. Mike let us out and managed to finagle a parking place while we started snapping photos. Looking up, you climb the long staircase that goes into the mountain via a large tunnel.
It is a lot of flipping steps.
Good thing it’s a great view.
In true Balkan style, there are no lights, handrails or anti-slip surfaces in the tunnel.
But, from the summit, you can see nearly all of Montenegro. On a clear day, we understand you can see Italy.
We could also see the bay of Kotor, which we visited later in the day.
Here is Cetinje from the summit:
We could even see the hotel where Cousin B and the rest of our party were waiting.
Mike talked with a guard and we were allowed to go into the actual mausoleum to see the monument.
Then, much to our shock and awe, we were led down into the basement to see the real tomb. Visitors are not allowed in here typically. There are no lights and we were lucky that Mike had a penlight to help us find our way.
From the back of the monument there is another grand view.
Next, we made our way back down the steps
and drove back to the hotel, passing a bus turnaround on the way.
This basically means “good voyages”- a Montenegrian way of saying goodbye.
Finally, we arrived back at the hotel.
After all those steps, we were starving. Cousin B ordered for everyone, a fixed-price menu that included Prognic (a sort of fried pastry roll) with honey, then antipasti of meats and cheeses, the a veal soup with butter. The main plate was a choice of beef or lamb, boiled or baked; it came with a potato and peppers that had been roasted, sliced, and wrapped in a thin slice of cucumber. Everything was beyond delicious.
After lunch we drove to a lookout of Kotor bay, possibly one of the most stunning views east of the Adriatic.
Then we toured Old Kotor (starigrad) on foot, having dessert in the old town. And now I’m going to go pass out, because I think tomorrow is much the same!