My girlfriend and I have discovered Montenegro, a small country in Southeastern Europe, by pure chance. On a lazy Sunday day in, we saw one of their „Montenegro wild beauty“ commercials and were left speechless. It was there and then we knew where we were spending our next holiday. We wanted to see the coast, which is beautiful by the way, with its charming old towns and lovely beaches, but we also wanted to see some of that „wild beauty“ from the video, and everybody just recommended Lake Skadar. We decided to book a tour and were lucky to get a great guide, who was on a mission to make our experience as memorable as it could be.
As far as the geography goes on our way there, we learned that the lake is located in the central part of Montenegro, that it is dolphin shaped, and that it is the largest lake in this part of Europe and of the Balkan Peninsula. Its two-thirds are on the territory of Montenegro and one third is on the territory of the neighboring country Albania, and makes a part of the border between two countries.
The place where we started the actual tour was the picturesque little settlement on the shore of the lake called Virpazar. Honestly, this place looks like it could be a part of a movie set, with its old fishing boats floating on the green water and the stone bridge connecting the road to the town and on the end of it, there is a monument built for the fallen soldiers. Our guide told us the historical facts about the Turkish invaders and the battles that were fought here and it was really interesting stuff. You could really feel, from the way she spoke about it, that people here are very proud of their ancestors. After we took a crazy amount of great photos, we boarded one of the small cruise ships to go and get to know the lake.
Once we got out to the open water the amazing vistas of the lake, just took our breath away. We got to see this huge area of beautiful dark green water in some places covered with water lilies, with the variety of small islands with monasteries built on them, ruins of the old villages, sandy beaches, and all the while our guide told us stories and legends about the lake. One was the famous story of the partisans sinking the Skenderbeg steamboat during the WW2. The boat still remains at the bottom of the lake, but we learned that when the level of water really drops, the boat resurfaces.
Also, the two of us were never as excited to see birds as we were here. It probably had to do with the fact that we were told that some of them, such as Dalmatian Pelican and Pygmy Cormorant is an endangered species. So when we saw a small flock of pelicans we were as happy as two little kids witnessing some sort of a miracle. Guide told us that the National Park is a home for close to 300 different types of birds, and in my opinion, as a laic, this truly is a paradise for bird watchers. Honestly, we were sad when our cruise was over, cause we really had so much fun.
The last thing we had to do on this field trip, before going back to the seaside, was to try some food and wine here. Our guide confirmed that the Lake Skadar National Park is one of the best places in the country to try the delicacies of Montenegrin cuisine. There are a number of restaurants in this area, some big, some smaller, most of them are family owned and they all serve amazing food. Both my girlfriend were extremely satisfied with our order. Apparently, Montenegrins really like to eat, and they also like to grow their food, so 90% of the things you will see on the menus are homemade, and it is evident once you taste it. The best dishes are of course the variety of freshwater fish, prepared in different ways, smoked ham is one of the special delicacies and also cheese. Whatever you choose you will not make a mistake.
As far as the wine goes we have been told that many family-owned wineries are located around the lake and it’s no wonder since the origin of the autochtonous variety of the Montenegrin red, Vranac, can be traced back to this area. Our visit to one of those was great. We met the owner, who was very kind, he showed us the place and explained the process that goes into making wine and then we had a tasting, after which we spent a nice amount of money there for we loved it.
We left the Lake Skadar National Park tipsy on the wine, but completely drunk on all the beauty we saw. And as it goes with all the good things in life, we will definitely come back for more.