Black Lake, the Tara River Canyon and chatting with the locals in Kolasin, Montenegro
We woke up to a beautiful morning in the mountains by the Ostrog Monastery.
The air was clean and there was a clarity in my heart.
We slowly made our way down the narrow road, and drove towards Durmitor National Park and the Black Lake.
We passed by small villages, many mountains, long rivers and deep canyons.
Crno Jezero, which means Black Lake, is located in the foothills of Mount Durmitor.
The name Durmitor means “A Sleeping Place.”
Below Durmitor mountain there are 18 glacial lakes, but the best known is Crno Jezero, or Black Lake.
The lake consists of two smaller lakes, a bigger lake and a little lake, but when it rains a lot, the creeks that feed the lakes cause them to join into one bigger lake.
I am not sure why it is called Black Lake, the waters are obviously very clear and strikingly blue on a clear day, reflecting the blue sky.
The road to the lake passes through the ski town of Zabljak.
It is a small town with many ski accommodations.
In the summer, people come here for mountaineering, fishing and hiking.
There is a 3.5 km walking path which circles around both lakes, and it is a fun and easy hike to do, although there were parts that required some agility over exposed roots and stones.
At the entrance to the park, there was a line of stalls selling herbal teas, honey, forest mushrooms, fresh berries, berry jams, homemade fruit liquors and fruit syrups.
After our walk, and a lovely picnic lunch that we enjoyed on a bench at the shore, we drove through the Tara River Canyon.
It is an 80 kilometer long and 1,300 meter deep Canyon.
The Tara Canyon in the Durmitor National Park is the second deepest Canyon in the world, after only the Grand Canyon.
Beside taking pictures of the canyon from the bridge and checking out the stands selling homemade fruit jams, honey and liquors, there is also a zip line.
We drove a long way along the Canyon walls, seeing the towering cliffs and the leaves of the trees that have started showing off their beautiful autumn colors.
By early evening, we arrived in the small town of Kolasin.
We checked into the Four Points Sheraton, a new hotel that was built using local wood, catering to winter skiers.
Kolasin was founded by Turks in the 17th century.
In the past, it had more restaurants and cafes than any other place in Montenegro. So many were licensed to operate in the early 1900s that one would serve only coffee, and its neighbor only brandy, with the two cafes splitting their sales proceeds!
The little town of Kolasin is located at an altitude of 954 meters, and so it offers cooler summers and clean mountain air.
We had dinner in one of the oldest restaurants in Kolasin, called Konoba.
The word KONOBA means the room in the house where food was prepared and stored, and this charming wood, brick and plaster restaurant with its wood stove for heat, was a great choice to try local Montenegrin cuisine.
We had roasted red paprika (peppers), which were served in a baking dish and garnished with garlic and parsley.
Peppers are in season now and the dish was very tasty.
We also noticed lots of roadside stands selling sacks of potatoes as we neared town, so we ordered some boiled potatoes and a grilled Tara river trout with seasonal vegetables.
The night was cool, but the room had white washed adobe walls and the fire in the stove made the room toasty and the delicious meal made for a very pleasant evening.
The next morning, we went for a walk around town.
We came upon a morning market, with people selling buckets of forest berries, raspberries, sacks of red and green peppers, zucchini, beets, carrots and other garden produce.
I wanted to buy the red berries that looked very much like large cranberries.
I saw them growing on the bushes on our walk around Black Lake, but I thought they were inedible.
A young man who was also selling at the market, came up to us and said that if we needed any help communicating, he speaks English and would be happy to help.
He stepped over to help me communicate with the man selling the berries from large buckets.
He told me to taste one and see if I wanted to buy it.
It was sour and tasty, but not tart like cranberries.
I bought half a kilo for 0.75 Euros, and a kilo of delicious freshly picked raspberries for €2.5.
I couldn’t believe my luck, I have never eaten a whole kilo of fresh raspberries…
The man asked us where we are from.
When we said New Zealand, he asked us where is our Kangaroo?
We laughed but did not explain that Kangaroos live in Australia, instead we said we left it at home.
We complimented him on his great command of the English language.
Nobody at the market in this town spoke any English.
He told us he studied English in school and besides that, he loves movies and that is really how he learnt English.
Jules told him that it is an important time in New Zealand right now, as we are in the process of electing a new government.
The National party which was in control of the parliament, might lose control to the Labour party, which is a more liberal party.
The man said that he understands the words that Jules said, but he does not know anything about NZ politics and therefore does not understand the meaning.
Jules explained that we have two big political parties, a conservative party and a more liberal party.
The man said that it is the same in Montenegro.
He explained that they have a radical nationalist party and a more liberal party that calls itself Multi-National.
We asked who is ruling Montenegro right now?
Without hesitation the man answered:
“Right now, the country is run by……. thieves!”
After we stopped laughing and enjoying his joke, he said:
“Yes, the country is run by thieves.
You know, they call themselves Multi Nationalists and they have run the country for the last twenty five years, but in reality they are thieves.”
I enjoyed our stroll around the local market immensely.
I saw handmade women’s shoes made from black plastic, handmade brooms, hand tools and all sorts of items people who live in the mountains find useful.
Two old men came up to me, one touched my face gently with his leathery hand, and the other squeezed my shoulder with warmth.
They obviously do not get to see too many tourists in this place, and a tourist is still a source of curiosity.
Most of the tourists stay on the coast, and make only day trips inland to see the parks, mountains and old monasteries.
The people of Montenegro are diverse, and I found most of them very sweet.
Some bus drivers are aggressive, but most people are very sweet, kind and very personable.
There are descendants of the Turks, Russians, Serbs, Venetians and local Montenegrins, all getting along pretty well for over two thousand years.
Warm wishes to you,