Any day where one can start their journey in the historic royal capital of a country, venture on an old shepherd’s trail through mountains and valleys, hike past the tomb of a great king, sample great local food and beverages in a small isolated village, crest a mountain peak, and finish by hitchhiking into a UNESCO World Heritage site is a win for adventure and travel enthusiasts. Last December, on a particularly warm, but cloudy weekend, a friend and I decided to venture from Montenegro’s historic Royal Capital, Cetinje to Kotor, a city located on an inlet of the Adriatic City. This journey was not only filled with soul-filling beauty, but glimpses of the historic culture that makes the Balkans such a unique place to visit.
Upon starting our day of hiking, we both began to marvel at the uniqueness of the trail and the surrounding beauty. The trail, seemingly a once used shepherds’ path between cities, is now marked by red blazes and is easy to find and follow out of the Northwestern corner of Cetinje. Following this trail, places the individual along a historic footpath that challenges the very reality of time and opens your eyes to years gone by. Although the views are breathtaking and make it hard to concentrate on the trail, the large rocks, cobble stepping-stones, and uneven ground forming the path beg you to pay attention to the trail. We also recommend wearing proper hiking footwear to prevent any twisted ankles or injuries.
A few miles outside of Cetinje, the mausoleum of Njegoš, comes into view. The trail will split where you can go to the left and climb to the top of the mountain at the mausoleum or go right and after a few more miles enter into the village of Njeguši. On this particular day, we continued onto Njeguši, so we could eventually end up at our final destination of Kotor.
When we entered into Njeguši, we found a villager who processes and sells his own meat, wine and other unique products. With the help of my friend who speaks the language, we sampled all that he had to offer. He even gave us a short tour of his smokehouse where he salt cures his pork. What an awesome, unexpected experience! Further down the road in Njeguši, we decided to stop and enjoy our snacks that we had brought from home and tried domaći (local) coffee at a small café. According to local tradition, we treated ourselves to a cup of coffee and a shot of Rakija, a homemade brandy made by the owner of the café. We were the only visitors that day, so owner provided coffee in a timely manner and with a gracious smile.
After enjoying plenty of caffeine and calories, we rolled out to continue on the last leg of our journey. After several twists and turns of the road, we came to a decision point where the path was not clearly marked or signed (later known to us the trail sign was chopped in two and rolled down the hill). We followed the wrong trail and ended up on top of a mountain, overlooking the Bay of Kotor. Side note: I have found in the Balkans, every turn of a path even the wrong ones, usually end up with breath taking beauty. This day was not unusual. After making our way back to the road where we had made the wrong turn, we found the mangled sign in a ditch. However, we were out of daylight, so we hailed a local and hitchhiked the rest of the way to Kotor. This, too, is not unusual. 😉 This was a day full of beauty, history, companionship and Balkan tradition. We cannot wait for another adventure.