Andrijevica Cultural Route by Bike

This biking cultural route will lead you to some of the most important cultural and historical, but also fantastic nature points in municipality of Andrijevica. Get ready for an all-day summer trip because following the history and tradition you will climb over Tresnjevik serpentine, and then through the summer pastures to the very Komovi mountain, and then return to Andrijevica via circular route through numerous Komovi villages clustered since ancient times on the banks of Perućica and Zlorečica rivers. To overcome this interesting route you will need a lot of stamina, but you have the whole day in front of you, so stop and rest. There are plenty springs with excellent mountain water, and if you need a brief coffee break we propose Trešnjevik gorge. You should definitely have lunch in Eko katun Stavna, where you can always enjoy the unforgettable view of Komovi and amazing taste of traditional Montenegrin cuisine.

1. CENTER OF THE TOWN

There is no smaller place, nor more history. These words are frequently used to describe Andrijevica, this little town located at the confluence of the River Zlorečica and the River Lim, surrounded by high mountains. It would not be so strange if Andrijevica were not in fact a small, relatively young town, which started to develop as an urban settlement in as late as 1853. Before that on the location of today’s town there was only a monastery, which was built in the 13th century by Duke Andrija of Zahumlje, the son of Miroslav, the Duke of Hum and the brother of Stefan Nemanja. The monastery was famous for its carving shop and scriptorium, which supplied all the monasteries in the neighbourhood with carved works. The church was named Andrijevna after its benefactor, and the little town which started to develop around it was named Andrijevica. With the arrival of the Ottoman Turks, the church was razed, demolished and rebuilt again countless times only to be totally destroyed during the invasion of Mehmet-Ali Pasha in 1877.

In the mid-19th century around the church a settlement started to develop and in 1878 Andrijevica became a military, administrative, political and commercial centre of northern Montenegro. In spite of this not much was built here – no monumental buildings were constructed, nor are there any magnificent bridges, towers or gates. There was no time for that. The warrior clan of Vasojević often rose up against the invaders: constant battles were fought at any place and at any time, therefore the settlements of Vasojević clan often were reduced to wasteland and rubble. The famous Russian scientist and writer Pavle Rovinski wrote: “War is an everyday event here, an integral part of life for the Montenegrins, an activity like any other. No one was excused from participating in war.”

Despite this, many architects of worldwide renown admired old Andrijevica, with its amazing street with adjoining beamed houses with wooden roofs. These are located on such a steep slope that when one looks at them from the bend in the road beneath the small town they look like a fairytale castle standing somewhere between the heavens and the earth.

In spite of constant upheaval, Andrijevica was one of the most important cultural centres in Montenegro. According to the population census of 1909, Andrijevica was, after Cetinje, the town with the largest number of literate people in the country proportional to the size of its population. 88 out of 100 men were literate in Andrijevica whereas in Cetinje 89 out of 100 men were literate; amongst the women 37 per 100 were literate here, while in Cetinje 39 women per 100 literate. That was contributed to the foundation of the first state school in the Vasojević Region in 1863 as well as many monasterybased schools which operated in the region of the River Tara Basin and the River Lim Basin where literacy was not a privilege of the monks only, but of the “ordinary” people as well.

Under the patronage of Grand Duke Mirko the first reading room in the north of Montenegro and the second in the country was founded in Andrijevica in 1892. On the very day of its foundation it enrolled 40 members, amongst whom were 12 illiterate people. Many prominent figures like Serdar Janko Vukotić, Gavro Vuković – the first Montenegrin Foreign Minister and the son of the famous voivode (duke) and senator Miljan Vukov and Russian scientist Pavle Rovinski as well as the first educated woman from the Vasojevići region, Anđelija Šoškić, were among the founders of the reading room which later grew into the library.

It is said that only in the night-time does real life start here. Therefore do not miss a visit to the town’s famous cafes and pubs, which are unusually numerous for such a little place. During this unparalleled experience you can find out what is new in the town, find someone to talk to about all the hot global issues, enjoy the kindness and hospitality of the locals, and of course try the famous šljivovica (plum brandy) of the Vasojević region. However, do not forget the main rule of thumb – opt for two or at most three pubs, since it is not recommended to visit all of the pubs of Andrijevica in one night only!

2. KNJAZEVAC CHURCH

When Prince Nikola visited Andrijevica in 1887 he laid the foundation stone and donated money for the construction of the new Church of St Michael the Archangel. For the needs of the church, the prince bought land on a terrace called Radunovac, which was named in his honour Knjaževac (Prince’s Place). It took one summer to build the church and material was brought from the nearby villages on the other side of the River Lim. Every rifleman from the neighbourhood pledged to bring one stone block. The inscription on the entrance of the church bears witness to the joint efforts of the Vasojević clan to build the church in Knjaževac. That collective patronage, according to the words of Metropolitan Mitrofan Ban, was encouraged by the work of the people’s tribune, Miljan Vukov, who “…did not allow any of the villages of the Vasojević clan to build village churches until all people of the Vasojević clan built one church together.”

Based on the architectural tradition of the region of Raska and following the model of Morača Monastery, the church in Andrijevica was built as the most beautiful and the highest church in this region of Montenegro. Icons for the iconostasis and liturgical books were brought from Russia with the assistance of the Russian Slavophile Committee. Made in the famous St Petersburg Academy of Arts these icons correspond to the Russian icon-painting tradition from the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, which was characterised by idealised portraits of saints and complex symbolic painting of light around the head of Christ and the Mother of God. On the iconostasis representations of Slavic educators Saints Cyril and Methodius can be distinguished.

Being the first church built in the Upper Vasojevići region after all the village churches had been razed to the ground a decade earlier, during an attack by Mehmed- Ali Pasha on the Vasojevići and Morača regions, the church in Knjaževac became the main venue and a symbol of the renewal of the religious life of this region. In the narthex of the temple gatherings were convened at which decisions of great importance for the whole community were taken. At Easter, widely renowned religious and popular gatherings at which several thousand visitors from all over Montenegro and abroad traditionally gather are also held here. The patron saint’s day of the Vasojević clan is St Michael the Archangel, but September 12th, St Alexander Nevsky’s Day is also celebrated as a covenental patron saint’s day, which the Vasojevići clan accepted as its second patron saint’s day in the mid- 17th century, after conflicts with Ottoman Turks in Lijeva Rijeka, when the troops of the Vasojević clan in a fierce attack at dawn on St Alexander Nevsky’s Day defeated the numerically superior Ottoman Army.

In front of the church there are memorial busts of Mojsije Zečević and Miljan Vukov, figures who made their mark on the history of this region. Prior Mojsije Zečević was the secular and spiritual ruler of the Vasojević clan in the first half of the 19th century and made a great contribution to the liberation and unification of the Montenegrin clans. He is connected with a revival of the well-known Vasojević Clan Law in 12 articles. His work was continued by the famous voivode (duke) and senator Miljan Vukov Vešović. Headed by Voivode Miljan, the Vasojević clan made the decision to unite with Montenegro in the second half of the 19th century.

His legendary courage, heroism and outstanding military strategy were proved in many battles but maybe most in the famous Battle of Morača in 1877 when Montenegrin forces, as a result of the extraordinary strategy of Voivode Miljan won one of its most important and greatest victories against the much stronger Ottoman Army. Referring to him, the famous voivode, Marko Miljanov, said: “All of us are little voivodes whereas Miljan is a real voivode!” He gave the prince and Montenegro another Montenegro amongst other things, therefore there is no clan leader who could tell him: “Step aside and let me sit here.”

3. KNJAZEVAC MEMORIAL PARK

“I am the happiest and the saddest man today. Happiest because once again you have given me honour and recognition, and the saddest because my name is not found amongst you here.“

With these words here at Knjaževac in 1931 General Radomir Vešović unveiled this memorial to the fallen fighters from the Upper Vasojevići Regional Brigade in the Balkan Wars and World War I. A hexagonal pyramid with an eagle at its top was made in Cetinje from a single piece of black marble, and it reached Andrijevica carried by hand through the Kuči region and over the Kom Mountains under the escort of the Vasojevići clan leaders.

These words of General Vešović are a symbol of the heroism and strength of the whole nation who for centuries had fought to defend their homes from aggressors from Turkey, Albania, Austria-Hungary, Germany and Italy. Here even a folk song says:

“Have you ever walked along Mount Kom, Through the clouds, by the thin silver firs? Did your mother ask you to pledge Not to suffer violence and injustice And never to withdraw before them?”

The Russian scientist and travel writer Pavle Apolonovich Rovinski, who visited Montenegro at the end of the 19th century, wrote about the unbelievable organisation of local people and warriors in numerous critical situations: “There is no need to seek out anybody here, one should only run to the village and shout out at the first house:

“Hey, whoever is a Vasojević clan member, Rise! To Arms! And everybody would soon gather in the previously agreed meeting place.”

Therefore do not be too surprised at the many monuments in this field on which the history of the whole region was written. If you stroll along it you will see monuments to fighters and casualties in the Balkan Wars, World War I and World War II, as well as those killed in the conflicts of the 1990s. The busts of the national heroes, a monument dedicated to Serbian soldiers who died during the retreat through Albania in 1915 and to the Soviet soldiers who were killed in NOB (National Liberation War) in the region of Andrijevica in 1942 are also located here. The park is dominated by a monument of white marble with six columns that, with the eternal flame at its centre, symbolise the six republics of the former common Yugoslav state. It was built in memory of the 666 killed fighters from the Municipality of Andrijevica and numerous victims of the fascist terror during World War II.

On every 13th July, on the Day of the Montenegrin Uprising, people from all over Montenegro gather at Knjaževac. There, in front of the monuments old songs are sung and Montenegrin traditional folk dances are performed. On those days Knjaževac hosts a large gathering of young people at which an open-air history lesson is held.

Knjaževac is also a sort of botanical garden in which you can find more than thirty plant species, predominantly tall trees. Some of those are as old as the Church of St Michael the Archangel. Macedonian pine, Bosnian pine, European black pine, European spruce and linden trees were planted here in 1887. In the mid- 20th century elm, white poplar and European hornbeam were also brought into the park, and the largest number of seedlings was planted in 1980. That year the collection was also filled with some exotic species such as giant sequoia and Serbian spruce – an endemic species of the Balkan Peninsula.

4. KRALJE VILLAGE

It is often said of Kralje: “There is no smaller place, nor more heroes”. Many heroes, renowned leaders of outlaws, troop commanders, royal bodyguards, standardbearers and warriors, national leaders and spiritual figures came from this place, the centre of Upper Vasojevići. Also, in the mid-19th century the first school in the whole area was founded here, and thus Kralje became an important educational centre of the Vasojevići region.

The spot where you are standing right now has for centuries been a gathering place for the people of this area, who used to assemble in front of the church both on hard and fateful days as well as for festivals and other celebrations. The Church of the Holy Ascension of Christ was built in 1904 beside the old village cemetery at the site of the old church which was razed to the ground in 1877 when, in conflicts with the Ottoman Turks, all the villages of this region were destroyed. Its previous construction was cottage-like, like those which were often built in this area as a temporary solution in those tumultuous and uncertain times. The new church, a singlenave structure with a dome, was built thanks to hieromonk Josif Lekić and with donations from the local people, testified to by the inscription above the western entrance of the temple. The church icons were painted by Vasilije Đinovski, one of the most prominent painters of the Principality of Montenegro. Special attention is drawn to the portrait of the benefactor with his memorial church, placed in the naos of the temple, as an important and a rare example of a depiction of the benefactor.

On the plateau in front of the church there is a bronze monument to Vožd (leader) Karađorđe, the leader of the First Serbian Uprising and the founder of the Karađorđević Dynasty, the origins of which are connected to Kralje. Karađorđe’s grandfather, Jovan Đurišić, who later moved to Šumadija (central Serbia) with his son Petar Karađorđević, was born here. The family had permanent contacts with its brotherhood, and during the First Serbian Uprising, Vasojevići clan members along with the army went to meet Karađorđe and they fought together at Suvobor near Sjenica. According to stories told by older people, King Petar I Karađorđević often came to Kralje, and during one visit he donated money for the construction of a house in the village of his ancestors, which is today known as Đurković Tower.

In Kralje people are very proud of their local scout group, one of the first in the former Yugoslavia. The scouts of Kralje excelled in initiatives and work actions, and in Kralje, in addition to building a school, youth home, the electrical network and roads, they also participated in the foundation of the Homeland Museum. Accommodated in the recently reconstructed premises of the Memorial Home, this unique ethnological museum within its collection has several thousand archaeological and historical exhibits, ancient tools, uniforms, portraits and documents testifying to the turbulent history and life in this region. Many exhibits have been donated by local inhabitants. The documents from the Balkan Wars and the First and Second World War as well as the photographs and notes regarding the important people of this region are of particular importance. Within the museum there is also the Homeland Library.

In the very centre of Kralje there is an unusual exhibit, an airplane displayed in honour of four Air Force pilots from this region who took part in World War II. Colonel Nikola Lekić, the first pilot from the territory of the former Yugoslavia to break the sound barrier in 1956 also came from this region.

In the vicinity there is also the famous “Kralje Gunpowder Store” built in 1899 and with a surface area of 300m2 in order to store military equipment and the weapons of the Vasojevići clan army. In this military warehouse, already heavily corroded with age, legendary long-range cannons Krnjo and Zelenko were once kept. These cannons were transported from Kralje to the mountains of Balj and Sjekirica, from where in 1912 they got the better of the Ottoman forces, contributing significantly to eventual liberation. After liberation from the Ottoman Empire the gunpowder warehouse became a gathering place, in which during one period the school was accommodated, and later on a youth centre, a baker’s and a gendarmerie were located there as well.

5. THE KATUNS

You are standing on Trešnjevik, a mountain pass dividing the gentle Mt. Bjelasica from the rocky peaks of the Kom Mountains (the Komovi). These two in many aspects different mountains were made to be looked at and enjoyed. It is said that their beauty is so immense that it enchanted even the nymphs who inhabited the caves, lakes and forests of these mountains. If you head towards the Komovi, better known to the locals as the King of the Mountains, you may come across buried treasure which, if the legend is to be believed in, rich feudal lords left to nymphs for safe keeping, hiding it in the foothills of the Kom Mountains, under the rock called the Devil’s Stove. For the Montenegrin Highland Clans – the Vasojevići clan, the Kuči clan and the Bratonožići clan, the Komovi were a second home and the strongest base against all enemies. There they sheltered in these places of refuge under attack from numerous enemies and there they pastured their flocks.

By the clan division of pastures in 1878, the Komovi were divided into Kučki Kom, Vasojevićki Kom and Ljevorečki Kom. Each mountain was the property of the whole clan – the so-called clan commune, and it was regulated by customary clan law, in which boundaries were strictly set and rules were harsh and inviolable.

In the Kom Mountains ever since the Middle Ages these clans built katuns, temporary mountain settlements, where during the summer months they fed their flocks. These katuns, which sometimes had several tens of huts, were built on knolls, near a spring of drinking water, sheltered from winds and avalanches. Simple, but very functional wooden huts, most commonly divided into two parts were built there. In one part the hearth and beds were located, while the second part was used for preparation of dairy products. In the katuns, life was governed by special rules which were in effect only there. The housewife – a woman of the highlands – was in charge of most of the housework – preparation of dairy products: cheese, clotted cream and butter which were sold later. In order to pass the time that there was always plenty of on the mountain, shepherds who grazed their flocks made up all kinds of songs and tales as well as various games: the long jump, shot put (with stones), hitting targets, barjak (flag), plovkanje (hitting boulders), stilt walking and many others. In the katuns a spirit of togetherness always reigned, friendships were strengthened and misunderstandings were forgotten there. Even when there were strained relationships in the village, they were improved in the katuns. In the katuns important village and clan decisions were made as well. The custom of gathering for a festival has been preserved right up to the present day, and every year on St. Peter’s Day, 12th July, on Mt. Ljuban a large traditional festival gathering several thousand people is held.

The favourite dish of the katun is jardum or gruševina, better known as the Montenegrin elixir of life. This dairy speciality is made exclusively from sheep’s milk, and it is at its best after St. Elijah’s Day, on 2nd August, when due to rich grazing the thickest and creamiest milk is obtained. Very nutritious and strong, since ancient times jardum has been known for its medicinal properties, and it has particularly positive effects on male fertility. Jardum received recognition by world experts at the International Healthy Food Competition in Italy in 1996 and they included it amongst the rare dairy products which positively affect people’s health. However, for those who are not accustomed to it, it is not recommended to consume more than one mug a day. Inspired by the tradition and beauty of old katuns, Štavna eco-katun, a modern tourist settlement is located 4 km from Trešnjevik Pass, and there you can stay overnight and try food which once was eaten in the katuns.

In the very heart of the Komovi, at an elevation of 1,800 m the Church of St. Elijah at Carine towers over the area. This tiny church, whose doors are always wide open, is the highest church in Europe. It was built in 1900 by Prince Nikola in honour of his father Grand Duke Mirko. This church was the stage for many significant events, gatherings and historical agreements among the Montenegrin clans and it was fully restored in 1995.

6. NAMASTIR

Since ancient times the inhabitants of Košutić and the surrounding villages used to say that in this very place once upon a time a large monastery called Namastir, Namostir, Kom Monastery or Čečevo Monastery was located. There was nothing to confirm this story until 2005 when archaeologists at the Museum of the Polimlje Region discovered the remnants of probably the oldest church in the whole of the Polimlje Region.

During the excavation the remains of two temples were found. At a depth of around a metre the foundations of a large, older temple were discovered. The remains of walls and a mortar floor suggest that this single-nave building was 14 metres long and 6.5 metres wide. In the church itself three unusual iron cross-shaped candle holders were found, the points of which end with oculi, characteristic of early, stylised representations of Christ’s tomb. In the area around the church many ceramic materials belonging to the Bronze Age and Late Antique period were found. It is assumed that the church was built in the period from the 4th to the 6th century, in the Early Christian Period and the Byzantine domination of the wider region, and that it was destroyed during the invasion of the Avars and Slavs in this region.

The findings confirm that some ten metres away from the original church, in the central part of the plateau there was a small singlenave church with a narthex, which was dug into the slope of the hill on its southern side. Decorative features from the façade imply the Pre-Romanesque and Romanesque periods, therefore it is supposed that the church was built between the 9th and 11th centuries. It is thought that the narthex was built at the end of the 13th or at the beginning of the 14th century when this area became the possession of Dečani Monastery. Then in the vicinity of the monastery t h e r e were the e m p e r o r ’s houses, where it is said that Emperor Dušan himself used to spend the night. Even today that spot is called the Emperor’s house remains. The monastery was destroyed in the second half of the 15th century, with the fall of the town of Bihor and the invasion of Ottoman Turks into the Polimlje Region. Due to frequent attacks on the churches and monasteries local people started to build churches out of wood, therefore even now in the cemetery in the village of Košutići the remnants of such a cabin-shaped church can be seen.

This church or the monastery, as some people claim, was built on a largely inaccessible plateau, which dominates the surroundings and overlooks all communications towards Andrijevica and Polimlje. As a natural fortification which is easy to protect it is almost certain that this area was used as a shelter as early as the Bronze Age, and it is thought that in the period of Roman domination a fortification was formed here which survived until the arrival of the Slavs in the 7th century.

The legend says that the village of Košutići was named after the famous deer hunting grounds which were located there. Falcons which were bred in this area were also well-known, and it is said that people used to come from as far afield as Istanbul for the falcons from Plav and Košutići. If one is to judge by the toponyms from the neighbouring area, like Srebrenica and Carine, besides the monastery in this area in the Middle Ages there were also a mine and a customs station between the states of Duklja and Raska.

In the vicinity of the monastery, in the hamlet of Savrdak, in 1861 the first school in this region was opened. It provided a broad spectrum of education, and was therefore called The Universa of Vasojevići. In addition to regular classes, various military skills, gymnastics, wrestling, fencing, as well as oratory were studied here. This school played an important role in providing literacy for the local people, and even some of the most renowned voivodes (dukes) of the Vasojevići Region attended it.

During this tour you will come across various biking signalization. Just so you know, this cultural route is a combination of several marked biking trails, and we therefore recommend that you take the GPS track log or use our site for navigation. The surface of this route is mostly paved except for a few kilometers of solid gravel road on your way back, and hundred meters of hiking trails through the katuns on Stavna.

If you are part of a larger group, it is advisable to call the Tourist Organization of Andrijevica so they can unlock the Heritage Museum in Kralje village, which is worth seeing.

ITINERARY: Andrijevica (hotel Komovi)- Knjaževac – Bandovića Most – Kralje – Trešnjevik – Štavna – Peovi – Jošanica – Konjihe – Namastir – Bojoviće – Andrijevica (hotel Komovi)

Total distance: 51.16 km
Max elevation: 1820 m
Min elevation: 755 m
Total climbing: 2173 m
Download file: KR Andrijevica.gpx

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