One of the most beautiful places I have seen so far is Lake Skadar in Montenegro. I fell in love with this beautiful spot at first sight.
Lake Skadar is the largest lake in the Balkans. About 1/3 of the area is in Albania and 2/3 of the area belongs to Montenegro.
Depending on the season, the surface area of the lake varies from 345 to 505 km². Especially in summer, large areas of the lake dry out. Then small river courses connect individual lake basins with each other.
The lake is about 168 metres long with an average depth of 5 metres. Its deepest point is about 60 metres.
Lake Skadar has been a designated national park since 1983.
On the way at Lake Skadar
From our holiday home we were able to go on short walks. Although we walked some stretches several times, I always had the feeling of enjoying a new view.
Nature is simply wonderful here. If you know your way around, you can discover plants along the way that are expensive to buy in the big city. For example, wild peppermint, figs, berries and many spices grow here.
But I was also thrilled by the animal world. Well, I had to get used to free-roaming and almost wild cows. But the donkeys that suddenly stood in front of us in the middle of the road and didn’t like us very much are simply part of this area of Montenegro.
But if you look a little closer, you will also discover smaller animals such as spiders or dragonflies, various sea birds and fish.
A paradise for nature lovers, hikers and those seeking relaxation.
Now that we had already got a small impression of the area around Lake Skadar from our walks, we wanted to go to the tourist highlight of the area. In the small settlement of Rijeka Crnojevića there is a bridge that we had discovered in numerous pictures on the internet.
It shouldn’t be that far by car and, according to our host, the route should also be easy to find. So we drove the 7 kilometres to the main road (mistake number 1) and after a few kilometres we turned off the main road following the sign into a small road (mistake number 2). I doubted during the drive on the narrow and steep road, which leads us downhill in the most beautiful serpentines, whether our idea of road is so much different from that of the locals. But later we realised that once again we had taken a wrong turn. There was another road on which even tour buses drove all the way to the small town – so wider, fewer bends, more pleasant. Okay, now we know!
But there was one advantage to driving along this road! We were able to enjoy a wonderful view over the valley.
The small Rijeka Crnojevića was founded around 1481. It was named after the noble family that ruled at that time. The small river Crnojevića, on which the town lies, also received this name. The town’s landmark is the beautiful old bridge (Stari most), which Prince Danilo Petrović-Njegoš had built in 1853.
The population of the town has been declining for years. Many of the beautiful old stone houses are falling into disrepair. Fortunately, only a few tourists have come here so far, so they are trying to create tourist attractions with offers such as canoe tours or boat trips on the lake.
We went for a walk in the small town and enjoyed a regional cheese platter in a small restaurant on the opposite side of the river.
On the way on the small rivers at Lake Skadar
Misha, the host of our airbnb accommodation, works as a tour guide for some local providers. So what could be more obvious than to offer his guests an exclusive boat trip across the small rivers at Lake Skadar. In the time of high water, these rivers do not exist. The surrounding land is then flooded and the area of Lake Skadar increases enormously. Since we were in Montenegro in high summer and the water level of the lake had already receded a long way, we were able to use the small river courses for the boat trip.
We enthusiastically accepted this offer and got into his boat one afternoon. I was thrilled to see that he had one of the typical wooden boats that are traditionally used at Lake Skadar. The boats, which are about 7 metres long, are often made of mulberry wood. But there are also boats made of pine, oak or hazelnut wood. The advantage of the boat, it only has a draught of about 0.5 metres, so it can be used well in the shallow canals and rivers at the time when water is scarce. Unfortunately, there are only a few of these boats left today. The construction method is passed on from generation to generation and it seems that younger people today prefer plastic boats. A great pity!
Dodoši is situated on a small river arm, directly on the lake. Only a few steps away from the holiday home we get into the boat and push off from the shore.
The ride in the small wooden boat with its rattling outboard motor is already an experience. The channel was very narrow at first, with trees and reeds growing on the right and left. Every now and then you had to duck your head when you went under a tree. Gradually, the waterway widened. Now you could observe a wide variety of birds on the shore. Surprisingly, the noise of the motor disturbed very few animals, some of them simply stopped, some even accompanied us on the edge of the bank.
After a short ride we reached our first destination – the Žabljak Crnojevića Fortress, a decaying castle right on the edge of the river. With momentum, Misha drove the boat into the gravel of the bank and we got out.
The remains of the castle complex are easily accessible on foot. The castle is open to the public and no entrance fee is charged.
The Žabljak castle was the residence of the Crnojević princely family in the 15th century. A small village grew up around the castle, which is situated on a hill in the middle of the marshland. When the Ottomans conquered the country, the family left the castle and moved their residence to Cetinje.
Today, the ruins are considered one of the most important historical buildings on the lake.
We wander through the ruins with Misha. From up here you really have a great view of the swamp area. But be careful! There are no paved paths in the complex, no safety barriers – there are loose stones everywhere and you have to be careful not to step into holes in the ground.
Shortly before we leave the grounds again, Misha leads us into a dark room. In the dim light you can spot bats everywhere. They sleep away the hot summer day here and come out at dusk.
Back at the boat, our journey continues. Misha had promised to take us to a restaurant directly on the river. They say they serve fresh fish directly from Lake Skadar. We are very hungry and drive there quickly.
Misha pulls up to the shore at a wooden booth. We have arrived at the “restaurant”. Okay, it’s not a restaurant as we know it. It is a wooden shack on the shore with some tables and chairs. There are no guests there and we are greeted enthusiastically by the owner. Misha orders two fish and one salad for us. And as soon as we are seated, the restaurant owner is standing at our table with a bottle of Rakija to welcome us. He sits down with us and since he doesn’t know a word of German or English and we don’t know a word of Serbian or Montenegrin, we speak with our hands and feet and with Misha’s help. And then, then came the food!
My mouth is still watering as I write this article. Each of us was given a carp (the local carp). The fish was gutted and then deep-fried whole. This way it became crispy and apart from the main bone, there was not a single bone left in the fish. We were served an oil with lemon and garlic, some bread and a fresh salad. Honestly, I have never eaten such tasty fish. The meat was wonderfully tender and juicy, and together with the oil, the taste was indescribable.
We sat by the river for quite a while and enjoyed the peace and nature. Birds were chirping and every now and then you could spot a fish in the water. I could even just see a water snake before it disappeared into the water.
The sun was slowly setting, it was getting chilly. So we got back on the boat and went back to Dodoši in the sunset.