A couple of days back, our laidback hostel staffer, Miljan, showed us some photos of the mausoleum atop Lovćen and told us that on a clear day we could see all off Montenegro. (Well quite a fair bit at least). It had rained a few days before this, but the weather cleared yesterday and seeing that it was going to stay that way, we decided to take a day trip out there. We had the car for a couple of days so we might’ve well made full use of it.
The drive would take us through the Lovćen National Park massif, and up to its second highest peak, Jezerski, standing at 1675m above sea level.
GPS indicated that without traffic the drive up the mountain would take around an hour, but 20minutes into the drive we were already out of the car at our first vantage point. Tivat Airport and the outer mouth of the bay of Kotor, where it meets the Adriatic sea.
The old road, up the mountain pass, continued to bend back and forth (over 20 times, we counted!) and it was only after the trip that we found out that they used it for a car rally race up Mount Lovcen. The road was built in 1879 by Austro-Hungarians connecting Cetinje (the old capital) to Kotor.
Though two-laned, the road was narrow and often without rail guards. If you were lucky you had the false security of concrete blocks, that barely came up to knee height, “protecting” you from drifting off the mountainside and to your imminent doom. The car ran so close to the edge that if you stuck your head out of the window you were looking vertically down the mountain.
One had to be careful coming round the corners too, as oncoming cars, traversing down the mountains would be rushing head-on (on your lane) as they themselves tried to stay away from the cliff edges. Not to mention coming round a bend finding yourself smack dab up the rear of a tractor or heavy vehicle laboring up the slope.
After a while we got into the groove of things (20 bends train you fast) and soon we were confident enough (unwisely) to join even the grueling Montenegrin rally race.
Higher and higher we went, the road eventually punching through the clouds, we passed some villages on the way up and contemplated daily lives at this high an altitude.
Spot on the hour mark we reached the car park at the base of the mausoleum. We noticed some trekking snaking from the circular lot and decided it was madness to try it, especially in the thin air.
We braced ourselves and began the climb of the 461 steps through a tunnel to the top of peak. As we began our climb 2 men garbed in soldier uniform greeted us to collect the €3 admission fee and unlock the gate to the compound.
A sculpture of Njegoš himself, by the famous Montenegrin sculptor Ivan Meštrović, guards the sarcophagus. Out the back of the Mausoleum the path continued to a circular vantage point. We remained here for a while taking the time to settle the altitude sickness by making out towns and landmarks below us. Kotor bay on one side, Cetinje on the other.
We set there unawares of the passing of time, often in silence and often contemplative. Utterly humbled by the breathtaking view. It might’ve been the light buzz from the lack of oxygen, or the blanket of clouds obscuring civilization below, but it surely was a reminder of how much smaller human beings are than what we make ourselves out to be.
As the sun had set on our drive back, we took a drive around the Bay, capturing the lights reflecting off the still water, underneath a whitewash blanket of stars.