Lovcen National Park is one of five National Parks in tiny Montenegro. On the summit of Mount Lovcen, the second highest if the mountain range, sits the Njegos National Monument, one of the most important places for the Montenegrin people. After much back and forth in the past 150 years, it is now the resting place of one of their heroes:
Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, or simply Njegoš, was an early-19th-century Prince-Bishop of Crna Gora (Montenegrin for Montenegro), a poet and a philosopher whose works are widely considered some of the most important in Montenegrin and Serbian literature. His dynasty, the Petrović, ruled Montenegro from 1696 to 1918.
Njegoš became the country’s spiritual and political leader following the death of his uncle, Petar I. During his reign he focused on uniting Montenegro’s tribes and establishing a centralised state. In his efforts to unite and liberate the Serb people (mainly from the Ottoman Empire), he was willing to concede his princely rights in exchange for a union with Serbia and his recognition as the religious leader of all Serbs (which have their own religious order, the Serbian Orthodox Church). Thus, Njegoš laid some of the foundations for the later Yugoslav Republic and introduced modern political concepts to Montenegro.
Njegoš’s best-known work as a philosopher and poet is the epic poem Gorski vijenac (The Mountain Wreath), which remains the national epic of Montenegro, Serbia, and Yugoslavia (let’s call it “their” Iliad, Beowulf or Nibelungenlied).
Consequently, the monument holding his last remains has been put on one of his favourite places, Jezerski Peak, a mountain from where, on a clear day, you can see most of Montenegro: Kotor Bay in the West, Skadar Lake in the East and in the North, Durmitor.
The monument and its larger than life sculptures of Njegos and mother and daughter Montenegro were designed by a Croatian national treasure of the 19th century: Ivan Meštrović. Beware of the 461 steps that have to be scaled to get all the way to the top.
Hiking from Kotor to Lovcen Monument takes about 6 hours along a trail that is — according to my sources — only partially signed (signage might also be to “Ivanova Korita” or the “Ivanov Konak Hotel”). So you’d best make sure to have a hiking app on you and a bit of cash to get a taxi if need be.
Beyond the monument and its view, Lovcen boasts 64km² of mountains and forests, skiing in the winter, and — so they say — wolves and brown bears.
Njegoš — like most members of the Petrović dynasty — was born in Njeguši in the North of Lovcen (their house is located at 42.432271, 18.808675). Currently counting a population of roughly 20, the village is also significant for its well-preserved traditional folk architecture, and, more importantly, — and visibly — cheese and prosciutto ham (Njeguški sir and Njeguški pršut respectively), made solely in the area and venerated throughout the country. I could not agree more with the Montenegrins on that.
Finally, there is Cetinje, Montenegro’s capital from the 15th to the beginning of the 20th century.
There are several historical/cultural buildings, which I personally found little exciting but might be of interest to those more familiar with the region: The old Monastery of Cetinje was built at the beginning of the 12th century (only foundations of the original building remain). The current Cetinje Monastery, only a few meters from the old one, was erected in the 18th century (its current design dates from the early 20th century) and boasts several relics, among them the right hand of John the Baptist. The Biljarda (the billiard room) – Njegos’s residence — now houses the Njegos Museum and a large relief of Montenegro. Furthermore, there is the Palace of King Nikola I Petrovic, the buildings of the French, British, Russian, Austro-Hungarian and Italian embassies from the 19th century, and the modern Government Palace. Though Podgorica is now the official capital, the president retains an office here, and institutions of cultural importance to the country have their headquarters in Cetinje, such as the National Museum of Montenegro with its substructures, the State Museum, the Ethnographic Museum, the History Museum, the Arts Museum, and the Archeological Museum.
To me, however, Cetinje was mostly memorable for the sheer number of cafés lining the main street — it looked like there was one in about every second house — considering that this is a town of merely 14,000.
Getting to Lovcen:
There are regular buses from Podgorica, Kotor and Budva to Cetinje but no further. From Cetinje, it’s another 20km to the Njegus monument. Taxis should cost around €10 one way. Alternatively, you can book tours from any hostel or tour operators around Kotor, Budva, and Podgorica.