Monday, August 1, 2011

Ostrog in Perspective

I uploaded a photo earlier from Ostrog Monastery in Montenegro, and did a quick summary, but I wanted to spend a full post on this very special spot.

After leaving the shores of Lake Skadar on an early morning bus, we ended up in Podgorica (the capital of Crna Gora was formerly honored with the title of ˝Titograd˝ before the destruction of Yugoslavia). From there we grabbed a bus to the turnoff, and a completely insane Montenegrin man shared the taxi ride up with us. He sat in the front seat, and asked to play the driver's CDs. Upon finding one he liked, he asked if he could borrow it. The taxi driver asked how he would get in back. He did not know. He then insisted that we stop en route for a coffee and a cigarette. The driver reluctantly agreed. So the rider asked the driver if he had a cigarette to give him. When we stopped for coffee, he invited us to sit with him, where he went on and on about how much he liked Mike Tyson, and thought that Puerto Rico was the the most beautiful city in the United States (the city of Puerto Rico is near New Jersey, no?). He also might be the only person in the Balkans who loves George W. Bush. (I was oblivious to all this of course, thank goodness for my wife the translator.)

Anyway, despite the madman, Ostrog is an amazing sight. If you stare closely at the photo at right (if you click on it, it will open more large in its own window), you can see a small white spot in the center of the photo. I hope that gives the reader an impression of the remoteness of the place. The interior of the rooms are mostly caves on three sides, enclosed by the outer wall that is visible from the outside. It is largely a spot for the pious, although I found it strange that several of the pilgrims came in uncovered shoulders and shorts, despite signs asking otherwise.

On the ride down, much to our tax driver's relief, the Mrs. and I descended without the madman. When we passed him walking down the road, we slumped in our seats as our driver shifted gears to quickly pass him. And, as mentioned, the car made it down but was put our of commission by our trip.

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Side note: Lonely Planet, the largest travel guide company in the world, and sometimes sadly/absurdly referred to as ¨the bible¨ by travelers, shamefully fails to explain how to visit Ostrog independently. Shame on you, LP. Anyway, if you have stumbled upon this blog post curious, here is Ostrog by public transport: Go to the bus station in Podgorica, buy a ticket on a Nikšić-bound bus to the spot on the side of the highway where the turnoff is to Ostrog (if they do not speak English, you should still be able to communicate this, and despite what you may have heard the bus stations have departure and arrival information in Latin characters.) The ticket will say Bogetici but there is no town there, just a tiny gravel car park with a few taxis. Keep an eye on the signs on the side of the road and remind the bus attendant where you are going. We paid 12 euro for the car to go up, and the same price to go back but considering the condition of the road, a fair price. Not cheap obviously though so hitchhiking or a group tour may be more economical if you do not have a group. You should be able to pay the driver for the round trip at the end of the ride. This same thing can be done from Nikšić if you are coming from Žabljak or other points north.

1 comment:

  1. I still remember when I was traveling around Lake Bled in Slovenia. I took a rowboat over to the monastary on an island in the middle of the lake. There is a small church there where you can ring a bell for good luck. This monastery has the same "sign" about respect from pilgrims visiting the church. As I was wondering around the church, a girl and her boyfriend wandered in as well. Nothing really of note but the female pilgrim was only wearing bikini bottoms, topless and she and her boyfriend were soaked. They had swam over to the church to church bell for good luck.

    So I think pilgrims and pious might have a different standard in the Balkans.