There are many wonderful small towns between Podgorica and Cetinje, but Žabljak Crnojevića, the former capital of Montenegro, is especially interesting.
References to today’s Žabljak Crnojevića appear as early as in the 9th century in the book of the Byzantine king Constantine VII (913-959), which describes the state of Duklja and its three main settlements, including Lug.
Historians believe that this was once Žabljak Crnojevića as the village of Podlug is not far from the city, and the region was called Podlužje. In this case the city is mentioned in the Barski chronicle, which was written at the end of the 12th century.
How to get there
Nowadays the best way to get to the city is to turn right at the big crossroad with traffic lights in Golubovci, on the way from Podgorica to Bar. It takes about 30-40 minutes to get there after you’ve passed the crossroad.
The history of Žabljak Crnojevića
In the 15th century, the state government and the Crnojević dynasty (the ruling dynasty of Montenegro at that time) were already located here.
The construction of a fortress and a small church at that time was considered a typical building process and Žabljak Crnojevića was no exception. The Church of St. George, the patron saint of the military, was built here.
Montenegrins tried to fight back the Turkish invasion from here, but they failed. The city was conquered, and the capital was moved to the mountains — in Cetinje. This city lasted longer than any other in Montenegro and became the last one conquered by the Turkish army.
The Turks came to a completely empty city. Then the new government called for the help of nomads, who were offered to settle near the city.
They were given land, tax and other benefits, with one condition: they had to restore and maintain fortress walls, bridges and blacksmithing to provide for the fortress.
The fortress of Žabljak Crnojevića
There used to be a defensive fortress here before, but the Turks strengthened the old fortress walls both inside and out; by the beginning of the 17th century the city had already become a powerful fortification object protecting the interests of the Ottoman Empire in the vast territory of Montenegro.
St. George’s Church was transformed into a mosque, the remains of which are still visible in the fortress. The Turkish viceroy who regularly organized campaigns against Montenegro settled down in the city.
Montenegrin troops tried to knock out the invaders from the city many times, but only at the end of the 19th century Žabljak Crnojevića finally became a part of Montenegro.
Epic conquest of Žabljak Crnojevića
One of the most memorable conquests of Žabljak took place in 1835.
At that time, a merchant came to the house of a wealthy citizen, who argued with her about whose walls are higher — Žabljak or Obod (a town near Žabljak). To prove that the walls of Žabljak are higher, they unwinded a ball of thread and threw it out of the house window.
After that the trader went to Obod, which belonged to Montenegrins, allegedly to measure its fortress walls. But instead she handed the measure to Montenegrin troops. Then they made poles according to this measure in order to use them to capture the city.
That same night, thirteen soldiers entered the upper part of the fortress, captured and held it for several days. Under the pressure of foreign consuls and by order of the lord Petar II Petrović-Njegoš, Montenegrins left the city with two cannons.
These two cannons were in front of the Cetinje Monastery until 1916, reminding the descendants of the heroism of thirteen soldiers. In addition, the Turks restored the walls of the city and raised them by one meter.
The dispute over Žabljak Crnojevića was stopped by the decision of the Congress of Berlin in 1878 (the Congress took place after the end of the Russian-Turkish war, which ended in the victory of the Russian Empire), after which the city was finally passed to Montenegro.
Modern view of the city
After that, Žabljak became peaceful. Before the First World War it was a military arsenal, later a gendarmerie, then a police station and, finally, a school. But when it became clear that the walls and ceilings were becoming more and more damaged, the school was removed and the fortress got abandoned.
Nowadays, it is visited by antique lovers who want to learn about the history of Montenegro and enjoy the beautiful views of Lake Skadar.