The town of Zabljak is situated in the north-west of Montenegro, in the heart of the Durmitor region, 1450 meters above sea level, making it thus the highest urban conglomerate in the Balkans. Right in the middle of the Durmitor region, Zabljak is surrounded by 23 mountain peaks over 2200 meter high, with 18 mountain lakes, and with the canyon of Tara river, the deepest in Europe, nearby. In Zabljak and in nearby villages some 4500 inhabitants live.
The first Slav name of the place was “Varezina voda” possibly because of the strong source of drinkable water nearby, making urbanity possible. Later, the urbanity was renamed “Hanovi” or originally “Anovi” because there caravan took a rest. The today’s name is from the year 1870, when in one and the same day the building of a school, of a church and of a captain’s home was begun. In he days of War and war rages all of the old buildings were destroyed. Left was only the old church of Sv. Preobrazenje (Holy Transfiguration), built in 1862 as a monument to the victory in the battle against Turks. Right after Zabljak was established as a town, a few retail stores and a few cafes were opened, also. Thus, in the nineteen eighties Zabljak already was some kind of a market-place making it in time also the regional administrative center. In the period shortly before WW II, Zabljak was a small town with the typical mountain architecture. Right in this times the unique nature starts to draw attention of tourists from the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, but also from abroad. Very often numerous guests from Italy – because of very close ties between Montenegro and Italy – came. Beside the fantastic beauty of this region the richness of this region in animal life, and also all the favors of hunting and fishing beacons to lovers of such life. During WW II the small town was burnt right to its foundations. Everything was left to flames, the homes, the monuments, the buildings. Left were only the smoky sites of fires. The war ended, Zabljak rebuilt itself and became the Center of winter sports in Montenegro. The unique and varied nature in such a small region recommended Zabljak as the ecological capital of the first ecological state on this planet. The deputies of the Folk Assembly of Montenegro, intoxicated with the fresh mountain air, in an out-of-order Assembly, right here, under the blue skies brought forth the Declaration unisonous, making Montenegro the first ecological state on this planet, and made Zabljak its capital.
The surrounding region
In the vicinity of Zabljak a lot of villages are located, their age being very different. Some of the villages stand here from times immemorial, but some are very recent. People coming to this region always chose better and more sheltered places, giving the first choice to sunny sides and fat meadows. A certain number of villages was formed right were old “katuns” were ( a katun is a stable/house for summer pasture), or some forgotten former villages. Regarding the architecture the differences are great. Mostly the villages are of the “spread” type, the individual homes being very far apart. There are villages where the homes are more near to each other, but generally speaking there can be no question of urbanity playing any role. In Durmitorian villages the name of “uptown” and “downtown” are very often used. The “downtown” part of the village is very often the older, the “uptown” part being very often a former “katun”.
The better part of Durmitor has a mean annual temperature of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius. In the mean year for more than 120 days there is a snow layer more than 15 centimeters thick.. Skiing tracks, a little higher in the mountain have a snow cover for more than 150 days in the year. In the highest parts of Durmitor, even through the whole summer there is snow, and in the region of Kalice there is a place named “DEBELI NAMET” where the snow is more than 300 meters long, enabling ski lovers to enjoy the sport during the whole year.
Thus the climate is from mild in the canyons, to sub mountain up to 1200 meters over the sea level, to typical alpine in the more higher regions. The winters are long and cold, the summers short and fresh, and interestingly the Fall is warmer than the Spring.
The people from this regions, according to Jovan Cvijic, are of the Dinaric race. He writes: the people of Durmitor are strong, very high, slender, never fat, with intelligent faces, strong cheekbones, eagle eyes, possible the most beautiful people on the Balkans. Difficult times, difficult climate, pushed the people from this regions, always in some war, but always grabbing from parsimonious nature whatever could be grabbed, trying to make nature an ally, but not always successfully. This war incessant allowed only the fittest (strongest) to survive, with the migration being a constant plague. This war without boundaries led to what a poet said: from stone only something harder may be brought forth, and stone is a human cradle, and the mountain a noble street. That’s the way Durmitor people are, highlanders, stronger than stone – even if this stone was the strongest deterrent against invaders – always ready to defend stones and themselves as something most valued on the face of this earth.
The natural surroundings, the way people provided and people lived, especially founds its mirror in the architecture, in the way of making tools, the way of making implements for the household, the way people clothe. Whatever could be made from wood, was made from wood. The clothing was made from domestically made materials like wool, hemp, flax and leather. Very finely carved are domestic wooden implements. One of the very fine carved implements is the “stolovaca” which is carved from hardwood, like maple, and is characterized by its noble form, dreamy ornaments, and finely tuned carving.
The cradle is one of the objects where full attention is given: the cradle is ornamented, full attention given to detail, and is something practically never given or sold. The housewives like to have a nicely decorated distaff which are very often prestigious carving of the local artists. The garments are made of hand-made materials like wool. The hand rolled woolen blankets, spreads or covers are exceptional: but parts especially of traditional female garments are also made of wool, and finely decorated. Of knitted garments especially sweaters, shawls, stockings and “priglavak” (a very thick short stocking for walking inside) are to be mentioned.
Footwear was made as “opanci” ( one piece leather wrapping for the leg with n o special sole) from goats leather. All of this ethnographical treasure is slowly but surely making way for industrial products, cheaper and more easily obtained. Some of the old crafts, however, survived. Even today, in Zabljak, you may obtain, as souvenirs some of this old tools and garments, but very often as something that may be used.
Today, Zabljak is tourist oriented, but also oriented towards the production of all ecological. It certainly will succeed, and Zabljak is going to take it’s place in the ecological society that is coming. The new way of thinking, private initiative, the coming of foreign capital and openness to all that is new and good will make Zabljak a very highly developed tourist destination, of European renown. The season stretches over all year: Winter tourism, Spring tourism and Fall (seminars, rafting, hunting and fishing…), but Summer, yes, Summer (rest, recreation, sports…).
In visiting this place you will for sure feel the real peace, the amalgamated tradition with the modern life, an astounding nature, nice highlanders, a lot of unexpected (but nice and interesting), and you will let unpleasant thoughts be bygone….
DECLARATION OF THE ECOLOGICAL STATE MONTENEGRO
We, the deputies of The Assembly of Montenegro, see well that the protection of the identity of our people and of the place we live and work, because of nature pollution is for us the primeval and most important task.
Taking into account our debt to mother nature, which quenches us with health, fortitude, freedom and culture, we turn to its protection in the name of our own being and the future of our offspring.
Not feeling a single change among us so strong, as changes to which our natural environment is exposed, we subordinate our national, religious, political and all other feelings and convictions to the will to make Montenegro an ecological state on its own.
We hereby proclaim that by this Declaration Montenegro is establishing a state relationship to Nature