A Stop at Moraca Monastery on The Way to Zabljak, Montenegro
Breakfast was a hoot at Hotel 13 July. The woman server asked, “Eggs?” Person in group says, “Omelet?” “No, no omelet.” Another in group asks, “Eggs Scrambled?” She shakes her head, “yes.” “Fried?” She shakes her head, “yes.” Eggs come to the table. Scrambled eggs look like an omelet. Fried eggs look like an omelet. Everything looked like an omelet. Bread, cheese, coffee and we were ready for a long driving day; a not very interesting long driving day I might add. And for the first and only time over three weeks in the Balkans, a restaurant along the road refused to let us use their bathroom.
Moraca is a Serbian Orthodox monastery located in central Montenegro. Founded in 1252 by Stefan, son of Vukan Nemanjic, king of Zeta (whoever that is), Moraca is one of the most important orthodox Middle Age monuments in Montenegro. We fortunately arrived a split second before two huge bus loads of young people pulled up. Moraca is located right off the main highway leading from Montenegro to Serbia so I guess Moraca could be referred to as “touristy.”
Moraca Monastery has been rebuilt many times. The green and lush complex contains the main church (“Falling into sleep of Holy Mother of God”), small church of Sveti Nikola (St. Nicolas) and sleeping quarters. The ancient frescos inside were gorgeous. Too bad no video or photography was allowed. One painting was preserved from the 13th century while other paintings were ruined in the first part of 16th century when Ottomans occupied and devastated the monastery. We spent only a few minutes admiring the paintings since the two busloads of students took up all the space. Guide Sinisa also didn’t give any explanations about what the frescos, paintings meant.
The little Church of St. Nicolas was a different story. A professional photographer had the door open while he took photos of magnificent frescos inside, and I managed to take a short video standing outside the church until he slammed the door on us.
More driving. A stop along the road for lunch. Back on the road. This entire area of Montenegro resembled Austria, Switzerland, French Alps and Colorado rolled into one; brilliantly green, snowcapped mountains, and forests wherever you looked. A stop was scheduled to visit the Tara Bridge spanning a gorge but it was quite late in the day. Sinisa suggested visiting tomorrow since we would drive back along the same route; fine with one and all.
Vans drove through Zabljak, an important Winter ski area, and across the street from Hotel MB around 4:00p. Checked in and were assisted with luggage up three flights of stairs to our room under the rafters. (It will be a small miracle if we don’t run into a TV protruding from the wall during the night.) The hotel was warm, cheerful, clean, had hot water and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Sinisa came up with a spur-of-the-moment plan. He would lead the group on a walk to see the Black Lake in Dormitor National Park in 15 minutes. Zabljak is situated in part of the Dinaric Alps, the same alps we walked through in Albania last year. Steve and I were tired, and hungry, said “forget us” and made a bee-line into the restaurant recommended as the best in Zabljak. Everything smelled wonderful!
Sitting in Hotel MB’s restaurant with a wonderful glass of wine, the skies opened up and became a downpour literally washing out the planned hiking. Perhaps tomorrow morning would be nice.
Local wine in carafes wasn’t available at the Hotel MB. No worries, just ordered an entire bottle of red, and would take the undrunk wine with us for tomorrow. Completely starving, we only split the entree tonight and ordered two Shopska salads, and one Mixed Grill. Steve and I demolished salads in record time along with the best bread basket we’ve eaten to date. Then the largest Mixed Grill we’ve ever seen was plunked in front of us.
Slices of ham, pork, veal, beef, chicken, liver (the liver was wonderful) over a bed of french fries; truly gigantic and the photograph doesn’t do the quantity justice since we tucked in the moment the plate hit the table, forgetting to take a picture. We did managed to polish 98% of it, ending a strenuous day on a high note.