While I was in Virpazar in Montenegro, I had a few options of things to do: go on a boat ride around part of Lake Skadar, go for a bike ride, or go for a hike.
I decided not to go for a boat ride because I needed to save a bit of money, having blown my budget the day before; I had seen quite a bit of the lake already; and it sealed the deal when lots of people turned up in a coach to go on the boat. I just didn’t fancy doing something particularly ‘touristy’ that day. I ruled out cycling because Montenegro is mountainous and I don’t ‘do’ hills on bicycles. That left going for a hike.
I popped into the local tourist information office and was advised to head down the main road to Godinje. The great thing is I would pass some wineries on my journey, so I happily took to the road. There wasn’t a pavement, which meant I had to walk on the road. Thankfully, it is fairly quiet with few vehicles passing so it was better than I initially thought it would be. In addition, it was a beautiful day and I wasn’t in a rush so I stopped to take photos on my journey.
Just before I got to Godinje, I first saw a man who, in front of his house, had two large steel containers with rubber hosing, copper pipes, a plastic pipe with smoke bellowing out of it, and a ton of wood (as you can see from the photograph below). I had never seen anything quite like this before but this was the first winery.
The man was producing wine and rakia on his terrace. After that, I passed a woman at a small roadside stall selling wine and rakia, amongst other things. I was very tempted to buy something but there was no way I wanted to carry around glass bottles because of the weight and I was worried about breakage.
Shortly after that, I saw a sign so I knew I had finally arrived in Godinje, which is actually made up of three hamlets: Lekovici, Peracizi, and Nikaci. It dates back to the 10th century when a king had such an enjoyable stay, the settlement was named Godinje after the word ‘goditi’ which means pleasing or enjoyable. It has been a wine-producing region for centuries and, as I was rapidly finding out, this tradition continues in full swing today.
I continued my journey upwards towards Lekovici. Apparently, it is the most architecturally attractive in Godinje. The houses were originally built as terraced houses (attached at both sides) to protect against attacks from the Ottoman Empire. In addition, the houses had linked cellars so people could safely pass from one to the next. It was interesting to see all these houses compacted tightly together. It’s a shame that some of them are now in ruins.
I spotted the only tavern (konoba) there, which has won awards for wine production. I saw hardly anyone on my journey that day and absolutely no foreigners, other than me. I decided to pop into the tavern once I had finished wandering around and indicated to the owner that was my intention as I got the impression that he was hoping I would. I didn’t realise at the time that I was going to get sidetracked.
As I continued to wander around Levokici, a man, who was sitting down at a table outside his house, called me over. I thanked him but said that I couldn’t carry any bottles, having spotted the bottles of wine and rakia on another table that were obviously for sale. He shook his head and insisted I sit down. So, I walked over, he poured me a glass of wine, and indicated for me to take a seat. He was having a drink by himself and just wanted some company, so I obliged. We managed to sort of understand each other and had quite a long chat. I managed to work out that he has his own vineyard down on the main road but the wine production and bottling process happens in his house, where we were. He has continued the family tradition of producing wine and rakia.
When he offered me more wine, that was my cue to move on otherwise I would have been there for hours. I thanked him, said goodbye, and left. As I was making my way out of the hamlet, I walked past the konoba that I had promised to go in earlier. I didn’t want to disappoint the owner so I entered, sat down, and sampled some of the wine he produces. It was a beautiful setting so, at that point, I realised that my hike was probably not going to be the type of hike I had intended on at the start of the day. It was turning into a day of wine-tasting and cultural exchange instead, which was absolutely fine by me.
After that, I wanted to stop at the place I had been told about where I could go for a swim. So, I turned right, when I reached the main road again, and continued on for a while. I seemed to be getting further away from the lake so I decided to head back. I had had an interesting day anyway.
I passed all the same vineyards and wineries again. I met the first man I had had a glass of wine with. He was out tending to his vineyard. After walking for a short while, I passed a house where three men were sitting outside and one of them shouted to me, ‘Come here!’. I was a little taken aback and continued walking and he shouted again, ‘Come here, come here!’. As I walked around to the front of the house, there was a woman outside and she welcomed me in. I walked round to the back of the house and the three men said hello and gave me a seat. They were in the process of making wine. It was really interesting to get up close and see it in action. I was, once again, given a glass of wine but, this time, I sat with the vineyard to my left and the house to my right.
We all sat around the containers where the wine was being produced right in front of us. I would have loved to find out more about the wine production process, but the language barrier made that impossible. Nonetheless, I got to see what they did and it was great being part of it.
Two of the men were brothers and the other was a friend. Whilst making the wine, they were enjoying some time together since it was a Sunday afternoon. One of the brothers could speak some English and Italian so, with that, we managed to communicate a little. While I was interested in finding out about the wine-making process and them, they were equally as interested in me and why I was travelling alone. I got the impression they don’t come across many solo female travellers. After spending some time there, I really needed to head back before it got dark. As I was leaving, the wife was cooking fresh fish they had caught. She wanted me to stay but I really needed to get back as I still had a long way to walk. I really appreciated the sentiment. It was very generous of them and they made me feel really welcome.
As I walked back, considering the fact that I had only been there for a day and there was a language barrier, I started to feel like a local because I passed the same people I had met throughout the day. I smiled and waved to them as they did to me. That was a great feeling.
On that journey back, I reflected on my day. I had gotten some exercise but I had blazed my own wine trail and, more importantly, connected with some very friendly local people. If I had decided to go on a boat ride, I’m sure I would have had a great day but I wouldn’t have had the wonderful experience and connected with the locals in the same way. That’s why it’s great to get off the beaten track and sometimes it isn’t that difficult to do even if you are in an area that attracts lots of tourists, as I was.
If you are interested in blazing your own wine trail in Montenegro, you can see the route I took from Virpazar to Godinje on the map below…
Have your say
Have you been to a touristy place but still managed to get off the beaten track? Please, share your stories. I’d love to hear them.