Tiny as it is, Montenegro is historically divided into three distinct geographical and cultural areas – coastal part in the south, ‘old country’ in its midst and the mountains in the north. At the coast, Venetian influence is felt way stronger – and even the dialect spoken down there sounds somewhat like Italian and has many words borrowed from that language. Locals are shaped by the sea – all the people around the world, living somewhere close to a big water, to me are in a way like an extended family, the sea does that – its openness, its magnificence, its unpredictability and the readiness to bring in the travelers from other shores … The far north of a country is also somehow similar – wherever you go – the climate is harsh there, winters are long, in the past the crops were scarce and that too leaves certain impact on the people, they speak more succinctly than their coastal brethren, smile less and are way less concerned about romantic love and song that sing about it… These are sweeping generalizations, of course, but if you read serious anthropological studies – it’s been noted and explained in various contexts long ago.
My own family is from the mountainous part and the history of any family there is basically the history of endless battles against various potential conquerors; at the coast – historically there was little more one could wish for, besides what was there already – open trade with other Mediterranean principalities, beautiful weather, some of the best beaches in the world, olive trees and seasonal carnivals… Of course, there were bloody wars there too, but at least in the periods of peace a culturally diverse and rather privileged way of life could be enjoyed. (Still, hardly anyone from the north would move to the coast, I am not sure why is it so, but probably it’s about roots, tradition and staying where one’s ancestors have settled.)
Yet the heart of Montenegro is neither in the northern mountains, nor at the coastal part – it’s exactly where it should be, in the midst of this magical kingdom, where its historical capital is – at the small town of Cetinje. The heart of the country beats there for centuries, through the numerous battles with Ottomans to whom it never surrendered and even in the recent history, during ex-Yugoslav wars, when it was the bastion of the resistance to the hatred and madness of the ethnic cleanse and everything else that had pulled this peninsula back into the dark ages. Cetinje always stood apart.
I wrote on numerous occasions that choosing the right side in Balkans can cost you a lot – and so happened with our historical capital; as its population rebelled against wars and hatred without a reason – the ruling back then elite in coalition with warlords had absolutely neglected the city, leaving it with close to none funds for its maintenance and eventual development. The people who live there over time developed a rather dark sense of humor – there was no other way to survive the surrounding them harsh reality. There is an old joke – that King Nikola I (1841 – 1921) had risen from dead at the very end of 20th century… He looked around his native Cetinje and happily exclaimed: Nothing has changed!
I think that’s a perfect metaphor on how little used to be invested into city’s infrastructure – as a ‘punishment’ for its people rebellion.
But, all the things in life tend to change towards its diametric opposite and as the movement for country’s independence grew stronger – the historical capital started receiving more and more support – and that’s how it should be.
At present, the Ministry of Culture, along with several other major institutions, relocated there and big effort is made to revive the city, even Marina Abramovic is involved and also the grandson of our King Nikola I – Crown Prince Nikola II.
Yesterday there was a reception at the ministry and I took pictures for you – of the people there and of the city itself.
As a side note – people on the pictures are some of the major Montenegrin cultural figures, among them minister himself – Djaga Micunovic and famed director Ivana Mrvaljevic:
And, given that this blog is mainly devoted to the love of Tarot, here is how great British artist Emily Carding depicted the famous Fairy of Cetinje – on 11th Trump of Montenegro’s own Tarot of The Black Mountains:
As we know, the 11th Major Arcanum in Tarot stands for Justice, Destiny and each and everyone of us receiving according to our merits; the city of Cetinje certainly deserved all the glory in which it is basking.