Monday, January 3, 2011

Beautiful Towns # 7 - Cetinje, Montenegro

Cetinje is a pretty town with a proud history in the mountainous interior of Montenegro. A former capital of the Montenegrin kingdom, it is considered to be the spiritual and religious heart of this small Mediterranean nation. Cetinje was somewhat surprised to find itself declared a capital city when Montenegro's independence was declared in 1878. At the time it had a population of just 6,000, which made it the world's smallest capital.
Many grandly designed embassies and government buildings were erected during this period which still grace the streets of the town today. During the communist period the capital of the Montenegrin socialist republic of Yugoslavia was moved to Titograd (now Podgorica), and Cetinje was left to become a peaceful small town once more. Today the population is about 15,000, but the town continues to have an expanded national importance in the modern Montenegrin state due to its status as the former royal capital.
The stone Cetinje Monastery is the seat of the Orthodox church in Montenegro. It was first built in 1701 and was destroyed repeatedly in a series of Turkish invasions, but was always faithfully rebuilt by the local inhabitants. The monastery houses the relics of Saint Peter of Cetinje, an important figure in Montenegrin history. Another church of historical interest is the Vlach church, built in 1450. It is encircled by a symbolic fence made from the barrels of enemy rifles captured during the fight for independence from the Ottoman Turks. Another noteworthy building in Cetinje is the Palace of King Nicholas I, which today provides a home for The National Museum of Montenegro. The museum features extensive exhibits (with some English-language labelling) on the history of the struggle for national independence.
The town is an essential stop on a tour of Montenegro in order to get a full impression of this pint-sized country's sense of self. Cetinje can be reached by bus from most parts of Montenegro, with many daily connections from Podgorica and Budva. It makes an excellent day-trip from Kotor or Budva on the coast.

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