Grahovo, witness of a turbulent past
Traveling from Podgorica (or Nikšić) to the Bay of Kotor has become much easier by the new highway Žabljak-Risan. The road has been under construction for a long time, but now it is an excellent highway passing through untouched nature, crossing the Grahovo plain (Grahovsko polje) and winding down towards the Bay of Boka Kotorska, offering breath-taking views of the Bay. We have taken the road many times when travelling to the Coast. From Grahovo it takes you only twenty minutes to reach Risan and there is not much traffic, even in season. It is a beautiful and relaxing trip.
It is expected that the new highway will bring a better life to the abandoned townlet of Grahovo, once a municipality well-known by its historical events and personalities. But when? It will certainly take time until the former inhabitants return to their family estate, in spite of some announced projects, like the reconstruction of the hotel, the construction of a Russian tourist and wellness center in the surrounding plain of Grahovsko Polje and the opening of a camping site on the banks of Grahovsko Lake. A Russian investor has bought the hotel, paid for the project … but due to the economic crisis everything has come to a standstill.
Once, Grahovo was a prosperous municipality. It was one of the first places in Montenegro that got a hospital. But the Austrians, Germans and Italians did not spare the town. They set it on fire and killed the innocent inhabitants. Nevertheless, after World War II Grahovo had shops, pubs, restaurants. There was also some industry and even a hotel. It was a townlet full of life and joy.
But things have changed. Many houses were destroyed by the earthquake in 1979 and never rebuilt. The hotel is dilapidated. The pub is open but there are hardly any guests. The fact that you can have a cup of coffee here for just 40 cents is not sufficient to make tourists come to this ruined building. The memorial complex, once the pride of Grahovo, is shabby, neglected and abandoned. Apart from this memorial park, only the Arboretum and the Sveti Nikola Church, built in 1499, with original frescoes, are worth a visit.
What happened to Grahovo? Due to the inadequate infrastructure and lack of economic possibilities, many inhabitants moved to Nikšić, Podgorica and to the Montenegrin Coast. Today there is only one school, a small polyclinic that is visited by a doctor once a week, and many ruined buildings.
After having strolled through the empty streets of Grahovo, we visited the Memorial Park on the Umac hill which was built between 1977 and 1978. The huge and very impressive sculpture on the top of the hill (7 meters high) represents a moving column of soldiers headed by the national hero Savo Kovačević. It was made of bronze by the famous sculptor Miodrag Živković. Savo Kovačević was born in the nearby village of Nudo. Under his command, the Grahovo Partisans attacked the occupying forces and disarmed a group of enemy soldiers on July 13th, 1941.
Part of the complex is also a group of 272 concrete cubes with the names of the fallen soldiers from World War II from this area, linked by steps and plateaus. The lack of maintenance of the memorial park is obvious. What a pity! Such an impressive monument from World War II could certainly be a very interesting tourist attraction!
By the way, about 5 km before we reached the center of Grahovo, we saw a beautiful white obelisk along the main road. This is a monument revealed in 2008 by the Montenegrin government in order to honor the famous Battle of Grahovac that occurred in 1858, when the Grand Duke Mirko Petrović-Njegoš led an army of 7,500 Montenegrin soldiers against the Turks. One thousand Montenegrins and 3,000 Ottoman soldiers died, but the Montenegrins won this crucial battle. On the obelisk we could read the inscription: “The monument to your bravery is Montenegro and its freedom.”
Grahovo is witness to a tumultuous past, which makes it an interesting place for visitors. Being situated at a distance of around twenty kilometers from the sea and at an altitude of 800 meters above sea level, it offers ideal conditions for living, tourism development and economic growth. When will the investment start?
by Marianne van Twillert