Tired of the immense water adventure that is Skadar Lake? The shores of the lake have so much to offer that you can spend days discovering hidden hamlets, islets and monasteries.
Once I deflated my packraft, I decided to head into Godinje, a tiny rural settlement with only 60 inhabitants. The historic village, a Montenegrin cultural heritage, is situated on the hillside overlooking Skadar Lake and has an interesting chain-like system of fortified houses, connected by passageways and tunnels, built to defend the villagers from attacks by the Ottomans.
Many of the houses are uninhabited and some are already reduced to ruins. Walking the little passageways, I got so lost in my own head – walking through a landscape of faded glory gets to me everytime – I suddenly found myself in someone’s backyard. Dusan and Milos, two brothers in their thirties, decided to renovate their families house three years ago. They’re the 12th generation of the Lakovic family who once build these natural stone houses, but the family left the property when it got damaged in the 1979 earthquake.
The 300 year old vineyard – which wines were a favourite of the old kings – was kept intact as the backbone of their family. And now that the brothers are restoring their ancestry’s home to its former glory, they’re also tapping into the local knowledge on agriculture. “I want to turn this place into an organic paradise,” says Dusan while he offers me to discover their stunning backyard and taste a glass of their fine rose wine. He laughs when he mentions they’re calling their place ‘Paradise Organic Food & Wine’. “The name of this village was given by Prince Jovan Vladimir. He liked the area and called it ‘goditi’. That’s the old word for pleasure or paradise.”
A place to rest and eat
According to Dusan, their personal attachment to the place is the heart of their newfound passion. “By rekindling our family history, we also hope to offer something to the local community and to visitors”. Avoiding pesticides and GMO’s, Dusan built a small vegetable garden big enough to provide for their family and guests. The tiny farm provides them with potatoes, tomatoes, grapes, flowers, chicken, duck and goat milk. A small waterfall and stream bordering the garden brings in a steady stream of fresh strout.
“It’s a healthy way of living,” explains Dusan. “What more reason would we need? Oh, and the flowers smell good”. Sitting in silence on top of the wooden terrace Dusan and Milos built, my chilled wine in hand, I feel grateful for his unsolicited hospitality. The relaxing sound of the small waterfall makes me wish I could stay longer. And then, when saying goodbye to walk back to my campground, I discover the base of a tipi camping tent. “Our next project,” says Dusan with a smile when he sees my eyes light up. “I’m sure it would be ready by the next time you come”. The genuine invitation seals the deal and for the first time I tell Dusan about the National Parks Initiative. If I could feature him on the site? “As long as our message is clear: we want to bring back a sustainable way of living, with respect for our heritage.”