family

Boat Milica: A family's Story

On a cooler than normal day last spring with a bit of overcast and wind, my family along with a visiting friend decided to do something that we had not done in the two years of living in Montenegro, take a boat tour around Skadar Lake National Park. After asking our friends from Undiscovered Montenegro, Ben and Emma, they recommended Boat Milica. Within a few hours, we were off for our 3 hour tour around the largest lake on the Balkan Peninsula.

We arrived in Virpazar about 30 minutes outside of Podgorica to begin the tour around the lake which included seeing the local wildlife and monasteries. It is easy to tell from the pictures that the tour itself was amazing. The vibrant greens signaling the newness of the season created the perfect backdrops for the old, stone monasteries being restored. As we went around, our guide, Ksenija, was exceptional at pointing out the intricacies of the lake, its history, and wildlife. After a quick dip in the lake by our friend, we returned from our tour with a new appreciation for Montenegro’s wild beauty which happens to be only a short drive from us.

While the tour was memorable and the service provided is highly recommended, it is the story of the Boat Milica which really draws me in, and causes an even greater appreciation for their business. The family Dabanovic is from Virpazar knowing the lake intimately. During the economic downturn around 2011, the Jelena guided her family to do something different to survive. They started Boat Milica.

As a family, they divided responsibilities and took to creating their business building it slowly. The daughters learned new languages to specifically help with foreign tourists, they built their wooden boat in the shop of an old master in Podgorica, and Andrija began guiding tours. Andrija grew up on the lake and is familiar with al the ins and outs. The stories, legends, history, and diversity all get proper treatment during the tour. And Jelena became the only woman in Virpazar to own and operate a boat tour showing off Skadar Lake

The family worked together and have been successful together. Even in the face of some struggles, they have proven resilient and creative to help one another and their town by attracting tourists to this natural resource hidden in the interior of Montenegro.

The Dabanovic story is one of resilience in the face of difficulty. It is exemplary of what it takes to be resourceful and succeed. The family found support among themselves continually encouraging each other to do better and achieve their goals.

Rural Tourism in Montenegro: The views of Lipovo Village

In the late summer days toward the last part of August, my family and I decided to escape the summer heat of Podgorica in exchange for the fresher air and cooler temperatures of the mountains. We booked a farm stay option through Meanderbug.

Meanderbug is a sustainable, social enterprise which helps underdeveloped areas through rural tourism. With a variety of options spreading across all of Montenegro, Meanderbug has created a network of partners surely to offer something for everyone to enjoy a rural tourism experience.  

We made our choice to stay on a family farm just outside of the mountain town of Kolasin, a growing winter desitnation regionally for its skiing. However, Kolasin and its villages have an opportunity to capitalize on a longer season offering a more profitable opportunity for a large spectrum of citizens. 

 We also have a few friends from Kolasin and more specifically Lipovo so it made the stay more intimate for us. During our stay, we found out that our hosts are related to a few of our friends.  

Here are a few reasons to enjoy the Dulovic Farm in Lipovo.

Location

Lipovo is set about 12 kilometers from the northern Montenegrin town of Kolasin. The Dulovic Farm is set at the end of Lipovo village. More importantly, the village is set in the middle of three or four peaks which are all accessible for a day hike. This location makes Lipovo advantageous for adventurers or families who enjoy exploring nature together. The farm serves as the perfect base for multiple mountain outings during a Montenegro farm experience. 

Hospitality

Gordana and Dragan are some of the most hospitable people that I have met in Montenegro. Hospitality is characteristic among the cultures in this part of Europe. I have seen it displayed personally on a variety of occasions in different ways. Gordana and Dragan went above and beyond in their care for us. 

Our three small boys took them very quickly, and followed Dragan closely when he made any moves toward the barn. He welcomed them warmly to help take fresh eggs, pull vegetables from the ground and witness the process of making “Kolasinski sir” a local, layered cheese to go with the fresh bread for the morning’s breakfast. 

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Perspective

We have lived in the capital, Podgorica, for a few years now. Before moving to Montenegro, we have lived in Dallas, Portland area, etc. We are used to city life. The quicker pace and active lifestyle is comfortable for us.

However, a stay in Lipovo offers a completely different perspective of life in Montenegro. Some say, “more authentic,” but I feel this is too strong. Farmers have a different way to gauge life around them, a different approach and mentality. I believe it was healthy to experience this as a family. 

Our kids learned about pulling fresh vegetables from the ground, taking fresh eggs from coop, and caring for animals. As a family, we were forced to slow down, enjoy a slower moment, and allowed to breathe in a little deeper. To be honest, I was uncomfortable. I didn’t know exactly what to do. But I enjoyed it!

Environment

As you can see from the pictures, the environment and surroundings is quite specatacular and awe inspiring. The dramatic cliffs of the mountains presented a backdrop perfect for any sunset. The sunset itself presented an array of colors. The coolness of the evening contrasted greatly with the warmth of the late summer sun. 

However, the local environment also presented some of the struggles that farmers and those living in rural areas face. Living at the end of Lipovo village makes trash collection a desperate problem to solve for the country of Montenegro as a whole. Farming as a way of life has its own challenges for providing a sustainable future, however, the country which prides itself as an ecological state can do more to address trash strewn throughout the country. 

Rural tourism brings great potential and promise to Lipovo and other villages like, however, proper solutions to trash disposal need to be adopted especially for these areas. 

 Let me be clear this is a challenge to be conquered. It definitely was not a reason to pass on visiting the Dulovic farm in the small village.

I would recommend visiting Lipovo and staying with the Dulovic family especially for those who want to slow down and enjoy the outdoors a bit more. It is a wonderful place to launch for a hike, a place to unplug, and location to connect who you are with as well as a new culture.