Things to know about the Accursed Mountains
The rugged terrain of the Accursed Mountains is home to the highest mountains in the Dinaric Alps. The highest points of this range is Jezerca Peak 2,694 m, Gjeravica Peak 2,653 m, and Zla Kolata Peak 2,534 m.
The Accursed Mountains range is considered to be one of the few in Europe which has not been explored entirely. It has been mostly formed by glacial influences with karstic areas in the western parts of the range. 23 different types of soil have been identified here, creating conditions for high biodiversity.
The region is rich in rivers, mountain lakes, waterfalls, and natural springs. The wondrous mountain landscape and valleys of Accursed Mountains share a wild landscape and wild beauty, extraordinary flora and fauna, and a traditional lifestyle that is almost unique in Europe.
The total area of the region, consisting of three national parks: Albanian Alps, Bjeshkët e Nemuna and Prokletije, reaches up to 3000 km².
Katun are seasonal or temporary summer pasture settlements, used for livestock grazing and other activities such as: grazing, beekeeping, medicinal plants etc. As the primary activity of the population in the Accursed Mountains area was cattle breeding, seasonal movements of livestock were an integral part of life and they brought the establishment of these settlements, known as “katuni” in Montenegrin and “stane” in Albanian.
This practice was excellent for having better quality of pastures in the mountains. During the summer, cattle breeders moved their livestock to higher areas of the mountains, where grazing was more abundant. In these areas, they built their temporary settlements. Katuni are located high up in the mountains, near mountaineering, hiking and mountain biking trails, and some of them are nowadays used as guest houses or resting venues for visitors.
Baron Franz Nopcsa, the well-known Hungarian albanologist, has noted this phenomenon in the beginning of the 19th century: “Seasonal shepherds migrating livestock exist everywhere in the Balkans. Even the tribes of Kelmendi, Hoti, Kastrati, Bogë and Shkreli move during the summer. To maintain their herds and cattle, they are forced to have two houses. They have their winter house on the plain, and the summer house on the mountain pastures”.
Watermills were characteristic structures used for grinding grain and usually located near rivers or springs. There was a large number of them in the past, while a few of them are still in use today. Watermills are simple structures with vaulted openings in their lower parts through which water passes in order to drive the mill mechanisms. Some of these watermills have historical values and carry a cultural identity for a specific area; anyhow their use is mainly connected to economic benefits.
Towers (kule in Montenegrin and kulla in Albanian) are traditional buildings located everywhere in Accursed Mountains, whether in towns or villages. Wherever they are built, towers have had the function of family housing, protection in case of danger and commercial function.
Towers have begun to be built in the Middle Ages until the beginning of the 20th century. They are made of stone, have two and three stores, with small and medium windows. Third-floor windows are even smaller and close to each other, and were used as view-points, guard posts and loopholes for fire arms.
Initially, the towers were built only by the richest part of the population. They served to protect rich families from the enemies, while at the same time displaying their wealth and power.
In the past, the first floor of the tower was used to keep livestock, such as cows, horses and sheep, mainly during the cold autumn and winter periods. The first floor was scattered with dried leaves, dried ferns, etc., while around it cattle food was processed. The front door was made of solid wood and usually shut off from the inside with a latch.
To move from the first floor to the second floor, usually external stairs and sometimes internal stairs were used. The stairs were made of wood and rarely made of stone. Behind the second-floor door, there was a corridor called “divanhane” by the locals. At the end of it, opposite to the outside door, there was the fireplace, where food was usually cooked.
For more detailed information read the guide book.