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Cetinje

I spent my childhood in Cetinje, in Njegoševa Street, house no. 36. An annual callendar determined the way of life. Summer heats enticed women to bring out their chairs and sit in front of their own homes. Firewood was dealt with in autumn while winter was followed by a struggle with snow which came down in great quantities. Together with spring, life moved to backyards. Our backyard was also full of fragrant, tame roses, lilacs… Wooden table in dappled shade of a walnut tree, conversations with neighbors over stone fences… Our family photo albums are full of such scenes. That is, perhaps, why I took up photography,… Njegoševa Street, behind the scenes of its own houses…

Smell of linden tree characterizes Njegoševa Street in June and July. Cafes, or hospitality temples of Cetinje, are located underneath the treetops. Linden trees were occasionally lopped off due to tree diseases and then the street looked empty and deserted, like mouth of a toothless man. Obituaries are still being nailed to the linden tree trunks. When somebody young dies, obituaries are blue. Black obituaries always incorporate a cross or five-pointed star. A lot of them were blue in our town, I do not know why. Dangerous life or high speed driving, I suppose… I realized that I reached my maturity then I started reading them. Photography of Krsto Đuričić – Simo Cuca reading to whom he should offer his condolences is a true representation of today’s life as well.

M. Kovačević presented the first urbanistic planning of Cetinje in 1860. Apart from Monastery, Biljarda and Ćipur church, settlement of 34 houses can be distinguished. These houses were built in two rows along two streets: Royal (Dvorska) Street (Royal Square today) and Katunska Street (Njegoševa Street today). These two streets cross and intersect forming the Square with an oak tree and a well. Njegoševa Street which leads to the main road to Lovćen becomes a backbone of this town's structure. The most beautiful private houses, most luxurious shops and public institutions are located in this street. Separation of population is noticable in these two streets: Katunska Street and Royal Street were populated by most distinguised citizens, Bajo’s merchants, while Medovina was populated by craftsmen and poorer citizens. Town streets were lit with lanterns, tree-lined with linden trees, houses became sturdier. Since the Regulation which had prohibited covering houses with straw was introduced in 1870, more and more houses became multi-story.

Simultaniously with the town growth and the increase of number of citizens, Njegoševa Street, 950 meters long, was a subject of change and urban modernization, especially during the last decades of 19th century. Two shady city parks with landscape architecture features were established at the lower part of the street between 1891 and 1894, covering overall 7 hectares. Royal Park was formed in English style while Town’s Park was formed in French one. An elegant residence for heir to the throne, Danilo, had been built in Royal Park in 1895 where he lived until 1916. Gymnasium was later moved to this residency (1919-1947). Blue Palace (another name for this residency), built in the late Empire style, had been used for art exhibitions and similar events during the 20th century and since 2010 it has become the residency of the president of Montenegro. In 1910, the residence garden was furnished with a tennis court where Luca Comerio took photos of princesses roller skating, as well as a swimming pool where courtiers were photographed on a boat. Parks, which are frequent motives of cards, epecially Gradski park with a royal summer house, span from both sides of the Blue palce and Njegoševa street. Parks are photographed panoramically, from the perspective of the hill located next to the road that leads to the entrance of Cetinje. English embassy, equally elegant, built in 1912, is located in the neighborhood. Architecture Harty pictured it as an English summer house. After World War II, this was a club named Workers in Culture and Public Sector which was a meeting place for intellectuals and artists from Cetinje. A library was set up in the English embassy during the 80s when I was a child. Nowadays, Music Academy is located there and its sounds of classical music refine the town.

Public institutions were built in Njegoševa Street between the wars (1918-1941) when Cetinje was administrative center of Zeta Banovina. Hipotekarna bank, design by architect Bogdan Nestorović, was built between 1934 and 1936 in spirit of eclecticism with impressive façade, high stone stairway and statues representing Montenegrin man and woman in national costumes. It was used as an administrative building for Electro industry Obod after the World War II. Today, it is used by the Ministry of Culture. French embassy is located here as well. It is a building in Art Nouveau style, covered with glass tiles. Most of these buildings and houses have, inevitably, changed their purposes. Delja, a character from Marko Špadijer’s novel Librarian, while walking down the Njegoševa Street to Tito Square says, “A stroll through Cetinje is like taking a walk between the movable walls of historic stage after a play. National drama costumes are preserved but the drama is not being played any more. Confusion took place, buildings which were built with one purpose were introduced with new contents…”

By losing the function of the Republic administrative center, many buildings were left without an adequate content and therefore were sentenced to decay in the postwar period. New buildings, such as SDK, Elektrona, Beka etc, were set up instead of worn out ones. There is a joke among people in Cetinje that says, “If King Nikola came to life, he would recognize every house”!

An apartment building in Cetinje reaches a more modern, European look and urban lifestyle. Multi-story houses were built due to lack of ground level commercial spaces in the main street. They were built by wealthier families, merchants and craftsmen. The upper part of Njegoševa Street represents town’s treasury with representative family homes built in celebration of jubilee in 1910 which marked the ‘childhood years’ of this town. Family house Đukanović was set up according to an engineer and house owner Marko Đukanović’s plan. The popular name for the house is Four Seasons thanks to concrete statues on the main façade because of which it seems like it was influenced by Parisian villas. Lepetić family home, later Crnogorska bank and Money Museum CBCG, was built at the end of the century by Miloš Lepetić, an affirmed craftsman, to be his home, under number 110. Vukotić family home (1910), was built according to Jovan Maguljani’s plan and represents the first building made of reinforced concrete in avant-garde cubist style.

Pharmacy with an authentic interior design is located in a typical multi-story apartment building. It was open for business in 1878 as the first public pharmacy in Montenegro. It had been privatized by Jovo Drač from Herceg Novi while its last owner, Krsto Matanović-Ćeklić later moved it to his own home in Njegoševa Street. Two craft shops were opened in leased private houses. The first shop with a sewing machine used for silk, gold and thread embroidery was opened by Risto Rundo, a representative of Singer Cooperation. This shop was the first of its kind in Montenegro. Maksimilijan de Mek was an investor in the second bookbinding school and shop (1904).

Cetinje has never been in a rush. While taking a walk, you come across beautiful, completely different street intersections. Royal part of Cetinje with Zmajeva Street is located at intersection of Njegoševa and Royal Street. Orlov krš hill together with a perfect cultural landscape is located at the end of Njegoševa Street. In the next street, Dečanska Street, one might notice a splendid landscape with Monastery and Tablja between the houses. Ivanbegova Street ends, as Paskal Delpeš, Danilo Kiš’s wife, said, “in rocks. Cetinje had its tenderness. Cetinje gentlemen are something special… Humble houses tailored by one’s measures.”

All streets lead to the promenade (Korzo). A walking rout is precisely determined, from Ruža’s stand to English embassy and back, in as many circles. The busiest hours are from 7 PM to 22 PM. If you had not gone along the street during the day or had not gone down to the market, you would have missed everything. Our grandmas furnished high windows with bunch of flowers, usually begonias, and beautiful pillows on which they leaned and observed strolls and happenings at the town’s backbone which was visited by everyone who thought highly of oneself.

History of the main street could be easily traced through photographs. Just like archaeologists, we can go through layers of different ages and emerge into the framework of former town’s life. Girls’ institute (1871) and inevitable Hotel Grand – Lokanda are the most frequent motives that attract photographers’ attention at the lower part of Njegoseva Street. A lot of photographs were made from the hotel upper stories. The street’s transformation is traced easily in photographs. The Hotel, historically known as “Lokanda”, was built in 1864 and it was the first hotel in Cetinje, with a restaurant and eight rooms (kamara). Later it was reconstructed and it changed its name to Grand hotel. Lokanda was not only a place to stay, it was much more than just a hotel. It was a meeting place of many well-known people, local and international, and it offered various fun and entertaining activities. Momo Kapor, in his novel Green Carpet of Montenegro, describes events in the hotel in 1976 when Osman Pasha and coronel Tomel played poker in a green salon. Snooker and chess were played here. Dances, costume and officers’ parties, New Year Eves, Montenegro pageants were organized as well… It was probably a hotel guest who sent the first postcard from Cetinje to the world in 1892, a display of Cetinje by Křižek. USA diplomatic mission was located in Lokanda hotel in the first decade of 20th century. The building was destroyed in 1979 earthquake.

Several photo studios were opened in my street. A court photographer Đorđe Đorđević opened one in 1905 in a house number 88. Lovćen Studio was opened by Marko Vujović in 1917 in a house number 90. Studios by Branko Martinović and Tonći Krstićević, on the other side of Njegoševa Street, were opened in the third decade of 20th century together with a few other photo studios in other streets that intersect Njegoševa Street. Emancipated bourgeoisie, court men, foreigners and country folk paraded in front of their camera lenses in luxurious studios furnished according to the latest European fashion. I have found their advertisements in old newspapers which I read in National library Njegoš in the upper part of the street in summer months when everything went to sleep in shades after lunch.

Many foreign photographers took photos of Njegoševa Street such as Rudolph Mosinger, Edith Durham, Clara Sipprell, Ljudevit Griesbach, František Krátký … Those photohraps were used as postcard templates by many significant postcard publishers such as: privileged bookstore P. M. Kaluđerović, N. G. Goulli, R. Biljanović, V. N. Martinović, N. Knežević, A. Rajnvajn i M. Vujović.

Postcard motifs were new buildings but also everyday life. A black and white postcard titled Cetinje: The main street leading to the new town; view from Balšića Pazar shows an ordinary day, a stray dog, walkers – some dressed in national costumes some in combination of national costume and everyday clothing, cobbled sidewalk with fine stones with channels, rain channels, houses furnished with flags. Only a photographer would pause the ordinary life of Njegoševa Street and attract attention of several grouped citizens and children who watched what was going on. Poles had already been placed for the purpose of street lights which came with the first power station in Montenegro in 1910. Town houses were gradually powered by electricity. Many visitors took records of this such as D. Conrad who said, “The entire town, especially during summer nights, was covered with happy colors of natural light and artificial lighting.” Numerous cafes, Gordić cinema, Imperial hotel, inns, summer music gardens and other contents gave Cetinje the look of a typical European city of that time. Today’s post office, located at the crossroad of Njegoševa Street and Pete Proleteske Brigade Street, is less visible now behind New York hotel building. The post office was built in the third decade of the previous century where the first cafe in Cetinje had been built in 1832. In more recent years, a side wing to the post office with mansard attic was built according to Vokota Vukotić’s project. The central part of Njegoševa Street was a place where main events took place and it was a subject of a collage futuristic postcard series of Monetnegro with added trams whose wires went to the sky, together with flying baloons, cars. Luckily, trams never went through this street. It remained a calm, pedestrian zone.

Photographs and postcards also show many funeral or wedding processions, long-lasting street works, repairs, diggings, upgrades. Namely, a water supply system was built in 1910 and the digging in Njegoševa Street took place in 1936. People in Cetinje say, “May you endure hardship just like streets in Cetinje” and this statement was true in the past just like it is true nowadays.

Well known painters, architects, historians, actors, opera singers and other artists and pioneers in different professions and crafts grew up with our street together with weirdoes, loners, important people but also those who were easily forgotten, who shortly participated in creation of town history and then suddenly vanished.

On their behalf, I feel like a guardian of Njegoševa Street, my address, and my Cetinje because living in Cetinje means to be forever sentenced for intimacy with history.