There is no smaller place, nor more history. These words are frequently used to describe Andrijevica, this little town located at the confluence of the River Zlorečica and the River Lim, surrounded by high mountains. It would not be so strange if Andrijevica were not in fact a small, relatively young town, which started to develop as an urban settlement in as late as 1853. Before that on the location of today’s town there was only a monastery, which was built in the 13th century by Duke Andrija of Zahumlje, the son of Miroslav, the Duke of Hum and the brother of Stefan Nemanja. The monastery was famous for its carving shop and scriptorium, which supplied all the monasteries in the neighbourhood with carved works. The church was named Andrijevna after its benefactor, and the little town which started to develop around it was named Andrijevica. With the arrival of the Ottoman Turks, the church was razed, demolished and rebuilt again countless times only to be totally destroyed during the invasion of Mehmet-Ali Pasha in 1877.
In the mid-19th century around the church a settlement started to develop and in 1878 Andrijevica became a military, administrative, political and commercial centre of northern Montenegro. In spite of this not much was built here – no monumental buildings were constructed, nor are there any magnificent bridges, towers or gates. There was no time for that. The warrior clan of Vasojević often rose up against the invaders: constant battles were fought at any place and at any time, therefore the settlements of Vasojević clan often were reduced to wasteland and rubble. The famous Russian scientist and writer Pavle Rovinski wrote: “War is an everyday event here, an integral part of life for the Montenegrins, an activity like any other. No one was excused from participating in war.”
Despite this, many architects of worldwide renown admired old Andrijevica, with its amazing street with adjoining beamed houses with wooden roofs. These are located on such a steep slope that when one looks at them from the bend in the road beneath the small town they look like a fairytale castle standing somewhere between the heavens and the earth.
In spite of constant upheaval, Andrijevica was one of the most important cultural centres in Montenegro. According to the population census of 1909, Andrijevica was, after Cetinje, the town with the largest number of literate people in the country proportional to the size of its population. 88 out of 100 men were literate in Andrijevica whereas in Cetinje 89 out of 100 men were literate; amongst the women 37 per 100 were literate here, while in Cetinje 39 women per 100 literate. That was contributed to the foundation of the first state school in the Vasojević Region in 1863 as well as many monasterybased schools which operated in the region of the River Tara Basin and the River Lim Basin where literacy was not a privilege of the monks only, but of the “ordinary” people as well.
Under the patronage of Grand Duke Mirko the first reading room in the north of Montenegro and the second in the country was founded in Andrijevica in 1892. On the very day of its foundation it enrolled 40 members, amongst whom were 12 illiterate people. Many prominent figures like Serdar Janko Vukotić, Gavro Vuković – the first Montenegrin Foreign Minister and the son of the famous voivode (duke) and senator Miljan Vukov and Russian scientist Pavle Rovinski as well as the first educated woman from the Vasojevići region, Anđelija Šoškić, were among the founders of the reading room which later grew into the library.
It is said that only in the night-time does real life start here. Therefore do not miss a visit to the town’s famous cafes and pubs, which are unusually numerous for such a little place. During this unparalleled experience you can find out what is new in the town, find someone to talk to about all the hot global issues, enjoy the kindness and hospitality of the locals, and of course try the famous šljivovica (plum brandy) of the Vasojević region. However, do not forget the main rule of thumb – opt for two or at most three pubs, since it is not recommended to visit all of the pubs of Andrijevica in one night only!