A village on the shores of Skadar Lake
Virpazar is a little fishermans village on the road from Podgorica towards the coast. It lies on the place where rivers Crmnica and Orahovštica meet and immediately flow into Skadar Lake.
During springtime the high levels of the water turn Virpazar into an island joined to the mainland by its three old stone bridges. The village is the center of Crmnica, a fertile region with a climate favourable for growing vine, olives and all kinds of fruits and vegetables. Virpazar is also the starting point for most boat excursions on Skadar Lake. The place of Vir was first mentioned in 1242 and it is quite possible that it was a small trading hub for the local villages even at the time. In the 15th century its strategic location was capitalized by the Turks who built the Besac castle which still stands above the village.
After the Turks were banished from the castle at the beginning of the 18th century the village became the most important trading point in Montenegro, visited by traders from Podgorica and Shkoder. Its role during this time left a permanent mark on Vir adding pazar (“marketplace”) to this name. It had a lively port and in 1908 was connected to Bar by a narrow-gauge railway, the first one in the country. Virpazar is also famous for the insurrection on the 13th of July 1941 when, upon hearing the news that the quislings and Italian occupiers have pronounced the “independence” of Montenegro, the men from local villages attacked the Italian garrison and liberated the town, starting and uprising against the Axis powers in Montenegro.
Virpazar is well connected to Podgorica with a highway and a railroad. If coming from the direction of Podgorica one should be very careful not to miss the sharp left turn leading to the village immediately after crossing the bridge. The houses of Virpazar are arranged in a circle with their fronts towards the wide town square and their rears to the water. In the middle of the tree-shaded square is a nice old drinking well, around it there are three restaurants and a tourist information point. On most days you will find people selling local products such as famous Crmnica wines and grape brandy Loza, but the best shopping day is Friday, the local market day. Across the old bridge leading southwards, on a top of a high rock stands a memorable monument of the 13th of July Uprising.
A short walk further along this road will lead you to a path uphill to the Besac Castle. This well-preserved fortification was built by the Turks in 1478. Between two world wars it was used as a police station and during the Italian occupation as their stronghold. Besac has lower outer walls sheltering a large courtyard and a citadel with a round tower on each of its four sides. It is possible to climb to its top, from where one can enjoy views of Virpazar and the surrounding marshy area.