The Besac Fort Dog

Virpasar is a village by Skadar Lake. The favourite pastime here is a boat trip to see some of the 270 species of bird who live on and around the lake. My recommendation is to walk over the bridge and take the road that runs behind the Hotel Vir. After about five minutes of uphill there’s a sign to the right saying ‘Besac’ indicating the 15th-Century fortification being restored with the help of EU funding even though Montenegro is not part of the EU. I was assured by the advertising at the entrance the 1 Euro entrance fee helps the restoration too. For this small  amount, the visitor will see wonderful views of the lake with reedbeds in the foreground and the mountains of Albania in the background. The fortification itself, built by the Turks in 1478, is tiny, with one central watchtower situated within the outer walls. There’s a circular staircase, made from metal and wood, which leads to the top of the tower.

The gatekeeper owns a small dog, which is the same chalky colour as the fort. The fort dog runs around enthusiastically and wags its tail at visitors, who were mainly young couples taking photos of each other draped over the outer walls. Most of the houses in the village had rooms for rent and there was no shortage of options for food. Two large restaurants had open-air areas with around a dozen tables in each where diners could choose from international dishes such as pasta and pizza or more ethnic choices such as sausages or meatballs as well as sampling the palatable local red wines.

Other sights in Virpsar included a massive pile of freshly chopped firewood six feet high and roughly twenty-five feet long under a wooden awning. There was a hideous, Stalinist war memorial on a pile of stones that I believe commemorated the insurrection in the town on the 13th of July 1941. Local men heard news that the quislings and Italian occupiers had pronounced the “independence” of Montenegro, and attacked the Italian garrison and liberated the town, starting an uprising against the Axis powers in Montenegro.  

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