Zelenika, Montenegro

The launch of Montenegro tourism happened in 1902 in Zelenika! First hotel on this part of the Mediterranean “On the Green Beach” (“Na zelenoj plaži”) hosted the rich and famous. All until 1968 Zelenika was the last stop for the narrow gauge railway line from Sarajevo.  

Zelenika got its name from a green bush Phulera latifolia that decorated the village all the way to the beach. Located only 4 kilometers from Herceg Novi on the road to Kotor, but because of the hill Lalovina, it was always detached from the nucleus Igalo-Herceg Novi-Meljine. Unfortunately, Zelenika does not have its official souvenir but it has an official story about the history of tourism. 

More interesting is the fact that the first hotel open for tourists was not in Herceg Novi (the largest town on the west of the Bay of Kotor, Boka Kotorska) but in Zelenika small village over the hill. The building “Room and Board on the Green Beach” (“Pansion na zelenoj plaži”), today in terrible shape, was the first hotel in Montenegro! 

In 1896 Antal Mađar, the founder of Montenegro tourism came from Budapest to Zelenika. Six years later in 1902, Antal opened the “Room and Board” hotel on the green beach with capacity: 50 beads, 5 apartments, and 3 dependencies. This was the first capital investment on the South Adriatic coastline. When in 1905, hotel in Hvar, Croatia opened for business the hotel in Zelenika was well known as the “winter residence and sea swimming-beach”. 

Just a year earlier in 1901, the narrow gouge railway from Sarajevo was finished and the last station was Zelenika.

Old photographs from the beginning of the 20th-century show swimmers dressed in bathing suits enjoying the beach just a few meters from the railroad. 

Man with a vision Antal Mađar made an effort not only to promote his hotel but the whole area. Looking up to other tourist centers at that time and parks in Italy, Germany, Austria, and Swaziland, Antal started to plan his own exotic park with imported plants. He brought to the Montenegro coast the popular palm tree Phoenix chanariensis.

Care over the hotel continues his son Antal, who at this time has representatives and tourist offices in Prague and Budapest. The hotel staff came from the best schools in Marseille, Paris, and New York and spoke 5 to 6 languages. He also expanded the tourist “sun and beach” offer by introducing different excursions like sailing and hiking to the mountains Orijen and Subra. 

During the First and Second World War, the hotel was commandeered, and for that, changed owners and managers. Unfortunately, all the owners after the first lacked the will to care about the hotel and the brand “On the Green Beach”.

Among many that visited and stayed at this hotel, here are some names that no doubt would give a good reference to any hotel even today, Montenegro King Nikola I Petrović, Serbian king Petar I Karađorđević, Bulgarian king Ferdinand I Koburg, and Albanian king Ahmet Zogu.

Though local tourist workers give an effort to present Zelenika as a good tourist location it will never live up to the glory it had when the hotel “On the Green Beach” was run by the Mađar family. 

Today Zelenika is mostly a customs harbor town with almost no reminder of its recent past except a small railway metal bridge with wooden sleep used in 1968 for the last time.

Zelenika consists of surrounding communities. The best way to visit is to take one of several narrow roads leading from the main road and drive into the Zelenika plane towards Kuti. This is not only the most fertile area in the Bay (after the Grbalj plane near Tivat, Montenegro) but has a number of sacramental monuments.

First mentioned in 1450 during the rule of the Kosaća family (Herceg Stjepan Vukšića Kosaće), in 1878 the community Kuti had a Serbian public school educating pupils from all the neighboring villages. At that time, the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska) was under Austrian rule.  

The church Sv. Andrija is from the 15th century but finished in the 18th c. The iconostasis is the work of Hristofora Rafailovića and the church bell is from 1777. Most treasured is the Christ's sroud, sanctified in the monastery Stanjevići by the bishop Vasilije Petrović in 1764. 

Church Sv. Jovan demolished in the 17th century by the Turks so there are no written documents about it but there is common knowledge that it was built by Herceg Stefan. 

Church Sv. Gospođe is the oldest in Kuti, from the 11th century. It is also a graveyard for 300 soldiers from Montenegro and Herzegovina fallen in the great battle against the Turks for the liberation of Herceg Novi in 1687. 

On two stećak medieval tombstones found at the church St. Đorđe from the 16th c. have the celestial body incurved. 

Both churches Sv. Ilija and Sv. Spas are today only fragments with several preserved medieval graveyards. 

The iconostasis in the church Sv. Trojice is from 1756 made in the classic Byzantine style. In the community Presjeka, not far from Kuti is the church Sv. Toma from the 11th century, unfortunately like many other in fragments.  

In July 1901, a locomotive whistle announced a new era in the Bay of Kotor (Boka Kotorska). The locomotive was from the batch BHStB IIIa5 followed by a ceremonial train equipped with the latest fashion in railway travel (comfortable railway coaches and lounge cars) carried top Austrian Railway officials. That first whistle, the miracle of technology and transport meant progress, travel, and most important tourism. The route Sarajevo – Zelenika was 156 kilometers long. The tracks in the Bay were 11 kilometers long with stations in Sutorina, Igalo, Herceg Novi, and Zelenika. 

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