Only 20 km away from Ulcinj in the direction of Skadar, is the former town of Svač. This attractive locality above the lake itself is located in the center of the Ana Malit area, and for the locals of this area it represents their main cultural heritage, a reference point that best describes the local identity. The whole area is characterized by rich flora and fauna and beautiful rural landscapes. Every village in this area is rich in old stone houses, mills and cobbled roads that were used by the population until today.
This attractive archaeological site is located above the beautiful Šasko Lake, in the center of the Anamal area. According to historical documents, the town of Svač has been mentioned since the 8th century. However, according to the data obtained during the archeological research done here in the 80's, it has been determined that life here has been going on since the Neolithic, Eneolithic, Bronze, Iron, Ancient, Late Antique, Middle Ages until the modern age. According to archaeological research, in prehistory there was a fortification on the top of the hill - an Illyrian fortification with large stone blocks. Having in mind the good position, the city took the identity of a coastal medieval town similar to those in Dalmatia and beyond. The area of Anamal provided good conditions for agriculture, while Šasko Lake supplied it with fish. The Bojana River, which is navigable all the way to the vicinity of Skadar, was the main artery for communications and trade in all historical periods, from the Illyrians until 1948, when it became a border zone. Now only small fishing boats and sports recreational canoes can sail on this river.
The town of Svač, located at the top of the ridge, had its suburbs on the south side towards the lake and on the north side on the plateau towards today's village, where you can see from all sides numerous ruins of churches and other buildings.
It is believed that the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in the VI century turned this settlement into an organized urban whole, where even today you can see the remains of the entrance and defensive walls on top of the hill. As a city, it was located in a very good strategic position between three famous cities: Skadar, Ulcinj and Bar.
After the 7th century, when the Avars and Slavs invaded the Balkans, the wider area of Skadar Lake became insecure, until they returned to Byzantine rule in the 9th century.
With the beginning of Christianity, this area was connected with the Romanesque church, with their centers in Skadar and in Justinian Prima until the period when it entered the jurisdiction of Durres. With the founding of the new archbishopric in Bar in 1089, this area came under the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Bar. According to the data, the process of Islamization of the population of the Anamal area began in the 17th century.
Svač is mentioned in the bull of Pope Alexander II as an episcopal city. It was destroyed twice, the first time by Stefan Nemanja in 1183, and the second time during the Mongol campaign in 1242. Life was renewed quickly and the city was strengthening economically. In the 14th century, the city had its own statute similar to the autonomous cities in Dalmatia. He minted his money as a currency for his own needs in the 14th and 15th centuries.
According to the legend described by Justinian from Genoa in 1533, which is still told among the local population, it is stated that there were as many churches in Svač as there are days in a year, so 365. He wanted to point out the great value of this city from past, given that today in the ruins are the remains of 15 churches.
During the second half of the 14th and the beginning of the 15th century, the town was ruled by the famous local feudal family Balšić, after which the town passed into the hands of the Venetian Republic, but now it lost its splendor and power it had in previous centuries and gradually transformed into a village. This trend continued during the Ottoman conquests and the economic crisis of that century. During the Ottoman Empire during the visit of the priest Bici in 1610, this small settlement had only 80 houses, while a century and a half later, during Bolica, it had only 50 houses.
In 1777, Svač was just a small parish that included the surrounding villages, and life continued outside the city walls.
During modern times, the site was visited by various travel writers and researchers and thus became known beyond the borders of today's Montenegro.
What’s to be seen here
St. Mary's Cathedral
On the left side of the plateau, to the east, stands the dominant Cathedral of St. Mary (Shën Mërisë), which is also the most beautiful building of Svač. It was probably built at the beginning of the 14th century and was in the service of the Franciscans, who had a great religious influence at that time. It was built in the Gothic architectural style with Romanesque elements. Its height and gothic windows are characteristic, as well as the lintel which is stylized with animal heads on the profile. This monumental building was completely preserved until the devastating earthquake in 1979, when a large part of it was destroyed. Next to this cathedral on the south and west side are the ruins of other churches of which only the walls are visible, and were most likely surrounded by tombs..
West side of the plateau
On the west side of the plateau there are a couple of chapels, a basilica church, and, most interestingly, there is a building reminiscent of a gate with a chapel above it, whose construction began in the VI century and the whole was frescoed in a similar building tradition. recognized in the wider coastal region. Next to it, a few meters away, is a huge border, built into a dry stone wall, which was most likely the base of the palisade wall, which closed a large part of the lower town. It is assumed that the wall was built in the function of protecting a church or other important building.
At the most protruding place of the city, the acropolis, high defensive walls are visible. The entrance to the fortress dates from the VI century and next to it is the Cathedral Church of St. John the Baptist (Shën Gjon Pagëzuesit). It was built in 1300 in the Romanesque style, and it is interesting that it leans against the defensive wall on the north side. A bell tower was erected above the apse. During the last archeological research, it was discovered that the cathedral was built on the foundations of an even older church. The presence of numerous graves has been established inside the cathedral. It seems that, in the period after the 19th century, when the church was no longer in function, burials began within its surface because it was considered a holy place.
From this point to the north, the whole area of Anamalija can be observed all the way to the top of Rumija. And also at 30m further we come to a panoramic point from which the view spreads to the beautiful Šasko Lake, Briska gora, and from the east side towards the river Bojana you can see the villages in Albania.
Šasko Lake is located below the Svač Fortress and is the second largest natural lake in Montenegro with an area of about 4 km2. The lake is about 3m deep. The greatest measured depth of the lake is 8 meters near the underwater spring Begovo oko, which is one of the main sources of water that fills Šasko Lake, but also a place where fish gather during the winter for spawning. The lake also received water from the Medjurečka river and overflow waters across the Bojana. It is the second biggest cryptodepression in Montenegro. Arriving on the shores of Lake Shasko, you can feel the peace and quiet and prepare your senses to enjoy the biodiversity that characterizes this area. There is a legend that the locals hid the golden cradle at the bottom of the lake, and also that fairies live in the caves around Svač.
The lake is mostly surrounded by reeds and sedges and is not easily accessible from the shore, so it is best to get to know its beauties from the water. Restaurant Shasi, located on the shores of the lake, in addition to gastronomic specialties with local food prepared in the traditional way, offers guests a number of opportunities for a pleasant stay in this area. Riding on a custom platform on the lake, with the possibility of swimming in the clear water of the lake is an option that we recommend as the best way for visitors to get acquainted with the values of this future protected area.
On the very border with Albania, above the bank of the river Bojana, rises the hill Fraskanjel, where a military watchtower can be seen from a far. From this position, there is an exceptional view from all sides. On the south side where you can see the Adriatic Sea into which the river Bojana flows, as well as the surrounding villages of Sv. Đorđe, Sv. Nikola and Štoj on the Montenegrin side, and the villages of Luarza and Pulaj can be seen on the Albanian side.
From the west, you can see the entire Anamal area with Šasko Lake, while to the north you can see the Tarabosh hill with antennas at the top and all the way to the town of Skadar, where the river Bojana flows from Skadar Lake. From the east, you can see the whole area of Zadar, the villages of Pentar, Dajč and Širđ, and the hill Belaj, which is located on the other side of the river.
According to historical data, on the hill Fraskanjel and the hill Belaj, which is located opposite Fraskanjel on the other side of the river, there was one fortress in the Middle Ages. From this point, the access of ships to Skadar could be controlled, and thus the traffic was controlled. These fortifications were used to block Bojana during the wars as well. In a similar way, Bojana was blocked during the war between the Venetians and the Ottomans in 1479e.
According to one legend, two Albanian aristocratic families built two fortresses here in order to pay tribute to everyone who sailed here. They blocked the access by making huge chains that climbed on both sides of the shore.
Every year in May, a local festival "Pranvera në Anë të Malit" is organized here, through which tourists can get acquainted in the best way with the ethno culture of the area, and with a special music program it is possible to taste traditional cuisine of local households.