From the Love to the Skadar Lake
„From the Love to the Skadar Lake” is a story that is based upon one of the many myths that follows the formation of the biggest lake in Southern Europe. Through showcasing this tale of two people in love and their relation to this myth, this project speaks about history, culture and tradition of this regions and reveals a magic of the lake origins.
Once upon a time, at the village Godinje, there was a great love story. A young couple lived in a small house, on a rocky hill, just above the local river. It was a time of kings and fairies, creatures, and witches.
The couple lived simply. They had a goat, small vineyard, and a boat. Everything that was to do, they did together. Making wine, cheese, and going fishing for carp and eel, or just enjoying their time in captivating nature, watching and counting birds, cormorants, pelicans, cranes and hawks. The birds were making much needed break in the river and surrounding bushes, on their way to the North. Every morning the couple would throw their fishing nets, and collect them in the evening. Sometimes, the nets would be full, even the hawk would get a free sample, and the other times not so much. In any way, they learned these are the ways the nature and Gods work. They were happy with what they got.
On early Saturday mornings they would pack their catch and take it to the market at Virpazar. The market wasn’t too far away, but the road was inaccessible, curvy and rocky. Often they had to prepare the night before, and leave before the sunrise. The route was an adventure by itself. The start was the most difficult one. They had to navigate up over a narrow goat trail, while it was still dark, to get on a wider regional road. The road was wider but not easy. The part of this road led over a cliff and down to the old mill. This steep part of the road they would pass holding thigh to each other. Truth being told, he was scared more that she was. He was afraid of heights. The mill was a place for rest.
The market was rich for that era. People came from all over the area to sell and exchange their goods. Besides being place to share information and organize meetings and hangouts, people would trade the fish for new fishing nets made by silk cultivated locally for that purpose, or linen sheets that came by boats and horses all the way from Venetian Republic. Also, Saturday market mornings were place to see the latest fashion and gossip.
One day the king came to their village, to collect soldiers for his military campaign. The young man had to leave home and wife. The couple was divided! Next five years were the toughest in their life.
Even though he respected his lord, he didn’t need new lands somewhere away from his house. He had everything he needed in Godinje. Now, he was away, fighting for his life, more than for a land. During short breaks between advances and retreats and battles, he would steal couple of moments to write a letter to his beloved wife. He would write how much he missed her and their house and their boat and river. There was a river in the area where he was stationed, but of course, it wasn’t the same as one at home. Its color was brown, thicker and muddy. Occasional fish that he would catch didn’t taste as one at home. It looked different too. Birds didn’t come at all.
She stayed in the household, doing everything that she could to maintain it and prayed the husband will one day return. Days were long for both. A rare letter would make things easier for a moment. She learned how to throw fishnets by herself; which fish to keep and which fish she should release. With every fish returned she wished her husband came back. She started her own culture of silkworms and weaved and repaired nets herself. The only company she had were those same birds that she knew by name. Long hours in the vineyard or in the boat she spent talking to the animals and plants around her.
One evening, while she was rowing toward the spot with the nets, big carp fish came close to the side of her boat. The fish called her by the name and said that the nets are full, but fish are all young and small, with the whole fish life in front of them. She taught “this is my life, but I should let them go.” Our heroine believed, turned her boat, and rowed back to the shore.
Whole night she didn’t have a moment of piece. In one hand, she thought she made a good decision, and in other she was ready to go back to pick up her nets. She made those nets, and she knew how much work she had to put in. Those fishnets were source of life for her. But, it was already late. A mystic fog covered the water, and she knew that even if she wanted to go back now, she couldn’t. Desperate and sad, she stayed and decided she will do some house work and not think whether the conversation with the fish actually happened or not; or did the fish said the truth about the nets.
Sometimes in the middle of the night, there was a squeaking sound in yard. She opened the door, sure enough, he, her husband stood in front of her. She thrown herself around his neck and hugged him endlessly. She instantly forgot about the nets, conversation with big fish, and what she was doing at the moment. Little after, when they came inside, she came back to the sink where water was still running from. She punched the handle to close the sink, and her gaze froze through the window. Their river looked more like a lake now. Surprised, two of them run to their boat. And surely, there was a lake. Silently, the same big fish swum close to the shore. They looked in disbelieve, when the fish sad: “This is for your kindness all these years. Thank you for saving my shoal of fish. Now, there will be much more space and life for all of us.”
This is a story about Skadar Lake, people, legends, facts, customs, and lives around the lake. This lake is the biggest in the Southern Europe. It is divided between Montenegro and Albania. It is rich with animal and plant life and it is a source of life for the people whom are living around it. Trouts and carps still live in these waters, and birds made permanent habitats.
On its shores there are a lot of beautiful villages. One those villages is Godinje, the vilage where our story is placed. Its geographical location and wild beauty was always interesting to others, whether they came as tourists or explorers. A lot of myths, legends and stories shaped the history of those places and formation of Lake Skadar.
There live people who remember these times through stories of their ancestors. They are willing to tell their story, in pictures and words. Sometimes you can learn a lot by listening to the stories of locals, their ancestors and people who know culture and tradition of the area. Those stories wake your imagination, and let you shape the history in your own way. That is very important, because you are not only learning the facts that are usually very predictive and exact, but you are inspired you to visualize the scenes that aren’t just realistic. That way you wakes your creativity and imagination.
So, that unpredicted side of history of the Lake and its villages, through myths and legends, has universal language that can communicate through whole continent and wider. Everybody understands love, passion, kindness and humanity. Those symbols are unique. Speaking that kind of language, we create a common world, that can get people closer to each other and make them more connected. While exploring the past we explore and learn about all the influences and cultures of whole Europe.
The nature became richer over the time, but humans changed. Today this legend would be les noble, and fare. It would include electric generators, spilled oil, dynamites, guns, and everything that can break the nature and its fairytale, for quick and easy hunt and the love for profit. In this kind of environment there will hardly be “a once upon a time love story”... and as a consequence, no Skadar Lake.