April 24, 2018 - The Moric family is the only certified manufacturer of organic olive oil in Montenegro. Tourist expert Dr. Ilija Moric and his family have developed a household where guests, coming mostly from cruise ships, are offered homemade specialties and an opportunity to experience Lustica and Boka through tradition – from the preserved agricultural landscapes to the details of vernacular architecture, valuable collections of useful items, and authentic stories about life in the village then and now. Caring about tradition is a pre-condition for further development; and by caring about it, we preserve our identity, the space, and us in that space. This kind of tourism provides opportunities for both the guests and the hosts to enjoy the overall experience, and this is what we call sustainable development. It is to be who you are, at your own place, proudly. Who will not admire you? Who will not come back or tell their friends to visit you as well?
The Moric family owns around 1000 olive trees on five hectares in a village called Tici in Lustica. The olive trees, which are about 300 years old, are now renewed with more trees. The new trees equally embrace the soil and the sun that feeds them in this area, which is recognized by international experts as extremely suitable for the growth of this sub-Mediterranean culture. The meadows are fenced with layered stone walls for the most valuable – the soil; the handful needed for the olive tree to fight with its roots against the stone foundation where it grows. Stone lace defines this area’s landscape, which has been cultivated for centuries by hard-working generations of Lustica inhabitants who understand and respect the region they live, create, and skillfully manage to tame it.
The landscape is a unique element as far as a touristic product and as an item in the sustainable development of agriculture in areas with micro-properties such as Lustica, said Moric, a professor at the Faculty of Tourism and Hotel Management in Kotor and an expert in rural tourism.
“The landscape is an irreplaceable element as a touristic product. Unfortunately, it is often neglected and taken for granted. Any postcard, promotional movie, or other materials used for promotions require a beautiful image. All tourists and each of us receive information visually. Therefore, in this sense, the landscape is irreplaceable. On the other hand, there is the issue of maintaining this landscape, and it is an especially cultural one which is the consequence of human labor. We are lucky that the natural landscape of Boka is breathtaking and attractive. However, except for the natural landscape, in the domain of culture and agriculture, we have few and even endangered structures."
In the area of Lustica, for example, we still have the preserved longitudinal stone trajectories of our stone walls. That is indeed fascinating, mainly from a technical aspect. We can only imagine the people who built these for hundreds of years, placing each stone with their hands restlessly and probably several times. The amount of energy invested is perhaps unthinkable for some of us. Therefore, this should be respected and not transformed in the sand by excavators, which was the case on a few occasions. On the other side, there are the olive trees. The joining of the layered stone walls and olive trees is remarkable, and this landscape is still preserved in a single part. Last year there were significant fires in Lustica, and these fires opened some paths which were overgrown with wood; with macchia standing in the way to its beauty. We saw paved roads we forgot about, some geometrically regular shaped stone walls. Unfortunately, the olive trees were neglected and some burnt down in the fire. Nevertheless, in the final overview, we can say that this fire created some new opportunities.
hope that the owners of the properties, considering that all these stone walls point out that they are privately owned, will decide to give these areas proper purpose. I hope they will not crush them into the sand. It would be essential to preserve those landscapes because they are not only necessary in the fight against corrosion and for agricultural purposes, but also for general social welfare. In this sense, we should all work and make our contributions. However, it is a fact that the agriculturists are the only ones to contribute, and the rest just use them. Additionally, there is no way to valorize these landscapes for promotional and other purposes, which would help those who work and maintain them.
The population of this area is not aware of the values it inherited. Dr. Moric says we have missed out on a lot of chances and that we've made a lot of mistakes in the growing process but also gained new opportunities which we must recognize and use. “Some trains have already passed by and some are yet to come. Only one thing is for sure – success depends solely upon ourselves and knowing the value of what we own. And that is, indeed, a considerable value."
Some of us, even the majority, recognize this, but a systematic approach is needed. We, as individual olive growers or agriculture manufacturers, make our contributions but that is not enough to valorize this landscape and to be recognized like the fields of lavender in Provence or other regions in Europe and the world. These are the goals that need to be recognized and dealt with on the national level. This can be done either by protective or stimulating measures, but generally, it needs to be wrapped and branded. In this ”package”, adequate marketing techniques should be applied, as well as to include material and immaterial elements into the story. This is not a difficult job but purely a technical thing that can be realized in a short period and promoted on the national level. The landscape of Lustica, Boka and the whole Montenegro is varied; therefore, a lot of photo albums, collections, and booklets could be made which is simply fascinating. I am surprised that no one engaged in the development of tourism and other business activities in Montenegro has done this so far," said Ilija Moric.
Besides the layered stone walls as the most distinct segment of vernacular architecture, Ilija Moric emphasizes other examples of construction which fascinate with precise technical solutions even today.
“We have a great tradition in construction. For instance, I was always fascinated by the vaults in the stone walls which stand to this day despite gravity. Later on, binding materials were used, mixtures with red soil, and then mortar. But today, there are also vaults built several centuries ago which endure and testify the extraordinary skills by local artisans who were mostly illiterate, and who never went to school some 200, 300 or 400 years ago. Nevertheless, from these objects, we can get an idea of their intelligence and skills – they taught with their heads and worked with their hands. This gene, as recognized by the locals, is not lost but only well hidden. As soon as you start doing something with stone, you realize this skill in you. However, the youngsters do not have an opportunity to see that perhaps they already know something.
As far as the other objects are concerned, even today there are threshing floors preserved in most of the villages in Lustica. These have a beautiful function in a touristic sense – for gatherings, presentations, folklore and other shows. There is also another segment of vernacular architecture that we have unfortunately almost forgotten. These are the objects which were used for producing limestone. They were mostly built in groups. In Lustica we have several locations where these are grouped, usually in areas with significant quantities of stone. The stone was placed in a particular way and under it was a fire which would burn for days. Due to high temperatures, that stone would turn into lime - and the lime was irreplaceable in the construction of local architecture, houses and other objects. These two examples are my favorite, but there are also roads, paths, and wells.
Another fascinating example of local skills in stone construction is the various technical solutions of stairs in stone walls. In some places with just a pair of long stone blocks placed during the construction, there is a way to climb up a couple meters high stone wall with just a few steps. These fascinating solutions are highlighted even today, and they can be used to show that this area, in the sense of technical skills, people knew how to make it last forever – and these are all elements which are hundreds of years old,” pointed out Dr. Ilija Moric.
“Unfortunately, it was not possible to preserve everything. The time that passed by did not allow it, and money is the key to everything. However, we kept the most important one. We are very proud of the old mill and press which is entirely preserved, and therefore, the mill is operational. We occasionally organize processing in this mill, which is an amazing event. But, we have also preserved other items, utensils, various usable items from stone and wood. I think this is very important because it is, after all, our identity. I think that it is crucial to preserve our identity, because if we lose it, then nothing will help us, I am afraid. Unfortunately, we started losing it a few decades ago. However, there are initiatives and people who are persistent in their preservation, and I think we are making a small contribution. But, we should all individually ask ourselves and dedicate ourselves to preservation, because if it is left behind and forgotten, which often happens, or we trivialize either our materialistic or immaterialist wealth, we are in great danger. By doing this, we lose ourselves. And when we lose ourselves, everything else does not make any sense.”
The Moric family decided to dedicate its inheritance to the further development of tourism, which included the vision, mission and significant investments. They are especially proud about the new, modern mill which enables the anaerobic production of high-quality olive oil. The Moric family insists on the exclusivity of organically manufacturing olive oil, but also other products. Poor land limits the choice of horticultural elements for growth - and a big problem, for centuries now, is that Lustica does not have a water supply system. The rainwater is still collected in cisterns, and during the summer months, water is delivered by cisterns. Watering the garden will be a luxury; therefore Ilija’s mother Zorka decided to sow and plant early to yield enough before the hot summer weather. They also grow cabbage, potatoes onions, and fava beans - and even some fruits and thousands of olive trees. They have a few sheep and cows. A pig or two. Two female donkeys, Ruska and Miska. In the old olive grove "kamenjara", a type of Montenegrin small stone house which was once used as a shelter, you can find donkey stalls. Hens and rabbits are together in the yard with the ducks. The dog named 'Meda' is already hot, and frequently greets visitors in the garden.
In the garden terrace, there are net boxes for drying the famous cheese from Listica, which are also used for drying fish. In the wall, there is a door, and behind it a cistern, which is right beside the door of the tavern.
The tavern boasts an old stone mill, and on the walls of the kitchen, rags are embroidered by the hard-working hands of women from Lustica. There is a collection of valuable objects and old cupboards with souvenirs for visitors. There are wooden tables and benches, with only domestic food on the tables. And there are guests from all over the world who are curious to know all the details and familiarize themselves with the material and immaterial culture of this area. They are welcomed by the hosts, exhausted from labor, but satisfied. They are proud to show them where they are.