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Architecture and Interior of Katuns

Katun huts in different parts of Montenegro were built in different ways, all depending on the environment and natural materials that are available in different areas. In the mountains such as Bjelasica and Komovi on Andrijevica side, where forests are abundant, they are made of wood. On Sinjajevina, Durmitor or Komovi on Podgorica side, on rocky mountains with no forests, the huts and all auxiliary buildings, even sheep pens, are made of stone. Common to them all is that in each case people used those materials that were available on site, and this is why, even though the huts are constructed by human hands, they look as continuation of the nature, they are so well adapted to the environment and do not stand out from the wild beauty that surrounds them.

Katun huts are usually small, with one room and small partitioned space that serves as a kitchen. Sometimes people build a small hut just next to the main one, which is used specifically for milk processing and storage of cheese and cream. Cabins are generally covered by cut timber, in past they used to be covered with straw and fir branches, while today some farmers use modern materials. The main huts generally have no floor, they are set up directly on the ground. It used to be because in the middle of the hut there was a fireplace with cauldron, but the custom of the no flooring held to this day. Women in katuns say that, although it sounds illogical, it is much easier to fight with the dust (and dust is very inconvenient during the process of making cheese and cream) when there is no floor at all than when you have wooden or concrete floor. It is interesting that the thresholds on doors are always high, likely that the animals would not enter, while the doorframe are very low, so you have to duck carefully while you enter the hut. None of the villagers know how to explain why this is so. The assumption is that this is because the openings in the huts should be as small as possible in order to better preserve the inside temperature. Probably for the same reason there are no windows on the huts, and it is usually quite dark inside.
The furniture in the huts is very simple – there are improvised wooden beds that are made of beams and planks, the old, traditional mattresses made of wool or straw, usually more mattresses than beds, in case the guests come. On the walls of the huts there are shelves, and they contain everything that is needed for several months long stay at the mountain – all dishes, pots and bowls with milk, groceries, candles and lanterns. An indispensable item in every cabin is a firewood stove, because it is used for heating – nights in the mountains are very cold even in summer, but also for food preparation and processing of milk – because there is no electricity. The most commonly used firewood stove is a so-called ciganac (a gypsy stove) , which looks like an improvisation, but warms up the space quickly, is excellent for baking and cooking, it is very easy to maintain and is very light so it can be easily moved around.

Next to katun huts there are numerous auxiliary buildings, all dedicated to cattle – pens, stables, pigsties, those miniature huts where shepherds sleep. Almost always there is a water spring somewhere near, and a large wooden trough where all the animals drink water. The entire atmosphere, with all these simple constructions, looks idyllic, serene and soothing. And to anyone who comes from outside it is evident at the first glance that katuns are truly authentic, a unique cultural treasure, an old and well-preserved tradition, the unique value that can rarely be found elsewhere in Europe. That is why tourists who return from Montenegro, in addition to photos of our beautiful mountains, usually publish photos of katuns, shepherds and their wives, and often write stories about katuns and famous hospitality of local farmers.