In Skadar Lake basin, there is Crmnica region, well-known for growing vine and homemade brandy and premium red wine “Vranac” for ages.
It is situated between Paštrovići and Skadar Lake, to the south surrounded by mountains Sutorman and Rumia. Crmnica is the richest area of Montenegro where, among other plants, different species of tropical fruit grow. It is known not only for vineyards and wormwood honey, but also for different types of cheese, especially for a rare and very healthy type – goat cheese. There are also paraffin oil wells in Crmnica.
Crmnica was first mentioned in The Annals of Priest Dukljanin in late XII century, where, in Latin reduction, Cermeniza was stated as a region of Zeta. In the XIII century it was densely settled and the Arbanasi (Albanians) also lived and worked there as shepherds. Prince-bishop Arsenije Plamenac, who ruled Montenegro from 1781-1784, also originated from this area.Crmnica villages are characterized by typical stone underpins and bounds that generate visual identity of streets and passages, as well as a specific stone thrashing floor. The hallmark of these houses is archways – arched half open room on the ground floor of a house, whose closed part is konoba (tavern). At some of the houses, small size openings are visible – loop-holes, as well as porteli – inner communication with konoba. Facades are hallmarked with panjege – niches in the wall for setting things aside. They are also present in the interior, most often in the area around fireplace.
The Village of Donji Brčeli is situated in Crmnica region, at the altitude of 300m. It has favourable position and infrastructure: it is 18km far away from the sea, 21km from Cetinje, 36km from Podgorica, so it connects continental and littoral zones. In the XV century, Jelena Balšić established a monastery there, which also comprises the Church of Saint Nicolas. It is not known when the church was demolished, but a new, bigger one was built on its foundations in the end of the 19th century, in prince Nikola’s time. Its interior is ornamented with the iconostasis of Vasilije Đinovski from 1910. It is believed that Stephen the Little, who ruled Montenegro from 1767 to 1773, enthroned, and later was murdered and buried there.
A little higher, there is the village of Gornji Brčeli, where, in the beginning of the XVIII century, prince-bishop Danilo founded Monastery Gornji Brčeli as his winter residence, known as ‘The Petrovićs Monastery’. Today, there is a women’s monastery with konaci (residences). It also possesses a collection of icons painted by the followers of Mount Athos iconography school. The iconostasis in the Church is a work of Petar Čolanović from 1928. About 50m away from the church, there is the house of Jovan Tomasevic, a founder of Communist Party of Montenegro. There is a legend that near the Monastery, St Petar Cetinjski planted a walnut tree which is dry until Trinity Day and sprouts after it.