Not far from Virpazar and near to the village Godinje, the ruined walls of fortress Grmozur rise from the waters of Skadar Lake. The abandoned fortification is known as Montenegrin Alcatraz as it was a former jail in the time of King Nikola. The locals called it - Island of Snakes.
The island of Grmozur has another, much more beautiful name - Island of Birds. The island is a permanent habitat for certain bird species, and for some of them it is a temporary retreat during their migration from central and northern Europe to Africa.
Grmozur has been built in the XIX century as a Turkish fortress and a few years later it was conquered by the Montenegrins who turned it into a prison. It was the first prison in this area with their own rules and most of the prisoners were convicted of serious crimes. The escape from the jail was impossible. Convicts were mostly non-swimmers and the guards did not have boats, which certainly prevented any attempts by the prisoners to get to the coast. In case of escape of the prisoner, the responsible guard had to take over his place and serve his sentence. However, one prisoner still managed to escape from jail by using the prison gate as a raft.
From the beginning of the XX century, political prisoners started serving their sentences on the island, too. Among them were the Belgrade students sentenced for attempted assassination of King Nikola. During the Balkan Wars the prison was moved to Podgorica.
In the earthquake that hit the Skadar lake area in 1905, the fortification was significantly damaged and has not been renovated since. Anyway, it is still worth visiting and it's one of the main attractions in this part of the Skadar lake.
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