This is a mountain town, in a high patch of somewhat flat land just behind the precipitous rock wall that plunges to the sea. It's not a big place - there are just a few houses in a clump, surrounded by close-cropped fields and rough stone. But this is the heart of Montenegrin food, a place where hundreds of ham hocks and cheese rinds sit in cool cellars, safe from the summer heat. The local pršut (which others might call prosciutto) and semi-hard cheese are gustatory experiences, the point of food travel in Montenegro.
we've seen before in Croatia; bureks, which every Balkan country eats; roasted octopus; cuttlefish risotto; lamb; ajvar, which is also popular in Macedonia and Serbia; and cured meats and cheeses. Cured meats and cheese shouldn't be considered a Montenegrin specialty - more a European specialty in general. But the pride that this country takes in Njeguši's products is immense.
The town itself is a pretty, high-up place in a mountain bowl. Around it is the protected wilderness of Lovćen National Park, where cattle roam the steep slopes and wildflowers peek out from crags. The road up from the coast is a long tangle of switchbacks and hairpins, with views down over the bay and out to the Adriatic. It's a narrow lane - not really wide enough for two-way traffic. There's lots of backing up and careful maneuvering, lots of cars stopped to take pictures, frustrated truck drivers.
Driving in Njeguši is like a slow trip through a specialty foods store. Signs at every house point to cheese and pršut, honey and rakija. Men and women sit outside, in what shade they can find, and wave invitingly at passing tourists. There are a few restaurants dishing up heavy, mountain food - lamb is popular - and lots of parked cars with foreign plates.
Montenegrin food is much like other cuisines in that the country's chefs love to stuff and smother dishes with cheese and ham. On menus, one might find that the english translation for a specialty is such-and-such "cordon bleu," while the Montenegrin title calls the same thing "Njeguški." Even if the cheese and ham is from the supermarket, the preparation and the sentiment is from the mountains.
There is a story, perhaps untrue, about a famous sculptor who, in the 1950's, was commissioned to create some sculptures for Lovćen National Park. Passing Njeguši on his way up and down from the site, he fell in love with the town and its flavors. When he negotiated his payment with the government, he asked not to be paid in money - but in Njeguški pršut and sir.