Podogrocia (pronounce the c as ts) is probably the most exotic stop on our 2017 Balkan Tour. We went there so we could take the train from Montenegro to Belgrade in Serbia. This train journey is often cited as one of the prettiest in the world.
“While not a typical European eye candy, the city is definitely worth visiting, owing to its interesting mix of old and new, its café culture and nightlife, and its laid back Mediterranean atmosphere”, says Wikitravel. Well, uhm, no.
In Podgorica we stayed at Hotel Ziya. From the outside, the hotel looks like a large villa. Inside the hotel is Balkan chic, a bit over the top to our Western state. Great facilities. Large breakfast. I think we were alone in the hotel. Or almost alone.
Ziya felt like the owners and managers had looked at other luxury hotels and transplanted these ideas to their hotel. It was all okay. But it felt surreal. Probably because we were alone.
Who let the dogs out?
We had one full day in Podgorica. We started with a visit to the railway station. Because I needed tickets. The walk to to the station was not a pleasant one. We were stalked by a stray dog and the city looked like it hadn’t changed since its Titograd (1946 – 1992) period in former Yugoslavia.
The area between the station and the Old Turkish Town is sea of grey, concrete buildings. Sorry. The colour you see come from the tracksuits the Balkan guys wear. I felt so overdressed in my jeans.
From old to new
We also explored the Old Turkish Town on our way to the New Town. We crossed the Morača River and passed the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ.
Behind, Podgorica is another world. Hypermodern, cafés, businesses, the university. Such a contrast.
One of the aspects of Podgorica I remember, is the amount of European Union-flags. Montenegro is not part of the EU. But Montenegro is a part of the Council of Europe, which has the same flag as the EU.
Meat, meat, more meat!
I always insist of having at least one meal per day consisting of local dishes. I failed during my Baltic cruise, but I stand by the principle.
Pod Volat certainly filled that bill. We were crazy but ordered the ‘large plate Pod Volat’ consisting of 1,4 kilos of meat. We stuffed ourselves and I think together we ate almost half the plate.
After lunch we felt we had seen what’s there to see so we headed back to the hotel for some pool and bath time.
So should you go? Only if you’re into peculiar destinations. Don’t expect the ‘Montenegro’ of James Bond‘s ‘Casino Royale‘. That was shot in Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. But Podgorica is still a special place where you can see a community shedding its olds skin and becoming a modern hub.