I’m going to apologise retrospectively and in advance as the undertone of my last few blog posts have been that of Covid causing all sorts of issues for travel.
Montenegro was another casualty of mine. I wanted to go here in March of 202 and I had so much planned in for the 10 days I wanted to be here.
I was going to go to Budva, Kotor and also do tours to Tirana, Albania; Mostar, Bosnia; Kosovo. Sadly they didn’t go ahead. I was starting to think I would never get to Montenegro. Even when travel was allowed again, Montenegro was on the UK red list which meant managed hotel quarantine and it wasn’t worth it for 2 nights away.
I was a bit cheeky anyway and bought the flights. They were only £7.99 each way. I wouldn’t have really lost out had it not come off the red list. I held off buying train tickets until I knew for sure it would be off the list. Lo and behold, it came off the red list and I was super excited about the trip.
It was a Sunday evening flight which I didn’t mind at all. The only bit I did mind was that it was a rail replacement bus from Peterborough to Ely and then the train. The bus took almost 2 hours (it made 2 extra stops) and the whole time I was desperate for the loo.
I finally got to the airport and it was fairly quick and straight forward through security and into the departure lounge and my trusty BK visit.
The flight was pretty uneventful (minus the 10 minute nosebleed I had in the plane toilet). The fun bit was getting through the border in Podgorica and then meeting my ride to the hostel. This was the best bit since I didn’t know what they looked like and had no means of communication as I couldn’t use my mobile data there.
I got to the hostel and checked in and asked for some recommendations of things to do and for the hostel to have a quick once over the list I had put together. I did that and it was finally bed time. I was so ready for a sleep that’s for sure – especially since I wanted to make the most of the day tomorrow.
I just want to write a bit about Montenegro before talking about my day.
The country and cities are really small. It is 5,333 square miles total and has a population of just over 600,000.
The capital – Podgorica – is only 42 square miles (with the metropolitan area being 556 square miles [roughly 10% of the total area])
The population of Podgorica is 150,977 (with the metropolitan area having 185,915 – the rest live in rural Podgorica).
Podgorica was founded in 1326 and was called such until 1946. From 1946 until 1992 the city was renamed Titograd in honour of Josep Broz Tito. He was the former lifetime president of Yugoslavia. I’m old enough to remember this and also remember when Yugoslavia was a country.
Montenegran history has it ruled by Romans, Ottomans, Communist Yugoslavia, Socialist Yugoslavia.
In 2003, it was known as Serbia and Montenegro.
In 2006 it gained its independence and became known as Montenegro.
It has had several names in its history too.
– 1053: Montenegro (or the native name being Crna Gora)
– 1943: Federal State of Montenegro
– 1945: People’s Republic of Montenegro
– 1963: Socialist Republic of Montenegro
– 1992: Republic of Montenegro
– 2007: Montenegro
The area was heavily bombed during World War II and was also a major part of the Balkan Wars of 1912/1913 and again in 1913.
They were also part of the 1990’s Yugoslav Wars.
You will see in the post that the names of places are in Serbian Cyrillic and Serbian Latin. They use a form of Serbian in Montenegro and there is a mix and match of Latin and Cyrillic alphabets in use.
As I had only one day here, I wanted to see and do as much as possible. I had my trusty list and recommendations from the hostel and set out on my way.
Today was a walking only day (the city is so small that it warrants it). I was told that locals don’t really use public transport and that was shown by the lack of buses and not many people on them or at bus stops.
I started the walk to the city from the hostel. As the hostel was on the outskirts of the city, the walk there was plain and uneventful. I tried to walk it as fast as possible to ensure I had adequate time to see the things on my list.
A similar picture to the one below (this is one I took) is the one that got me hooked on Podgorica back in 2020.
As soon as I saw this picture I wanted to go to Podgorica. I had a look at the map and had a look around and it looked pretty cool in that area. It is the oldest part of the city.
My first stop on the way to the city was to see Црква Светог Ђорђа / Crkva Svetog Đorđa. It is the oldest church in Montenegro and sits at the base of Gorica Hill. The hill that gave the city its name. Podgorica translates to “Area Below Gorica”. The church lends itself for some good pictures inside and out. I really enjoyed seeing it. It was strange to see the oldest religious building in the country. The church inside is really nice too. They have old fresco’s on show. My mind couldn’t begin to wonder how old they actually were.
My main aim once I was in the main part of the city was to find wifi so I could get an updated map. After that it was breakfast and then to the souvenir store so I could concentrate the rest of my time on the sights. I pretty much stuck to my plan and was quite impressed with myself.
As I was walking around, I kept seeing “Варвари 1987” everywhere. My mind immediately thought it had something to do with the precursor to the fall of communism. I was quite wrong as I later found out. It is simply Serbian for Barbarians. This is the fan base of the local football club and it was founded in 1987. Below are a couple of pictures showing this graffiti. The emblems for the fan base are Hägar and Helga the Vikings from the Hägar the Horrible comic strip. Allegedly this describes the fan base quite well (according to some locals).
Once I had done my souvenir shopping I had a look at the map and quickly plotted out a route in my head that I wanted to loosely follow that would allow me to take in all the sights I could and without backtracking on myself so I could be more efficient with my time (though, not always the case… more to follow).
As I was walking to the souvenir store I came across the Сахат Кула / Sahat Kula that has been there since the Ottoman times and one of the few Ottoman structures to survive the bombing in World War II. The tower was built in 1667 and stands 19 metres tall.
By the way, you can see the pictures from the important sights in the gallery below.
I decided that I would walk around the old streets here to see what was around. I loved it. I got lost several times down some side streets and I didn’t even mind that I did. I thoroughly enjoyed exploring. As I was exploring, I came across a familiar sight from the map that I had checked out before I came to Podgorica. It was the old walls and path leading down to the Old Ribnica River and the Стари мост на Рибници / Stari Most na Ribnici. What a sight it was too. I loved seeing it in person even more than I did in pictures.
The history, the trade, the people, the happenings. The only thing I thought that was sad was that the river wasn’t flowing down that part anymore. Whilst it was sad, it also gave me an opportunity to get onto the river bed and walk around on the rocks and get some (if I may say so myself) stunning shots. My eyes didn’t know where to look. Yep, it really was that picturesque and beautiful. I dare say the sun and blue sky helped massively too.
Once I was done here, I headed back up to the main street and across the Мост Блажа Јовановића / Most Blaža Jovanovića to head towards Римски трг / Rimski trg (nothing to do with Rome or the Romans – just a lot of restaurants) before heading to the cathedral. The walk was nice and peaceful – despite all the horn hionking and traffic.
As I was in the square, I looked across the street and saw the Православни Саборни храм Христовог Васкрсења / Pravoslavni Saborni hram Hristovog Vaskrsenja. Wow. I sat in the square for about 10 minutes (not wanting to lose any time) before heading across to the cathedral to look around outside and then inside. Inside was really ornate. So much gold, so many paintings on the walls and ceilings. I sat in there for about 20 minutes – mostly just watching the churchgoers going about their lives doing their religious duty. It was really strange also. There was a lecturn with a picture of Jesus on it and the churchgoers would queue up to bow to the picture, then perform the sign of the cross, then kiss the picture, then offer monetary sacrifices to it.
I went outside and got a couple more pictures before heading back towards the city centre. I had to find wifi on the way so that I could check in for the flight. I did this and then headed towards the bridges in the centre. I got some good shots of the Миленијумски мост / Milenijumski most and Московски мост / Moskovski most. Either side of these bridges there are small parks. It was really nice to walk around them – the nice weather lended itself to be able to do this.
By the time I was across the other side, I was hungry and wanted some food. What that food would be I didn’t quite know. If you read my posts, you will see that I am partial to some nuggets and fries from the American Embassy. The only issue with this diet here was the only American Embassy was an actual American Embassy. I found a local eatery and had some chicken pasta and fries. It was really cheap. It was only €4 for the food in the picture below. Even better still was how tasty it was.
Remember when I said earlier about more to follow about being time efficient? Well, I sat in the restaurant for about an hour which I didn’t feel was a good use of my time. I needed to as I had to eat and drink. I think I could have had it done in about half the time though. Oh well. I went out and did some more exploring. I went to the area of King’s Park and had a look around. Once I was done here, I started to make my way back to the hostel via the same restaurant (it had good wifi and I wanted to catch up on the news and to also make sure there were no flight changes).
By the time I headed back, it was dark and it was around 18:00. I figured there wasn’t a lot else to do or see (I feel I had the most important stuff covered) and I needed some decent sleep as I had to be up early for the airport (I did say it was a whistle-stop tour).
All in all it was an amazing day spent in Podgorica and once that I will remember for a long time to come. I would definitely recommend it. I’d say 2 days tops would cover it – more if you want to hike the hills and mountains surrounding the city.
One thing I will say is that I noticed a distinct lack of sirens and it was really comforting. I didn’t feel at all unsafe as I do in other major cities.
As I was walking around, you could tell that it was a communist city. The Brutalist style of architecture is everywhere. The streets are wide also and the buildings are the communist light/white.
Total steps: 24,841
Total miles: 12.1
Below are some pictures from today
Tuesday was somewhat of an early start as I had to be (or so I thought) at the airport for 10:00 as my flight was at 12:00. It turns out security didn’t open until about an hour before the flight so I could have had an extra hour in bed!!!
I got a taxi to the airport (costs me €10) as there is no public transport between the airport and the city. It was nice to just chill before the flight. Security opened and I got there and was told I had to go to the check-in desks to check-in (even though I had already with Ryanair). I got a printed boarding card (not had one of those for years). It was so check in could check the passenger locator form and vaccinations.
I got through security pretty quickly and just chilled for a while until it was time to board. I did send a message saying I had been robbed – but soon after followed it up with being robbed by paying €1.80 for a small croissant. Haha. Sorry, not sorry.
The flight was really empty. I’d say it would be generous to say 1/4 of capacity. It was so empty that I had my row and the 11 behind me to myself. They closed the cabin doors about 20 minutes before take-off it was that empty. The pilot prewarned us that it would be a bumpy flight – he wasn’t wrong! The landing was just as bumpy as the one coming back from Krakow.
I generally take videos of the take-off and landing (to focus my mind on something else) and on this one we took off over the city and you could see how small it really was from the video. The city limits start at 5:53 and end at 6:53
I got off the plane and through the border in about 15-17 minutes. I had time to get some stuff from the shop and still get the earlier train. How happy I was that I didn’t have to sit around for an hour. I was so ready to be home if only to be able to relax.
I will definitely come back to Montenegro so I can do all the stuff I couldn’t in 2020.
You can view all of my pictures from this trip here.