Tuesday, 21 June 2011
Monte Negro means “Black Mountain” … in Italian (huh?) but Montenegrins’ name for their country in their own language is Crna Gora. Montenegrin, Bosnian, Serbian and Croatian are basically the same language. Although not in the European Union yet, The currency of Monte Negro is the euro. Montenegro was the last of the former Yugoslav Republics to split off. Fortunately there was no fighting unlike most of the others. It was an amicable separation, a “Velvet Divorce”, as with Czech and Slovakia. Podgorica is a small laid-back place for a national capital, with a feel something like, oh I don’t know, say Bendigo. But without quite as much sophistication. I’m only joking. Podgorica is fully up to Bendigo’s level of sophistication. It has a vibrant cafe and bar scene filled with locals. Tourists exist, but not that many. Two rivers meet here in the centre of town (the Ribnica and the Moraca), so there are lots of bridges (pedestrian-only and traffic). There are some lovely spots down under the bridges. I discovered two yesterday. The first, the Blaza Jovanovica, is near where the rivers meet. There is a pretty 15th c. Ottoman bridge over the smaller river (the Ribnica) while the large traffic bridge above crosses the Moraca. I had a morning coffee at the pleasant cafe there. I might go back for pre-dinner drinks this evening. They have Campari (the grown-up alternative to Aperol that I first encountered in Trieste last year). The second spot is under the Novi Most (New Bridge). There was a cafe/bookstore called “Karver” named after the American author Raymond Carver. Apparently Montenegrins love Carver’s writings which have all been translated. Carver’s wife, Tess Gallagher, is also a writer. They had her latest (in translation) for sale too. Apparently she visits Monte Negro regularly. I bought a recent book of short stories by Montenegrin authors (in English) for 4 euros. It’s OK since the book was not too bulky and I donated some to the book exchange at my Sarajevo hostel (including Dante’s Purgatorio). For lunch yesterday I stumbled on a high class Italian restaurant (Leonardo) incongruously situated in the ground flor of an ordinary apartment block. A nice touch was the glass of ice cubes provided with the local white wine I ordered to go with the pasta. The wine was good, but not of such high qualty that diluting it would have been criminal. And it was a hot day. Most of the customers were male, suit-and-tie-wearing, mobile-phone-toting, cigar-smoking businessmen meeting for long lunches. Since the fall of communism Monte Negro seems to have taken to capitalism with gusto. I saved money last night by self-catering in my “apartment”. They have a supermarket here which is open 24 hours, which I found quite surprising. I have been very pleasantly surprised by Podgorica. Don’t get me wrong. I am no Pollyanna. Some places really do suck. But none of the places on my trip so far have.
To explain some of the photos in my previous post here are some notes. Walkng around, I saw an old Ottoman clock tower and two mosques. The large white Orthodox church with gold crosses (The Shrine of the Resurrection) has been under construction for 18 years. The statue is of Vladimir Vysotsky, a popular Russian actor and singer-songwriter in Soviet times who died in 1980 aged 42.