48 Hours in Montenegro: The time I watched Serbian-dubbed Sex and the City alongside a man with an aversion to pyjamas
On our last day on Croatian soil, Alex and I said our goodbyes at the bus station (which had seemed such a short distance by car but in the sweltering sun with heavy backpacks was a rather arduous walk.) While Alex bussed his way to Dubrovnik Airport, back to England for an exciting schedule of kitchen renovations and house painting, I settled in for a three hour wait at Dubrovnik’s bus station. Without iPod or reading material, the entertainment on offer at the bus station proved to be very low and I passed my time politely declining multiple Croatian grannies’ offers of accommodation.
A rare moment in Dubrovnik when I wasn’t forking over cash for something
Eventually, I hopped on my bus to Kotor, Montenegro and experienced momentary rage at the Croatian-Montenegrin habit of charging one tenth of a four hour bus fare to put a piece of luggage in the hold. Travelling on a VERY retro bus, I crossed another European border, this time getting both a Croatian exit stamp and Montenegrin entry stamp, which was all very exciting. I spent the first part of the ride reading a crappy Mills & Boon novel that was set in Christchurch, setting it down every five minutes in disgust at the unbelievably terribly standards of writing. A quarter of the way in, I couldn’t take it anymore and a random Montenegro bus company now holds custody of the unrealistic love story between an Auckland property magnate and a Christchurch rugby club manager. I spent the rest of the bus ride gazing out at the dramatic cliffs and beautiful landscape, which was infinitely more satisfactory.
I wasn’t heading to Montenegro because of any particular burning desire to get out of Croatia, but rather because I had searched high and low for a cheap airfare to Istanbul and come up empty handed. Further searches farther afield revealed a dirt cheap fare from Podgorica, Montenegro. So to Montenegro I went.
It’s times like these, when I’m uploading travel diaries from my backpacking days and looking at maps of everywhere I went, that I realise how odd it is that going to Podgorica seemed like the most obvious thing to do.
I’d planned on one night in Montenegro but calculations after one day in money-sucking Dubrovnik and the absence of Alex to split accommodation costs meant I was literally driven out of Croatia. Rather than having two nights in Podgorica, which after my 12 hour stint there I will always affectionately remember as the oddest place I visited on my six month journey, I decided to try out Kotor. Having decided on Kotor based solely on a paragraph about its beautiful Old City, I rocked up with no real idea of what or where I was going. I found myself a dorm bed in an old house converted into hostel, which was to put it kindly rather basic. I made friends with my newly married Russian roommates and then discovered an amazing 1 euro per massive pizza slice joint (perhaps not so cultural, but a godsend after the financial crisis that was Dubrovnik.)
The next day I enjoyed a morning’s worth of clock towers, cobblestones and churches, whilst also enjoying the fashion choices of Russian cruise ship passengers. Leaving it as late as possible, I finally hopped on the three hour bus to Podgorica, capital of Montenegro, whose city motto should really capitalise on the fact it’s a great place to lose the will to live. I was highly unenthused about my night in Podgorica, with my internet research leading me to conclude that most opinions of the capital seemed to run along the lines of “Podgorica is kind of terrible and has nothing to offer”.
Nevertheless, I resolved to give it a fair go and went in with an openish mind. Within two seconds of hitting the city limits, that attitude was already being tested. It doesn’t really come across as a capital city, rather a large town and if smokestacks, broken pavements and dingy Communist-style apartment blocks are your thing – Podgorica is the place for you
The scenic delights of Podgorica
I arrived at the bus station at dusk and got out rather quickly, as it gave off an unappealing aura of sketchiness. Little was I to know that my entire stay in Podgorica would give off that vibe. I had carefully copied down the novel length instructions on how to get to the hostel but got hopelessly lost after ten minutes. Clearly the Google translate machine for Montenegrin Serbian to English is faulty as their description of where I was very different from reality. Luckily, the locals are obviously used to strangers with backpackers and confused looks, and through a series of hand gestures and smiles, I found my way to a dodgy wee alleyway just as it started to get properly dark. The “hostel” was on the second floor of an apartment with no working lights.
It’s times like these, when you’re racing upstairs in the dark with a backpack with no real idea of where you are, with the knowledge that no one else in the world does either, you really appreciate the wonders of travel. Knocking on the door, I was met by a sallow young man who welcomed me to an apartment aka the hostel. One room of four bunk beds and a twin room apparently maketh a hostel in Podgorica.
My roommate was a Canadian girl who shared similar feelings about the city, and we both enjoying laughing about being stuck in Podgorica after having both arrived from Croatia. I struck out to get proper food but due to night having fallen and a lack of stores in the area, my expedition ended with me dining on a exquisite meal of popcorn and a mushy apple. As I made my way around the tiny supermarket, a large woman brusquely strode behind me bellowing “Vat do you vant?” I returned to the apartment for a night of watching Serbian dubbed Sex and the City with my sallow Montenegrin host cackling with glee whenever a sex scene came on. You really, honestly can’t make up these things.
The next morning, I awoke and walked out to the living room to find my Montenegrin BFF sprawled out on the couch with no underwear on (thank God for small mercies, he was lying bottom up.) In an ever expanding list of incredibly awkward moments in my life, I had to wake him up, as the computer had been unplugged and I needed my flight details. I soon made a hasty retreat to the airport which was just like its namesake city, offered little in the way of entertainment.
Thus ended my short and not that sweet stint in Podgorica. To top off the 12 hours of excitement, I didn’t even get an exit stamp. I guess a part of me will always be in Podgorica.
Post script: With the passage of time (I visited Podgorica in September 2011), I realise this comes across rather harsh. I’m sure Podgorica has things to offer – I just didn’t get the chance to see them during my time there.