To Podgorica and beyond – Montenegro

Podgorica – Area below a little hill

Following an amazing few days of skiing in the mountains of North East Montenegro it was time for us to move on to a City. Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro and is situated close to the centre of the country.

View across Podgorica towards the mountains
View across Podgorica towards the mountains

According to Wikipedia Podgorica means “area below little hill”, which is an apt name since apart from the river running straight through it, the city is completely flat. After having been in some extremely rugged and steep sided terrain it was quite unusual to be met with a wide expanse of nothingness and with a population of only around 150,000, the city itself offered only a little more than nothingness.

Millennium Bridge
Millennium Bridge

Sights

Most research on Podgorica turned up very little in the way of sightseeing opportunities, A bridge, a couple statues, an old (read derelict) town and a few short streets in differing parts of town, So we didn’t really know what to expect.

Our hotel as mentioned before was cold and very smelly, but very cheap and located in Stara Varoš. This meant we immediately ticked off one of the items to see (the old town). Also within 500 metres walk was the Most na Ribnici; apparently the oldest bridge (from Roman Times) in the city. Although it turns out it was rebuilt in the 18th century. Unfortunately there was rubbish everywhere around it.

Most na Ribnici (Roman Bridge)
Most na Ribnici (Roman Bridge)

The Millennium Bridge, shown above, is a relatively impressive suspension bridge crossing the river at a good height but it was a bit dirty and could do with a lick of paint. The statues weren’t particularly impressive and many of the streets had falling down, boarded up or derelict houses.

Upsides

The above few paragraphs have been particularly negative, but there are some positive aspects to Podgorica. It is extremely small, and so we were easily able to wander from our hotel, into the city centre, around a few run down parks, over a few bridges and eventually even found a row of cafe-bars. These were quite chilled out and three were from the same company “Culture Club”.

Portion size in Montenegro is particularly large, which is remarkable given the generally low prices. A plate stacked high with sausages and potatoes and corn bread and onions was meant to be a late brunch snack, but it went down a treat with a mojito and a coffee. This was the standard fare in Montenegro (meat and potatoes) and so we tended to crave fruit and vegetables quite a lot.

Culture Club Tarantino Food
Culture Club Tarantino Food

There are many stray dogs around Podgorica, and Montenegro in general, but they were all friendly and didn’t seem to be rabid or diseased. Jenny in particular is a huge animal lover and so made a few friends along our travels, the favourite being “Patch” (we named him) who followed us walking around the City for many hours following us and asking for strokes behind the ear at any opportunity.

"Patch" with a very happy Jenny Watts
“Patch” with a very happy Jenny Watts

Finally, the people of Podgorica are lovely, they are always up for a chat and will help you to find your way. This is really the star of the city; you never feel in danger and always feel able to get about and have a good time.

Conclusion on Podgorica

Personally, unlike the rest of Montenegro we would not recommend you spend any time in Podgorica. Although it is cheap and easily walkable, there is very little to do or see and it is mainly just a working city, trying to build a viable capital in a new country. I have no doubt it will get there, and there is a lot of building work going on, but it currently lacks any identity to define itself by.

Next blog we will take you through the joys of coastal Montenegro, which are more famous and really beautiful once more.


Bonus details

We ate in a restaurant called Hemera (part of the Astoria hotel chain) and it was probably the most expensive place we ate in the whole of Montenegro (about EUR 60 a head, including a cocktail, starter and main). The starters were very good and there was a lot more fresh vegetables than you have to get used to in Montenegro. However for what you got it was overpriced and we preferred the food in the Gyros Grill we went to in the early hours of the following day.

Enjoying a lovely meal in Hemera Hotel restaurant - Fancy food, but not as good as the cost would suggest
Enjoying a lovely meal in Hemera Hotel restaurant – Fancy food, but not as good as the cost would suggest

We also managed a trip out of the city to “Niagara Falls”. Which is a waterfall on the river of Cijevna, a little way out of town. Although we haven’t been to the real Niagara Falls in North America, it is probably more impressive in scale than the Montenegrin version. It was however quite cool to be walking over the rocks right next to a torrent of water and a lot of other people seemed to think so too as it was one of the most busy areas near Podgorica that we went to.

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Finances

We lost track of our costs a little by this point so much of the below is merely an estimate.

Carried forward: £2,045

Lunch x2: c. £75
Dinner (Hemera): £100
Dinner (Gyros): £5
Drinks (two days/evenings): c. £120
Petrol: c. £45
Supermarket: c. £15
Running Total: £2,405

December Blog 002: Booking the Trip

Flights

As we all know, RyanAir is an airline that offers no-frills flights mainly around continental Europe and the UK and their slogan says “Low Fares Made Simple“, therefore we assumed booking flights on RyanAir to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro would rightly fit into that mantra.

Our flights cost 350 pounds! Each! Though at least that is return with one packed hold bag.

In any case, with gritted teeth we paid the flight price, knowing that the accommodation and food would be dirt cheap. Well, it’s Eastern Europe right? Right!

Accommodation in Montenegro is pretty cheap but seems to be split into two camps. On the one hand you have the high-end international hotels that everyone knows and loves or hates. Whilst on the other hand all the other accommodation seems to be rooms in apartment buildings. After having spent a hefty chunk of our budget on the flights we opted for the latter.

We had decided from the blogs we had read (see our previous blog post) and the WikiTravel pages that we would spend a few days skiing, a short stop in the Capital city and then the remainder of our 10 days on the coast visiting Budva, Kotor and Tivat.

Accommodation

We managed to book all 10 nights of accommodation through Booking.com for an average nightly price of around 30 Euros! All in central locations, with parking and cooking facilities!

Unfortunately three weeks before we were due to leave we received an email from our accommodation in Kolasin saying they had had a flood and so they couldn’t guarantee our stay so we should cancel. At the time we were a bit annoyed and we knew the other accommodation in Kolasin was quite a lot more expensive. It turned out to be the such a great outcome because we booked into one of our favourite places we have ever stayed “Chalet Kolasin”.

Car Hire

Car-hire was easy, as always we booked through economycarrentals which has the most old fashioned website I have seen in a long time but always the cheapest prices. Selecting a 4WD with chains for the snowy roads and adding the second driver, we took the first and cheapest choice and ended up with a Dacia Duster from Alamo. It was much cleaner than the below photo when we originally collected it.

Next post we will have a look at what there is to do in Montenegro.

Costs so far

Flights: £720 (£360 x2)

Accommodation: ~ £500  (~£250 before the flood incident)

Car Hire: £300

TOTAL: £1520

December Blog 001: Planning the trip

Having got married in June 2017, we wanted to enjoy our first married Christmas together away on Holiday. We looked at a number of different locations from Greece to the Philippines, Denver to Barbados and Florida to Costa Rica.

We even booked flights to Manila and hastily canceled them, unsure of wanting to go all that way for 10 days. Thinking that we might want to go skiing we both started searching for cheap destinations that we could do some skiing and also enjoy some other activities. Rob happened across this story which noted the skiing in Kolasin was passable and Jenny stumbled upon a blog which suggested Montenegro as a great Winter destination to get away from the crowds. For us, the combination sounded perfect.

Planning a trip skiing in Montenegro isn’t as straightforward as planning one to Tignes, Vail or Saalbach-Hinterglemm, but it is definitely a lot cheaper. To start with, its initially not even clear where the ski resort is; the town shows up on Google maps but to find the resort itself one must deduce that the resort is called “Kolasin 1450” and was another 20-40 minutes drive up the valley.

The website for the “resort” itself has very little information on it, some of the information on the Montenegrin pages is in English and some of the information on the English pages is in Montenegrin. However we eventually deduced that they do ski, pole and boot hire in the same building as the ski pass purchase and the total cost for two for three days would be barely over 150 pounds.

This all seemed like a match, so we booked our flights and our accommodation and looked forward to Christmas. More on that in the next post.