According to one Internet source, Podgorica is ‘the only European capital with nothing to see’. I don’t know about that, but I thought it would be worth checking out. The area near the station is full of the usual unpainted apartment blocks and isn’t much to look at, but the small town centre is quite pleasant, with plenty of green spaces and cosy pedestrianised streets.
Montenegro seems to be making an effort to embrace tourism. I may have been disparaging about Budva in my earlier post, but that’s mostly an issue with unchecked development, and it is extraordinary how far they’ve come, even in the short time since declaring independence. I was surprised to learn that Montenegro only broke away from Serbia in 2006. It seems strange that Serbia openly recognises their independence, when their equally diminutive neighbour Kosovo still has problems.
Though I’ve been spending euros here without much thought, I’ve noticed that people seem reluctant to give change, and almost take it as a personal affront if you attempt to pay with a €50 or €100 note. I discovered that this is because Montenegro is not officially in the Eurozone: After their breakaway from Serbia, they adopted the Deutschmark as their official currency. Of course, after Germany adopted the euro, the Deutschmark became obsolete and so the euro became the de facto currency. Since they’re not officially in the Eurozone, Montenegro are not allowed to mint their own money, so they rely on outside influence to keep the coinage in circulation!
I’m glad I stopped in Podgorica. It’s no Ljubljana, but I wanted to see what the capital of such a small and young country was like. I particularly liked the steep-banked river with its modern Millennium bridge.
I’ve now spent six weeks exploring the former Yugoslavia. Having known nothing before arriving, I’ve learnt a huge amount about the countries, the people and their history. From the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian days, to the world wars and communist reign which left the region’s economy in tatters, and the brutal wars that erupted thereafter, it’s a fascinating and complex region that still manages to be staggeringly diverse and engaging. I leave early tomorrow a little wiser than I was six weeks ago, or at least a little less clueless. Guess where I’ll be next!