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Clare
Clare

Day 15: Žabljak to Podgorica

We had a comparatively early start this morning, with our bus to Podgorica leaving at 08.50. There are only two buses per day from Žabljak, so it was important that we didn't miss it. It was very cloudy and spotting with rain as we left our apartment in Žabljak and headed to the bus station/car park. I had bought the tickets online again, which made life simpler as there wasn't any sort of ticket office at the bus station, and theoretically we had seats 7 and 8. The bus arrived promptly at 08.40 but turned out to be only slightly larger than a minibus and not have any numbers on the seats. There was plenty of space anyway, so we were able to get seats without any problems :)

The journey to Podgorica took just under three hours, so we arrived in the Montenegrin capital some time around 11.30. It was a journey full of twists and turns as we made our way through the mountains, back towards Nikšić, and then down towards Podgorica. The closer we got to Podgorica, the darker the clouds seem to become and by the time the bus pulled up at the bus station it was raining torrentially. We got soaked just getting out suitcases out of the boot of the bus and running into the bus station!

We couldn't check in to the hotel until 2pm, so our plan had been to get a coffee in the bus station and then find somewhere to get lunch. Podgorica bus station, however, turned out to be one of sorriest looking bus stations I have ever seen and there wasn't really anywhere where you could sit down in the station itself. Luckily we did spot what seemed to be a cafe next door to it, and although first impressions also weren't very good (there isn't a smoking ban in Montenegro, so the first part of the cafe was full of people smoking), once we went further back we realised that there were actually some quite nice tables and a food menu :)

The food turned up to be surprisingly good. In the end we had a glass of wine, a beer, a water and an apple juice, plus a Caesar salad and a spaghetti bolognese which was larger than I could eat, and in total the bill came to less than €15. Not much change of breaking one of our €50 notes there!

By the time we had finished lunch it had stopped raining, so we decided to try heading to the hotel a bit earlier and see what happened. We stepped out of the bus station and were immediately accosted by a man asking whether we wanted a taxi. Our first instinct in these situations is always to say "no", and we were indeed planning to walk. We had a map printed from Google, but were struggling to work out which side of the bus station we were standing, so the taxi man offered to take a look and help us out. He started giving us directions, but when he saw where we were going he announced that the taxi fare would only be €2. It seemed worth paying this just to avoid getting lost, so we jumped in and were soon on our way.

We were staying in the Ramada in Podgorica which is a bit posh for our standards, but we have got quite an early started tomorrow and I wanted to find somewhere where we could have breakfast in the morning. It was €70 for the night including breakfast, but they did indeed let us check in early and we've had a lovely big room with good air-conditioning :)

The weather had improved significantly by this point so that there was almost a blue sky when stepped out of the hotel to start exploring the town. Our expectations weren't very high, as I had read in several guidebooks that there isn't really anything to see in Podgorica at all. It's a bit of a strange city because it was historically never the capital of Montenegro when Montenegro was independent (the capital was historically Cetinje) but became the capital of the republic of Montenegro within Yugoslavia in 1945, although at this point it was renamed Titograd. Podgorica was ruled by the Ottomans for four centuries until 1878 and the architecture of the town used to reflect this, but it was bombed heavily during the Second World War and pretty much everything was flattened. What was rebuilt was mainly concrete!

We decided to try and explore the new town (Nova Varoš) first, as this is where the current city centre and government buildings are. First of all we found the Montenegrin Central Bank...

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...followed by the Montenegrin parliament...

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...followed by the palace of the Montenegrin President.

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They all looked a bit... samey!

The opposite side of the road was a bit more promising though :) There was a bridge with a pretty view over the river...

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...and a statue of King Nikola I, who ruled Montenegro from 1860 to 1918.

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We soon found ourselves in the main square, Trg Republike. The best thing we could say about it was that it had a fountain!

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After that I wanted to find the Millennium Bridge, which was built across the river in 2005 and is now supposed to be the symbol of Podgorica.

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It reminded me a bit of the UFO bridge in Bratislava!

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More attractive was the little park we found with a statue of the famous Montenegrin ruler and poet, Njegoš.

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By this time we felt we had seen everything the new town had to offer, so we set off to track down the few remaining pieces of the old Ottoman town. This is the old Clock Tower, which was built in 1667.

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A few streets behind the clock tower we found the Osmanagić Mosque.

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This was originally built in the eighteenth century and has recently been restored with the help of donations from Turkey.

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There is supposed to be a second mosque somewhere, dating from the fifteenth century, but we weren't able to find it. We headed back to the hotel to pack up our things (mainly working out the correct split between suitcases of all the books we had bought in Dubrovnik!) before going out for a meal.

It took us quite a long time to find a restaurant, but eventually we came across what looked like a nice pizzeria. We both had a wood-fired pizza, plus a bottle of wine, and Tim had a couple of beers, and overall the bill came to €25! One good thing about Podgorica is that the prices are incredibly cheap, much cheaper than on the coast where they are inflated for tourists.

And with that our summer holidays for the year come to an end :) We've got an 11.10 flight from Podgorica to Stansted tomorrow morning, so will just have time to get up and have breakfast at the hotel before setting off for the airport. We've had an amazing time in Croatia and Montenegro over the past two weeks and it's been particularly exciting for me to get so much language practice and see how much I've improved :) When we were discussing the holiday over dinner just now, all the places we've been to have been so lovely that we struggled to identify anything as being our favourite bit of the holiday, but we managed to establish that Tim's least favourite part was the rather painful climb to the top of the fortress in Kotor :)




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