Theme: West Balkan & Turkey War Tour Country: Montenegro Language: Montenegrin Unit of Currency: Euro Location: Podgorica Year: 2013 Bucket list: Being taught another language while drinking sherry from a hostel owner
DO: WALK TO THE MAIN SQUARE FOR A BITE TO EAT
- Partaking in signature jumpin’ photographs in the pouring rain
Recap of Podgorica, Montenegro:
I would like to start out with this post emphasizing that you are truly fortunate if you never run into a location that you thought was just mediocre, or perhaps lacked a smudge of culture, history, or had not given you that extra special feeling that you are presently in a great city.
I would have to say that if it would have been beach weather, then my plans would have changed and I would have re-routed myself to Montenegro’s coast. However, it was in the middle of March and clearly it was not time for a beautiful sunny atmosphere or a turquoise coloration of warm-water to touch my toes.
Therefore, I settled to check out the capital, shy of a 2 hour coach ride to the Montenegro coast, in hopes that I would be surrounded in various cultures, absorbed in the history, and staying at a guest accommodation that was just a short trek to the city. With my 3 options, I stumbled into one of them – this was a destination located into the mountains filled with culture. Unfortunately, this post will not illuminate the sights and attractions in the city, instead it will define why a non-speaking English “hostel” owner created the most unusual, but crazy beautiful experience in Podgorica.
Before I entered into Montenegro’s border, a fantastic rainbow formed in Shkoder, Albania and followed the taxi driver and I the whole way to the border patrol. Once we passed through a few smaller towns of Montenegro, the mountains seemed to set the backdrop for all these towns – individuals built their houses leading into the mountains; it was quite a cool sight to see. Nightfall crept up on us, and I turned and asked my little English-speaking taxi driver if we are almost there. He just shrugged at me, and as my stomach grumbled I prayed that we would reach my destination soon and a restaurant would be nearby! What seemed like ages ago when we first left Albania, we had finally arrived in Podgorica.
Of course, it was pitch black dark and the taxi driver mumbled something about getting another taxi once we drove into the center. The next thing I know he leaped out of the car and halted for the man in front of him. The second taxi driver came to my window and asked where I was headed (least that is how I interpreted it). Surprised, and confused I gestured that this taxi driver was to take to my guest accommodation, which I assumed (and was told via email) that it is close to the city center. Both taxi drivers chatted for a few minutes, then my luggage was transferred into the second taxi driver’s car.
Gee wilkers,I thought to myself, “Where is this place where I am staying?” Another 20 minutes, plunging downward into bumpy roads and what appeared to be next to corn fields, I arrived at my destination. All of a sudden, a heavier woman sprinted out the door and yelling, “Jessica, Jessica, Jessica!” I had just traveled for 4 hours and was completely exhausted – so I dished out my best “I’m not tired” smile and politely introduced myself. A unique tone and a slew of Slovakian words rushed out at me. I remembered looking back and watched the taxi driver take off – here I was seriously, in the middle of nowhere with no language book of Slovakian in my bag (only Albanian). To make it worse, we were standing outside in the rain and as much as I tried to use the words to ask where I was staying, neither of us understood one another.
I recalled being in unique, and crazy travel situations in the past, but this one has taken the cake! I knew if I kept smiling, she would make her move (whether that was to invite me or show me to my room; either way, I am fine with!). Slowly she opened the door and in a very serious tone she said, “Sit Jessica!” Well then, I suppose that is my move! She had poured a glass of wine for each of us, and whispered it was Sherry when she handed it to me. From my observation, I could tell her that she was a bit of a heavy smoker (seems to be the West Balkan state way!), judging by her excessive butts in the ashtray and a chain-smoker cough that she had developed. She offered me a cigarette and I respectfully declined – I was not able to gesture that I am allergic to cigarette smoke; though that would have made the story a bit more entertaining!
After her TV show and a cup of tea that she insisted I took, I motioned that I was very hungry. Though, she did not know exactly what I was saying – rubbing your tummy apparently is an international gesture for hunger. Thank goodness she understood, I even looked up a few Albanian words in the process (compliments of Edona Hoxha in Kosovo!) and showed her my dictionary of words that I was hungry for – pasta, pizza, salad, etc. Not really knowing if this woman spoke any Albanian whatsoever, I took a shot in the dark and attempted to communicate again.
In return, she quickly grabbed the phone and said some gibberish that I could barely pronounce (let alone spell!). The next minute there was a knock at the door and a young woman started speaking English – brilliant, after 3 hours I may be able to push my communication a bit further, not to mention I can talk to someone about food and accommodation.
In the end, I was delivered a salad and small pizza. To top off the night, I had a few glasses of red wine with the older woman and listened and tried to decode her hospital story that she was telling me. What I gathered is that she was released from the hospital a few days ago, had some stitches in her hip (yes, she showed them to me), and that the red wine and my company was keeping her in good spirits.
Though we were not able to say much, it was still nice that she had taken me in and made my time in Podgorica not about witnessing the city attractions, but embracing the individuals themselves that make up this unique, yet crazy beautiful city.
Next stop: Istanbul, Turkey!