At last, Tanya got to visit Podgorica, Montenegro. Not that she necessarily has any family ties here but she was anxious to see a city containing the root of her maiden name, Podgornoff (Podgornov). The word “Podgor” translates in various Slavic languages as roughly “the base of the hill or mountain” and Podgorica is the town at the base of the mountain. Tanya knew that her ancestors were named for being the people at the base of the mountain and so Montenegro’s small capital city, Podgorica, called to her. As you can see, she was very excited to be here.
With only about 186,000 people, Podgorica is one of the smallest capitals in Europe and the city has a distinctive small-town feel to it. It’s not high on most European travelers’ list which was another reason we had to go there. Podgorica has a very small but efficient airport and it was an easy taxi ride to our home for the next two nights, the New Star Hotel. We had a nice third-floor room overlooking the town and after settling in, set out to do a little grocery shopping and exploring.
As we were searching for our restaurant for dinner, Lanterna, a pair of very nice young women saw us looking at our street map and speaking very good English, asked if they could help us. We were two streets off target and their directions were right on in getting us to where we wanted to go. Lanterna is a dimly lit, rustic kind of restaurant specializing in Montenegrin cuisine and pizza. This is not surprising in Montenegro, as we learned over the next few days that Italian cuisine is very popular and often easier to find than the grilled meat dishes that characterize traditional Montenegrin fare. We went for the mixed grill plate for two, a huge platter of grilled chicken, sausages, pork and beef atop a bed of fries. So much for keeping with our usual “plant-strong” diet. With a couple of schopska salads and a bottle of the local red, our bill was 35 euros, about half of what we’d have to pay in Wiesbaden.
With the dim lighting and Barry White music piped throughout the restaurant we got the impression that Lanterna just might be the local link-up place for after-work dalliances. Our opinion was supported by the presence of a young, female junior-management type at a nearby table sharing cocktails with and displaying an unusually keen interest in practically everything being said by her tablemate, a balding, business suited man significantly senior to her in years. Of course, they could just have been colleagues meeting for a drink after work but it’s fun to invent stories when you’re on the road.
Walking back through town toward our hotel we got a glimpse of city Podgorican life. In the main square a volleyball net had been set up and groovy loud rock music blared throughout the square. It being too hot to stay at home in one of the many apartment buildings reminiscent of post-Yugoslav urban housing, Podgoricans were out in force, with their children, grandmothers, aunts and uncles. It was the kind of authentic Balkan experience that would never find its way into any guidebook. It was wonderful.