In the morning I am awoken early to catch the 7:15 bus out of Croatia to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. I am expecting a small, wealthy country like Luxembourg, but Montenegro is not that. It is a small country for sure, but nothing gives the impression that it is wealthy. We drive through a tunnel and the warm Adriatic coast quickly becomes cold snow-covered mountains. Here, the language is Montenegrin, a prideful name assigned to the same Serbo-Croatian we’ve been hearing for the last week, and the currency is the Euro. The story of the nation’s currency is an interesting one, it would seem, as the Euro Zone does not entirely want Montenegro to use their currency. Montenegro borders no other Euro-using country, but used to use the Deutsche Mark in the 90s, until the Mark ceased to exist. At that point, since the nation did not feel particularly inclined to start their own currency, they just kept using the currency of Germany: the Euro.
My internet isn’t working in Montenegro, and my dad has the map of the city saved on his phone so we make our way to our hostel. We arrive and there is no one there but a Polish man who is smiling, smoking, and shrugging every time we ask him about the owner, the wifi password, or the owner’s phone number. I have an exam I have to take, so we decide to find a cafe from which we can contact the hostel owner, and from which I can log on to my school’s proctor service. We find a pizza shop with free wifi where the pizza comes in personal-sized servings and only costs a few Euro. I order a sausage and ham and my dad gets a sort of cheese-covered chicken breast. I complete my exam after an hour-and-a-half and leave to meet my dad, who left somewhere around question #5 to meet the hostel owner about our rooms.
Before I am about to take the right onto our hostel’s street, I get a text from my father, who is riding in the guesthouse owner’s car to pick me up. Apparently, the main property had been rented out entirely to a Polish group, and we were to stay in a separate apartment closer to the main artery into town. As we ascend the stairs, we realize this is likely not an upgrade, as there are exposed wires every few meters on the stairway to our room, and the occasional light fixtures do not work. In our room, nothing is different, and our room lack towels so I take a shower and dry off with one of my quick-dry shirts.
On our walk around town, we are quick to learn that there is not much going on in Podgorica. We stroll by monuments with plaques written in Montenegrin to writers and politicians, but have little context to the history of the country. More people are outside than before, but it seems more like the streets are filling with commuters, as it is a Monday at around 5 o’clock. When we return to the apartment, the towels have not been delivered, and we decide to just go out for a drink to explore whatever nightlife Montenegro has to offer. We find a cafe-bar that also has a man in the back with three copy machines, who is charging a few Euros to print students’ essays. We watch from the balcony and drink our Montenegrin beers as the man runs between machines singing Queen songs. As Radio Gaga plays, I am reminded of the hostel we stayed at in East Istanbul, and the Iranian woman who worked there who kept informing us that Freddie Mercury was dead.
From the Copy-Cafe, we walked to a “Scottish Pub,” where the bartenders were all dressed in flannel and the walls were covered with pictures of Sean Connery and David Duchovny, for some reason. We ordered Carlsbergs there and ended our pub crawl at a bar/club that was modeled after a library. It had bookshelves built into all four walls, and our table had a chessboard on it where we played a game over 16% off (?) beers. We were both ready to eat and sleep after this, and walked to “McDoner,” a tongue-in-cheek doner kebab shop where the workers were unnecessarily happy, which I suppose is where the McDonald’s inspiration came from. We got some sandwiches (which we supposed were what doner kebabs are, after getting the same thing in both Montenegro and Istanbul. Perhaps, my dad theorized, “kebab” merely implies a stick, and so the swirling wheel that the meat comes off of is the kebab, while in the U.S. kebabs are considered small skewers of meat simply because large rotating rotisseries of pork is not convention in our country.)
In the morning, we bought tickets for the 10 a.m. bus back to Tirana, first having breakfast in a bus station cafe. I ordered a prosciutto omelet, which came with three cheeses on the side, to spread. At the border, the Montenegrin passport control place their stamp on the one free page I had left, and I am frustrated that, despite having several blank corners, I will have to get a new passport for my Russian visa before my next trip.
Victor Bernabei is just another millenial travel blogger. But here's the twist: He isn't a millenial! His goal is to see as many countries as he can, and spread the message that the world is not as scary as the news wants you to believe, and that there is beauty in all people, places and things.