Oh, Montenegro

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What is the capital of Montenegro?

We arrived in Podgorica with a startling amount if ignorance – it was only at the hostel that our native host informed us about the role of this town. “I have no idea why it is the capital”, she went on. “It is horrible. We don’t even recycle. And there are gypsies on horse-drawn carriages.”

We came to Podgorica mainly because of a grumpy bus ticket salesman in Kosovo. Dealing with bus schedules in this region has been a bit of a headache, so our plans often change at the spot: “There is no 11 o’clock bus to Budva. Take the one at 7 to Podgorica instead.” And so we went to this city, which only became the capital in 2006 when Serbia and Montenegro separated. I wouldn’t echo the words of our host, but it barely looks the part: Safe for a few glorious ministries with huge, red, Montenegrin flags, it consists mainly of one boulevard, Soviet-style housing, the ubiquitous pizza restaurants and a mall.

It is also close to a national park, so we took a train out to a small village called Virpazar. After a week in various cities, it felt great to walk along the massive lake where wild mint, sage and camomile grow. It is the nesting place of more than 250 bird species, sea otters seem to routinely cross the street and the scenery was in fact really beautiful.

Again, there was hardly anyone there: We barely met anyone save for a few boatsman trying to herd tourists at the entry of the town. When going back to Posgorica later that night, the little train station was deserted and looked almost haunted.

Montenegro’s slogan is “wild and wonderful” – which sounds only a little better than “Malaysia – truly Asia” but might actually be true.

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