|The flight from Belgrade to Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, was only about 40 minutes. There was some disagreement on the Internet as to whether or not there was a bus from the airport to the center (all the posts were old). The airport is very small and I quickly found out there is no bus so you need to take a taxi which costs 12€. My driver was very nice and he was very curious why so many Americans go to Croatia and not Montenegro. He was like a walking billboard for tourism in his country and he gave me lots of tips and suggestions. I walked into my hotel which is fairly large and the desk clerk greeted me by name. I thought that was pretty scary because it's a pretty big hotel so how could she know my name when I gave no time of arrival. Maybe she got some extra info from booking.com. Anyways, my hotel is directly in the center and for $45 per night (includes breakfast) I feel like I got a great deal. A room in a hotel like this in the states would be at least $125. Bathrobe and slippers included. (I later tried on the bathrobe and it didn't even fit around me. It is like a child's size. I hope.)
My taxi driver said there was a gay pride parade so the police had blocked off the Main Street next to the hotel which sucked because this led to the old town. Why it was completely closed to both pedestrians and cars I don't know. I found out later that this was for security as gays are not well liked here and the possibility of violence is huge. I questioned how it was that they were having a parade that no one could attend but no one seemed to understand my thinking. The entire mid city section was closed and on every possible street that led to the center there were a dozen officers.
So I went a different route hoping the street would be open later in the day as suggested by the clerk. I stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe and had a draft beer for 1.30€ and ordered something off the menu I couldn't read although I knew it was some sort of grilled toast sandwich with mozzarella, rucola and I figured tomatoes. Turned out to also have smoked salmon on it and it was quite delicious with a few fries at 4.20€. It's very inexpensive here. And it's funny because I feel a sudden sense of extreme peace in this city. It's very nice and slow and there are towering mountains that are typical of the Dalmatian coast being somewhat bare. Later the police were gone and there was an art festival in the center, a band, and a corner where various performers took turns. It was very nice.
I decided to rent a car for Sunday in Podgorica and go out of town and explore. I got into my rental car and headed to Ostrog monastery. It was about 50 minutes outside of Podgorica, and much of the road was a very very windy two lane road with huge busses and people crossing the line coming the other way. I arrived at the bottom of the hill of the monastery with white knuckles. The monastery was built very high into the Rocky-hill and was very interesting. The predominant religion here is orthodox and it is customary for persons to not only cross themselves before during and after entering the church but to kiss the photos of the various saints displayed. So, as we entered the monastery rooms, everybody was kissing the wall and then the photos. I was hoping that no one had an infectious disease because they'd all have it. I, in my shorts which really is not proper dress, did not partake in those traditions. In one of the little rooms of the monastery there was a person who I guess was a monk and the room appeared to have some sort of a coffin in it. It may have just been the clothing of the dead person in the coffin, at least I'm hoping, but I wasn't sure. The people in the line ahead of me bent their head in and kissed the clothing but once again, I did not adhere to their customs. I had to walk from the parking area up the mountain and up some stairways made of stone etched into the mountain side to get there. It was quite a hike. When I was finished visiting, I walked back down to my car and returned the same way I came. I noticed a sign that looked like the sign of a Vineyard because it had a picture of a bunch of grapes so I turned around and went down the road and was hoping to find a winery. I came upon a large restaurant, however, and decided to stop for lunch. They had a very nice outdoor seating area and the play yard for the kids. I had some sort of traditional Montenegrin food which was basically fried bread with soft feta looking cheese and honey. It was three euros and enough for five people and delicious. They were like beignets drizzled with local made honey. I had noticed a lot of bee hives and make shift honey stands along the road.
I headed in the direction of Tiza and turned off the main road to go to Skarsdala Lake. On the lake was a little tourist spot and instead of parking I drove further and found basically a one lane road that wound around the mountain and a few small little turnouts for allowing cars to pass the other direction. There were two policeman blocking the middle of the road who stopped me and asked where I was going. I told them I was looking for a vinieria and they let me pass. Upon reflection, I think they were trying to deter cars from the road because it was quite dangerous and would not be able to handle a lot of cars.
About 2 more kilometers down the road was a "village" and a couple of stands were on the side of the road on which there were bottles. I turned off the road to take a picture and an old man approached me from a house across the street. Then his wife joined and although they spoke no English they told me about each type of wine and I could make out the various types of fruits used as most were dessert type wines. One word I do understand is close to the Spanish word "probar" which means to test, or to try, so I understand she wanted me to try it. So I followed her to a sort of concrete block and rubble garage (unfortunately I left my camera in the car) and showed me the two huge plastic tubs that had pvc pipes going in and out. In one were mashed up red grapes fermenting (there were a few flies. I don't think there's a health inspector) and in the other was the wine that was apparently further into the process. She then had a couple wine glasses on a wooden slat and poured me a taste of the white and then the red. Certainly the most rustic wine tasting I've ever encountered. The bottles look like old glass milk jars and have a beer type cap on them. I won't open one until my next location since you cannot transport after opening. I asked how much and she showed me seven fingers. I decided on one of each and convinced myself that any bad bacteria in the wine from the unsanitary conditions would be killed by the alcohol. Don't know if this is true or not but I'm going with it. If I die prematurely from some loathsome disease this could be the source.