Podgorica – located 86 km. from from popular tourist destination of Kotor, this is the capital of Montenegro and the largest city in the country (population: 187,085). In Montenegrin, the city’s name means “under the small hill”. More importantly, this city was previously known as “Titograd” during the years that Montenegro was part of socialist Yugoslavia (named after that country’s longtime ruler, Marshall Tito). Much of the city consists of brutalist socialist buildings from the Cold War period, since much of the Podgorica was bombed by Allied warplanes during World War II.
Despite Montenegro’s existence that goes back centuries, few travelers are familiar with the city of Podgorica (although some may have hear of Titograd during the Cold War period), and many are unfamiliar with its very name. Those passing through Podgorica will be reminded of the country’s years as an Ottoman Turk possession in the form of two mosques present there: Osmanagic (from the 18th century) and the remains of Doganjska Mosque (from the 16th century). The most notable site in this city is the Millennium Bridge (built in 2005, as a monument of sorts that celebrate the withdrawal of Italian Axis forces from Montenegro during the latter part of World War II).
Ribnica Bridge (Stara Varos, Podgorica) – this ancient-looking bridge, which goes over Rubnica River, was actually built during the Ottoman period, and along with the “Sahat Kula” clock tower, are but two items still standing from that period at Podgorica (since much of the city was bombed during World War II).
Sahat Kula (Trg Becir Bega Osmanagica bb | Stara Varos, Podgorica) – this is a clock tower that was built during the 18th century by Ottoman general Hafis Pasha – one of the few remaining structures from that period. Located near the train station in the original old town district, this tower was once used to give locals the market and prayer times. For now, though, the tower is not open to the public.
Church of St. Luke (Trg. Sv. Luke, Stari Grad, Kotor) – also known as “Church of Sveti Luka”, this church dates from the twelfth century (with traces of Roman and Byzantine architecture). Originally it was a Catholic church but it ended up being Orthodox in the mid-17th century. These days, there is a Catholic and an Orthodox altar in this church. This church has the distinction of being one of the few buildings in Kotor that survived the 1979 earthquake there.
St. Nikola (island) – this island is located near the seaside resort town of Budva. Both locals and foreign visitors conduct day trips to this island (via taxi-boat or small vessel) to sunbathe. Nowadays, a portion of the island is private property but there is a new restaurant, two well kept beaches and the building of a marina is planned.
St. Stefan (Sveti Stefan, Budva) – this island, connected to the city of Budva by a causeway, has 118 villas, which still manage to retain their medieval architecture and Mediterranean charm. Its maritime location demanded that defensive walls were built around St. Stefan during the medieval period, which explains the existence of gunsmiths and cannons on its walls (reflecting its past as a strategic trading post for the Venetian Republic back in the 15th century). Recent visitors have been surprised to hear that celebrities such as Elizabeth Taylor, Sophia Loren, Sylvester Stallone, Kirk Douglas, Jeremy Irons, England’s Princess Margaret, and other jet setters have all visited St. Stefan at one time or another.
St. Tryphon’s Cathedral (Stari Grad 336, Kotor) – located in Kotor’s old town, this cathedral is named after Kotor’s patron saint. Religious & cultural artifacts shown here go as far back as 809 AD (when another church was built at this location). Hours: 9:00 am – 5:00 pm (daily). Admission: €1.50 (adult), free for children.
Vladimir Vysotsky Monument (Jovana Tomasevica bb, Podgorica 81000) – another of the few touristy sights in Podgorica is this monument dedicated to Russian bard Vladimir Vysotsky (who died in 1980). Located near the Millennium Bridge, it was a gift from Moscow and place there in 2004. Surrounded by a geometrical metal frame which reflects a blinding light in summertime, the Vysotsky monument depicts the singer bare-chested and barefoot, holding a guitar in one hand and raising his other arm in the air, while a skull nestles at the base of the pedestal. Strangely enough, most locals do not know who Vysotsky is.
Pima Palace (Flour Square, Kotor) – this 17th century Renaissance building was built after the 1667 earthquake which destroyed much of Kotor. The palace portal with the terrace was built in the Renaissance style, while the windows and upper balcony which laid on the twelve consoles were built in Baroque style. The balcony rail was the work of Kotor blacksmiths. Above the main portal, there is the coat of arms of the noble Pima family (supported by two angels). This palace went through more restoration work after the 1979 earthquake that struck Kotor.
Partizan Memorial (Gorica Hill, Podgorica) – built during the 1950s, this monument honors the partisan fighters who liberated Podgorica from the Italian Axis forces during World War II, and it comes in the form of a gleaming white mausoleum flanked by fierce-looking Partizan fighters. Designed by architect Vojislav Đokić and sculptor Dragan Đurovic after a suggestion in 1953 by the Republican Alliance of Fighters, the grave and monument to national heroes was finished in 1957, when the mortal remains of the Partizans were laid to rest in the crypt.