Britain could learn a lot from the Montenegrin concept of “kacamak”

Podgorica is the capital of Montenegro – Alamy Stock Photo

What would you rather have, an illicit affair or some porridge?

You’ll want to have your answer handy if you’re visiting Montenegro, because the same word – kačamak – can mean both. Hasty explanations may be necessary.

On the other hand, there is a third meaning: sneaking away to relax for a while. Nothing grand, nothing crazy, just a getaway for a few hours. That’s exactly what’s on offer in a weekend in the country’s capital, Podgorica. It is not big, there is no bustle, it is not beautiful; Heck, it’s not even Montenegro’s main attraction; that’s the Unesco-listed town of Kotor, 55 miles away on the coast, but it’s a lovely little slice of kačamak just £15 flight.

That flight ends, splendidly, in a vineyard. The Šipčanik winery surrounds the airport on three sides (it is reportedly the largest vineyard in Europe, with vines that would reach as far as Chicago if stood uselessly in a single row). I’m usually wary of tours and tastings (blah blah, ripe berry notes blah, minerality in the soil blah), but this one is well worth the 20 minute drive from town because the winery is a completely unexpected 350 minute tunnel. meters long underground. a mountain.

Plantaže Winery owns and manages vineyards covering 2,310 hectares in MontenegroPlantaže Winery owns and manages vineyards covering 2,310 hectares in Montenegro

Plantaže Winery owns and manages vineyards covering 2,310 hectares in Montenegro – Alamy Stock Photo

I was about to say it looked like a Bond villain’s lair, with its busy forklifts and helmeted beaver henchmen, but the Yugoslavs beat me to it by a few decades: Turns out they used it as a top-secret bunker storing 27 planes. of combat. Tastings are also generous (although the sommelier outdoes even the “ripe berries” brigade at one point, praising a wine’s “almost non-existent flavor”).

Arriving in the city centre, there’s a splendidly short list of places to visit before diving back into the liquid local produce. My guide takes me precisely to a museum/gallery, the confusingly named Podgorica Museums and Galleries (, and we spend the rest of the afternoon pleasantly strolling through the Ottoman old town, the ruined 15th-century fortress, and doing a picnic. small banks of pebble beaches dotted with juicy pomegranates and dates košćela that grow everywhere.

The highlight of the museum is the gusle, a single-stringed folk instrument that I ask for a demonstration on, because the evil side of me wants to condescendingly laugh at what must surely be the least musical instrument that has ever existed. So my guide plays with me a little. gusle on your phone, and it’s the most hypnotically haunting sound I’ve heard in decades.

Podgorica is home to a charming old townPodgorica is home to a charming old town

Podgorica is home to a charming old town – Alamy Stock Photo

Things get even louder when I wander alone towards the leafy, quiet forest park of Gorica, but I am drawn to the church of St. George at its entrance. It’s 6:30 pm on a Friday, and incense and intermingled incantations escape through the open doors: inside there is a Richard Osman double with Rowan Williams beard and long black robes intoning while a similarly dressed priest chants responses melancholic and mystical and the faithful cross. themselves every few seconds.

The atmosphere is so intoxicating that it’s like I’m dreaming and I can barely get away. When I do, my feet strangely seem to take me – without any intention on my part – to another Serbian Orthodox outpost. The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, which has been in the building for 20 years, was consecrated in 2013, but inside it could be from the 17th century: every inch is covered in Byzantine gold and murals of sad-eyed saints or stern-browed Orthodox patriarchs .

In an apse, Tito, Marx and Engels burn in hell; in another, some children seem to do the same; in a third, a leviathan inexplicably consumes some saints. In the middle, beneath a chandelier forged in gold so intricate it looks like it could transport you to another dimension if you stand beneath it, a group of people wait to be blessed by another lushly bearded cleric but this time luxuriously draped in a layer.

They kiss his hand, they kiss a couple of icons, they cry… and everything is so strangely strange, atmospheric and moving that I almost join the queue, although I am unfaithful.

Instead, I walk down Njegoševa, which in my head I refer to as the Boulevard of Broken Diets; For about a mile, the pattern of business is bar, bar, pizzeria, bar, bar, steakhouse, bar, bar, and I repeat. .

The Millennium Bridge is one of the most important landmarks in Podgorica.The Millennium Bridge is one of the most important landmarks in Podgorica.

The Millennium Bridge is one of the most important landmarks in Podgorica – Getty

All of them are excellent, but the next day ones are even better. Less than an hour’s drive away, over forested mountains and with a stop for a slow boat ride on the sparkling Skadar Lake in Virpazar, is Sveti Stefan. You’ll recognize it as soon as you Google it: it’s where Aman resorts turned a small fishing village on a causeway into an absurdly luxurious hotel (€200 doesn’t get you a room, it gets you the rental of two sun loungers for a day ).

However, just a five-minute walk around a headland will take you to the equally exquisite small public beach (with free sun loungers!) in Przno, where wave-softened pebbles turn into perfect aquamarine waters, still warm until well into autumn. Behind it is a row of konobas, traditional taverns serving seafood and wines as wonderful as anything you’ll find in Italy, just a few kilometers in front, on the other side of the Adriatic.

I watch the sunset, pack a doggy bag and a bottle and board my 9.05pm flight back to Stansted. kačamakIt reached my eyes.

The coolest corner

Tucked unpromisingly under a flyover is an arts enclave too small to have a name, but centered on a converted hammam (ask the locals about the former women’s Turkish baths) near King’s Park. The center is the Itaka Library Bar, three narrow floors of hammam minaret and an illuminated riad-like courtyard, serving craft beer and great cocktails, but there’s also a cool bookstore and art space.

Must see

The crazy Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ from 2013 looks like several temples rolled into one: oriental domes, Roman spiers, the bottom half of rough rock, and small, finely detailed sculptures in the top half. And then things get In fact It’s strange when you walk in (see main story).

The Cathedral of the Resurrection of ChristThe Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ

The Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ – Alamy Stock Photo

Saucer star

Meat. Podgorica is a carnival for carnivores, but the dish most appreciated by locals is popek: Roast beef rolled in a layer of egg batter and fried until crispy but still bleeding meaty juices when touched by the fork. Try it (along with a dozen other varieties of meat-based foods) at the Pod Volat restaurant on Stara Varoš Square. If you identify with the Italian-influenced Sveti Stefan, think squid, prawns, chard and pasta; Try them at Konoba Langust on Przno Beach.

Greater export

Ksenija Cicvarić is the Rihanna of Montenegro, if Rihanna were a folk singer born in 1927. In fact, the only parallel is that Ksenija was famous enough (in Montenegro) to only use her first name, and is by far the most famous daughter of Podgorica.

British equivalent

Technically, as the country’s capital, Podgorica’s UK twin is London, but good luck finding a tube station in Poddy G. Instead, think: a crazy cathedral, a satisfyingly simple cuisine, a drinking culture serious, underrated nearby beaches, no famous sons or daughters, no -Actually one goes there on purpose. Yes, Podgorica is the Norwich of Montenegro.

Fun fact

Montenegrins are the second tallest people in the world (the average male height is a fraction over six feet). The citizens of Podgorica are proud of this, but even more proud of the skill it gives them in water polo, the national sport. (Psst! Don’t tell them no other country really cares about water polo.)

How to do it

Fly to Podgorica with Wizz Air from Gatwick or Ryanair from Stansted/Manchester – flights cost from £15 each way with both airlines. Hotels in the city are cheap; the best, the stylish Hilton Podgorica Crna Gora, costs around £90 a night. For more information, see

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *