Podgorica saw more of us than any other town during our stay, for we made it afterwards our headquarters. It would be difficult to forget that mountain-bounded valley and the town with its bustling streets of picturesque humanity. And then those sunsets! The peaks towering behind bathed in crimson, and the intervening hills rising one above the other to the furthermost summits like a giant staircase, rich in a mysterious purple. As we walked back from our evening swim, over the short, springing grass, that scene at sunset never abated its charms one whit. And we were always glad on entering the town that no one wore plain, ugly European clothes but ourselves. The national costumes, so full of colour, blended harmoniously with our feelings, and have left behind them an indelible picture.
Podgorica—Its central position—Our headquarters—Easter in Montenegro—Our experience of it—We view the town—The prison and its inmates—Christian and Mahometan friction—The modern town—The market and the armed buyers—The Black Earth—Easter customs—Montenegrin methods of doing business.
[Illustration: GENERAL VIEW OF PODGORICA]
If it were not for the dangerous proximity of the Albanian border, Podgorica would have been made the capital of Montenegro. It is favourably situated for a trade centre, and, owing to this fact, has naturally gathered a large population (the largest in Montenegro), approaching ten thousand. Lying on a rich and fertile plain, within easy reach of the Lake of Scutari, and connected by good roads with Cetinje and Niksic, it is within market distance, so to speak, of Kolasin and Andrijevica. From these districts, and from the Albanian borders, the people flock in crowds, and the Podgorican market is by far the most important in the country. But—and it is a big “but”—in this case the Albanian frontier is only an hour’s walk away, and it would never do to risk the persons of the Royal Family and the Ministers in a sudden Albanian raid, and troubles and disturbances are of everyday occurrence.
We made Podgorica our headquarters during our sojourn in the land of the Black Mountain mainly for its central position, but also for the opportunity afforded us there for studying Montenegrin life.
It would be difficult to forget our first visit to the town. It was Easter Sunday evening when we arrived at the Hotel Europa, and after seeing our luggage carried in, started out on a tour of inspection, and also to present our letter of introduction to Dr. S., the veterinary surgeon of Montenegro. We had not got more than fifty yards from the hotel when we were forced to beat a hasty and ignominious retreat. At Eastertide, which is one of the biggest feasts in the Greek Church, beggars, halt and maim, blind and tattered, pour into all the larger towns of the country. They come from Turkey, Albania, Bosnia, and Dalmatia—in fact, from everywhere within reach—and make a rich harvest, for the Montenegrin opens his heart, his hand, and his house at Easter. In our innocence we imagined this to be the normal state of affairs in Montenegro, and were greatly cast down.