Sunday, November 23, 2008

Around Podgorica

Wandering around the city of Podgorica, there are many things to take in. Here are some more of the sites of the capitol of Montenegro which we captured on our anniversary. First a brief history lesson. During World War II, Podgorica was apparently bombed by both sides of the conflict, effectively demolishing it. When Tito rose to power in Yugoslavia, he designed and rebult the city, naming it after himself. There are still remnants of the name Titograd to be found, especially on man-hole covers. We also went with our language tutor to a cafe named Titograd (It's near "Cheers").

Prior to WWI, Montenegro was a monarchy. King Nikola I and his family were forced to flee the country in 1915. After the war was over, Montenegro was annexed into the kingdom of Serbia. Since that time, the erstwhile ruling family of Montenegro has been living in France, although the current head of that family, Prince Nicholas (or potentially King Nicola II) visits anually, and says that if his people want, he will become their king (doesn't seem likely though). Near the "Scales" there is a large statue of King Nikola I on horse back. This is a handy landmark for remembering which street a certain restaurant we like is on.

The church of Saint George (no doubt named for the famed slayer of a dragon) is very old, and doesn't seem to have capacity for a large gathering, but seems to still have services, judging by the fact that it was wired for sound. This seemed incongruious with the fading but still extravagant decor of velvet curtains and altar cloths and gold bedecked icons of the saints. We were pretty sure that photography was prohibited inside so we only snapped shots of the exterior.

Near the indoor piazza there is a wall made of corrigated siding that was the original greyish color when we first arrived, then was painted white, and a few days later had quite a colorful mural of fruit and veggies on it. We are still not sure if it was the work of an artist commissioned by the city (or someone else) to paint it, of vandals, or of the children from the school across the street. This is only one portion of a fairly long wall.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Anniversary Montenegro Style

November 18th was our 2nd wedding anniversary, and we decided to celebrate by going to the Chinese restaurant (there is only one in Podgorica-at least this side of the river), and walking around areas of the city we hadn't explored before. The Chinese food was very good. We started with a trip to the post office where we found two anniversary cards waiting for us-good timing Grandma and Aunt Lois!

We found an area called Scales, that goes down to the river via stone steps and has many different paths. It looks like there used to be a castle there. We found several other places during our explorations, an old Orthodox church named for Saint George, and a bar where everybody "should" know our name :)

We got ice cream and bought some souvenirs, and came home and watched a DVD and skyped my best friend (and her sweet children). A good day all around.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Avoid Store Grand Openings

We walked down a "new" to us street today and came across a large supermarket that was having its grand opening. We needed groceries, and it was pretty close to our home, so we decided to check it out. Personal space went out the window! In the aisles, we would get separated, because only one of us could get through before a crowd of people would block the path. Once we made it to the check-out line, the old couple behind us kept pushing into us with their shopping baskets (at least they didn't have a cart!). While we were waiting in line, we saw a Milka mascot. Milka is a chocolate company, their mascot is a purple cow. As we exited we were each given a bag with free products in it. Steve gave away the bottle of beer to a man standing outside the store. We were uncertain what the one product was. Laura received a large bottle, and Steve a smaller one and the label said "sirka." At first we thought it was vinegar "sirče", but when Steve took a test sample we decided that it must be a briney substance used for making cheese "sir." As neither of us plans on making cheese while we are here, we will find some needy cheese-making family to pass it on to :). We also received between us small bags of sesame seed crackers, peanutbutter filled pretzels, and cherry and yoghurt flavored cookies (the type of cookies is called plazma-so I guess the store was a plazma donor). We have decided that we will try the store again at a less hectic time, and then decide if it is one we want to frequent, or if the longer walk to Delta City is preferable to the chaos of the Plus Market.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Life Without Candy Corn

Okay, I (Laura) will admit to being slightly addicted to candy corn. Last year in the States, I was able to get it from late September until the end of March. First it comes in autumnal shades of orange, yellow, brown, and there are the yummy accompanying pumpkins too :). Soon after Thanksgiving, you begin to find it in red, white and green (called "reindeer corn), or in shapes of Santa, bells and trees. After Christmas, it's just the red and white of Valentine's Day (Cupid corn) and finally a sort of pastelli Easter "bunny" corn. I don't know why I like it so much. It's just good (unlike circus peanuts).

It would seem that it doesn't exist over here. We did see a picture of it on a bulk food bin, but no candy corn inside (we figure it came with the bin, which was probably imported from America). My loving mother was going to send us some, but quite sensibly drew the line at paying $27.00 to ship a pound.

So, I will just have to spend a year without candy corn. I will have to make it up by indulging in much wonderful chocolate, and other candy I can get here. And then, as Steve informed me, I will really be able to appreciate the candy corn, which I took for granted before, when we return to the states.

PS. This is in no measure a plea for someone to send candy corn, it is too expensive, and I will survive :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We Got Mail

It's been two months, and finally we've received two actual pieces of "snail mail!" About a month ago, we found an envelope addressed to us, but it had been open and the contents removed. So at the advice of an acquaintance who works at the post office, we rented a post office box for the year. It's about a mile away, so every Tuesday and Friday we walk there to check for mail. It was getting a bit discouraging, because the long walk was not feeling very fruitful, but this past Friday, there were those two whole envelopes, just for us! We realize that with email, Facebook, Skype and our blog, staying in touch by snail mail isn't so necessary or easy, but it is nice to once and awhile have a tangible piece of evidence that people remember you exist.
This is not intended to guilt anyone into sending us mail, just sharing that we are so happy not to be forgotten.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Walk to Delta City

I really wish we would have brought pedometers along so we would know just how much we've walked since we arrived here. We walked maybe two miles yesterday to Delta City, a new mall that will soon have a movie theater (this is good since we were told the only other movie theater in Podgorica is falling down). There is a giant supermarket there, with more selection than our nearby Mex Centar. On the way, we took pictures of the Morača river, and a statue of Saint Peter of Centinje, who reminds me of the Elbonians from Dilbert cartoons. I guess it's the hat and robe :)

Along with groceries, we purchased a printer for our laptop, and since it was bulky, we decided to take a taxi home. This was somewhat complicated by the fact that they still haven't opened the road they were painting. It's been a week and a half! But we learned that there is a twisty back way to our building, probably not one we'll use often.

We also took a picture of Delta City, which looks pretty much like an American mall we think. If you wonder why I look a bit worried, we have to cross that intersection to get to the mall, and pedestrians don't really have the right of way here. You pretty much just go when you can.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Has It Been Two Months Already?

Two months ago today Laura's parents drove us to the airport (thanks Mom and Dad!) and we boarded a plane in Dulles, switched in Vienna and finally landed in Podgorica the next day where we were picked up by friends and driven to our new apartment.
Since that time we have met many new friends, traveled to several different countries, gone out for coffee or pizza often, visited parks, open markets and a museum, and have been having daily language classes.
Our friend Lazar took this picture of us in a park in Novi Sad.
We hope to go to the nearby town of Cetinje (the original capitol of Montenegro-it's where the King lived, they still have a Prince, but he is actually living in France, his family was exiled after WWI, that is where the cultural museums of Montenegro are.
We also will begin teaching/tutoring English to some middle school students starting next week. This will also help our language learning.
Our travel plans for the next little while include visiting friends in Albania for American Thanksgiving, going to the Weinacht's Markts in Germany in early December, and visiting friends in Italy for Christmas (December 25th-here in Montenegro, Christmas is celebrated in early January because of the mostly Orthodox population).