Sunday, March 28, 2010

What a view!

Did we make the right choice to move away from the city center?

Drinking coffee on a glorious Sunday morning with this view....

Uuuhhh, the answer would be YES!!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Spring has sprung in Montenegro

The weather here has gotten so nice - flowers are blooming, the air is clear, and you can walk around outside without a jacket. Right now, it is a quiet Saturday morning here in Podgorica...the perfect time to catch up on some long overdue blogging! Let's see...where did I leave off??

Last week, Kaz flew in from Tokyo. I traveled to Vienna to meet him there, spend the night, and return to our new home base. Prior to my departure, I visited the Austrian Embassy here in Podgorica to see if I could get some travel information on their lovely city. I had been prepared to see some stray dogs here, but what I saw on my way to the Embassy topped my expectation...a stray horse. Yes, a stray horse. There are dumpsters set up along the roadways here where people leave their garbage...and rummaging through the dumpster was a very dirty, shabby white horse. He was pulling out the garbage bags and eating whatever food he could find. This was on a very busy street with cars flying by...he just stood there munching away, neighed, and then shuffled on down the street. My animal-loving heart broke a bit; I could not bring myself to take a picture but I am assuming that this may not be a usual site as some local man was taking a picture with a cell phone. What a lovely juxtaposition for this country!

Anyways, I digress. On to Vienna!! I now understand why it is said that this city is the greatest city to live in in the beautiful, quaint,, love! You see people from all corners of the world walking its cobblestone streets, mothers and children playing in the parks, fathers in suits walking hand-in-hand with their toddlers, and dogs happily romping in dog parks near the Danube.

But first, I had to get to this amazing city from Podgorica...

I flew on JAT Airways (the national airline of Serbia) from Podgorica to Belgrade and then on to Vienna. Prior to my departure, I was told by a local that JAT is in serious financial trouble and is looking for another airline to buy them out. Montenegrin Airlines is much more reliable. Note to self for future travel. This issue manifested itself on one of my flights. We all were seated on the plane, preparing for departure when the crew boarded the plane...2 pilots and 1 flight attendant. Normal procedure so far. As we were taxing, the safety instructions begin and out pops one of the pilots from the cockpit to demonstrate to us how to buckle our seat belts and where the emergency exits are located. He ducks back into the cockpit, we take off, and soon the in-flight service begins. And out pops this pilot again, kindly offering us drinks and cookies. You know your airline is in trouble when.....your pilot is pulling double-duty.

I arrived in Vienna around 10:30 a.m. and had the whole day to explore the city on my own as Kaz was to arrive around 4:00 p.m. I spent a good portion of the day exploring Schönbrunn Palace, the former imperial summer palace.

I made my way back to the city center and then on to the airport to meet my hubby! Yay! =) We spent the late afternoon wandering the Innerstadt and had a nice dinner. We originally planned on a traditional Viennese meal but as we were walking around, we noticed quite a few Chinese restaurants. Now, mind you, there is only ONE Chinese restaurant in Podgorica, and if you read the reviews on the place, they don't inspire you to eat there! We thought it may be fun to have one last nice Asian meal before heading into the abyss of Asian cuisine that is Podgorica...and to my delight, we could order fried rice, mapo tofu, and Wiener Schnitzel!! In the words of Alton Brown, that is what I call some "good eats!"

This past week was Kaz's first week of work at the UNDP Montenegro office. We had settled in to the apartment but soon realized that the "character" that was at first adorable got a little old for long-term living. It was a great transition place but we decided that it would not hurt to look around to see what else may be available. And then we found this place...

We are on the 4th floor of a brand new building; there are 2 bedrooms, a large living space, and a huge L-shaped balcony. It is only 100 euros more than the previous place!! It is a little further from the city center but located in the "new" area of town near the university. Right across the road is the new shopping mall Delta City where there is a huge grocery store. The apartment is about a 25 minute walk to Kaz's office and maybe a 30-35 minute hike to the city center. We think it is well worth the extra effort and exercising does a body good!!

As for me...some of you may be thinking, "Wasn't Lisa going back to school to get into a nursing program? And then didn't she take the GRE and look into Master programs in Health Promotion and/or Education?" Yes, it is true...I did all those things, but I also realize that in life you only have the present moment. School will always be there but this once-in-a-lifetime travel adventure doesn't cross one's path every day. Here in Podgorica, I have a few things in the making and I will let you know when something comes to fruition!! Stay tuned............

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Update coming...

Hey everyone!!

I know that I have been MIA for awhile here...sorry about that! There has been a lot going on here. Kaz arrived last week and I went to meet him in Vienna...just quickly I have to say that I think that Vienna is my new favorite city!!

We are in the process of trying to find a new apartment (more on that later!) so that has kept me a little busy. I think by this weekend though that things should be settled, and I can take more time to blog about the going-ons here in the Balkans!!

So, I will write more when I have the chance...just know that things are going well and a major update is long overdue and on its way!!

Love ya!!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

First shop at the kiosk

I was out and about this afternoon, walked quite a bit within the city. I was wrapping up my to-do list and I wanted to get some fresh produce. Rather than walking to the larger market, I decided that this would be an opportune time to try the kiosk in front of our apartment for the first time.

I asked the woman working there if she spoke "Engleski" to which she responded in the negative but with a smile. From that point forward, there was a lot of pointing and holding up fingers for quantity. This was the result for all of 2 euros:

I have to be honest and admit that there have been a couple of occasions where my inner microbiologists has shuttered in horror as I see items out in the open (in this case, loafs of bread perched precariously on a tiny window sill) and people obliviously waving their cigarettes over fresh produce. But what are you going to do?? When in Rome...or more like it, when in Podgorica...I think my inner micro-geek will have to go on a long vacation! =)

Monday, March 8, 2010

Small grocery shopping excursion

This afternoon I walked to the small grocery store that is maybe 5 minutes away from our apartment. I guess this place is a little more expensive than the large one near the Mall of Montenegro, but it is really convenient since it is so close. Plus, the infamous "North Wind" is blowing today and I decided it was best not to venture too far!

Here is the grocery store "Voli" (at least that is my name for it!) and right next to it is my bank:

These are the goods I bought just to tide me over for a bit:

Some recognizable brands include Barilla and Air Wick. That awesome loaf of bread only cost 1 euro in the bakery...yum! Thankfully, here in Montenegro they use quite a bit of different whole grains when making bread.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The return of banana oatmeal

As most of you know, I have a slight obsession with food; therefore, mixed among the travel/cultural posts, you are going to have to put up with some foodie posts.

So, for the inaugural foodie post, I bring you...Nutella Banana Oatmeal!

I found in the fridge what appeared to be oatmeal. It definitely was a grain but darker in appearance than the oatmeal in the States. I googled what was on the bag, "Razene" and "Pahuljice," and came across an online Croatian dictionary that told me that pahuljice can be translated as "flake" or "cereal flake." I figured that I had enough evidence to proceed with my plan.

The goods:

How cute is this carton of milk?!

Hmm...maybe I should invest in some sort of measuring device.

The final product:

The verdict? Delish!

Although, I may have just made Nutella Banana Oatmeal out of something that is traditionally eaten with meat and potatoes! Oh, well!! =)

It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood

I woke up to blue sky this morning! It has been raining for a long time here in Podgorica (even before I arrived); I saw evidence of flooding from the airplane window on my flight in here.

But today was gorgeous....still a bit cold but the air seemed so crisp and fresh. I wanted to take advantage of the great weather today because it is suppose to return to gray and rainy for awhile again so I spent the afternoon wandering around Podgorica and taking random pictures. Here are a select few...

The stairwell of our apartment is as colorful as the inside!

These shots are of the area just outside of our apartment, and there is a small kiosk right in front that sells fresh produce, drinks, etc. I guess that it is more pricey than the other markets but it sure is handy! "No banana for my oatmeal this morning? Maybe I should just run outside and buy some." I love it! There is also what appears to be a school next door with a cute little playground area.

This "fast food" place is right across our street and the most expensive item on their menu is some sort of omelet for 3 euros.

I am just so happy that the gorgeous weather allowed me to finally see the hills that surround this city. If I remember correctly, Podgorica means "under the hills."

Although it was quite disappointing to see so much garbage in one of the smaller rivers that runs through the city. I have been told that the concept of recycling is not on the top of peoples' priority lists here.

This is Millennium Bridge that crosses the Moraca River...this one seemed more free of garbage thankfully.

Here is a shopping area in the city center. Recently, there has been a large mall built outside of the city center which has negatively impacted this area. Some of the shops have had to close although it still looked fairly bustling on a Saturday afternoon.

This is the Mall of Montenegro, not to be confused with Delta City which I mentioned above (the one taking business away from the city center).

I went here this morning and there is a large supermarket as well as an amazing open market where you can buy fresh produce, fish, cheeses, etc. any day of the week. Much better than the weekly farmers' markets in the States, in my opinion! Most of the food in Montenegro is made with fresh, domestic produce...although "domestic" could mean grown in Croatia; I am told that Montenegro does not produce much on its own. Next time I head to the market I will have my camera in hand!!

Here is one of the government buildings...

Evidently government officials are well known as people, not just entities (e.g., someone may know the president personally). I guess we even saw a famous theater actor at the market this morning, mingling with everyone else. Famous people need to buy cheese too! The woman who has been showing me around the city was born and raised here in Podgorica (formerly known as Titograd), and there were numerous occasions where she stopped to say hello to people walking on the street. It seems to be an "everyone knows everyone" kind of place where they look out for each other. Even if you don't know someone, this concept of kindness is evident. For example, we went into a small shop looking for a map of the city; unfortunately, the shopkeeper did not have any but one gentleman overheard the conversation and kindly pointed us in the right direction as to where one could be bought.

And finally, here is Trg Republike, the city square.

I spent a good 2 hours wandering around our new city...everything is so accessible by foot and will make for a very comfortable lifestyle, I think. The larger supermarket may be a bit far when returning with grocery bags, but do not fear, a taxi ride back to the apartment will only set me back about 2 euros!!