Hotel Crna Gora has finally disappeared. The reconstruction works are in progress (photo 1) and it is hardly possible to recognize the old hotel – designed by Vujadin Popović and built in 1953 – that was once a symbol of post-war development and modern architecture. The new five-star Hilton Hotel will soon open its doors for foreign tourists and businessmen – but, unfortunately, not for all the citizens of Podgorica, who liked to gather there and have a cheap “Turkish” coffee or a “rakija” on the beautiful terrace. In the luxurious lounge bar of the new Hilton Hotel, most of them will not feel themselves “at home” any more…
Hotel Crna Gora, and especially its stone terrace facing the park, was the landmark of Titograd, later Podgorica (photo 2). It was located in the very center of the town, between two beautiful parks. No wonder that the bohemians of Podgorica immortalized the hotel in their paintings and poems. By the way, did you know that Tito, Queen Elisabeth and Sofia Loren have stayed her?
I remember the Crna Gora Hotel from 1963, when I visited Titograd as a young girl, together with my parents. As real globetrotters, we were traveling the unknown Balkans by car and we were astonished by the relaxed atmosphere, the friendly people and the sunny climate of Yugoslavia. One evening, we had dinner in the garden behind the hotel. Live music was playing and I remember that everybody stared at us. Not many foreigners visited Titograd at that time!
The second time I stayed in the hotel was a few years later. After my tourism study, I had found a job in Budva and during my trip I had to make a stop in Titograd, from where I took the bus to the coast next morning. As a young woman alone I was a subject of curiosity, when I had my coffee on the terrace that morning – 99% of the guests were men (photo 3)!
In the following years, I have been a frequent guest of the Crna Gora Hotel. I enjoyed the first sunny days in spring, sitting on the terrace with my family or friends and admiring the beautiful purple flowers covering the stone pillars (was it Wisteria?). But I also attended business meetings there, worked as interpreter at workshops, conferences, seminars. Or participated in business lunches with foreign partners of Industriaimport, the large company where I worked in the seventies and eighties of the last century (photo 4). And I remember that the traditional cuisine of the hotel was famous all over Yugoslavia!
It’s all gone now. I know that the moment, when the famous restaurant and terrace were demolished sixty years after their construction, was difficult for all inhabitants of Podgorica. And thus also for me. Although the building company had promised that the old building would be “renovated” only, and not demolished – it did not survive (photo 5).
I have traveled a lot and I must admit that other countries do not show the tendency to build Hilton, Hyatt or Holiday Inn hotels in city centers. Famous old hotels are not demolished, they are renovated in the real sense of the word, keeping their name, image, traditions and authenticity. Examples? Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam, Kurhaus in The Hague, Hotel Moskva in Belgrade … and many, many others in the whole world. I know, the new owner had promised – when he placed the first cornerstone for the new hotel in 2011 – that the Crna Gora Hotel would remain “recognizable” and that its spirit would be preserved, but nowadays it is not easy to recognize anything of the old cozy hotel, let alone its “spirit” and atmosphere! But I must admit that no efforts are spared to give the Hilton Hotel a kind of “Montenegrin image”. Just look how the workers are placing big stone slabs on the wall and pillars of the former restaurant (photo 6)!
I am sure that the new Hilton Hotel will be fabulous (photo 7 – normalcompany.me). It will have around 200 rooms and 23 apartments, restaurant, bar, modern multifunctional meeting rooms, congress facilities, a wellness center with an indoor swimming-pool, VIP spa center, fitness center…
But will it ever have the same emotional value for the inhabitants of Podgorica as the former Hotel Crna Gora, a cult place for many ordinary and extraordinary people and one of the few real cultural-historical monuments of Podgorica? The new owners are doing the best they can – and it is up to us, citizens of Podgorica, to accept the new Hilton Hotel as a new landmark of the capital city of Montenegro!