Thursday 2 November 2023

Podgorica, Montenegro: The Smell Of Freedom


Cue Hotel, Podgorica (from the hotel website)

It was unmistakable. As I stepped into the stylishly modern lobby of the Cue Hotel in Podgorica, my nose twitched at the sophisticated fragrance of cigar smoke.

I turned to see a cigar lounge complete with leather Chesterfields, ashtrays and a splendid humidor displaying true Havana cigars, some the size of torpedoes, right down to delicate cheroots. It was right there open to the lobby and evidently well used. The smell was of quiet enjoyment, hedonism and but more than that, the smell of freedom.

Look, I know, smoking is a filthy malodorous habit. It is bad for smokers and all those around them. There are a million reasons not just to ban it but to abolish it altogether. Yet it is another freedom lost — its odour to be replaced by the sweet, cloying, artificial pong of vapes – until they ban those to be superseded by who knows what new horror?

I do not know what the laws are in Montenegro. People seemed not to smoke in public indoor spaces except for the Cue Hotel cigar lounge, but they certainly smoke at outside tables. That evening, I watched four men at an outside table of the Cue. A bottle of wine rested in an ice bucket. All four men sat back in the evening light smoking fragrant cigars. I could see that the conversation was calm and sporadic. Just four men enjoying a proper smoke and companionship.

Montenegro is applying to join the European Union. It will adopt new values that will extinguish such blatant hedonism. It is their choice and they will have much to gain but something will be lost.

I was travelling with the excellent PTG Tours