May 28, 2018 - The Montenegrin public is generally divided over the Austro-Hungarian rule in part of its territory, but everyone agrees that it is more than the positive legacy of this government. It's about infrastructure. Water supply, telegraph infrastructure, military fortifications, and roads are something that the regime of the former empire has left as a legacy of its progress and development. The very date when the first train entered Zelenika near Herceg Novi in 1901 is celebrated as the date of commencement of railway traffic in Montenegro.
The railway was beneficial for the Austro-Hungarian Empire and was part of the plans for connecting Albania with the rest of Europe. Montenegro then opposed this idea and, through its diplomatic activities, tried to lobby the idea of merging the Danube with the Adriatic Sea through Serbia instead.
Interestingly, even today the debate about priorities or the Adriatic-Ionian highway, which has reached the split or corridor between Belgrade and Bar, poses the same questions as a hundred years ago.
Despite the interest in economic expansion and connection with the port in Zelenica, the railway had other benefits for the local population in Herceg Novi. The tourism that was then only emerging in Herceg Novi for example. Herceg Novi suddenly became connected with the world, through Sarajevo, Budapest, and Vienna.
After the First World War, the railway quickly became a shortfall, and plans for its revitalization promptly faded. At the end of 1968, they decided to put a padlock on the track. From all of this, there is still a small railway bridge in Zelenika, and the railway station building, that reminds us of the former connection of Herceg Novi with the world.
The local government built the railway station building in 1934 in front of the hotel "Topola" where the train stopped and from where the guests directly entered the hotel hall. The local story says that the intolerance between the mayor and the owners of the hotel was the reason for the mayor to build a charming two-story building from white marble in front of the hotel, thus enabling the view of all Topola guests.
After the closure of the railway, the building became a communist "Dom Kulture" institution. Today it is the property of renowned director Emir Kusturica who promised that the building would be the home of cinema, but for now, the only thing that works within it is a small restaurant.