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There are some ways to get to Montenegro’s Adriatic Coast, my taxi driver assured me, elevating his voice over a refrain of horns that angrily saluted his laissez-faire angle towards lane use throughout morning rush-hour site visitors in Belgrade. ‘But it makes no sense to take the train.’ He weaved by means of much less aggressive automobiles like a skier clearing slalom gates. A chilly, gray autumn rain started to fall tougher, drops beading down my window, as the primary railway station got here into view.
‘Let me take you to the airport,’ he sounded genuinely involved. ‘You will be in the sea and in the sun and with a beer in half an hour. This thing you are doing, it will take all day … and into the night.’ He lastly relented as we pulled as much as the curb: ‘At least buy water, sandwiches, and toilet paper.’
The cabbie left me in entrance of the crenellated railway station, a pale Habsburg-yellow throwback opened in 1884. He was already dashing off to advise one other vacationer earlier than I might throw my bag over my shoulder. Inside, I discovered the ticket workplace. The girl behind the glass knowledgeable me that the journey from Belgrade, Serbia, to Bar, Montenegro – on the Adriatic fringe of the Balkan Peninsula – takes 12 hours. It prices 21 euros (there can be an extra three-euro cost for a seat reservation). ‘Yes, there is a bakery nearby,’ she stated and pointed. ‘It is behind you. The shop for water and tissues is next to it.’ She slid the window closed, stood, picked up her pack of cigarettes, and disappeared.
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That sense of old-world drama would serve me properly, I might quickly study, alongside this route. On the outskirts of the Serbian capital – as I settled into my seat in a weathered, six-person cabin – we handed Topčider Station, the place the hulking locomotives from Yugoslav chief Marshal Tito’s well-known Blue Train are saved. The behemoths sat dishevelled, graffitied, however nonetheless regal and nearly lifelike, wishing me a protected passage to the outer lands. Within an hour, the tangle of city metallic and concrete unravelled, and the countryside unfold out in all instructions with the urgency of a jailbreak. The solar got here out as moist, emerald-green hummocks started to play leapfrog throughout the vista, rolling till they dove out of sight over the horizon.
Though the Belgrade–Bar line doesn’t have an attractive moniker (just like the Royal Scotsman or Rocky Mountaineer), the Yugoslav Flyer can be acceptable. When development started on the 476km railway in 1951, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was in its infancy: a tenuous post-WWII cadre of states on the Balkan Peninsula’s western half. By the time the route opened in 1976 – full with 254 tunnels and 234 bridges winding down from the Pannonian Plain to the island-studded Adriatic Sea – the nation had implanted itself as a geopolitical pressure and a synapse between the West and the Soviet Union.
Yugoslavia has since splintered into seven nations. The railway, fortunately, endures, connecting Serbia to Montenegro with a short blip throughout Bosnia & Hercegovina’s japanese border. But the road’s existence represents greater than only a continued, now worldwide, transport choice. These tracks are the Balkans – and a lifeline to a swath of land the place cultures have intertwined since earlier than historical past. Here, the prepare takes adventurers throughout vistas crisscrossed by Greeks and Illyrians, in addition to the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Along the best way, guests have a literal window onto a residing museum frozen in time.
Those pure reveals have been on full show as we rumbled by means of the foothills of the Dinaric Alps in the southwestern nook of Serbia. When we crossed the border into Montenegro, the museum’s lineup of canvases – pristine panoramas and landscapes – modified once more. The Western Balkans’ rotating assortment now included towering mountains and canyons that engulfed us complete.
‘I had no idea what to expect,’ stated Colin Smith, a fellow passenger and UK native. Outside the window, an outdated couple leaned in opposition to pitchforks subsequent to haystacks. Behind them, vegetable gardens and a small-but-dense orchard of plum bushes surrounded a stone farmhouse. ‘But I am so surprised by the beauty: the mountains, steep ravines and endless drops.’
Before I went to sleep that evening, I remembered my taxi driver: ‘But it makes no sense to take the train.’ Lying in mattress, I might hear the ocean washing onto the shore exterior my rented condo’s window. If I ever noticed him once more, I might make sure that to inform the cabbie he was proper: a flight would have been a lot quicker and simpler, and extra sterile.
Book tickets (and separate obligatory reservations) on the station a day in advance. There are 1st- and 2nd-class choices. Night-train passengers can select between couchettes or sleepers (with two or three beds). A one-way ticket (from Belgrade) prices 21 euros; a reservation is critical and prices an extra three euros. Second-class couchettes on evening trains value an extra six euros. A mattress in a three-bed sleeper is 15 euros; a mattress in a two-bed sleeper is 20 euros.
The Belgrade–Bar railway line runs twice per day, in each instructions. From Belgrade, the prepare departs at 9:10am and at 9:10pm; the journey takes 12 hour.