The Montenegro Train Ride to Serbia
I am at the train station in Podgorica, Montenegro waiting for the arrival of the overnight train to Belgrade, Serbia. I arrived earlier that day by bus from Kotor, Montenegro and spent the day walking around Montenegro’s capital city. Podgorica, unlike Kotor and the other towns around the bay, still displays its communist past in its drab, block buildings, empty open squares, and slightly bizarre sculptures.
Not many tourists make it to Podgorica but it is a good way station in Eastern Europe as the bus and train stations are adjacent and most buses and trains pass through on their way to other destinations.
Serbian Railways has a good English website that shows the prices of the trains. Online timetables are a little trickier to find but they do exist. The one thing to remember though, is that some cities and countries can only be searched using their local name/spelling: for example Belgrade is Beograd, Serbia is Srbije and Montenegro is Crna Gora, which means black mountain. Zeleznice Stanica is Serbio-Craotian for train station. Voz is a train and autobuska is a bus.
One of the oldest trains I have ever seen lumbers into view and comes slowly screeching to a halt.
The November night is chilly. I sit on a bench outside the station with my suitcase in front of me. I purchased a reservation, which is required as the train journey is an overnight one and there are sleeping compartments. The ticket lists a number for the car I am in as well as the compartment.
I hear the train before I see it; its whistle breaks the silence of the night air. People start climbing over tracks to reach the one that the train is to arrive on. There are no walkways over the tracks and no platforms.
One of the oldest trains I have ever seen lumbers into view and comes slowly screeching to a halt. I walk down the line of cars until I find the one with the correct number. I hoist my suitcase inside and then pull myself up the stairs. A train worker checks my ticket and waves me into the car.
My ticket says compartment 12, or at least I think it does but there is no compartment 12. The numbers only go up to 10. I try to ask someone but my Croatian isn’t good enough to understand any of the answers I get. An older man waves me to the window and then calls out to someone on the ground. A woman comes over. I tell her my problem. She looks at my ticket.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks travelling south through Croatia to Montenegro by bus. Bus Croatia makes planning your route through Croatia very easy.
“Its okay,” she says, “Just use compartment 5 with my husband. It doesn’t matter. Compartment 5.”
She says something to her husband and he nods.
“Thank you.” I say. “Hvala.”
She smiles. “Sure. No problem. Have a good journey.”
The man and I are the only ones in our compartment. He asks the train worker for a pillow and blanket for himself and me. He locks the door and we both drift off to sleep. I have strange half asleep dreams about climbing mountains and trains with no seats. I think I hear cows.
I’ve spent the last couple of weeks travelling south through Croatia to Montenegro by bus. Bus Croatia makes planning your route through Croatia very easy. It’s up-to-date and available in English. Other sites that list timetables are BalkanViator and Montenegro Hostel.
I’ve never experienced any trouble getting a bus ticket right before the bus is scheduled to leave but the Split to Dubrovnik bus (which also continues onto to Kotor in Montenegro) is a popular route and does get busy during the summer. Buying a ticket a few hours before you want to leave is probably a good idea.
My ticket says compartment 12, or at least I think it does but there is no compartment 12. The numbers only go up to 10.
Suddenly, someone knocks loudly on the compartment door. The man reaches to unlock and open it. A Serbian border guard appears and holds out his hand.
“Passport,” he says.
The border guard glances briefly at the man’s ID and hands it back. Then he takes my passport. He stares at it for a long time, occasionally looking up at me and at the man. He seems confused. I sit patiently on the edge of the bed as he bends it back and forth and looks through the pages. Finally, he stamps it, hands it back to me, turns abruptly and leaves.
The man and I look at each other and shrug and laugh a little. We both drift back to sleep. This time the train in my dream has soft, plush red velvet seats. The sun is shining through the windows of the Montenegro train, and I look out to see field after field filled with cows.
The Montenegro Train Ride to Serbia
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