Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Adventures on the Overnight Train

 Ever since we moved to Belgrade, I had really wanted to try one of the overnight trains.  In my head, the 'real' European experience needs to include some sort of train travel.  So finally, almost a year after moving here, I was able to convince 4 very brave friends to join Phil and I on the overnight train to Bar, Montenegro.  Initially, the idea was to get the 6-bed compartment and have a fun, dorm-like experience, but when Phil and I went to the station to get our tickets, they didn't  have any compartments completely empty for us to be all together; so we settled for 3 'rooms' of two beds each.  We had a rental car waiting for us to then  drive around the country to the National Parks, spend the night in Budva, drive up to Sveti Stefan and Kotor Bay and fly back from Tivat on Monday morning.  The train was supposed to leave at 8:10 PM and get to Bar at 7 in the morning, so  we met at the train station at about 7:45 and made our way to our seats.  Our rooms were side by side and the best part is that some of them were connected by an inside door that could be folded in, to create a large suite.  You could also put up the top bunks to allow people to sit on the bottom ones without hitting their head; curiously, the bottom of that bunk was made up to look like a nice picture, so that when the whole set-up was ready, it looked like a legitimate living room.

K and R's living room

Phil hanging out in the mid-section

We brought some mojito pre-made mix for the ride and some really unhealthy snacks.  Sadly, we ate 90% of the snacks while we sat at the station until 10 PM.  We kept joking that we should just get off and let those two hours sitting and waiting for departure to be the actual OT adventure.  Finally, at like 10:15, we left Belgrade.  The ride was smooth and pretty fast, not bumpy, but screechy. We went to bed at like midnight, but I didn't really sleep very much at all because of the noise and the movement. But overall, it was a really comfortable way to travel.  The beds were not bad and it felt clean enough.  The sheets and pillows had definitely been washed before and there was nothing terribly disturbing. Except for the bathroom.

We got 'waken up' twice at the border to get our passports checked and stamped, and 12 hours hours later we arrived in Podgorica, still wearing the same clothes as the night before. We picked up our car, which fit all 5 of us in the front and back and had a mini-semi-seat in what I would call tier 3 of the car.  It was the best and worst seat in the house.

We drove for about 3 hours, stopping at a really small town/village for a traditional lunch of grilled meat, french fries, salads and beers.  All six of us ate a lot for 21 Euros.  Amazing!  A quick stopover to a hanging bridge and we arrived at the Black Lake, a UNESCO site within Durmitor National Park. 

Crazy Foreigners

Driving back, we kept looking at the guidebook to find fun things to see and do, and we selected Ostrog Monastery, not a UNESCO site, but a "Montenegro Top 10",  unfortunately, three thousand other people seemed to have the same idea, so we wound up in the top of a very steep mountain, on a one way road, behind about 11 coach buses.  We got out of the car and tried to walk it, and then noticed, that in the distance, it was about 5 miles away-and all uphill.  We quickly aborted the mission and decided to instead drive down to the coast to Sveti Stefan, this glorious hotel-resort-island to watch the sunset and have some drinks.  Two hours later and we made it right on time. The sun had maybe another 20 minutes before setting.  We ran to the coast and were able to take really good pictures.  Then our friend, C. tried to get us into the resort for drinks, but unfortunately, we were turned away because of our too-casual clothes (and probably our too loud voices).  Luckily there was a cute little place nearby, where we sat down and saw the sunset before checking into our apartments.

Needless to say, we were super tired when we finally drove to Budva, where we were planning to have dinner and spend the night.  When we got to the town, we realized that no one had printed the exact address of the place and we didn't have a way of knowing where we were staying.  At least C. had looked at the map beforehand and had some recolection of where the street was located, but we still had no clue exactly where it was, so we ended up knocking on random doors and asking.  No one had heard of the place or knew where it was.  Finally, a kindred spirit allowed us to connect our ipad to his Wi-Fi to look up the phone number.  The miracle of modern technology!  C. talked to the guy, told him where we were, and he was able to give us directions on how to get there.  The whole thing took over an hour, but we finally made it and it was a really nice place with a great location.

The rest of the trip was more relaxing, we walked around the Budva old town, which was nice; same, same but different and the next day we went to Kotor Bay, back to the scene of the scooter accident (see earlier post).  Now, I still have to make it to Macedonia to complete my tour of the ex-republics and brave the overnight trains to Bucharest and/or Sofia!

1 comment:

k-lee said...

V-rah - what happened to day 2 of the trip;) lost some steam, eh?20