Another quick side trip on my way back to the USA from the UK. I flew from Gatwick on Tuesday morning, 8 May, first to Amsterdam and then on to Belgrade in Serbia. I arrived in the mid-afternoon and took a taxi into the city and my hotel, the Belgrade City Hotel. Since this was a quick trip and I was leaving the next day I immediately set off to explore the city, or at least that part of the city I could walk to from my hotel.
|Tesla's High Voltage Discharge|
|Joe Strummer Mural|
I continued my walk around Skadarlija, the so-called Bohemian district. It was a little funky with lots of bars and restaurants perhaps Bohemian. There were a few better quality grafitis or wall art. A fine portrait of Joe Strummer and similar ones of people I do not know.
Continuing further on I reached the medieval fort area of Kalamegdanska. The extensive walls and fortifications to the fort sit in a park area above the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers. Again there were lots of people sitting around enjoying the evening and of course lots of children playing in the parks. There was a collection of armaments in the grounds all the way from early cannons, to WWI and WWII field guns, up to SAM missiles. The latter really looked scary and out of place in such an old historical area.
|Sava River (left), Danube (top and right)|
I headed back towards my hotel and the nearby train station. I had to pick up my train ticket at the station’s Western Union office. As promised the lady in the office had an envelope with my ticket and the schedule for the next morning’s train. As I walked through the quite dilapidated station I recognized it immediately. I had been there in 1971 on my way to Istanbul. It hardly looked any different. I think perhaps I spent the night on a bench there. What a tremendous feeling of nostalgia. I was traveling with two ladies from Edinburgh University - I can’t even remember their names.
|Belgrade Train Station|
|The Belgrade to Bar Train|
|Tito's Private Train|
The final stretch of the line in Montenegro was the most spectacular section. We crossed the Mala Rijeka viaduct, the highest and longest on the line, just after Bijelo Polje. Then the track followed a steep 25% downgrade from high up on the side of the valley. What an amazing construction feat this must have been. We started way up high on the side of a deep valley cut into the limestone mountains and descended with squeaking brakes through a series of tunnels and bridges down to the same level as the road as it entered Podgorica.
|Station in Podgorica|
I didn’t notice much about the drive other than the driver was very careful to observe the speed limit. Perhaps the police were really strict in that area. The other noticeable thing was the frequency of roundabouts, it was continuous, one after the other, it seemed like there was not a continuous stretch of road for more than a mile. We arrived at the border with Albania in the rain. There was a short wait and a brief check on the passports on the Montenegran side, then another short wait to enter Albania. The once closed country is now quite open and welcoming.
The road into the capital, Tirana, was not particularly impressive - not a major highway. My driver used his GPS to deliver me to my hotel - the Hotel Austria. A modern hotel in a backstreet area near the center of town. We arrived around 11:00 and I was tired after 11 hours in the train and 3 hours in the car.
|Skanderbeg Square, Tirana|
|The Tirana Pyramid|
|Bunk'Art Bunker Corridor|
At that point it was nearing 1:00 pm and I was feeling like I had walked enough. My flight was at 3:30 so I took a taxi to the airport, Mother Theresa Airport (she was Albanian). Taxis do seem quite reasonable here. At the airport all was smooth for my WizzAir departure for Budapest. Interestingly my ticket for the flight was 27 Euros. If I hadn’t have printed my boarding pass at the hotel that morning, I would have been charged 35 Euros to get a boarding pass at the airport.
|Mother Theresa Airport|
There are more photos of the trip here.