Each prepare lover has heard of it, and virtually no one else has—the magnificent Bar-to-Belgrade Railway.
Comprised of 54 tunnels and 435 bridges throughout three international locations, this marvel of twentieth-century engineering cuts a jaw-dropping path throughout the Balkan Peninsula, from the Montenegrin seaport of Bar to the Serbian capital of Belgrade.
The railway’s historic night time prepare is steadily (and ill-advisedly) neglected by vacationers excessively preoccupied with the lurid extravagances and stratospheric prices of recent luxurious rail strains like those operated by Belmond.
However, the Bar-to-Belgrade line enjoys well-deserved, legendary standing amongst rail journey lovers, each for its affordability and for its distinctive surroundings.
Low Costs, Priceless Views
The Bar-to-Belgrade prepare is, in reality, two trains. One line, Tara, runs a daytime route, with a 9:00 am departure and an 8:00 pm same-day arrival in each instructions. Consisting solely of second-class carriages, Tara’s seats usually promote for about $25 apiece.
Whereas the journey’s inherent magic is greatest captured by sleeper prepare—in order that the endlessly gorgeous views of the Balkans’ rugged magnificence is perhaps taken in from the consolation of 1’s bunk—Tara’s dawn-to-dusk schedule makes it a dependable choice for catching the route’s surroundings at peak visibility in both path, particularly in winter when there’s much less gentle.
Select your window fastidiously on Tara! For the most effective views going from Bar to Belgrade, sit on the left aspect of the prepare. When going from Belgrade to Bar, sit on the best aspect of the prepare.
Tara’s sister line, Lovcen, runs the in a single day route between the 2 cities, departing at 7:00 pm from its beginning terminus and reaching the top of its journey at 6:08 am (on the northbound line), or 7:30 am (on the southbound line) on the next day.
Lovcen hauls second-class carriages with seats much like Tara’s ($24), in addition to 6-Berthe and 4-berthe couchettes ($31) and triple sleepers ($39).
For an optimally scenic route on the Lovcen sleeper, depend on the encyclopedic information of Mark Smith, who recommends the southbound prepare (Belgrade to Bar) in winter for morning views of the Montenegrin countryside. Within the summertime, he suggests the northbound prepare (Bar-to-Belgrade), to maximise daylight on the route’s most scenic portion.
Railcars Straight Out Of Historical past
Lovcen is a traditional Jap European sleeper prepare—graffiti-stained, ramshackle, and brimming with character.
Onboard, the washrooms are run-down however clear, and traces of smoke might drift by means of the compartments (an inevitable consequence of passengers covertly lighting cigarettes between the vehicles). Nonetheless, the home windows are adjustable, the sheets are freshly laundered, and the bunks are extraordinarily comfy.
All in all, a berth in certainly one of this prepare’s couchette or sleeper vehicles affords a greater night time’s sleep than many equally priced resort stays, to not point out the chance to awake to awe-inspiring panoramas of the Dinarides.
Much more excitingly, latest stories verify that Serbian Railways has been dispatching Plavi Voz Automotive 2-13—the unique workers sleeping automobile from the historic personal prepare of former Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito—as an ordinary single sleeper on Lovcen.
A staunch revolutionary, outstanding statesman, and nice lover of trains, Tito ordered the creation of Plavi Voz (Croatian for “Blue Practice”) largely to benefit from the Bar-to-Belgrade route. Its carriages included a convention parlor automobile, a saloon-style restaurant automobile, and Tito’s personal personal automobile.
For its title, he drew inspiration from a traditional French luxurious night time prepare, the Calais-Mediterranée Specific, which ran between Calais and the French Riviera from 1886 till 2003 and was colloquially known as Le Practice Bleu (now the title of a gorgeous fashionable brasserie in Gare de Lyon station in Paris).
Over a number of many years in energy, Tito used his Blue Practice to entertain a litany of illustrious and influential visitors, together with Yasser Arafat, Sukarno, Elizabeth II of England, and Jawaharlal Nehru. After his demise in 1980, it carried his coffin from Ljubljana to Belgrade.
Naturally, the workers sleeping automobile is rather more modest than most of the different choices on Tito’s authentic prepare; however, it’s a richly historic relic made all of the extra outstanding by its occasional appearances on Lovcen.
Whereas quite a few historic railcars run on limited-feature or touristic strains, just like the British Pullman or the Venice-Simplon-Orient Specific, the looks of such a automobile on a public line like Lovcen is virtually unparalleled.
Plavni Voz Automotive 2-13’s presence on the trendy Bar-to-Belgrade route is intermittent and unannounced: reserving it’s a query of luck alone. Each traveler who books a single sleeper on Lovcen ought to hold their fingers crossed that they are going to expertise the journey on this marvelous piece of dwelling historical past.
It is not attainable to order tickets for both Tara or Lovcen on-line, however seats or bunks may be bought in particular person on the ticket counters within the Bar and Podgorica railway stations, in addition to at Topcider Station in Belgrade.
The Balkans As By no means Seen Earlier than
The Lovcen’s dramatic course by means of the Balkans showcases the area’s wild magnificence, that includes sharp inclines and thrilling descents into the verdant wilderness. The northbound Lovcen strarts by traversing the Adriatic Coast exterior of Bar, working at sea stage, parallel to the shore.
Subsequent, the road follows the shoulder of the gorgeous Lake Skadar, the largest lake in Southern Europe, on the Montenegrin border with Albania.
After passing Lake Skadar, the road ascends into the Dinarides, assembly with more and more spectacular surroundings. Earlier than sundown, it crosses Mala Rijeka Viaduct, the highest railway bridge in Europe (and, till the early 2000s, on the planet).
At a dizzying 650 meters above sea stage, this architectural surprise affords a wide ranging of the Montenegrin countryside at nightfall: a chic patchwork of regal peaks, idyllic valleys, and meandering rivers.
Because the solar units, the prepare continues to climb steeply, reaching its summit not removed from the Montenegrin city of Kolašin, at 1000 meters above sea stage. All through the night time, it continues its winding course by means of the hills and farmlands of rural Serbia earlier than calling within the energetic capital of Belgrade on the banks of the Sava and Danube rivers.
The southbound prepare follows this route in reverse, with sundown views of the Serbian wilderness and a morning descent in direction of Podgorica and the Adriatic Sea. In each instructions, the road passes briefly by means of Bosnia and Herzegovina en route to its vacation spot.
In both path and at any time of 12 months, the Lovcen sleeper is certainly one of Europe’s best-kept secrets and techniques.
Cheap, understated, and timelessly scenic, this traditional prepare transforms the 296 miles between Bar and Belgrade right into a spectacular in a single day journey by means of the Balkans that no passenger is quickly more likely to overlook.