At around 6:30am, we were lined up along the Bar train station bench, in Montenegro, with the pile of luggage at our feet. We had woken up at 4:30am to pack the last of our things and get to the train station in time. Once again, an early start.
As the 7am train came screeching into the station, the first thing I noticed on the outside of the train, expressed in large red signs was NO Smoking! I was so relieved, as we have practically been living in smoke for the last while, as so many people here in Croatia and Montenegro smoke. They smoke uncontrollably, a whole box of cigarettes at a time. Anyway, grabbing our backpacks, we all hurried to get onto the train we would be on for the next 12 hours.
It was so nice to finally, after a morning of rushing, sit down on our surprisingly comfortable train seats in our private compartment, and watch the landscape roll past. Our bags were neatly packed away on the shelves above us and the two food bags were set beneath the seats. It was all very cosy. I was looking forward to the whole day on the train.
The mountains, so lush, green and woolly around the sides, and bald, shiny and smooth at the top made me chuckle as I imagined the mountain as an old man peering down at me. The green river glistened beside the rail. Every now and again we would enter a dark tunnel, then emerge and see the mountain we have moved through. It really was beautiful!
Within fifteen minutes everyone was working away, knowing that this was a rare chance to get a lot of school work done. Lately school hasn’t been the first priority.
It was a very productive morning and we got a surprising amount of work and blog posts done. All the time while Esto was reading loudly to Mum, she was snapping away, yelling out enthusiastically every now and then: ‘Oh my! That is absolutely amazing!’ (Snap! Snap! Snap!) ‘My goodness, you guys! Come look here… Oh, sorry Esto. Yes keep reading, well done.’ It was quite funny and disruptive sometimes, and gave you an excuse to look up from your work and stare out the window. It is rather peculiar though, that every time you look outside, your eyes were glued to the landscape. You simply cannot get them unstuck. Only when dad calls out sharply and asks what you’ve done so far is when you rapidly look down at your math problem again. What a view from the classroom.
By 11:30am everyone was becoming restless. The first thing Esto said after reading the last word of his book was: ‘I am so hungry, I’m about to die!’ I don’t blame him, 5am is way too early to have a decent breakfast. We were all hungry. So out came the muesli and yoghurt in our red plastic travel cups. They really come in handy.
After our brunch, Ruzow started teaching everyone how to solve a part of his beloved Rubik’s cube. He loves that thing, and at first, I found it a bit boring. But after figuring it out the first time, I started thinking, well, I’ll only do it once more, faster than before. And on it went. Ruzow made us all hold our tummies in laughter as he imitated some Rubik’s cube YouTube videos that he had watched before. He should definitely get a part time job as a comedian!
There were three border posts we had to go through, and each time we had to show our tickets, passports and faces. Before getting to Belgrade in Serbia, we would exit Montenegro, enter Bosnia and Hercegovina for only eight minutes, then enter Serbia again. Enough for a headache.
To our great annoyance, the air conditioning in our compartment was not very effective. We had to rely on an open compartment door to get fresh air. Smoke bellowed into our tiny compartment from the corridor, suffocating us all. The whole passage was a smoke cloud.
Doubly annoyed, I went over to a man smoking in the isle and showed him the signs that were on each compartment door and wall. He, however, just gestured that he was standing at the window, and he motioned that the smoke would go outside. I was astounded. Could the man not see that the clouds of smoke only got trapped in the rest of the train? It just irritates me how people who smoke here in Croatia and Montenegro are so inconsiderate.
The hours slowly ticked by and at last we came to the last hour of the 12 hour train journey. We packed all the food and school things away hastily, expecting to arrive in Belgrade in a few minutes. However, our train was terribly delayed. We ended up having to sit, in our now very uncomfortable seats, for another 3 hours and try to entertain ourselves. An audio-book on dad’s phone came to the rescue until we finally arrived 15 hours after our departure.
The train slowly rolled into Belgrade station and came to a long screeching stop. We slung our bags onto our shoulders and continued our long journey on foot, through scruffy alleys and dark streets. This was our introduction to Serbia.
Until next time,