Serbia and to Slovenia

Author: Kali

Our stop in Belgrade, Serbia was not planned. We just happened to find a train going there, decided to stay a night, then take another train to Slovenia. We were all extremely keen to explore and make the most of our short Serbian adventure.

We had barely left the train station, walking the 3km to our apartment when it started bucketing down.  Totally drenched, we at last came to an old apartment block. The foyer door was open and even though it was dark and dirty inside, we went in and sat on the stairs. A minute later, Nikola, our very friendly host came down to welcome us to a warm, clean, neat and perfectly equipped little apartment. We were very apologetic for being so late, but he answered casually that he saw that the train was late on the internet, and that this is Serbia! I didn’t quite know whether that meant the trains in Serbia are always late or if it meant something else.

It was too late for dinner and the only priority was to get to bed. It was such a relief to crawl into a clean, soft, comfortable and big bed.

The next morning, we woke up to the rain’s soft tapping on the roof. Despite this we made our way towards the Independence Square where we would start our customary “free walking tour”.

The tour turned out to be excellent. Although the few sights of Belgrade are not very interesting, Bonja, our amazing tour guide made them come alive with meaning and colour.

Belgrade has gone through a number of very severe wars. At some apartment blocks, the obvious damage of recent bombings is clearly visible. Unlike many other cities and towns we have visited, Belgrade does not have a specific or unique style. It is a mish-mash of old, new and in between.

There was one particular area that was really special. It was kind of a preserved area and had old bars, pubs and traditional kafanas (coffee bar).  Every morning, locals come here to have their strong cup of ‘kafa’, a traditional Turkish style coffee to start the day. It is a colourful, unique and interesting strip that attempts to brighten up the grey and mostly miserable war remains of the city. Being the photographer that day, I could simply not take enough photos!

Halfway through the tour, the gentle drops turned into full scale rain. We were all soaked to the bone. Everyone else in our group was equipped and prepared with umbrellas and rain jackets, however, our family was totally exposed to the elements. Well, not everyone. In my little “survival day pack” (that was now drenched) I had everything I needed for any situation or disaster. For this wet scenario, I had my trusty poncho with me. Mum had only her singlet and shorts on, and it looked like she was freezing. I offered the poncho to her. She very gratefully accepted it from me, and quickly slipped it on.

The last five minutes of the two hour tour was simply unpleasant. All of us were cold, hungry and tired. We would run to measly little sheltered spots each time Bonja would stop to explain or talk about something. I craved (and could almost taste in my mouth) a delicious warm bowl of spaghetti bolognese.  When the tour ended, we quickly set off, running in the rain to our apartment. Not long after, we were sitting at our little kitchen, wolfing down the warm toasted ham and cheese sandwiches which mum had made for us.

We had the option to stay longer in Belgrade, or take the day or night train today to Slovenia. Nobody volunteered for the overnight train as we have had sleepless nights on trains before. However, after some research we saw that the night train was the more practical option.

Packed and ready to go.

At around 3pm, we decided to pack up our belongings, then headed towards the train station. We were also looking for a nice place to have a late afternoon dinner on the way. It seemed like hours before we found the perfect place, after nearly breaking our backs with our heavy backpacks. The food was great, but what really made it a memorable and special experience was the conversations we had. I will never forget our one and only dinner in Belgrade, Serbia.

At one stage, Ruzow casually asked Mum the time. She looked at her watch, then in shock she said: ‘It’s half past eight!’ The next ten minutes was a flurry of flinging the bags onto our shoulders, then racing to the train station while still trying to inhale the last of our meal and Belgrade. We got to the train station with only a few minutes to spare.

We were all surprised when clean bedding arrived in plastic bags and stunned when we received the ice cold water bottles. We just laughed when the chocolate croissant were delivered. Five star!

Within minutes, we felt the jolt and slowly the sights of Belgrade started disappearing in the distance. Mum and I looked at each other with a sigh of relief. If we had arrived at the train station five minutes later than we did, we would’ve missed our train. Thank you Ruzow for saving the day!

Ruzow and Dad shared the compartment next to us with a lovely young Irish couple. We could hear their faint laughter and chatting. Our carriage, with Eulain and Esto on the top bunks, quickly fell silent in sleep. I must admit, I have never slept well on a train before, but this time, I had a restful night. I only woke up when Dad came into the compartment and told us that this was our stop. I was still half asleep when rushed off the train, grabbing all our things hastily. We aimed for a bathroom to freshen up, then found a nice place to have muesli and yoghurt for breakfast.

Snug on the top bunks.

Our adventure in stunning Slovenia has started.

Until next time,



Introduction to Serbia

Author: Kali

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,


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