James Jackman / July 01, 2016
An Interrail Adventure - Blog 4: Belgrade
When I last updated this blog, I was sat in a cafe in Nis waiting for a later-than-expected train. Where am I now you ask? Well, I’m sat in an air-conditioned train travelling from Belgrade to Zagreb – one which left exactly on time as well! I’m as surprised as you are, it almost feels like luxury. The real question is, how did I get here? Well, let me fill you in…
After leaving the cafe in Nis, I returned to the train station, ready for my 3pm train. 3pm rolled around and... nothing. While waiting for the train to appear, I ended up speaking to Patrick, a fellow traveller (except he’s from Germany), who was fully swotted up on train timetables. After chatting for a bit, a train rolled into a platform on the other side of the station – to me it just looked like a random train, but according to Patrick, that was our train. I have no idea how he knew that (it wasn’t the right platform for our train), perhaps the train gods whispered it to him, but I decided to follow him. Amazingly, he was correct (I asked a lot of train guards if this train was to Belgrade) and we were soon on board and away! Sat in one of the old-style train compartments, we watched the Serbian countryside roll by. Even though the train was late, slow and ended up getting to Belgrade a good 2-3 hours late, the scenery made up for it. Woods, mountains, lightning, a sunset and countless fireflies were ours to behold. After arriving, we exchanged details and went our separate ways.
The next morning, I realised I hadn’t sent any postcards home – even in the age of WhatsApp and Facebook it’s nice to receive a postcard. So, I grabbed a coffee, wrote out some postcards and then headed off to the walking tour. As tours go, this was a mammoth one. Three and a half hours of walking in the 35 degree heat. It came to a point where no new information could be retained, but what I do remember is that Belgrade has a HUGE coffee culture. For coffee fans, it’s the place to be. Cafes are all over the place, with Serbs drinking Turkish coffee and espressos.
The Church of Saint Sava, Belgrade
Dinner was an interesting affair that day. On the walking tour I had met Sarah from New Zealand and we’d planned to meet at 8pm to try and find a quiet, traditional place to eat, along with someone she’d met the previous day. Upon meeting her that evening, Sarah informed me that her friend – Keith the American – had already booked a table at a place on the waterfront. Upon arrival, I knew I was out of place. This was a trendy, Latin American tapas restaurant, with a DJ and probably some of the best dressed people I’d seen in a long time. There was even a swing hanging from the ceiling! Then there I was, in my converse shoes, shorts and slightly wrinkled shirt. Whoops. After encouragement from Keith, we went for what on the menu was called “the experience”, a small sample of every dish on the menu. As it turned out, the menu was long and the samples weren’t that small for three people. After what felt like an endless stream of sushi, nachos, quesadillas, a lot of meat (both cooked and raw), we were stuffed. We paid up (well out of my original budget, but there we go), had a stroll alongside the river and the fortress. It seemed like wherever we went in the city there was music, both traditional and modern - the city really came alive at night. Unfortunately, after a full day of walking and a very large meal I was ready for bed, so we all parted company and I returned to my hostel.
When trying to sleep that night, the chap who ran the hostel decided that 2am was the perfect time to have a loud conversation with another guest, in my room – with the lights on! Needless to say, I was not impressed and I gave him a piece of my mind. The rest of my sleep continued uninterrupted! My next day was spent exploring the city some more. This included seeing the cathedral, the fortress in some more detail and the Nikola Tesla museum. The museum was dedicated to the famous scientist Nikola Tesla and his work. As a recent physics graduate, I was transfixed and I can’t remember how long I spent in there. That probably shows it’s well worth a visit. This morning was spent packing and making the walk to the train station – a type of walk I’m very used to by now.
Boarding the train brings us neatly back to where I began this entry, in the air-conditioned, surprisingly on time train – Zagreb here I come!