I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Balkan trips and Balkan kips and Balkan nips and ...

A passport stamp! With a picture of a train on it! The Skopje to Beograd service was already winning.

We crossed the border into Serbia at a civilised time, around 10pm I think. Certainly well before the beds were made. We had the lights out when passport control happened in a bid to rid our cabin of the 100 or so mosquitos flying around. I was already bitten to fuck, Jason had a nasty one too, and none of us fancied being fed on overnight. After a bit of killing, we set the beds up. I sparked out at about 11pm, I had a solid and wonderful 6.5 hours uninterrupted kip. Everyone else had a rough night. I just don't do things the same as the others. But my sleep architecture (a term I learnt from Paul) seemed sturdy once more. Apparently Lester had come in to look for something and gone back to his cabin in rejoicing mode: "he's asleep! he's asleep!".

There was an excellent sign in the train corridor telling us the rules of the house. The smoking is not permitted after 10pm. There'll be a pic on Flickr one day.

As usual we were late, about 70-80 minutes so. This was a less bad thing than it could have been, since our original arrival time was 0543 and we had 3.5 hours to kill on that schedule.

Also Belgrade is an uninspiring shithole. I left the station for about 30 seconds and saw nothing in any direction to tempt further exploration. Paul and Lloyd did venture a bit more, only to return and tell me I'd been right to not bother. Left luggage was a guy hanging out of a building site tea room. We kept them with us and sat ordering coffee and tea in a hybrid of German, Russian, and English. Steve did a bit of work. The rest of us leeched electricity and wifi. There was a excellent four candles moment:

"what's the wifi password?"


"yes, the Internet, what's the password?"


"yes, I'm trying to get on the Internet, can you tell me the password?"

<exasperated glance to other member of staff>


"yes, WHAT'S THE ... oh, I see, right. thanks!"

None of the station's signs worked. All the platforms said the same thing. Nowhere seemed to say Uzice I Latin or Cyrillic. Due to leave at 0910, Mark set off to see what the deal was. After a while he came running back.

It's not a good sign when Mark runs.

So, there was our train, heading to. Podgorica and Bar in Montenegro. A nearly 4 hour trip to Uzice in the middle of Serbia for us, spent entirely in the vestibules and corridors. It was rammed and we had no reservations, A very deft "no, please, not required" combined with a backhand palm from the conductor saw us spend a few euros, but to no avail - we were not getting seats on here. Actually there were two, flip down things in the corridor, which we tag teamed, and for about 10 minutes Paul actually sat in a compartment before giving it up for an elderly lass.

Serbia wasn't overly picturesque. The most impressive part of the journey, and it was bloody impressive, was Steve constructing a kitchen area out of rucksacks and a bread board, and making cheese and cucumber sandwiches for all. Real cheese too, not the squeezy kind.

My ankles were still massive and hurting a bit. Not much. But a bit. The loo was grim and sink blocked, so all washing came in the form of baby wipes. Thanks for those, Mike.

Precious electricity had given me enough juice to do a lot of GPS work on this train, to track and keep track. I was fulfilling my duties as chief navigational officer pretty well, knowing exactly where we were and where we should be at all times. I've never spent so long simultaneously cluelessly lost in the middle of bastard nowhere yet also precisely aware of my location to within 50 metres. God bless modern technology.

So, on my instruction, when we got to Uzice we opened the door and started to get off. Then we hurriedly got back on, because a guy on the ground was shouting at us. This was not the Uzice we wanted, but a suburban station about 5 minutes early. Evidently this place was a fair size, and evidently I'm a fool sometimes.

At Uzice we had prearranged road transport to take us to Sarajevo. We arrived 10 minutes late. What's 10 minutes between friends?

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