Imagine you need to get from place A to place B and the distance is around 500 km. Consider several factors: the tracks are probably quite old and some parts of the route go through mountains.
How long would you expect the train to go from place A to place B? 7 hours would be great, 9 is probably more probable.
Well, no. The journey will take 13 hours.
Welcome to the train from Belgrade to Bar!
I fell asleep 10 minutes after I got on the train. Those 10 minutes that I was awake, three girls from the compartment next to mine were happily posing for pictures until their parents told them off and the girls disappeared.
When I woke up at the sound of the moving train, I noticed 5 other people: a Romanian couple, a 10-year-old boy and his parents (or grandparents, I am still unsure about that). When you buy a ticket for this train, like in Poland, you also have to pay for a particular seat. As it turned out, the Montenegrin family had only two seats and the Romanian couple would be separated by me. I switched my place to keep the lovers together and took the place at the window.
Shortly after, I was sound asleep.
Two hours later, when the sun was slowly going down, I was woken up by the conductor. Still half asleep, I gave him my ticket and helped the Romanians communicate with him. They spoke only some English, while I still remembered some Serbo-Croatian words. It’s surprising how fast new words stick to you when you travel.
After what seemed like ages, I woke up once again, only to see that it was only 10pm. The train was vibrating with nightlife. In the compartment in front of mine, some older men were playing traditional music and drinking Raki. Behind, there was a large group of Serbian youth going on holidays, most likely to Budva. They were drinking some alcohol too.
The family in my compartment was slowly getting to sleep. They opened all the chairs and invited both the Romanian couple and me to spread our legs. That was a very nice sign of hospitality.
I fell asleep again for one hundred years and woke up hoping it was at least 5 am. It was only midnight. The party next door was becoming more wild, I could hear someone arguing quite violently.
The Montenegrin family was trying hard to strike up conversations with us and it was often successful. I felt very proud of myself when I could actually communicate in a mixture of Serbo-Croatian and Polish and we understood each other quite well.
The train was stopping every 40 minutes and standing still at least 30 minutes. I swear, once we were waiting for an hour. I seemed that the Montenegrin train has the lowest priority in Serbia, but as it turned out later, it also didn’t have a high priority in Montenegro.
When I finally arrived in Podgorica, feeling and looking quite shitty, I headed straight to a toilet (50 cents) and refreshed myself. With clean hair, fresh breath and smooth skin, feeling ready to rock the whole country, I went to a bus station.
Contrary to what I found out on the Internet earlier, there were no buses to Shkoder from Podgorica. I would have to go first to Ulicnj and then change to Shkoder. 122 km versus 60-something. The decision was easy.
When I was approaching the bus station, a taxi driver asked if I need a ride. I replied “no” then. Now, I had to think what would be more efficient: spending the next few hours going all the way around the Shkoder lake only to get a bus, or break my golden rule not to use taxis and go straight to Shkoder through Koplik.
I approached the taxi driver. A sly smile on my face.
-How much would you charge for driving me to Koplik?
<Kinga lauging like a lunatic.>
-I can pay 15 Euros.
<Taxi driver laughing devilishly.>
-30 Euros is minimum.
-I can pay 20 Euros, not more. (slowly picking up my bag and pretending to be leaving)
-25 Euros and I drive you to Shkoder.
Feeling like a winner I followed the driver. Most likely, he was also feeling like a winner. I didn’t care that much, since I was super tired after spending two nights first on a bus, then on a train and arriving in Albania to have some rest was my top priority.
The drive was quite pleasant up to the point when we had to wait more than an hour on the Montenegro-Albania boarder. I have no idea what those customs officers were doing, but the queue was becoming longer every time I blinked my eyes. It was becoming ridiculously hot and I was slowly getting a headache.
After what seemed like eternity, we were finally ready and could go to Lake Shkoder.
The next post will be about how I spent my first night in Albania. Beautiful pictures will be included.
Montenegrin trains are similar to the Polish ones with respect to cleanness (or its lack) and the number of people in each compartment (super-crowded).
However, in the Montenegrin trains you can at least unfold your chair and lay down for most of the time. It saves you money and some pain in the neck.
Trains from Belgrade to Bar leave every day at 6pm. The pass by the foggy Durmitor mountains, lake Shkoder and Podgorica. The journey is very, very long.