I guess people may be getting a little sick of my train stories by now. But bear with me, because this one was spectacular.
The train was as expected – very old, smelling of cigarettes, creaky and rattly and with loos best avoided. The best way to travel on Balkan trains is constipated and I am cutting out all vegetables for the duration.
Again, we were lucky enough to get a compartment of 6 to ourselves, but this time I allowed Lauren to sleep on the middle bunk rather than the bottom one she had been allocated. This was a compromise, as she wanted to be on the top. Of course I still spent half the night worried she’d fall off, and jerking awake as soon as she muttered something in her sleep (she does mutter!) or the train braked particularly hard.
Needless to say she slept wonderfully.
But the whole point of this journey on the ‘Balkan Express’ (ha ha) was because a number of people had said that it had spectacular scenery. We weren’t disappointed. Even Lauren put down her tablet and gazed in awe at the views.
The first part of the journey was across south west Serbia, overnight in the dark. I woke at dawn to views of spectacular hills, soon followed by the evocative sound of bells ringing out from a tiny church as the mist rolled up the valley.
Just before the border, a guy I will never forgive came down the carriage offering coffee. I eagerly requested a black coffee (he was offering cappuccinos too but I thought that might be a step too far) and he said he’d be back in a few minutes and that it would be a euro. He never returned, and that hopeful 1 euro coin sat on the table waiting for him the whole way to the coast.
Once we crossed into Montenegro, the scenery just got better and better, travelling really high up around and through the mountains (the route has 435 bridges and 254 tunnels).
We then descended fairly steeply to the capital Podgorica (which looked tiny) before passing the stunning Lake Skadar and reaching the coast.
Suddenly we were travelling alongside beach resorts and shops selling inflatable toys, which somehow felt slightly unreal after a morning of stunning views mainly devoid of human impact.
Next: Kotor Bay, Montenegro.