The Balkan Express

From Bar (Montenegro) to Belgrade (Serbia) – 476km

After a restless night, as I tried to get some shut-eye on a not-so-cosy wooden bench at Bar’s train station, I woke up quite excited about the journey ahead. For a change, instead of hitchhiking, we were taking a train all the way to Serbia’s capital.

254 tunnels and 435 bridges stood between us and Belgrade.

The train, commonly known as Balkan Express, operates on a line opened in 1976 by the Yugoslavian ruler Tito. At the time it was an incredible feat of engineering, crossing areas deemed inaccessible, allowing people, who were once very much apart, to come closer together in roughly 7 hours.

Over the Bridge

On the move

Nowadays there are only two trains per day operating this route, in each direction. Instead of taking the early morning train, we could have managed to hop on the one leaving the previous evening, sleeping our way to Belgrade. However, I wanted to enjoy the scenery that unravelled itself as we made it across Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. My sister was on board (yes, it’s a pun).

At 9 o’clock boarding began. We made our way along the train carriages to find our place. The second class compartment we were assigned to looked fairly comfortable, albeit a bit vintage, for the scheduled 10 hours of railroading (takes longer than back in the old days…). I knew we were in for something special.

The most exciting part of the journey unfolded itself right at the beginning: dramatic hills and valleys came and went as the train trundles through Montenegro’s mountains. At one point we crossed over the tallest railway bridge in Europe: Mala Rijeka Viaduct, proudly standing at 198m. For a more immersed journey I ended up opening one of the many windows and let the outside freshness caress my skin. The novelty soon wore off, as the beautiful landscapes gave way to more uninspired ones. The slightly worn-off seats eventually pushed me to walk a bit along the train – one can’t stand sitting for such a long time… I headed over to the wagon-bar were some travellers were nibbling on some foodstuffs. Smoke was also a prevailing nuisance, as people could enjoy their cigarettes inside the cars. The Balkans, they say…

Slowly and steadily we made it to Serbia’s capital. It was dark and raining once we arrived, roughly 12 hours after we said goodbye to the Adriatic coast.

Would I take this rail route again? Most definitely! I totally recommend it to everyone who’s not afraid of losing some hours in order to fully experience this moving museum along one of the most scenic views Europe can offer. It’s about the journey, not the destination…

For more information on the Balkan Express /


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