Sunday, 23 September 2012

The Šargan Eight - a short history of the winding railway

As I mentioned in the previous post, Mokra Gora is not only famous for Drvengrad, but first of all for the magnificent narrow-gauge railway - The Šargan Eight (Šarganska Osmica). The track of 8 is an absolute masterpiece of the railway engineering. 500 people worked under the construction and it was one of the most difficult to build railroads in Europe.
The history of the railway dates back to 1921, when joint Belgrade with Sarajevo, what was a part of the way to Dubrovnik. The 2nd half of 20th century brought the rapid development of the network of roads throughout the Europe changing forever the transport industry. The destiny of railroads, especially those slow and inefficient with a limited transport capacity was sealed. That's why the Šargan Eight was shut down in 1974. In 1998 thanks to local people and Serbian soldiers, the railway was revived on the line Mokra Gora - Šargan Vitasi. The connection to Višegrad was brung back in 2010.
Now some statistics: the crooked route creates "the eight" and cuts the Šargan mountains with 22 tunnels. The longest is 1660 m (I definitely dissuade from walking through, except when you have a torch or know the exact time when the train crosses the tunnel).
The length of the track is about 15 km whilst the train climbs up the level of 300 m and passes through 5 bridges from which the longest measures 50 m. 
One way ride takes 41 minutes and stop at 4 stations. The station of Golubići is the most interesting. The protagonists from E. Kusturica's Život je čudo lived right here. Unfortunately the building is locked but even through the window some of the stuff from the movie is still visible.
Highly recommended is to know the schedule of departures of the train to avoid running over in the longest tunnel or the laughter of passengers if by chance we hang washing on the station trees.
Šargan 8 leaves from Mokra Gora at 8.00, 10.30, 13.30 i 16.20 and the ticket price is 600 dinars (5,5 Euro).

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

In the footsteps of Kusturica and Šarganska Osmica, part 1

Coming back from Guča, I decided to go to the West, through Sarajevo. Luckily, on my way was the town of Mokra Gora, which I couldn't skip.
The town is famous for two things: open air museum Mečavnik and Šarganska Osmica, that is a narrow-gauge railway in the mountains Šargan. Both things are related to the E. Kusturica's movie Život je čudo. The director realised here one of his crazy visions, he built a wooden settlement, replacing whole Bosnian and Serbian traditional houses, locating them on a hill. That's how Drvengrad was created, called also Küstendorf (Kusta is a Kusturica's nickname, and dorf is a village from German). In Drvengrad is everything what a small town needs: shops, restaurants, a small church, kindergarten, a cinema, even a city prison. Everything should be rather taken with a pinch of salt, the whole complex is a hotel base, which is an attraction for tourists. Every house, doesn't matter if by Djoković, Che Guevara, Don Diego or Bruce Lee Street can be inhabited. Kusturica lives in the town himself! You can meet him here in one of the restaurants, unless he's just directing a new movie or playing in his No Smoking Orchestra
In January Küstendorf is the host of a film festival where the Golden Egg is a prize.
As it turns out, Kusturica doesn't finish with Drvengrad. Several kilometres from Küstendorf, Kamengrad is being built (Andrićgrad) which is a memorial for Ivo Andrić - a great Yugoslavian writer, noblist and a national hero. Emir is directing the movie The bridge on the Drina, based on a Adrić novel.
The history about 
Šarganska Osmica soon. Stay tuned.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Budva - the Montenegrin Kuwait

It's high time to revive the blog. This time, as I mentioned before, I explore Montenegro. For the beginning something very trite, that is the most popular resort in Montenegro - Budva. The city of omnipresent Poles and Russians. And yachts. Why the Montenegrin Kuwait? Because of its number of millionaires compared to its small population. Mostly Russians who in masses bought properties here.
The town has never been explored by me before, in spite of passing by during my hitchhiking trip from Macedonia, because colloquially saying, I pissed it on. And I was wrong because it's really worth to see. Especially the old town. Actually, only the old town.
Locked inside the walls, cut with narrow streets, which some of them are full of souvenirs shops, few metres farther we can find quiet ones with locals who drink coffee in their small gardens. It's hard to believe but Budva is the oldest settlement in the whole Adriatic Seaside and is 3500 years old. 
Walking along the shore we'll find nice small sandy beaches (unfortunately overcrowded), or lie on one of the big rocks letting the sea to splash us while drinking the hit of this summer -  Nikšićko Limun or just Serbian Jelen.
And a curious fact for the end: Budva is the smallest town hosting a concert of The Rolling Stones.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Ajde ciao trip - PART 2

After quick seightseeing of Kotor and the short rest I hit the road again trying to reach the next place on my list, Herceg Novi. Keeping doing this I met one of the best man in the world -  Mr. Pavlovič. He took me to his house in a small coastal town of Bijela. There fed me and gave a lot of useful stuff. I could refresh myself, take a short nap, pick some lemons from his garden and have an opportunity to spend a while with his friendly dog. And last but not least, use his computer to plan my journey and let know to some people that I'm still alive. Priceless. What's more, he even gave me a ride to Herceg Novi not to waste my time for waiting. Hvala puno gospodine Pavloviču!
Actually, in Herceg Novi I did the same as in Prizren first day. Carrying my rucksack I didn't have a willingless to take pictures and even to visit the town more than in one hour. The town also amazing and what's important, with few thousand tourists less and more calm than previous. Waiting for my next ride, I was a witness of a quite serious car crash. Fortunately nobody was hurt but the vehicles were wasted...seeing this I immediately abandoned the spot not to make more mess that has already been and walked a little bit again. Just few kilometres in searching of this perfect one. After several perfect ones, I was sure that the next would be better what became a vicious circle.
When I finally reached it, an old Yugoslavian-style guy stopped. Talking about old good times of socialism I landed at the Dubrovnik airport. There I waited hopeless for the next car quite a long time. In the end, I received an offer from a Croatian couple who were the owners of a hostel in Dubrovnik. From 20 euros for a room I negotiated 10 and food, and accepted their proposal. Finally I had some more time for visiting. The hostel was located just next to the old town what was good from the one side, but on the other I had a long walk in the morning to find the exit from the city. 

It was hard to go away. I wasted a lot of time because of waiting on wrong way. Then, walking, walking, walking kilometres on full sun without any sense. At least when I finally stopped (in very ridiculous place) a crazy Hercegovin, called Nikola shouted at me aggresively to pack myself into his car very quickly. I absolutely didn't hesitate. And he also, driving a sport BMW at least 150 km/h while taking turns. He ordered me not to skip him during writing my hitchhiking story in eventual survival the ride. We survived, celebrating this with a beer in the town of Neum in Bosnia and Hercegovina. 
One hour spent on asphalt sunbathing and the next driver took me to the place called - the perfect hitchhiking spot. Huge gas station with huge parking with huge toilets and huge benches and tables ideal for preparing the food. I even started thinking about staying for a night there. I prepared a coffee with my coffeemaker. For the first time in my trip. Generally, I cooked everything what lasted in my bag and filled all the bottles that I had with water.

Lunchtime at "perfect place for hitchhiker".

And then I met Denis. A fearless deliverer of cartoons from Zagreb who is not afraid of any kind of job. A guy who helped me a lot. Hvala lijepa Denis i veliki pozdrav! Denis was my perfect road-companion for about 500 km from "the perfect hitchhiking spot" close to Split - to Zagreb. Or I was his companion. Both. Denis offered me an accomodation in his second car parked next to his flat, what for me was a luxury (instead of loitering in the bus station or God knows where). In the morning he welcomed me with a coffee and gave useful tips how to go out from the city. And a very nice souvenir - a DVD with classic well known cartoons, in Croatian.

According to the theory of the balance in the Universe, the next day was very hard. Despite the fact of waiting at the best possible place for stopping cars, after 1.5 hour I was forced to give up and move to another. And again I got a ride in ridiculous and dangerous place. Nevermind. Wheels were rolling again. Not so far but still. I went in the direction of Hungarian border and stopped next to Varazdin, at big "odmorište", a gas station with big parking. These kind of places seem to be the best for hitchhikers. You can find there everything what you need. Water, and primarily - cars! But not there :] Again nobody wanted to stop. At the perfect hitchhiking place! How is it possible? The only who stopped were guys from Hrvatske Autoceste, that is staff from Croatian highways. Taking care of them and keeping order. And picking up hitchhikers from time to time. And before doing this, yelling at them that they commit a serious deliquency and might be caugh by the police because of disturbing the order. So they picked me to the place where I could do it in more innocent way - to the pay toll.

At pay toll, another 2 hours of nothing. In the middle of nowhere. Signs, signals, looking like homeless traveler in his 189th day of hitchhiking - everything without result. Guess who I met  there one more time? My old friends from Hrvatske Autoceste. This time they were going straight to the border to check if are there any scratches in the asphalt. And to take me there by the way. At the border, I drank my last Laško Zlatorog. Several minutes later I was already in EU...leaving Balkans...symbolic end of my Balkan rhapsody, entering new lands, and being among people whose language I didn't understand at all. As if closer home, but seemingly farther and farther.

I entered negligently on the highway and exposed my thumb. The first one Hungarian truck stopped in the curve. Luckily still speaking Croatian so we could use "the Slavic Esperanto". 100 kilometres from Budapest I caught a nice ride with a couple perfectly speaking English. Listening to the very bad Hungarian folk from the radio. Suddenly, the guy switched off the radio and put some CD. I expected  something horrible and waited for the execution...but from the speakers sounded nothing but "Clandestino" of Manu Chao. A big smile appeared on my face. The man volumed up and started to jump slightly on his seat and the woman singing all the lyrics from her memory! Relaxed and in very good mood we arrived to Budapest, which I tramped very quickly thanks  to their priceless logistic advices.

In Budapest everything's gone suspiciously too easy what persecuted me all the time. Some force leaded me to the weird places in the city where I have never been. Actually, it was my first time here, not counting transit. In that moment I imagined that I have a chance to catch a Polish truck there and go straight to home. Unwittingly, barely living and exhausted I started to strive for this, simultaneously knowing that the chance is very small. Nevertheless, after bothering several times workers on the night shift at gas station, I constructed a sign consulting this with my friend from Poland (thx Jaron!), because my map of the Balkans ended on Budapest. I started catching cars using sometimes paper with Miskolc, sometimes desperated - with Poland. I was already going to sit anywhere waiting for the dawn, but in the last moment I got some ride. But I didn't know where was he going and I couldn't even ask about that. Nevertheless, Polish with Hungarian can't communicate using verbal way. Waiting for getting out in the Hungarian middle of nowhere (sound scary), I landed exactly there. But at the parking for big trucks too. In that moment I understood all of the earlier signals, signs and coincidences. I felt that some Polish truck was waiting for me there. And I was right. When I came closer, I noticed that the driver probably was sleeping. I unrolled my sleeping bag and put myself to the bench, nervously staring at the truck from time to time, because the guy might have gone and leave me here. At dawn he started to move so I immediately woke up and asked him if he's going to Poland and if I can go with him. After few moments of hesitation, he told me to put my bag inside. I was in the truck to the polish border.

Few hours later, being already in Poland, I called to my mum to ask what is she preparing for a lunch. Right here, I started another (for me very weird) phase of hitchhiking in my country. To be honest, I've never tried this in Poland. How surprise was I, when my longest waiting was about 5 minutes. But distances were very small. 10 km, 15 km, 2km, 5km....etc. 100 km I did using 7 or 8 cars. And then it happened. 60 km from home, I got lost. In my home country and my region. I mixed up roads and landed in very unpleasant place in some cut off the world village. I managed to come back to the main road after taking another 3 lifts (one with a reggae-rock band going for a concert). Waiting in Sokołów Małopolski and keeping a sign with Dubrovnik, I caught my last ride. Straight to home with my sister and brother-in-law, to whom I thank a lot (but it was really not neccessary, I've already traveled 2000 km, so 30 more didn't make a difference).

And that's it. That's the end of my trip and beginning of boring Polish life without Balkans. But there's a hope. From July, possibly the new adventure! This time in Montenegro ;) stay tuned!