FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Steam freight: Zaječar to Palilula

Posted in Palilula, Serbia, Zaječar by folkestonejack on October 20, 2011

The plan for today’s run was to take 33-087 through the gorges and tunnels on the line from Zaječar to Nis (via Knjaževac). I don’t think anyone had particularly high hopes for the day but we were pleasantly surprised to discover that our train was fully prepared and waiting for departure when we arrived at Zaječar station.

Ready for departure - 33-087 at Zaječar

After setting off at 7.15am we made our first stop at Grljan (around 7.30am) where we photographed two runpasts with the stunning backdrop of a mine and loading facility (Rudnik uglja Grljan) against perfectly blue skies. It was hard not to smile at something going right.

33-087 steams past the loading facility at Grljan

The next stop (around 8am) came at a small station at Vratarnica which was hidden amongst the woods. After taking some shots of 33-087 passing through the station we walked up the line and crossed a girder bridge on foot before plunging down the embankment into the fields for two more runpasts.

Vratarnica Station

33-087 crosses the girder bridge at Vratarnica

Our journey towards Niš continued to make good progress with stops at Mali Izvor (little spring), Knjaževac and Podvis. It seemed like things were looking up, particularly as we were now entering the most scenic stretch of line through hills and gorges.

33-087 seen from the hillside at Podvis

A little after the next tunnel (between Podvis and Surtjeski Miljkovac) we set back to a position where everyone could either clamber down on to a ledge for a view across to the tunnel mouth and bridge or scramble up the hillside for a slightly different perspective. I took the option of the ledge and watched as 33-087 emerged from the tunnel and onto the bridge crossing the gorge. It was a beautiful sight and worth waiting for!

33-087 emerges from a tunnel and onto a bridge across a gorge on the line between Podvis and Surtjeski Miljkovac

The morning had really delivered on some great locations but the afternoon promised much more. As we were now running low on water we had an uninterrupted run to Palilula for a service break which we reached in late morning.

Service stop at Palilula

At Palilula we had a 1km walk up the track against the clock as our loco had to depart within 10 minutes to clear the line for a service train. After making it to a good viewpoint some of the others set about frantically clearing the lineside of clutter and overgrown vegetation to improve the shot.

Once our loco had passed by it carried on to the next station to leave the service train with a clear path. We now had a choice – stay on the hillside and wait for our train to return or walk up the line through a tunnel to the next spot. Initially I thought I would chill out on the hillside, but curiosity got the better of me and I started to walk…

One night in Zaječar

Posted in Serbia, Zaječar by folkestonejack on October 19, 2011

After arriving at Zaječar we checked in to the Hotel Srbija Tis which has a commanding position right in the centre of town. It is a somewhat strange place, probably reflecting it’s past life as a state owned enterprise. Although the entire place looks like it is stuck in the 1950s/60s the guidebooks say that some of the floors had been renovated to a western standard. Nevertheless, I was rather pleased to see that we were on an unrefurbished floor which still had the curious character of a communist era hotel! Mind you, a bit of light in the corridors at night would have been useful…

Once you step into the reception almost the first thing that you see is the rather startling log cabin entrance to the ‘ethno tavern’ which we later got to sample at dinner. The ethno-tavern was as twee on the inside as it was outside with a complete log cabin interior and a singer belting out some startingly loud Serbian folk tunes to create some atmosphere. Strangely, this was enough to induce someone to pull the plug out of the wall later that evening!

I couldn’t fault the food – it was a great opportunity to try some traditional Serbian dishes. I’d be lying if I said that I recognised anything, but with the help of a guidebook and google I least have some idea what I was eating – which included a slection of incredible starters such as burek filled with cheese, white cheese, ajvar relish, eggplant in batter, red peppers filled with a sour cream and proja corn bread. This feast was followed by a hearty meat, potato and vegetable dish – all washed down with draught Jelen beer in earthenware jugs.