Day 19 - Sat 16 Dec 06
Up at 07:30 for breakfast, I could have had a fry up but decided to go for the cereal instead. Then it was out onto the streets of Belgrade (which are cold and foggy) to try and get my train ticket. My map printed from the Internet isn't that good, and all the street signs are in Cyrillic so it's next to useless. Got lost, and asked a security guard outside a building - he put me in the right direction. I was quite close, but the fog was so thick that I couldn't see the station from the top of the road.
7700 Dinar got me a ticket I had to get cash from the Bankomat as credit cards are not taken. Weirdly I'm in berth 41 which is the same one I got from Istanbul. I changed $15 into Dinars while I was in the station and popped into the tourist info place to get details of what to do.
So I headed up the main street which is pedestrianised, but has few people on it despite the shops being open. Maybe everyone is still in bed nursing hangovers, or maybe it's too cold for them. Made it up to the castle, but the only views to be had were those of fog. Headed back to the hotel to chill out, and warm up. The out on the streets a bit later.
By this time the fog has lifted (a bit) so I retrace my steps, and get a bit of a view from the castle. I popped into the Cathedral, there are a lot of icons there. Then back down town to see the Moscow Hotel, on the way I purchase a set of old Serbian bank notes including a 500,000,000,000 one. Then on to the Parliament building that I walked past this morning, but couldn't see due to the fog! Nipped into the post office to get a stamp for my postcard.
Checked out at 19:00, and used the hotel Internet to check up on what's been going on in the world. Then it was a walk down to the railway station. The fog is back, but it's not quite as cold as it has been. The train opened up at 21:30. It seems very busy. I have a bunkmate, an American girl next door, and an Israeli two doors down. A woman further up complained about not having a bed (the cabin was in day mode) but the conductor soon put her right. The American woman was saying the same - Do people not travel by sleeper train any more?
After chatting to my companions for a bit it becomes apparent why the train is so full - The Fog. It's grounded all the planes in Belgrade for the last two days. People are now taking what ever means they can to escape. So it's just like Murder on the Orient Express. A train that should be empty is full. As M. Bouc said "People of all classes, all nationalities, of all ages... The strangers to one another are brought together"
The compartment is of a high quality with it's own wash basin and two good bunks (in day mode there are three single seats, two on one side, and a solo on the other). The first border crossing (Serbia/Czech Republic) was far more efficient and perfunctory than any so far. Both sides just checked passports - no customs at all. The only point was that I had to get down from the top bunk to open the door as my bunk mate was dead to the world.
We're now in Prague (arrived at 05:00)and are just waiting for the off.