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Sofia to Belgrade Overnight Train: Guns, Smugglers and Bombs, Part Four, The Bomb

This is a continuation of the most bizarre train I have ever taken. Please read introductions or other entries below.

For the next four hours, I slept fitfully, the carriage to myself. I vaugely became aware of the fact were stopped and woke up only to determine that no, this field and single track train station was not Belgrade.

At 8 a.m., 2.5 hours after we should have arrived, Julian walked into my carriage. I struggled to wake up. “Hey. What’s going on.”

Julian looked worried. “There has been a bomb. An explosion at the military base ahead. We’ve been stopped for a few hours while they look for more bombs.”

I shook the cobwebs out of my head. “Bomb? What? Where are we? What’s going on? What is everyone doing?”

“Nothing.” Julian looked out of the compartment. We can take a can to the bus staion and catch a bus if we want, but most everyone is still here.”

I looked at him in amazement and horror. There was no way I was going back to sleep now. First, my trigger happy criminal friends, then the smugglers and now, a bomb? Speaking of which, what happened to the smugglers, I asked Julian.

“Ah, they did a runner.” He filled me in. “After you left,t he train stopped in teh middle of nowhere and the one gjuy woke up with a start and whistled out the window. Someone appeared and they dropped the ciggarettes out of the window and then climbed out. Took 30-40 seconds, max.”

I shook my head. “What else do we know about the bomb?”

Julian looked nervous. “I bet it is the Kosovars.” Earlier in the night, he had told me how much he was looking forward to a bombed Belgrade – needless to say, I was skeptical of his blame.

“Kosovo?” I arched my eyebrows. “Don’t you think they would be going for something a little bit closer, oh, I don’t know, to their border?”

Julian shrugged and asked someone in the hallway for more info. No one, it seemed, knew when we would get to Belgrade.

Three and a half hours later – five and a half hours after we stopped, after Julian and I had long run out of things to talk about, had eaten the bread I grabbed at the last minute and I was more than 2 hours into writing this entry – the train started to move. In the wrong direction. I gasped in surprise from the unexpected jolt.

Holding our collective breath, we waited for the train to stop again. When it did now, I wanded out into the hall to find out where on earth we were going. When we had stopped, we were 130 km from Belgrade. But nhow?

A man opened the compartment door. He was dark-skinned, studious looked with a scruffy beard. I would later learn his name was Gonar and he was returning from a poetry festival in Bulgaria and was visiting his giflfriend in Croatia before returning to Mostar. “Do you need any help?” He asked.

“Yes!” I said. “Can you tell me what is going on?” He exchanged a few words with the grandma across him. “She says we are going to Belgrade but a different way.”

“Thank you. But what do you know about the bomb?”

“The bomb?” he said, his English perfect. It was not a bomb, it was an explosion. It might be a bomb, but probably not. They are just being careful. Some said they felt the explosion, that it rocked the car, but I was asleep.”

For the next three hours, Julian, Gonar and I disussed Mostar, its apatehtic youth, his Muslim mother and Serbian father, how Mostar should have gotten more of the reconstruction money that went to Sarajevo and how people are unhappy with it, how all the rural people live in Mostar now and that even after he gets in PhD. in International Law, he will always return to Mostar. In his opinion, it will take 5-10 years before the city hits rock bottom, and the political parties start actually being different from one another, and people start to care again.

I returned to my writing and Julian to his reading. We spent the last hour fantasizing about the meal we were each going to have when we arrived in the city.

Eighteen hours after we departed for our 300 mile journey – ten hours aster we were supposed to arrive – I stepped foot in Belgrade.

At my hotel, the first thing I did was try to wash the chaos out of my hair and the fear out of my skin. Then, still slightly dazed, I wandered out in search of food.

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0 responses to “Sofia to Belgrade Overnight Train: Guns, Smugglers and Bombs, Part Four, The Bomb”

  1. Jessie says:

    Good lord, Court! I just got done reading all these entries – glad to hear you’re okay. Yikes!

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