Drvengrad and Sargan Eight Railway

Star Travel Rating

3/5

Review type

Things to do

Location

Drvengrad and Sargan Eight Railway

Date of travel

May, 2019

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Product country

Product city

Travelled with

Partner

Reasons for trip

Prior to crossing the border between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, we visited the town of Drvengrad and rode on the nearby Sargan Eight Railway.

“Drvengrad”:http://mecavnik.info/en/ – is often referred to as ‘timber town’ as the streets and buildings are made from wood. It was designed by Emir Kusturica, a Bosnian born, internationally recognised Serbian film director and constructed for his 2004 film, Life is a Miracle. Whilst some of the houses had been moved from the surrounding countryside, others had been built more recently. The town hosts an annual film festival which attracts international movie stars.

There was a small Christian Orthodox church and bell tower, and we noticed all the streets and buildings were named after famous people including Fellini, Maradona, and of course, as we were in Serbia, Novak Djokovic. A ‘jail’ had George Bush and Javier Solana (NATO Secretary General) peering through the bars as Serbians hold them responsible for the NATO bombings in 1999.

Located on Mećavnik hill in Mokra Gora nature park, there would have been stunning views of two Serbian mountains, Tara and Zlatibor. Unfortunately, on our visit it was overcast and drizzling with rain.

The town, where people still live, has an art gallery, a library, a cinema called “Underground” after one of Kusturica’s most famous movies, a cake shop, restaurant with traditional Serbian cuisine and souvenir shop etc.

“Sargan Eight”:https://www.srbvoz.rs/en/nostalgija-2/l – building the railway between Belgrade and the Adriatic coast, started in the 1900s but when World War 1 started, the section from Uzice to Visegrad was unfinished. After the war, it became a government priority and work re-started.

Between 1921 and 1974 the train travelled through the now, Serbia, Bosnia and Croatia but was discontinued on the grounds of viability. The tracks were scrapped, the line became overgrown and the locomotives went to museums.

Then in 1992, the Belgrade Railway Transportation Company decided to reopen the 40km stretch between Mokra Gora and Sargan Vitasi as a tourist line. The narrow-gauge railway is known as the Sargan Eight as a figure of eight shaped track climbs 300m in only 3km. The line has a combination of 5 bridges and 22 tunnels: the first is the longest at 1556m and a third of the line is through tunnels.

The train runs three times per day from Mokra Gora: 10.30am, 1.30pm and 4.15pm. It takes 45 minutes non-stop to Sargan Vitasi where it stops for 15 minutes before returning but stopping along the way.

Our guide suggested the return journey only, as whilst we enjoy train journeys, we’re not enthusiasts.

The five carriages had different seating configurations, but all had wooden seats. We were fortunate to be in a carriage where the bench seats facing each other would hold 6 or 8 people, but there was only the two of us.

There was some commentary, in Serbian and English, and awful oompah band style ‘music’. At our first stop, the viewing platform allowed us to see the train line and tunnels below and we weren’t clear where we’d been and where we were going. At the second stop, Jatape, we climbed up a lengthy flight of steep steps to another viewing platform with small waterfalls underneath. There was also time for a quick coffee or ice-cream. There were then two more short stops: one for views of the valley below and the second to see what was described as the ‘crazy stone’ – a large rough shaped rock on the viewing platform were apparently some years ago, a man proposed to his girlfriend.

Whilst we’re not train spotters, it was a good way to see the area before crossing the border.

Helen Jackson

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