At last weekend’s Serbia Open, we had a pleasant surprise upon arriving. I parked my car on a side street and we went through someone’s yard to get to the stadium. When we emerged through the yard, we came upon two policemen that directed us across some railroad tracks. On the tracks, was the ex-Yugoslavian leader, Tito’s famous blue train. Serbia being a relaxed country, (I think of it as a Slavic Spain or Latin America), they of course let us enter the stadium via this unofficial route and gave us a tour of the train.
Tito didn’t like to fly and so he ordered a train to be constructed. It had bedrooms, bathrooms, dining rooms, meeting rooms, etc. Very presidential like the Air Force One plane for the US President. It was built in the late 40’s early 50’s and he toured around Europe with it quite a bit. Many world leaders were hosted on the train.
After his death, the train stood idle, but about 10 years ago, it was restored. The train is available to rent for groups and it is perfectly restored. My son Owen commented that it looked like the set from an old James Bond film. So right he was as you can see from the photos.
I really felt a sense of history walking through a few of the cars. The train was as the tennis tourney because they hosted journalists and guests for a luncheon and press conference. I wonder what conversations took place in it. I definitely want to rent this train for my farewell to Serbia. So I guess it was in a way, a visit to the Air Force One of its time. Except in this case, instead of the presidential plane, it was a train, and about 50 years ago.
There is much nostalgia for the time of Tito here in Serbia. Yugoslavia was then ahead of its neighbors in Eastern Europe as it was out of the Soviet sphere of influence. The economy and freedom of travel in the 50’s – 70’s was very nice. Tito died over close to 30 years ago and those living memories are being forgotten. It was not a sustainable economy however, and the bottom would have fallen out of it, but nevertheless, during the Cold War, Yugoslavia mattered. It is sad that all of the former republics of Yugoslavia felt so strongly about being independent. I believe the quality of life for all would have been better if they could have kept it together. Brotherhood and Unity!