Visit to Air Force One (Well Sort of)

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 and his wifes chair were bigger than the rest of the chairs
Tito and his wife's chair were bigger than the rest of the chairs

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!

Titos Bedroom (his wife slept in a separate room)
Tito's Bedroom (his wife slept in a separate room)

Family Journal: Saturday August 8, 2008



Belgrade Rail & Bus Station, originally uploaded by bill kralovec.

Yesterday morning Ollie, Owen, and I took our first trip downtown in public transport. We walked down the hill and first took a bus in to the main train and bus station in Belgrade (picture above). From there we took an electric trolley (tram) to Kalmegdan Park and the zoo. It was raining off and on quite hard so we had to wait out the rain several times. It costs 60 cents and about 20 minutes. The boys were thrilled with public transport and the zoo.

The zoo is big and has a varied selection of animals. I have mixed emotions about zoos. I think they are good in that people learn about and see the animals and perhaps this will lead to better protection of their habitat and population numbers. But on the other hand, it is still an “animal prison” and the amount of living space is limited. It was especially sad to see the chimpanzees in their cages.


Boys Play At Kalmegdan Park near the Belgrade Zoo
Boys Play At Kalmegdan Park near the Belgrade Zoo



In the afternoon, the rains let up and the sun was shining. Owen and I were inspired after watching the Olympic Road Race, so we went for a long bike ride. Our neighbor, Radtko, brought a bike over for me to use. We went down to the Sava River bike trail and west to the Ada Ciganlija island. We rode on the river side of the island where Belgraders have small floating houses on the banks. It reminded me of the cottages on the lakes in my native Upper Peninsula. It was peaceful on that side of the island and many Belgraders potter about on weekends in their river shacks. We stopped for a Coke on the way home at Costa Coffee, the Starbucks of Serbia.

Saturday evening Nadia prepared a wonderful dinner of roast pork and vegetables. We watched an episode of the Spiderman cartoon, read a book, and went to bed. Ocean slept most of the night! We have been letting her cry it out the past couple of evenings. She was getting up 5-10 times a night, and now it is down to 2-3 and we don’t have to walk her until she falls back to sleep.