Unlike the famous, carefully branded train journeys of Western and Central Europe, the line that connects Montenegro’s Bar and Serbia’s Belgrade doesn’t have a carefully considered name, a flashy website or a slew of catchy hashtags following it around. In the absence of these, or any real official online presence for that matter, most travelers have dubbed it either the Montenegro Express or the Balkan Express.
These trains also lack climate control, dining carts, first-class compartments and any real commitment to a schedule. But what Montenegro Express lacks in branding it more than makes up for in charm.
The line dates back to the days of Josip Tito, the first president of Yugoslavia. He opened it in 1976 to run his Blue Train, which ferried him and several famous guests across the Balkans in style. Though the luxurious train now languishes in a shed outside the Serbian capital, a ramshackle collection of carriages continue on the path it set, winding through hundreds of tunnels and across thrilling bridges — including Mala Rijeka Viaduct, the highest in Europe.
In spite of the lack of creature comforts, this no-frills all-day adventure costs just a handful of coins, and far surpasses anything you’ll find in a slick panoramic carriage out west. That’s because you’ll struggle to find any rail journey on the continent that offers a tale like that of Josip Tito’s, combined with engineering marvels in the form of 254 tunnels and 435 bridges that you whip through and over as you ascend and descend at times frankly terrifying aerial mountain terrain.