04 June 2012

To Sarajevo

It was (Orthodox) Pentecost Sunday, so before leaving Banja Luka, we attended the service at the Christ the Saviour cathedral in Banja Luku (Sue for most of the service, me for only part of it).  This site has a lot of history, but suffice to say that the rebuilt cathedral is a beautiful building, the service was impressive (particularly the choir) and it was well attended.

We then headed to the Banja Luka station hoping that our understanding that there would be a train to Sarajevo at 1.15 was correct (but in the knowledge that the bus station was next to the train station, and there was supposed to be a bus at 2.30).   As it happened, though, a train was due at 1.15, so after a fairly tedious non-computerised booking process, we were duly issued with our tickets.    The clerk mentioned that, if there was room, we could sit in 1st class.  On closer examination, it appears that she had decided that we ought to travel (and pay for) 1st class, which was probably a good idea but it might have been nice to have been consulted!

River scene from train
The train trip was scheduled to take 5 hours, but there was a holdup just over an hour before we were due at Sarajevo and we were over 40 minutes late getting into Sarajevo.   I found the trip itself interesting.  It mostly follows river valleys, up the Vrbas valley from Banja Luka, then across to Doboj where the line picks up the Bosna valley and joins the line from Vinkovci on the Belgrade to Zagreb line.   It then follow the Bosna river all the way up to Sarajevo.   For quite extended times, the line is close to the river and there are often high hills nearby, and of course the country is mostly rural (just a few power stations, quarries and wood mills to vary the scene!)  Hence, the trip is quite scenic.   The train itself generally moves along at a reasonable pace, but there are stations to stop at and a few works slowings, so the distance seems longer than the nearly 300 km (very approximate) that I calculate we travelled.   The whole line is electrified, and although it appears under-utilised, judging from the numerous coal wagons around, it seems that coal (for power stations) is possibly a major source of traffic.

Rural scene from train
We're at the Hotel Europe in Sarajevo - seemingly one of the more expensive hotels in town, but very well located.    Our brief walk around the old town this evening confirms that Sarajevo is a pretty vibrant place, with plenty of eating and drinking places.  If we keep the window shut, the calls to prayer aren't too intrusive.  More details about all these matters in a future post.

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