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04 Dec 10

The Blue Train

Once reserved only for Marshal Josip Broz Tito and his guests, the most luxurious train in the former Yugoslavia is these days available to anyone who can afford to rent it.

Gordana Andric
Belgrade

From it’s construction in 1959, until the Marshal’s death in 1980, the Blue Train was out of the reach of common people. During Tito’s reign all that the proletariat could see of what was then an ultra-modern train was the Marshal waiving from the window.

Over more than thirty years the train carried Tito 600,000 km around Europe and was the scene of many important events in Yugoslavian history. In its salons the president led negotiations, made deals, and built and strengthened diplomatic relations.

Tito hosted more than 60 world leaders such as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, the Soviet Union’s president Leonid Brezhnev, India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Queen Elizabeth II, for whom the train was specially redecorated.

The Marshal’s last journey in the Blue Train was on the day of his funeral in 1980, when his coffin was carried from Ljubljana, where he died, to Belgrade, where he was laid to rest.

After that, the train gathered dust in the engine sheds for quarter of a century, till in 2004, the authorities decided to start renting it.

Once you’re on board, Serbia is your oyster, as long as the tracks go there. With a little extra planning the rail network of Montenegro is also available.  The cost depends on your destination and the composition of the train, but  for example, the price for a one day journey with a ‘basic’ composition, taking up to 90 people is about €2,500.

And don’t let that word ‘basic’ mislead you - it actually means that you’ll spend a day in Tito’s private quarters - not for you cramped seating and stale tobacco smells but luxury salons and dining rooms.  The inside of the train is pretty much as it was three decades ago.

Guests are welcomed aboard by white gloved stewards dressed in communist-style uniforms, who will spend the journey looking after you.

Decorated in Art Deco style, the interior of the train is clad with wooden panelling and equipped with everything necessary for a luxurious and comfortable trip.

The basic composition comprises the President’s apartment, his study with a library and salon, a conference room with yet another salon, a drawing room and a dinning room, which can be used for cinema-projections, a bar, the ‘De Gaulle’ apartment and saloon, and a guest apartment.

Tito’s apartment itself is made up of two bedrooms, one for him and one for first lady, Jovanka. The rooms are connected with a bathroom that has a large porcelain bath and two sinks with mirrors. It is not hard to guess which sink belonged to whom - in front of Tito’s sink is a black leather armchair while in front of Jovanka’s is one clad with white satin.

The ‘De Gaulle’ car was specially made in 1972 for the French president in advance of a meeting that never actually took place. The car has two bedrooms, A bathroom and salon with TV. The Marshal ordered  a special bed that was suited to the tall Frenchman.

The French general however held Tito responsible for the execution of his friend Draza Mihajlovic, the Serbian general murdered by communist government and in fact never made any plans to visit.  

Instead, Tito hosted other guests in the ‘De Gaulle’ car, including Queen Elizabeth II, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu.

The train that was one of the symbols of Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Tito’s rule can now be used for all kinds of promotions, corporate presentations, exhibitions, trips and celebrations.

Along with the basic offer, Serbian railway offers six luxury sleeping cars that along with bedrooms have salons. Each of these cars can host up to 10 people. For those on tighter budgets there are four more traditional sleeping cars which are, however, far more comfortable than those on regular Serbian trains. One of these carriages will host 30 people.

Serbian railways will even provide you with a chef for on-board catering or allow you to supply your own.

So if you’re planning a corporate Christmas party and the thought of a downtown hotel is underwhelming you, or if you’ve planning a black tie event for friends this may just be what you’ve been looking for.

Those of you with more limited budgets can arrange a trip just to marvel at a piece of history. The Blue train can be visited by prior arrangement. There’s a little paperwork to take care of but  it’s worth it for a glimpse of communist-style extravagance.

For further information contact:
Passenger Transport Service of Serbian Railways.
Tel: 011 3616928, 011 3616962

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