We headed back to Serbia later in the morning and soon reached the Mokra Gora village (i.e. meaning “Wet Mountain” in English), where a two-hour train ride on a narrow-gauge railway known as the Šargan Eight would have taken place.
According to our guide, although the railway was first established in early 1925, it was never actively in use nor restored until 1995. The idea of enabling trains to reach the top of the mountain explains why the Šargan railway was constructed as the “number 8”, and such architectural achievement demonstrates a live example of the solution to great altitude difference and short distance for railways. Besides, this two-hour journey would also be full of twists, turns, 22 tunnels and, of, great views.
Curious and excited about how this experience was going to turn out, I walked into Mokra Gora train station (the starting station), and was expectedly amazed – this place looked like a fairy tale town! Wooden houses sit neatly adjacent to one another; the old-styled train consists of carriages with wooden seats and stoves, looking vintage and classic; along the railway beyond the fence, the beautiful and wild landscape of Tara Mountain is right in front of us. This whole place was simply relaxing, laid-back, and nature-friendly. Probably, the only odd thing that stood out in the whole place was us the tourists – who were busy taking pictures, astonished by and lost in the beauty of this place.
At around 10.30 AM, the train departed. Despite the narrow gauge and very small carriages, the operation was very professional. There was an audio guide in both Serbian and English. Traditional Serbian folk music was playing via the speaker in between the narration, which added quite a bit fun and livelihood to the whole ride. Also, the train made stops from time to time for beautiful panoramic spots. 2.5 hours went by quickly.
To be honest, this was the program I looked forward to the most for the whole trip, not only because of the great scenery but also of the tunnels. Yes, the TUNNELS.
Don’t get me wrong, the scenery is amazing on its own, but to me, it becomes even more memorable and impressive, thanks to the tunnels. They intensify the experience by creating suspense and surprises, one after another. Imagine this, the moment you enter the tunnel, you seemingly experience a momentary delusion in time, since your eyes are still trying to adapt to the darkness. The excitement is created because of the uncertainty, of the unknown awaiting ahead in the brightness, and of your instant enhancement of sensitivity to the surroundings. In the tunnel, the smell of metal, minerals, or even the earth, becomes more noticeable.
It’s incredibly loud – the wheels are scratching and colliding the railway, which echoes in this narrow and empty space. It’s humid and chilly in there, but trust me, on a hot day, this place is absolutely a blessed oasis of refreshment. You sit and wait in the dark (well, there’s a dim light on the top of the seat :D), and suspense starts building up. Then all of a sudden, when the train comes out of the tunnel, the brightness crashes in, overwhelming with warmth and intensity. Whoa la! An amazing landscape of mountains and valleys is elaborating in front of you. Colors are vibrant and lively. The fresh air floods into the lungs. Discrete chatting and laughing in the carriages. At that specific moment, “serene”, might be the most appropriate word to describe the feeling.