From Queen Elizabeth II to Playboy magazine, no one could resist Tito’s famous Blue Train that nowadays can be visited in Belgrade, or even rented for a trip laden with history.
Decades after the death of the communist revolutionary Josip Broz Tito and the fall of Yugoslavia, the Blue Train remains one of the most beloved symbols of a country that no longer exists. ‘Most of the tourists that are visiting the Blue Train come from Slovenia, they have the softest spot for Yugo-nostalgia’, says Željko Jovanović, who is in charge of the Blue Train, and every day welcomes curious visitors.
The train used to take Yugoslavia’s president-for-life, his wife and their entourage to Brijuni islands in Croatia, Tito’s favourite place in summertime. It was on this train that he hosted important guests from around the world, from Queen Elizabeth II to Haile Selassie, Yasser Arafat, Jawaharlal Nehru… The Blue Train is also remembered for Tito’s last journey, after he passed away on 4 May 1980, when it transported his coffin from Ljubljana to Belgrade. Nowadays, the Blue Train serves as a museum, occasionally taking travellers to Bar, Montenegro’s main port, sliding through some of the most spectacular mountains and canyons in southeastern Europe.
However, Yugo-nostalgia is not the only reason people come to visit this unique train. ‘We attract a large number of train enthusiasts from Austria, Germany and Switzerland, and we also had numerous tourist visits from the UK,’ explains Jovanović, adding that they were all impressed by the luxurious wagons that had been quite a rarity in Europe back in the 1950s when the Blue Train began its journey.
The original locomotives are named after famous WWII battles, such as Kozara or Sutjeska. Whether it’s the ceremonial dining room or the Zodiac-inspired bar, Tito’s cozy lounge, his office or private rooms, each wagon tells interesting stories. Art deco details are splashed all over the place, with wool carpets, silk and velvet, and retro TV and radio. It’s no surprise that even the Playboy magazine rented a wagon a few years ago, for a party organised in Serbia.
Train lovers can buy tickets (300 dinars/2.5 euros) to visit the Blue Train at the central railway station in Belgrade. The train is stationed at the Topčider Depo, and visiting it – along with other charming train old-timers, Nostalgia and Romantika – is part of the tourist offer from Serbian Railways.
For really keen enthusiasts, there’s an option to rent either the complete train or a single wagon, whether just for travel or for film shoots, conferences, workshops, exhibitions, weddings… And for an additional fee, you can even have delicious meals prepared according to the original recipes from Tito’s Cookbook.