Balkans 2014 travel blog

Tourists holding glowing florescent tubes

Tiny lightning bolts

Empty first class train car


Nikola Tesla is probably the greatest inventor that you've never heard of. My first adventure today was visit the museum honoring him. Whether you know about Nikola or not, his inventing have directly influenced your life. His work on Alternating Current (AC) was the basis for building the world's first hydroelectric plant at Niagara Falls and the reason why every outlet in your home uses AC. The biggest reason you might not know him was his battle with Edison. Although Nikola worked for Edison for many years, they had a major falling out when Nicola advocated use of AC in the home while Edison stubbornly stayed with DC. We all know that Nicola's inventions eventually won out but his humble personality was eclipsed by Edison's fame. To those of us who studied Nikola in college and had to learn about many of his inventions, it's exciting to get to see some of his original apparatus.

Since Nikola was born in Serbia, he bequeathed all of his possessions to Serbia, which is why his museum is here in Beograd, making it a UNESCO site. Buying an admission ticket included a guided tour (in English) of the museum. I found it humorous listening to the guide trying to explain the experiments in a way that the other tourists might possibly understand. One of the experiments I had done when I was in high school was holding a florescent light bulb in my hand (not connected to anything) and then having it glow when brought near a high-voltage AC source. It was impressive to me when I was young; it was impressive to these tourists who had never heard of Nikola before. The other experiment that fascinated the tourists even though they didn't understand it was holding their hand near what we now call a Tesla Coil and watching small lightning bolts jumping from the top of the Tesla Coil to the hands. I had done this in high school too. It's a tiny bit painful but lots of fun!

When planning this trip, my goal was to travel by train as much as possible. I love trains! In addition to the nostalgic aspect of trains, there are many advantages for tourists. Unlike flying from city to city, you get to see some of the countryside, rather than spending your time in airports. Unlike taking a bus, you often travel through rural areas and wilderness, rather than staying on highways all the time. Plus, you have far more room on a train and can get up and stroll easily.

In preparation, I had purchased a Eurail pass allowing me to travel on trains in certain countries without purchasing a separate ticket. Since Eurail is not accepted in most of the countries I would be visiting, I also purchased a Balkan rail pass which covered all of the other countries accept Albania.

Why doesn't Albania accept either type of pass? They have no trains! I also knew in advance that Dubrovnik has no trains, requiring me to get to/from Dubrovnik by bus. What I didn't know when I left home is how few trains exist in the other countries I've been visiting. It turns out that Montenegro only has one intercity, passenger train line, which goes north from the city of Bar. Since I wasn't planning to visit Bar or any cities north of Bar, I couldn't use either train pass in Montenegro. Once I got here, I discovered that the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina also has only one intercity train line. I did take this line from Mostar to Sarajevo; but, the rest of this line wasn't useful to me. Similarly, Macedonia has only one train line and it doesn't go where I wanted to go. The result is that I've barely been able to use my train passes on this trip.

Why am I telling you this? Because I've decided to do some extensive train travel in Serbia, since Serbia is the first time there's an extensive train system that I can use. Since there are many interesting places in southern Serbia, I picked Niš as my next destination. As a clear indication that other tourists don't do this, I was the only passenger in the first class car for much of the trip!

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