To those who imagine a greyish and sad Serbia, Philippe Gougler, the talkative host of “Trains like no other”, proposes to show what this vast Balkan country has that is green and hospitable. He crosses the country from train to train to discover its towns, villages, plains and mountains, but above all to meet its inhabitants.
In search of unusual situations, he invites himself to a collective wedding, is invited to lunch with a couple living in a cabin in the middle of a lake, joins without embarrassment a group of bathers in the process of washing in hot water. from a hot spring and learns to capture a mysterious magnetic energy which, according to the words of an old man, can cure all ailments…
The stigmata of a still living history
Over the course of the discussions he engages in, we see the Serbian mentality gradually taking shape, marked by the still vivid memories of the conflicts that tore the Balkans apart in the 1990s and by the weight of the communist heritage. Buildings left in ruins in the streets of Belgrade, monumental sculptures in the shape of a raised fist erected under communism, an old train bearing the emblem of Yugoslavia: the vestiges of history are omnipresent in Serbia.
But not all refer to a painful past. Witness the superb monastery of Studenica, cultural, spiritual and medical center of medieval Serbia, listed as a World Heritage Site, which Philippe Gougler shows us around.
A lover of trains, the reporter could not do without visiting the “blue train”, the one Marshal Tito used for his official trips. Fully equipped, it had an office with telephone, a conference room ready to accommodate 28 people, two apartments, a bar and even a bathroom with a bathtub! With his usual eloquence, Philippe Gougler sometimes exaggerates his didactic side, but we finally accept to let ourselves be taken by the hand to discover this country which, decidedly, deserves the detour.