Pictures of a postcard (12)

‘The tramway of Dubrovnik’

It was a year after I made the most extra ordinary rail tour through Europe for an relative inexperienced young explorer though already seen a few things beyond the boarder of his own country. Started at Copenhagen in Denmark and via an eastern corridor ending at Sarajevo situated in the meanwhile independent state of Bosnia Herzegovina, with all sorts of rail enterprises in between from narrow gauge with steam and many tramway systems today only vivid in memory.
A remarkable event and the foundation for what many years later became a substantial collection of postcards. From all cities blessed with a tramway system there were cards in abundance. I just remember Vienna, Austria’s capital, half an hour walking along the shops through the Maria Hilferstraße resulted in a huge catch. Collector’s paradise and no clue this would wane through the times.
On a bright morning of September 29th 1969 I found myself in Dubrovnik now situated in the state of Croatia but then Yugoslavia. One country, one man, the legendary marshal Josep Broz better know as Tito (May 7th 1892 – May 4th 1980). The iron fist of communism but Yugoslavia’s curtain was not the same as the ones of many East European states heavily controlled by Moscow.
A dictatorship indeed and obliviously the only way to keep a mixed population under one banner. History has learned what happened if the flag becomes ragged and some consider themselves a better breed. Utterly nonsense but in the course of the recent past with a devastated outcome, the Balkan fire will keep on glowing long after the flames were extinguished.
The only thing remembered is arriving by bus, a night bus, but no clues anymore where I boarded the vehicle, probably in Slovenia after entering from Austria.
A pity that there’re no records, it’s a decade later that I started an art of bookkeeping for all the movements made by Public Transportation. After more than thirty years this became a strange but attractive document and very handy on moments going back in time, something someone while getting older likes to do. The Dubrovnik experience in terms of how I went around will be blank for ever. By all means I arrived just on time to see and tasted the lovely 760 mm gauged tramway system, single motor cars with open trailers in a Y shaped network, because on Friday March 20th 1970 the cars run for the last time after sixty years roaming the streets of this pitoresk place called: ‘the pearl of the Adriatic’ since 1979 on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
I must have ridden it up en down the coast, along the harbour and to the railway station. A fairy tale like enterprise sitting on the wooden benches of the open trailer en let the wind playing with your hair. The soft sound of the motor car, a friendly whining of the driving system, it’s all long gone.
In many cities throughout Europe these days l’histoire se répète, concerning the tram however, not in Dubrovnik. Left are a single postcard, a handful pictures and knowing been there though the gathered information became vague. In terms of transportation returning from Yugoslavia that year I only can bear in mind buying a ticket from Split to Rotterdam choosing an unusual way through Italy, Switzerland, France, Luxembourg and Belgium entering Holland near Maastricht. The railway man behind the counter must have had second thoughts nonetheless the hand written ticket was produced without hesitation. Those where the days… generation after generation shall repeat those words.

PCC cars from Washington DC celebrated the streets of Sarajevo.

Sarajevo by the time also this network was running on 760 mm gauge.


About Robert von Hirschhorn

Author / Performer or in Dutch: schrijver / dichter
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