This week we caught several trains through the Balkan region: up from the coast to Belgrade, and overnight into Budapest. A relaxing, well-paced adventure, and an opportunity to meet people, eat fresh boreks and see some beautiful country.
But the route we took, particularly from Belgrade to Budapest, is not always a grand old railway sojourn. It’s an escape route for those fleeing war. In both cities we saw hundreds of Syrian refugees sleeping in parks and train stations, families, children, with not much more than a backpack, a plastic bag, and if they were lucky, a tent. Some may stay in Serbia or Hungary, but many will continue on, into Germany or Austria, where family members are and there is more chance of setting up a new life.
We heard many opinions on the refugee crisis on our travels, from a man on a tram in Belgrade proudly telling us that about the free buses the Serbian government was providing to help as much as they could, to a retired Australian man we overheard saying that ‘Europe was finished’ due to the influx of those seeking asylum. While I don’t pretend to be an expert on this complicated topic by any means, surely Europe would be ‘finished’ if it ignored the health and safety of these people who are journeying, not to make the most of their summer time, but to save their own lives.