My trip from Linz to Ljubljana (capital city of Slovenia) by train on last Friday afternoon had a small hiccup but nevertheless an interesting experience worth mentioning. When the train was near Austria border we were told part of the railway track got technical problem so all passengers have to get off the train on Villach city (Austria) train station, take a bus to cross the Austria - Slovenia border and then board a local Slovenian train in Jesenice (Slovenia) town train station to Ljubljana. The lady train conductor knew I don't speak a word of German nor Slovenian hence asked me to just follow a few Slovenian guys inside my wagon. The “transits” went smoothly, in fact one old Slovenian man occasionally check and nod at me to make sure I am “still around” and not lost in Austria - Ljubljana border...
Due to this unexpected episode, I got a chance to have a quick “free city tour” in Villach, and enjoyed slightly different scenery along the bus route. Inside the bus sitting next to me was a young and friendly Serbian engineer. When we were about to enter the Karawanks tunnel crossing the Alpine Karawanks mountain, he explained to me that the tunnel is 8km long and on the other side is Slovenia’s territory. After that we started to chat a bit, and he told me he is working in silicon industry and was on a business trip in Austria and now on his way to Ljubljana airport in order to catch a flight back to Belgrade (capital city of Serbia). I started to ask him about life in Serbia, and he joked about Yugoslavia (both Slovenia and Serbia were part of Yugoslavia before the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia collapsed in 1992, one year after Soviet Union collapsed in 1991), the civil war when he was a kid, the current standard of living and etc. He was very humble about Belgrade / Serbia and explained to me in term of development Belgrade / Serbia is perhaps only 40-50% of what Slovenia (the richest ex- Yugoslavia nation) is today, moreover Serbia is not even part of European Union…
Once we reached Jesenice town train station, one can easily noticed the significant drop in infrastructure standard in comparison to Western Europe. The fact is Europe is such a huge and diverse area consists of nearly 50 nations, although most of them are on the same continent sharing border but standard of living could be significantly different especially toward the eastern region. Countries like Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Slovenia are on the rapid development track since early 1990s, whereas countries like Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Kosovo are perhaps trying hard to catch up. To some extend it is quite similar to North Asia / South East Asia, whereas you have first world nations like Singapore, Japan, South Korea, and the rising stars such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippine, Thailand, Vietnam, and country like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar which are still trying hard to catch up….
I have visited quite many Western Europe countries in the past 15 years and was always amazed by their rich history, beautify scenery, extremely well protected environment, near perfect infrastructure, advance economy and social system, but there is always a sense of detachment as one cannot really comprehend how all those modern nations have miraclely reached such high level of modernization. However once I have learnt more and more about the economy and society of other Eastern European nations which are perhaps equally rich in culture and history many centuries ago, but due to various historical reasons and they are now still at various different developing stages…only then I can truly appreciate the diligent and determination that set some European nations apart from the rest…This really remind us there’s no free lunch in the World and one must not take things for granted….
Ultimately human beings regardless of race and culture all share the same challenges and dream in life.
Somewhere in this World,
30 April 2016