Asmara - Ghinda Eritrea - October
I have to be at the Asmara
railway station at 8:00. Globesteam
organizes a program this week, chartering both steam and diesel trains of
the Eritrean railways, for railway fans from all over the world. I will
participate in today's program, a trip with an Italian railcar, called
Littorina, from Asmara to Ghinda.
I decide to take the number
one bus to the railway station. If I take a taxi, I will be there to
early, and it is quite common that the rest of the group is to late. An
Eritrean man in the bus is standing next to me, carrying a book about
football, in German, so I say to him "Wenn Sie Deutsch lesen können,
erwarte ich dass Sie auch Deutsch sprechen können." He is surprised.
He tells me he lived 16 years in Germany, and returned to Eritrea two
years ago, now teaching gymnastics.
We both leave the bus at the
bus stop closest to the railway station. He shows me the direction.
"Second street on the right, and then straight on for 300
meters." Even before it is eight o'clock, I am at the railway
station. None of the other railway fans arrived yet.
When I enter the yard of the
railway station, I have to pass the offices of the Transhorn Company. A
woman approaches me with great enthusiasm. "Do you remember me? We
danced together four months ago". It takes a few seconds before I
realize who she is. It is Beletu Tareke. I recognize the smaller details
in her face, and pleasant memories of the celebrations of 13th Independence
Day in Medeber pass my mind.
Beletu asks me if I brought
her picture. I didn't, because I judged the chance to find her back close
to zero. I tell her that I didn't expect to see her ever again. "But
next time I will bring you copy, when we will celebrate 14th Independence
Day". She tells me I have to come back to her office after the trip
with the Littorina.
Shortly after 8:00 Peter Patt
and the other rail fans enter the yard. Provisions are loaded on the
train. Lots of mineral water and Coca Cola. Peter Patt, the tour-conductor,
is directing his group to the best positions to picture the railway
equipment and its surroundings. We climb the water tanks above the tracks,
and the Littorina is positioned in front of the railway station. A few
hundred meters from the Asmara railway station the Littoria poses in the
At 9:00 the railcar is
departing Asmara for the trip to Ghinda. The section between Asmara and
Nefasit is the most spectacular. More than 20 tunnels, 65 bridges and an
incline of 1:30, make the journey on this railway one of the greatest traveling
pleasures in Eritrea, and the picturesque views makes it one of the most
beautiful railway journeys in the world.
Spending over three hours onboard allowed
us to observe life in Eritrea from an another perspective. The train halts several times
at the most idyllic spots. Tedros Kebbede, accompanying the tour on behalf
of Travel House
International, translates Peter Patt's instructions to the
driver of the railcar. The German, Austrian, Canadian, American and Dutch
passengers take strategic positions in the hills to picture the train as
it passes below us.
Back on board drinks and
sandwiches are served by the two Eritrean hostesses. When the Littorina
passes small villages, children gather around the train and wave their
hands to us. In one of the tunnels the railcar has to make an emergency
stop when a cow is walking on the track.
At 13:00 we reach Ghinda
railway station. Ghinda hosts one of the three railway depots.
Locomotives, maintenance cars, carriages, water supply equipment for the
steam locomotives, workshops. The photographers do their best to record
all aspects of the Eritrean railway.
Peter Patts group will
continue their trip by mini bus to Massawa. Their program will continue
the whole week, using different railway equipment every day, experiencing
the whole line up to Massawa in two directions. I will return to Asmara,
using a public bus.
In BBRSSY donut house I buy
two excellent donuts. Terhas' pizzeria will not serve any pizza's until
18:30. I ask the owner of the pastry what the name BBRSSY is supposed to
mean. He tells me every character represents one member of the family.
"B for Bereket, that's me, B for Belainesh, my wife, R for Rafael, S
for Senait, S for Samrawit and Y for Yohannes, my four children makes
I stroll the streets of Asmara
until sundown, trying to discover more of its many little treasures.
Asmara is now officially declared the capital of Art Deco, although some
of the buildings need a new layer of stucco. Hundreds of palm trees, bougainvillea
and giant cactus trees complete the scenic beauty of Asmara.
Women in beautiful colored
clothes, their hair plaited in fine strands very close to the scalp, men
in neat jackets or in suites hanging loosely on their body as if the
tailor made them just to large. Nothing suggests you are walking in on of
the poorest countries of the world. Despite their limited recourses,
Eritreans are always neatly dressed and even in this dusty climate they
are able to keep them incredibly clean.
When the ovens of Terhas'
Pizzeria Eritrea are heated, I order myself one of her delicious pizza's.
Number ten, "aserte" is my favorite. We decide to picture it,
with Bisrat and me. Terhas makes a tour through the pizzeria, picturing
all the women at work. When I have finished my pizza, I spend the rest of
the evening in Selas bar with Tesfai and Freweini and their guests.
Littorina at the Asmara
railway station - Asmara Eritrea.
Littorina passing a bridge between
Asmara and Nefasit.
Scenic view from the Littorina.
Littorina entering one of the many
Interior of the Littorina.
Peter Patt (smiling) and his railway fans.
Littorina passing one of the
Littorina at one of the
former railway stations near Nefasit.
Littorina passing Nefasit.
Littorina at the railway
station in Ghinda.
Bisrat serving my pizza -
Pizzeria Eritrea - Asmara Eritrea.