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There are many ways to get to Montenegro Adriatic Coast, my taxi driver assured me, raising his voice over a chorus of horns that angrily saluted his laissez-faire attitude toward lane use during morning rush-hour traffic in Belgrade. ‘But it makes no sense to take the train.’ He weaved through less aggressive vehicles like a skier clearing slalom gates. A cold, grey autumn rain began to fall harder, drops beading down my window, as the main railway station came into view.

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There are many ways to get to Montenegro’s Adriatic Coast, my taxi driver assured me, raising his voice over a chorus of horns that angrily saluted his laissez-faire attitude toward lane use during morning rush-hour traffic in Belgrade. ‘But it makes no sense to take the train.’ He weaved through less aggressive vehicles like a skier clearing slalom gates. A cold, grey autumn rain began to fall harder, drops beading down my window, as the main railway station came into view.

‘Let me take you to the airport,’ he sounded genuinely concerned. ‘You will be in the sea and in the sun and with a beer in half an hour. This thing you are doing, it will take all day … and into the night.’ He finally relented as we pulled up to the curb: ‘At least buy water, sandwiches, and toilet paper.’

The cabbie left me in front of the crenellated railway station, a faded Habsburg-yellow throwback opened in 1884. He was already speeding off to advise another tourist before I could throw my bag over my shoulder. Inside, I found the ticket office. The woman behind the glass informed me that the trip from Belgrade, Serbia, to Bar, Montenegro – on the Adriatic edge of the Balkan Peninsula – takes 12 hours. It costs 21 euros (there would be an additional three-euro charge for a seat reservation). ‘Yes, there is a bakery nearby,’ she said and pointed. ‘It is behind you. The shop for water and tissues is next to it.’ She slid the window closed, stood, picked up her pack of cigarettes, and disappeared.

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That sense of old-world drama would serve me well, I would soon learn, along this route. On the outskirts of the Serbian capital – as I settled into my seat in a weathered, six-person cabin – we passed Topčider Station, where the hulking locomotives from Yugoslav leader Marshal Tito’s famous Blue Train are stored. The behemoths sat dishevelled, graffitied, but still regal and almost lifelike, wishing me a safe passage to the outer lands. Within an hour, the tangle of urban metal and concrete unravelled, and the countryside spread out in all directions with the urgency of a jailbreak. The sun came out as wet, emerald-green hummocks began to play leapfrog across the vista, rolling until they dove out of sight over the horizon.

Though the Belgrade–Bar line doesn’t have a sexy moniker (like the Royal Scotsman or Rocky Mountaineer), the Yugoslav Flyer would be appropriate. When construction began on the 476km railway in 1951, the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was in its infancy: a tenuous post-WWII cadre of states on the Balkan Peninsula’s western half. By the time the route opened in 1976 – complete with 254 tunnels and 234 bridges winding down from the Pannonian Plain to the island-studded Adriatic Sea – the country had implanted itself as a geopolitical force and a synapse between the West and the Soviet Union.

Yugoslavia has since splintered into seven nations. The railway, thankfully, endures, connecting Serbia to Montenegro with a brief blip across Bosnia & Hercegovina’s eastern border. But the line’s existence represents more than just a continued, now international, transport option. These tracks are the Balkans – and a lifeline to a swath of land where cultures have intertwined since before history. Here, the train takes adventurers across vistas crisscrossed by Greeks and Illyrians, as well as the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Along the way, visitors have a literal window onto a living museum frozen in time.

Those natural exhibits were on full display as we rumbled through the foothills of the Dinaric Alps in the southwestern corner of Serbia. When we crossed the border into Montenegro, the museum’s lineup of canvases – pristine panoramas and landscapes – changed again. The Western Balkans’ rotating collection now included towering mountains and canyons that engulfed us whole.

‘I had no idea what to expect,’ said Colin Smith, a fellow passenger and UK native. Outside the window, an old couple leaned against pitchforks next to haystacks. Behind them, vegetable gardens and a small-but-dense orchard of plum trees surrounded a stone farmhouse. ‘But I am so surprised by the beauty: the mountains, steep ravines and endless drops.’

Before I went to sleep that night, I remembered my taxi driver: ‘But it makes no sense to take the train.’ Lying in bed, I could hear the sea washing onto the shore outside my rented apartment’s window. If I ever saw him again, I would make sure to tell the cabbie he was right: a flight would have been much faster and easier, and more sterile.

Book tickets (and separate necessary reservations) at the station a day in advance. There are 1st- and 2nd-class options. Night-train passengers can choose between couchettes or sleepers (with two or three beds). A one-way ticket (from Belgrade) costs 21 euros; a reservation is necessary and costs an additional three euros. Second-class couchettes on night trains cost an additional six euros. A bed in a three-bed sleeper is 15 euros; a bed in a two-bed sleeper is 20 euros.

The Belgrade–Bar railway line runs twice per day, in both directions. From Belgrade, the train departs at 9:10am and at 9:10pm; the trip takes 12 hour.

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Apple Martin on Attending Her First Fashion Show 

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Apple Martin on Attending Her First Fashion Show 

Yesterday’s Chanel spring 2023 couture show in Paris was, unsurprisingly, a star-studded affair. A-listers such as Tilda Swinton, Marion Cotillard, and Vanessa Paradis were all in attendance. However, there was a new face among the celebrity-filled crowd. Apple Martin, the 18-year-old daughter of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow, took in her first fashion show from the front row. “The Chanel Couture show was my first fashion experience, and I am so incredibly grateful to Chanel and their incredible team for having me,” says Martin. “It was so exciting to see the art in the designs, and the theme of the line emerge throughout the show.”  

Martin’s favorite looks were those that had an upbeat, youthful feel. “My favorite looks from the show were the dropped-waist short tweed looks, and the white floor-length dresses,” says Martin. “I particularly loved look 4023, and 18.” Martin is a big fashion fan and follower, so it was only a matter of time before she got to witness a real-life show from one of her favorite labels. “I really enjoy keeping up with fashion,” Martin says. Ahead of the show, she paid a special visit to le19M, Chanel’s new architectural space dedicated to showcasing its Métiers d’Art fashions and artisans. 

Apple Martin on Attending Her First Fashion Show

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Given her VIP seat at the show, Martin brought a fashion-forward look for the occasion. She wore a total look by Chanel including a black and white tweed dress with a matching jacket from the label’s spring 2023 collection. In addition to a classic quilted bag and chunky loafers, she also wore fine jewelry pieces—including an 18-karat gold bracelet and necklace with diamonds—and a Première Edition Originale timepiece. “I wanted my look to encapsulate Chanel’s timelessness, while adding edge with a strong eye look,” says Martin. “My favorite part of the look was the combination of the loafers and the minidress. It’s something that felt very true to my own style.”

Now that Martin has proven herself a fashion girl, something tells us we’ll be seeing even more of her in the front rows—maybe even this upcoming fashion month. Of what one can expect of her style, Martin says you can expect classic, modern getups—with a twist. “I can’t say that I am super trendy,” says Martin. “I love sweaters and oversized cardigans, loafers, and a good pair of comfy Levis. The most important thing for me is feeling like my genuine self when wearing an outfit; I’m aiming for a mix of classic ’90s and cool grandpa.”

Below, see how Martin got ready for her first Chanel Couture show. 

  • Photo: Courtesy of Chanel1/5
  • Photo: Courtesy of Chanel2/5
  • Photo: Courtesy of Chanel3/5
  • Photo: Courtesy of Chanel4/5

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A London park blooms with flowers, stuffed animals and handwritten notes to the queen

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A London park blooms with flowers, stuffed animals and handwritten notes to the queen

LONDON — It’s hard to see the grass at London’s Green Park these days, both because the grounds are piled high with flowers for Queen Elizabeth and chock full of visitors who have come by to see them.

British officials have encouraged members of the public to leave floral tributes at two dedicated royal parks, with Green Park being the primary location for laying flowers near Buckingham Palace. The park is also the final destination for tributes left elsewhere in the city, which park workers have been bringing over.

Mourners and other visitors have not disappointed. They’ve carefully deposited flower bouquets, stuffed Paddington Bears, drawings of corgis, handwritten letters, painted pebbles, flags, posters, photographs and other tokens of appreciation in rows and piles on the ground — filling the park with color and turning it into an attraction of its own. On Saturday, huge crowds surged in and out of the park, creating such a chaotic traffic jam that some people thought the area had been shut down.

Beyond the many flowers, tributes included photographs, paintings and handmade cards.

Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR

Inside the tribute area, however, was a quieter scene of reflection and admiration. Many people came with multiple generations of their family to lay down flowers and take in the scene, both for its vastness and for the tiny details underfoot: thank-you cards left open, a jar of marmalade tucked underneath a stuffed bear, kids’ drawings on bright white paper against a sea of green stems.

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People took photos of the scene and their loved ones posing in it, and walked through the park pointing out their favorite flowers and cards. Some have visited multiple times over the past week, while others traveled from out of town just to see the tributes, like Shaun and Tracey Dunmall, who took the train in from Kent.

“[We’re here to] see the flowers,” Tracey explained. “It’s the one thing that the people can do for her, isn’t it?”

Ellie Bunn, 26, said she was looking to place her roses in a sunny spot.

Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR

A woman named Fabi, visiting the park with her 21-year-old daughter, said the scene was sad on “a human level,” even for the thousands of mourners who had never met the queen.

“I suppose it reminds you of the people you have lost, and collectively it’s nice to see that people come out and pay their respects,” she said.

Many in the crowd took time searching for the perfect spot to leave their flowers.

For Ellie Bunn, 26, that meant finding an area with fresh flowers and a bit of sunlight. She was there with her mom and aunts to see the tributes for the first time — but was still thinking about her walk over, during which she saw King Charles’ motorcade driving towards Buckingham Palace. She said she was too starstruck to get her phone out in time to snap a picture.

As one of just two royal parks designated for floral tributes, Green Park was bursting with patriotism.

Elizabeth Dalziel for NPR

Joanna and Ben Ibbotson were happy to let their 4-year-old daughter Alice put down their flowers — she scattered them individually in various spots — and the card she’d signed herself to practice her penmanship on the train ride over.v

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We Need to Talk About Faux Fur

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We Need to Talk About Faux Fur

Daniel Roseberry opened the gates of hell in more ways than one with his spring 2023 couture offering for Schiaparelli. The collection, inspired in part by Dante Alighieri’s “Inferno,” fanned the burning flames of online discourse—a layer of damnation Alighieri would’ve certainly doomed some of his subjects to had he known about the state of the internet in 2023.

Down the catwalk they pounced. Shalom Harlow in a cocktail dress completely covered in a facsimile of a leopard’s snowy pelt, replete with a snarling head at the bust; Irina Shayk in a black velvet column topped with a proud lion, its tongue visibly raised in the hunt for its next meal; Naomi Campbell in a shaggy fur coat, a wolf’s snout popping out from the left shoulder like a deleted scene from 2018’s Annihilation.

Artisanally crafted from foam, resin, wool, and hand-painted silk faux fur, they’re a calculated conversation starter (to cynics, an empty gimmick) in an era of discourse around whether wealth should whisper or roar. Clearly, Roseberry has taken a side. 

Shalom Harlow walking in Schiaparellis spring 2023 couture show

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Even if man-made, Schiaparelli’s creations were disquieting in their brazenness, not least to tens of thousands of vocal commenters across the brand’s Instagram posts. Words like disturbingdisgusting, and shameful flowed with venomous anger. One user summed up their feelings simply with, “Bad idea! Bad taste!” A surreal leopard became synonymous with the cruelty of killing the real thing.

Yet as supermodels sauntered in recreations of exotic skins and a firestorm of outrage ensued, one nuance got lost in the tumult. Roseberry’s choice to showcase an overly literal interpretation of iconic source material inadvertently made every other brand’s petroleum-derived faux fur look tame by comparison. How easy for a brand to write a flippant caption about its next drop of faux-fur coats: Hey, at least ours don’t have faces for you to feel bad for. 

In this quickness to share alarm over how these pieces may represent or glorify game hunting, hot-take havers fail to account for the real harm, both environmental and ethical, that exists at the center of faux-fur production. 

Makers of plastic fur alternatives—made mostly from polyester, a nonbiodegradable fiber expected to reach $174.7 billion in sales by 2032—can now retool their messaging to scoop up sympathy from the madding crowd. And yet a trace of the true self exists in the false self. 

The hyperreality of aesthetic experiments like those at Schiaparelli turns our gaze away from how we consume other animal products in fashion, such as leather from cows, that also directly bump up against factory-farming practices in the food industry. So why worry over a lion head made from silk and wool when so much leather is wasted to make endless amounts of crappy, throwaway stuff?

Naomi Campbell walking in Schiaparellis spring 2023 couture show
Irina Shayk walking in Schiaparellis spring 2023 couture show

In place of introspection, knee-jerk responses on social media purely see the surface image as the prime source of the most brutality. A fake lion’s head, merely a hyperreal imitation of a safari symbol, might as well directly “provoke dangerous behavior and glamorize both trophy hunting and animal violence,” as one Instagram commenter put it. 

The more I reflected, the more I became convinced that the true heart of darkness was in telling ourselves that we can buy our way toward sustainability in the first place. But then, is there any way to ethically wear fur, faux or otherwise?  

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PETA’s praise of the collection as “fabulously innovative” feels like an about-face from its iconic “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” campaign. In its zealous quest to ride the PR coattails of front-row lion wearer Kylie Jenner, the animal-rights group wasted momentum amidst a rare moment of united disillusion among vegans and omnivores alike. PETA could have urged the public to buy secondhand fur because it’s a more sustainable option than using raw materials to create new textiles, of which more than 11 billion tons went to landfills in the United States in 2018 alone.

When I asked fellow vintage dealers about their feelings on real fur purchased secondhand, most were similarly pragmatic, citing its lower environmental impact and warmth as reasons to buy it over anything new. One buyer noted, “The energy has already been put into it and has so much more output.”

Another went further, feeling a sense of duty to “not let the animals have died in vain.” Thankfully, truly cherishing what already exists in circulation, including real vintage fur that will biodegrade, is a practical, thoughtful, and viable personal solution we can all take advantage of. 

It’s important to turn our gaze to the ever-increasing profit of fast-fashion labels that sell faux en masse while labeling it vegan or cruelty-free. As last season’s pieces sit unworn or—worst of all—discarded in landfills, these brands won’t receive the same pushback seen in response to the Schiaparelli show. 

In a statement about the looks, Schiaparelli said, “It is a reminder that there is no such thing as heaven without hell; there is no joy without sorrow; there is no ecstasy of creation without the torture of doubt.” 

This show and the myriad responses it generated demonstrate that there is no good taste without bad, no real without faux, no haute couture triumph without fast-fashion excess. Within moments engineered for virality and earned-media value, we cannot allow these illusions to hijack our attention spans. The market forces worth fighting against are at once far less glamorous and way more powerful than the hellishly alluring visions of couture.

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