Over the last few days, I’ve been doing a blog rehearsal for a rail journey I’m beginning on July 6th. You can find the introduction here, the first leg (London-Narvik) here and the second leg (Narvik-Berlin) here.
Yesterday, I left us in Berlin, soaked in strong beer and in a meat coma. It’s the morning of Thursday July 11th – actually, it’s almost lunchtime. And we’re climbing on a train at this place: the Haupbahnhof.
We’re following the line of the Elbe most of the way to…
Prague (City 13)
So we’re well into virgin territory for me now. The vast swathe of civilisation between Berlin and Moscow only exists for me in books and films and music, and now I’m going to be in it. Well, in a train in it, at least. We’ve got a few hours in Prague, to follow the overnight in Berlin , which makes me think that whoever organised this trip has got something of a penchant for pilsner. When I tell you that the only activity discussed so far for Prague has been ‘Velkopopovicky at the Black Ox’, my suspicions only deepen.
But at midnight we creep out of Prague. Mark, the organiser of this little trip, takes up the trail here:
Fast asleep, ?at half one in the morning, we will cross the main European Watershed between the Rhine and Danube river basins, before travelling through Brno. Still dead to the world, at B?eclav, close to the borders of Slovenia, Austria and Czechia, our carriages are deposited from the Metropol and wait for an hour for the Warszawa-Wien train, called the Chopin, arriving in Vienna at 06:30.
Vienna (City 14)
We get into Vienna at 6.30 on the morning of?Friday July 12th.?So much to see in Vienna. So much history. So much music. So much…
Sorry. We’ve got 90 minutes to get across town, from Westbahnhof to S?dbahnhof. Of all the rapid visits to European cities that this trip demands, this seems the most dismissive. But we’re on a schedule here.
From Vienna, it’s a matter of an hour to get to
Bratislava (City 15)
An hour from Vienna to Bratislava? That has slightly blown my mind. It’s an hour from London to Oxford. Talk about your cultural crucible.
But if Vienna was fleeting, this isn’t even that. We’re in Bratislava for…
Sorry Bratislava. We’ve got another train to catch. For
Budapest (City 16)
It’s nearly three hours from Bratislava to Budapest. In one day (well, starting at a minute past midnight) we’ve been in Prague, Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest.
We can go to ground for a bit now. We’ve not got another train to catch for six hours or so.
How will we spend this time? Well there’s this:
And there’s food shopping, of course. But then we’re back at the station at 7pm for a 15 hour sleeper journey from Budapest to Brasov.
This of course means that at some point in the night we’ve been riding on a train through Transylvania (though, in reality, it was probably early morning rather than night, but this is Transylvania, the Land of Poetic Licence).
Brasov (City 17)
We get into Brasov on Saturday July 13th. We’ve got four hours here, and in an odd kind of way this is the place I’m most interested in exploring. I know nothing about Brasov other than where it is, and the fact that it was the location for the 1987 Brasov strike, one of the first major uprisings against the Ceaucescu regime, and a precursor for the revolution which followed two years later. I hope to get a decent look around, before we get onto yet another train, from Brasov to Bucharest.
UPDATE: I’m told by lovely author Emylia Hall that the one place to go in Brasov is Bran Castle. Just avoid the Dracula tourist tat.
Bucharest (City 18)
It’s a week since we left London. We’ve travelled thousands of kilometres, and we’re only a few hundred more from the Black Sea. We’re 26 degrees, six minutes and 14 seconds east of Greenwich. We’re as far east as we’re going to go, so let’s call this the second point of our compass. Narvik was North. Bucharest is East.
We’ve got a night to spend here. Tomorrow we turn west and carry on south. Into the Balkans.