Czech Republic and Slovakia 7.6.03-14.6.03 <  >

This was a week’s solid trackbashing in the Czech Republic, with flights to and from Vienna and a return via a ‘taster’ day in Slovakia. It was also the week when I discovered how hot inland Central Europe can be…

Saturday 7.6.03

Yet again H obliged with a lift to BHX, this time for a relatively gentlemanly 0710 check in, easily achieved. The CRJ-700 left on time at 0809 and arrived at VIE a minute or few early at 1125 local. Despite luggage we made the S-Bahn to Rennweg with ease.

Salmbräu was found without difficulty, and what a nice pub it is. 1 of the (unfiltered by the look of it) helles and two weizenbieren were taken, and jolly nice too. Not to mention two Viennese sausages with gravy (aka paprika sauce and none the worse for that). Prices were tolerable, particularly as it’s happy hour from 1200-1600 on Saturdays (2 x 50cl beers for the price of one).

The walk to Südbahnhof looked easy but we reckoned without getting lost in the university’s botanic gardens! PR fortunately spotted an exit and we got there in good time, or at least enough to buy a couple of bottles of Coke. Haulage on to Břeclav was 1014 009, with out seats in German IR stock, the rest of the train (Wien-Dresden) being Czech stock. At Břeclav there was time for a Gambrinus in the station buff before the 1550 to Warszawa hauled by 350015, with some nice air conditioned PKP coaches. What a shame the air con didn’t work. It’s like Virgin, but punctual. [Before continuing through the week, it’s probably worth mentioning that it was really, really, stinking hot and that neither I nor PR particularly likes either heat or E-numbered soft drinks. Beer consumption therefore appears very high – but in reality we were in good order throughout!]

Somewhat boring trundle to Ostrava Svinov, delayed by engineering sufficiently to miss (comfortably) the 1744 to Opava. Station buff to the rescue however, for Gambrinus at CZK16.50 the half litre. On to Opava on the 1844 with railcar, two trailers and glamorous gripper! [No, it wasn’t beer goggles. She features (accidentally of course) in one of my pics of the unit!] The hotel [Koruna] was located without difficulty after a 221 bus ride, definitely the scenic route but still only about 10p. It’s perfectly adequate and with residents’ and weekend discounts fed us both (2 courses, beer and tip) for just over 3 quid. I went for a walk afterwards to locate (but not visit) the Rough Guide’s beer hall which was just round the corner. It looks a nice enough town, even if one or two locals have a problem holding on to the pavement…

Sunday 8.6.03

It even looks hot... 810 050 at Chuchelna on 8-6-03

Adequate if unspectacular breakfast after a noisy night (disco opposite). A gentle wander down to the station took 15 minutes or so, and very pleasant too. A fleet of wheelie bins and a bogie railcar were waiting, with 810211 going solo to Hlucin. 810050 was waiting at Kravaře ve Slesku for another short (15 minutes) trip to Chuchelná. The line here used to continue into Poland but now only goes a railcar length beyond the end of the loop, the next two bridges having been removed and the gaps filled in.

Back to Kravaře, to find that the layout is

How proper railways work. 810s going to and from Hlucin meet one working the Chuchelna branch at Kravare, 8-6-03. 810 050 and 211 are red, 069 is blue.

The Chuchelná trains use P2 except (presumably) the last of the day which couples to the one from Hlucin and works through to Opava.

The ride out to Hlucin is similarly unexceptional, fortunately approaching the town on an embankment so the 15 minute walk to the town was more or less level. The brewery tap was located by the detection team and the product much enjoyed. Encouraged by this we retired round the corner to an Ostravar establishment (beer indistinguishable if we’re honest). Back at the station the buff was open so the available 8 minutes weren’t wasted (Zlatovar from Opava). Blue and white 810069 returned us to Krava ř e ve Slesku where we were just too late to find out that the pub was shut… Fortunately the pub’s tables and the shop were both open so warm Radegast Premium was taken, along with copious quantities of lemonade.

We were ticking off branches (and 810s) like mad. This one was at Hradec nad Moravici, on 8-6-03

Back to Opava and straight on to 1524 to Hradec nad Moravicí, another 810. Only one pub to be seen nearby, Restaurace Stare Jěstěr – but a most excellent meal was had, plus Velkopopovický Kozel 12° and Zlatý Bažant. Thoroughly recommendable. [Despite the beer intake thus far, not to mention a couple of pints of lemonade, my notes here remain completely coherent, even down to the accents. It really was horribly hot.]

We baled out at Kylesovice on the way back to make absolutely sure of the connection – it’s Opava side of the junction on plain single line, and we’ll be coming back through to Opava so all is shipshape. The kart (810, obviously) for Svoboda Hermanice turned up on time and trundled up the branch happily enough with a 12 minute break at Jakartowice (usual end of service except for this one train) where beer was available but eschewed in favour of photographs. Freight activity was evident at Mladecko and Dolní Žvotice (timber); there appeared also to be a freight installation at Svoboda Hermanice though the one train a day has a 6 minute turn round so there wasn’t enough time to see what it was.

And the last branch of the day was one train a day Svoboda Hermanice. This is the intermediate station (now terminus) at Jakartowice.

Luckily this was that one train! 810 090 at Svoboda Hermanice, 8-6-03

Another beer break opportunity was passed up (by us at least) at Jakartowice on the way back. Back at Opava it remained only to go to the Rough Guide entry (U Bileho Konicka) for a very nice meal and to the adjacent corner pub for a couple of Gambrini.

Monday 9.6.03

First haulage of the day was a 201 trolleybus to the station and thence a bogie railcar with two trailers. All was well until just after Krnov when the gripperette came round to tell us we’d be SEV’d from Domašov to Olomouc. Such is life. There are several branches to be done off this line so a return visit would be necessary anyway and it’s no great loss.

By the time we arrived at Domašov we were a good 20 minutes late, making the half hour connection at Olomouc fairly suspect. A death or glory charge in one of a fleet of three decrepit buses had us in the booking hall at Olomouc hl.n. at 1148 for the 1146 departure; the board claimed it to be 30 late, and the actual 20 late still gave us time for a hasty Gambo in the fast ‘food’ restaurant. Despite extensive engineering work as far as Česka Trebova and a bit beyond, we were still only 25 or so late on arrival at Pardubice. Not only that but we’d had to wait for an EC (‘Vindobona’) to Hamburg Altona which was supposed to run behind us but was allowed in front.

Luggage was deposited at the Hotel Labe and bus tickets procured before joining an air conditioned (yes, air conditioned) double deck EMU to Prelouč where I discovered that I had in fact brought my ticket and not left it in my hotel room as I thought. Then it was back to superheated wheelie bins (810143 this time) to Prachovice. The conductor questioned us as to whether we really wanted to go. When we got there we found out why-it’s a short single platform between two cement works with not much else to offer. There’s also substantial chemical traffic to and/or from a works hidden away in the woods near Kostelec u Heřmanova Městce. Back to Heřmanův Městec then on to Chrudim Mesto (with overlap but not physical connection) on yet another 810. The curve from Chrudim ‘proper’ joins before Chrudim Mesto so no problem there. A very short wait at CM then round the curve to Chrudim where there is a crossover, fortunately, just before the station. The traditional fly blown buff sold traditional short measure Regent 12°.

Final grice of the day was back round the Chrudim curve and on to Moravany – a very nice early evening run through undulating countryside. Local back to Pardubice from Moravany was 15 late but eventual arrival 14 late on the day with all done except the bustitution, was pretty fair. Evening meal (very good) was taken with Krušovice, again, in a rather unprepossessing restaurant with superb food. Early to bed, in view of a slightly earlier start than planned.

Tuesday 10.6.03

8 hours sleep albeit interrupted a few times by heat and noise. A very noisy party nearby stopped with such suddenness I think the officers of the law may have been summoned!

The hotel is somewhat unreformed and breakfast was in line with this. The first guard intercepted me with the safety off her clipboard and glared stonily while I tried to find my room card. Fortunately she was bereft of speech as well as facial expression, otherwise I might have been subjected to 15 minutes ideological purification before being allowed to start my breakfast. I passed up the cheese and the fresh fruit, both of which were in the hot sun, and settled for bread, ham and melted butter. The guards observed in silence, moving only to remove the bodies of those who succumbed to heat or food poisoning. The guests were so intimidated that they too were silent, and only Kiss FM disturbed the peace.

Assorted electrics on my first (of many) visits to Hradec Kralove hl.n. on 10-6-03. 181 065 on the left, a 130 on the right.

This was the (Pernstejn) brewery tap we didn't spot at Pardubice. Well, how were we supposed to know... 10-6-03

Down to the station for the 0824 to Hradec Králové (hauled by 130001) pausing only to reconnoitre the brewery tap. How two intelligent adults managed to miss its very obvious sign on the main road yesterday (twice) is a bit of a mystery. It’s open 11-10 on Tuesdays.

A pleasant trundle out to Hradec Králové in the relative cool of the morning. The curve from Pardubice hl.n. to P-Rosice is single line and joins the single line from Chrudim some way south of P-Rosice, before the river bridge. The first part of the journey was flat and wooded, the second flat and not wooded! Departure from Pardubice and arrival at HK were both 5 late. 163056 was waiting in the bay (2a) at HK with R952 for Praha, complete with buffet car. Departure was 3 late but retrieved before Velký Osek, and a dull run it was too. The kart (451) to Kolín was 15 late but with the revised plan giving 40 minutes at Kolín that wasn’t a problem. PR had got there early too, so we retired across the road for a Staropramen.

The layout at Kolín is far from clear and requires one of Mr. W’s maps. However we departed for Časlav from the same platform at which I’d arrived, which left me happy enough. It’s a long walk across the footbridge at Časlav and we were grateful for IM’s tip-off that the branch ‘station’ is separate. There’s a connection past the loco stabling point, requiring a double reversal from the Kolín direction. The branch is all huge cereal fields as far as the reversal at

Žleby where there is a short rounding loop and a factory siding. The remainder of the line is less flat and ends at Tremosnice at the foot of a ridge beyond which (presumably) is Prachovice. There appears to be timber traffic at Tremosnice but the siding at Žleby looked unused.

Main line to Havlickuv Brod – not too interesting, but track. Considerable difficulty finding the Humpolec branch wheelie bin at HB – even (two of) the station staff didn’t know where it was. We eventually located it behind another train, very pleasingly on the east side of the layout so it had to go right across to gain the branch.

810 076 at a scorching Humpolec, home of the Bernard brewery. 10-6-03

The branch itself was considerably better than expected, most of it being a valley line. It arrives at Humpolec high above the town, not a welcome sight on a hot day! The team unerringly located the Bernard brewery, but alas it has no tap so we were reduced to Krušovice just around the corner. Honour was satisfied by the purchase at the brewery shop of Bernard Special, unpasteurised in a swing top bottle, and a polo shirt ‘ah, but did you buy it at the brewery’.

Back to HB in the wheelie bin to find 1643 to Pardubice billed as 30 late. Shame, we just had to try the Rebel from the local brewery in the station buff. This was back to the usual standard of cold, wet, brown, cheap and reasonably palatable.

Mystery ensued at HB. The 1643 appeared from the north east, and the 1719 wheelie bin to Pardubice was duly lined up with its 810 pointing south. People got off the 1643 (booked, we think, to arrive at 1632 all stations from Pardubice) and we continued south behind 742429. After a long tunnel we emerged heading north and a line was noted trailing in from the north west. It looks as if there are two routes into HB but verification is needed. [There are. We used the southern route].

After all this excitement it was fairly dull trip back to Pardubice (straight through the middle at Chrudim, so no physical connection). Fairly amazing at Pardubice-Rosice though. The train was headed by the 742 and a bogie railcar but neither ran round; they just propelled down the curve to P-hl.n. with the conductor on the radio looking out of the open corridir doors of the last coach. Obviously this approach would be no problem in the UK… [It’s not a unique example in Czech though. The same thing certainly goes on in Brno as we discovered later.] Thence to the Pernstejn (Pardubice) brewery tap for a very friendly reception, a nice meal and samples of both 12° and 11°.

Wednesday 11.6.03

The prospect of 2 hours in a wheelie bin after a sleepless night (hotter than ever, and of course both my and PR’s rooms were on the south side for maximum frying) was too much to contemplate, so we caught EC75 with 363052 to Brno hl.n. direct. Furious plotting all the way there but we couldn’t come up with anything significantly better than the original plan so we decided to do a couple of suburban bits in Brno and then rejoin the plan. After a couple of beers at the station buff, watching the trams go by, we were propelled in a kart all the way back to B-Zidenice before doing the connection to B-Slatina and then on to Blažovice where after a long hot walk, both pub and supermarket shut their doors in our faces for their 12-1430 siesta. We retired, deeply hurt, to Brno.

754 031 at Bzenec, en route from Brno to Veseli nad Moravou on 11-6-03

After a struggle with the left luggage office, legged it to Pegas (up the no 4 tram route, left immediately past the church, on the left, 10 minutes minimum) where the unfiltered and very yeasty light beer was to my taste though not PR’s. Back to remove the luggage (PR hadn’t been given a ticket but all smiles in the end) and on to 1440 to Bzenec which also went through the ‘propel to Zidenice’ routine before going out via Slatina. Long hot run to Bzenec behind 754031 but at least it was drop-light stock so reasonably bearable. Thence on a wheelie bin round the curve to Moravsky Pisek and back to Hodonin on an electric loco hauled train. The beer break option was taken at Hodonin and we went off in search of the local brewpub (Kunc brewery, beer called Svihak). Out of the station, left then right opposite Denni’s bar and straight down the main street – Minipivovar Kunc is on the left. Takes about 10 minutes. The light beer is an exceptionally pleasant fruity unfiltered pils and much to be commended.

Our 810 looking a bit lost beside the upgraded main line at Moravsky Pisek, 11-6-03

Back at the station there was an unhelpful 10 minute delay to the 1808 to Zajeci via Mutenice, the inevitable wheelie bin. The connection at Zajeci was held for our late arrival, so no problem getting back to Břeclav which is, ah, unassuming. Nice dinner in the hotel though.

Thursday 12.6.03

Shunting at Lednice, 12-6-03. The trailer (nearest) was left in the siding behind me, and the 810 returned to Breclav.

I got the sunny side, and the deliveries, and the builder’s yard… too hot to sleep anyway. Breakfast was a bit DIY but OK and a further walk around the town en route to the station revealed another possible drinking venue. Out to Lednice on a wheelie bin with trailer, the trailer being left at Lednice which must once have been a very smart little station. It’s a nice branch, give or take the odd derelict factory, and appears never to have gone further. The line to Znojmo (from which it diverges) runs beside the Hohenau line for some distance west of Břeclav, the physical connection between Znojmo and Hohenau lines being near the station. The day’s first beer was taken at the Břeclav station buffet between the return from Lednice and our departure on an EMU to Sakvice.

It's getting hotter by the minute as 809 335 waits at Hustopece on 12-6-03.

The second wheelie bin of the day took us to Hustopeče where the gripper took delight in showing us his gricing map of Europe. He was a bit dismissive of wimps who stayed in in hotels and used aeroplanes – sleepers and ferries were the thing! This was much more of a case of local economics than personal criticism, we felt. Once the comparing of notes was complete, a short walk towards town produced a four-ale bar selling Budvar, with a tattooed man dragging a crate of cauliflowers through the bar. Honest – and that’s without mentioning the two lion cubs being taken for a walk in B řeclav last night… [While looking for somewhere for a meal before throwing the towel in and going back to the hotel, we had encountered two quite young children, maybe 12 or so, with two lion cubs on leads. I sent a text to Herself at home to inform her of this. Her reply : ‘Course you did’.]

809 052 at Pohorelice, terminus of a short branch off to the west of the Praha-Brno-Wien main line. 12-6-03

Back to Sakvice on the wheelie bin, and up the main line to Vranovice on another EMU, for the longer wheelie bin trip to Pohořelice. Both branches were well patronised, but no freight traffic was in evidence. No beer break either, with a short turnround and nothing to hand. The plan changed at this point, with a decision being made to go for the Mutenice-Kyjov branch and the Hodonin- Holíč (ZSR) cross border line. Accordingly we got the next EMU back to Zijeci and then suffered another 45 minutes in a hot wheelie bin trailer to Mutenice. Straight from there to Kyjov [inspirational suggestion from PR; it’s closed since] on another 810, this one with an automated PA system, to find to our huge relief that the station buffet was open 10-10 roughly, and sold Staropramen. It sold us one each.

This made the return trip (only one genuine passenger outwards, but quite full coming back) bearable, and all three trains (Zijeci-Hodonin and v.v. plus the Kyjov box) arrived within a couple of minutes at Mutenice, where incidentally the physical connection was done. On then to Hodonin for a couple of Zlatý Bažants and a pestering from the local prat in the station buffet.

The Holíč train was another 810 with a gripper who seemed to have an absolutely clear grasp of the situation. Being honest souls, we’d bought tickets outwards on the advice of the ticket clerk at Hodonin that this was cheaper than returns (only 50p single, but there’s no need to be objectionable). The gripper didn’t bother collecting on the way back, just big smiles and an invitation to the cab. Immigration was minimal – Czech looked us over on the way out, saw us coming back and didn’t bother. All in all, a most satisfactory silly trip.

Down to the Kunc pub again for supper and a firm resolution never again to eat the dreaded potato cakes. Green slime seems to be the standard. Other than that fine, back to Břeclav on (electric) loco hauled stock, back to the Imos in a cab and finally a beer (after retrieving my towels so that I could have a shower). News had been received at Hodonin that my daughter had apparently started labour (two weeks early, the trip having deliberately been scheduled to allow me to get back to England before the birth of our first grandchild) but there were no dramas during the night, just a text message to say everything was proceeding OK.

Friday 13.6.03

Nearest thing to a night’s sleep so far, but a pretty poor imitation even so. It’s a cloudy morning but hideously muggy so even after a shower the colossal effort of packing a few dirty T shirts into my rucksack was enough to provoke a muck sweat.

Slovaks (810 574, L) and Czechs meet at the Slovakian border station of Vrbovce on 13-6-03

0900 to Hodonin was an all stations but still left us with just over an hour’s connection so it was off for a Zlatý Bažant at a record breaking 0930 [Call me Puritan if you will, but except in extreme circumstances, like being thirsty, I tend not to touch beer before noon!]. The next stage was an extremely hot wheelie bin and trailer [little did we know, read on…] for the run to Sudomerice and Veseli nad Moravou – quite a large and well appointed station for somewhere I’d never heard of! The physical connection at V.n.M was pretty straightforward as the same 810 and trailer went forward as 1124 to Vrbovce ZSR where we stopped just short of the waiting ZSR 810 and on the next track. Not much to be done about that, it would seem.

The scenery got markedly more interesting towards the border and was quite impressive thereafter with a particularly fine ruined castle on a hilltop to the west (south?) of the line. For extra comfort in case we got cold in the two tunnels, the heaters were on full blast so the temperature got really stupid…

760 mm gauge tram 411 902 at Trencianska Tepla on the Bratislava-Zilina main line, 13-6-03

411 902 at the terminus at Trencianske Teplice, 13-6-03

Fortunately (after a couple of Topvars in the buffet at Nové Mesto nad Vahom) we had a proper train to Trencianska Tepla where we had a short wait for the narrow gauge. This is Vicinal style, very much more tram than railcar. It leaves TT roadside then digresses through a few fields before regaining the roadside to a rather smart two platform terminus in Trencianske Teplice. Fare was a princely SKK 9 each way, staff very pleasant, and Edmondson tickets on offer at the station booking office, though not on the tram. Highly recommended.

Roadside running on the way back from Trencianske Teplice.

Back at the main line the train to Bratislava arrived wedged but we managed to travel in the buffet car in comparative comfort, well supplied with cheese toasties, water and beer.

Tram no 1 was soon located (this time I had a luggage ticket so obviously I didn’t get gripped) and with a minor glitch due to alighting one stop too early we found the Hotel Kyjev, which failed conspicuously to impress. Dinner, Zlatý Bažant and Saris (less than wonderful) were taken in the old town which inevitably seems far more touristy than in 1996.

Saturday 14.6.03 .

Still unimpressed with Hotel Kyjev, we departed for an earlier tram than planned, just as well as I’d misread the timetable as is my wont. Arrived at Bratislava to discover after a long queue that the booking office only takes cash, of which we had insufficient. The kindly booking clerk put the tickets on one side while I made a quick dash to the cash machine (queue too long) and bureau de change (instant service), then let me jump the queue to pay for them. Full marks to her for her contribution to international understanding! We had enough time anyway, but it never feels like that…

By this time my poor daughter was in real distress after a marathon labour, and messages which had been coming through from Kent at intervals were causing increasing concern. We were already on the way home however, so nothing for it but to await further developments. We departed punctually for an increasingly slow (or decreasingly fastish) journey to Wien Süd via Marchegg. Much worry as the train seemed to be late was finally outweighed by enormous relief at news of the safe arrival in Farnborough of Isabel Alexandra! The train wasn’t late in fact, and we just had time to leg it to Rennweg for the S-Bahn to the airport. It remained only to fly back to BHX, on time in a CRJ fully equipped for a celebratory gin & tonic, catch an on time (yes, on time, on a summer Saturday) VWC to Wolves, with air con working (yes, working) in at least one coach. A late running Walsall-Wellington took us on to Codsall to rendezvous with H over a pint of Holden’s Special!

And the moral of the whole week – never, never again go to Central Europe in June. It’s too hot.

[This wasn’t the end of the week’s travel. Once PR had departed northwards, H and I fled south to Kent, arriving after visiting hours and having to blag our way into the hospital to see our daughter and son-in-law and their firstborn! But that’s another story.]








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