Slovakia and Czech Republic 11-16 June 2015 <  >

Thanks to a posting on the CDGEN Yahoo group I was alerted to the steam shuttles between Karviná hl.n. and Karviná město which were running in connection with the town's annual festival. The nearest airport to which I could get a sensibly priced flight was Bratislava which was my cue to get back to Slovakia which has been on hold for quite a while. A plan was devised to clear my passenger track west of Zvolen/Žilina - it nearly worked but the chance to visit Rendez 2015 and get the line down to Rusovce which has lost its passenger service, took precedence in the end. Still, I've left the map fairly tidy and as ever, it's an excuse to go back!

Thursday 11-6-15

No rail travel today due to very late return to BHX next week, which necessitated car to the airport via the White Lion, Hampton in Arden.Castle Rock Harvest Pale, A, if expensive. Ryanair to BTS, 15 mins early amid applause from the stranger pax, and fanfare version 2. 61 bus to the Avion Centre and a short stumble over the verges to Hotel Chopin.

Friday 12-6-15

Into breakfast for 7:15, seemed to be the rush hour but the buffet was being regularly topped up. Many people stealing lunch as well, not including us law-abiding Brits. 61 bus to hlavna where queues were minimal and the ticket office lady, who spoke good English, sorted out tickets Brats-Makov-Cadca free, and on over the border to Cesky Tešín for €8.40 for two.


498 104 waits in the centre road at Bratislava hlavna stanica on 12-6-15

While waiting for R605 to turn up, 498 104 arrived with support coaches, buffet car and breakdown crane. Ever the optimists! At a guess the crane's for display at Rendez over the weekend.

Being there on the platform was a good plan as normal Slovak standards of wedge applied but we had seats in an (allegedly) air con open. At the time of writing we've just left Trnava 4 late.


The end of the line at Makov on 12-6-15

Stayed that way until Žilina where the booking office supervisor sorted us out with proper laminated OAP cards. A bit of exploring to find the Orange shop for a data only SIM card but due to time, language and possible disinformation from t'Interweb, it was not to be. On then to Cadca, where the connection to Makov (the branch platform is in the 'V' and some way from the main line) made OK. Haulage to Makov and back was an 813/913, bigger than 810 with 7 bays instead of 5, but no air con so pretty warm for the thick end of two hours to Makov and back.


813 023 at Makov at the rear of a 4-coach train to Cadca on 12-6-15

We caught an Os on to Cesky Tešín for an abortive visit to the brew pub (closed for private party). Miffed, we plodded over the bridge into Poland, where all Cold War ambience has gone with the advent of Schengen and settled for a Rybnicke in a deserted disco bar. The things we OAPs do.

Next stop was Karviná on a late running Ex, where a taxi was deemed the best option. We obtained a quote of CZK 50 which seemed reasonable; due to giving me the change as one coin the driver didn't get a tip but with hindsight I'm pleased - now read on!

The Hotel Sport, attached to a leisure centre, was fine with unique décor and some rather extravagant claims of having English speaking staff available at all times. No matter, we got by. Round the corner to the Baron Restaurant, brewery tap for Karvinské pivo. Two of those didn't really convince me I'd ever really like it but we were able to get fed as well and after visiting the town knees-up in the market place (noisy but good geriatric rock band) we retired to bed content.

Saturday 13-6-15


2-8-2T 433 002 on the rear of the train at Karvina hl.n. on 13-6-15

Early doors for uninspiring breakfast at 07:15. Morning lady did speak English a bit, and got us a cab back to hlavni. He charged CZK 20 so got the other bloke's tip and then some! Justice done, we felt. The steam special was already in, top and tailed by 2-8-2T 433 002 at the south end and 742 280 at the north end. With the reversal at Petrovice they were the same way round at Karviná mesto, the end of a mostly pleasant freight branch from Petrovice. There's a large factory there with two industrial 0-4-0 diesels and seemingly some rail traffic - no wagons visible but the connection was shiny and the branch track seemed in good shape.


2-8-2T 433 002 at Karvina mesto on 13-6-15, haviing its tanks replenished by the local fire brigade

Back to Karviná on time with the 433 hauling on the main line this time. The whole thing was punctual and very well run with clowns and Wild West re-enactors to keep the kids amused. Cost? CZK 40 (£1.10) adult return.

Back to reality then with the Praha-Žilina Ex running 10 late. Mainly due to moleworks it was 21 late by Žilina but it didn't matter as we had over an hour. Most of the 40 minutes remaining was occupied with coffee and unspectacular Pernstejn 12 in the station buffet. We joined the Ex to Zvolen before its Goggle did but once it arrived and the air con lit up, we travelled in comfort to Zvolen via my missing bit of track, Banska Bystrica hl. st. to mesto (see 8.9.2006). We piled out on to a scorchio Zvolen os only to find the same set working on to Brats on our 'connecting train' so we were soon back in the air con, now electrically hauled.


Minipivovar Amadeus at Surany provided welcome shade on the very hot afternoon of 13-6-15

And so to Šurany, where we were faced with the challenge of transport to Minipivovar Amadeus. Quite a saga but in the end we got a taxi whose driver took us and agreed to pick us up at 18:15. M Amadeus was thoroughly worthwhile, a wonderful nearly finished pub with a covered outdoor area at the side (too hot today) and the brewery seemingly out at the back All Nations style. The light beer is sweetish, not as pale as usual and in all honesty not as much to my taste as some other Euromicros. But definitely worth the effort, one way and another. The taxi man had given us his card and the cheery barlady very kindly summoned him by phone for us so we got back to the station in good time and for €1 each way plus tip. Probably a ripoff by local standards but it did the job most satisfactorily.

The stopper to Nitra was a non air-con 813 but we'd had a charmed life so far so it was 40 minutes of grin and bear it. On time fortunately and a bus was outside about to go into town so we were in the hotel in 10 minutes or so for a wash and brush up. We ventured out to find a meal but soon discovered Nitra's not a good spot for restaurants able to deal with one meat eater and one not, so we settled for the rather overpriced hotel 'pub' instead.

Sunday 14-6-15

Very sound breakfast at the Golden Hoffer, followed by the no. 1 bus to the station and another 813 to Zbehy where 754 072 arrived on time with the connection on to Bratislava. Currently we're leaving Leopoldov 1 late after the loco change, remaining reasonably optimistic of 4-8-2 haulage from B-Vinohrady to B-východ.

477 013 running into Bratislava Vinohrady on the special from Malacky on 14-6-15
It's a pity 475 196 wasn't there but 498 104 is an impressive beast. Here it's on the east side of Bratislava vychod depot waiting its turn (literally) on the turntable

On time into Vinohrady but the 4-8-2 was not to be. The kettlex turned up with 4-8-4T 477 013. It appeared to do a rare curve round to B-Východ (maps to be checked) and reversed back into the depot on the far (east) side. Ticketing sorted we went in search of beer - Topvar but far too hot to be picky, and it was very welcome. Phone calls to the UK for our granddaughter's birthday (and an IT support call from the UK) then I sweltered my way back to the entrance only to be told I'd been sitting 5 metres from the ticket seller for the steam trips. No matter, tickets for Rusovce were obtained and after enjoying a very competent brass band recital we went for a very hot wander to phot the steam and a few diesels.

 

Former Austrian Sudbahn 4-6-0 109.13 (built 1912) makes its way off the turntable after its demonstration 'spin'

The kettlex was top and tailed by 555 3008 and 556 036 - fairly lethargic running on the way out but on time coming back. Rusovce's on the former passenger route to Hegyeshalom, a couple of miles short of the Hungarian border but the best that could be done. We baled out at B-Raca on the way back, from which advantageous position we had a beer in the adjacent pub and got back to Nitra via B-Vinohrady (City Heffalump), an electric R to Šurany, and the same 813-worked 18:33 to Nitra. Very friendly adjacent pub at Šurany, which I remembered when we got inside, and may feature in tomorrow's travels.

Evening provided the shocking revelation that there was Sunday night shopping, so we stocked up with food and drink at Billa and retired to the hotel to cool down. In theory.

Monday 15-6-15

This was to be a fairly desperate day albeit with a civilised start. Breakfast not quite as good as yesterday though I enjoyed the Kevlar-crusted wholemeal loaf again. Away via the shops to the loco hauled 09:52 to Nové Zámky which distinguished itself by failing a few miles north of Šurany. Stay put, said Bert, so we did and eventually they got the loco back to life and we tore off to NZ arriving 50 late and missing our connection by a handsome margin. Enquiry elicited that we could get the EC at 12:46 on payment of a €1 supplement each, so we paid that and were then rewarded with a wonderful ticket Stúrovo-Cata-Šahy-Cata-Levice-Šurany-Nitra in addition to the orthodox NZ-Stúrovo one.

Some serious clouds gather as 812 028 waits its main line connections at Cata. Ours is behind me having just arrived, and the one from Levice can be seen approaching in the distance.
Sahy station, with the line to Zvolen, now closed to passengers, on the right and the mighty 'publet' just beyond the station building.

Fortune now went our way (maybe - we're not at Šahy yet) and EC245 was only 5 late so the connection made at Stúrovo for a deadly hot 812 to Cata and another to Šahy. On the way to Šahy there was a reasonable downpour and even better, there was a tiny pub/shop in a wooden shack by the exit. So stunned was I by being offered 'draught' beer I forgot to note what it was, but nothing out of the ordinary. While I was away fetching Mrs EG's specs which she'd left behind, she was treated to an exhibition of how Slovaks treat their Roma, one of whom had entirely by accident broken the drop down window in the wheelie bin's trailer. Being a fair minded person, Mrs EG was not impressed. No further incidents, and by recent standards a pleasantly cool ride back to Cata, where the 15:55 to Levice rolled up 10 late to complete the country junction scene with the Šahy wheelie bin and another one southbound Levice-Stúrovo.

Cornflake country as far as Levice where we arrived just before 17:00 to find the place shutting down and a lack of information at the bus station (info office there closed at 14:30 in the typically helpful fashion of my "favourite" bus company).

With a choice of an Os or a (hopefully) air conditioned R both making the same connection at Šurany we settled for the later R. Hope it doesn't backfire on us.

It did of course, in that the R due at 18:13, was 35 minutes late so after a lengthy fester outside the station bar we got the stopper at 18:28, which gave us a 6 minute connection at Šurany. In the end the R trotted in just after us so either would have done. Back to Nitra at 20:12 just in time for the bendybus at 20:16.

Tuesday 16-6-15

The two locos from R724 Prievidza-Bratislava at Leopoldov where 754 070 (right) was exchanged for 363 137 (left)

Breakfast was back at full chat this morning and very enjoyable. A quick shop visit then the perennial 24 bus to the station where 10:23 Prievidza turned out to be air conditioned and cloth seated (good) also 15 late due to late running southbound train (bad but unimportant). It was almost on time at Chynorany anyway and with an hour to spare we wandered off to Penzión Nemec in what passes for the middle of town. Only Topvar or Pilsner Urquell but it would have been rude not to ... the other half was taken at the station for safety's sake and the Kozel was a pleasant surprise. 13:05 Brats turned up on time behind 754 070 with fully functioning air con, and at the time of writing we've just stopped at Zbehy so that's the triangle done and track finished for this trip. The 15 minute loco change stop at Leopoldov seemed to offer potential for getting some lunch but a circuit of the station revealed only two bars and no food so we went hungry until Bratislava where a bakery/coffee shop restored equanimity. After that it was sightseeing time with a couple of churches visited, and a walk along the right bank of the Danube which for the first time in my experience actually looked blue!

The plain exterior of Hostinec Richtár Jakub fronts a very pleasant brewpub

After our walk we found ourselves a short bus ride away from Hostinec Richtár Jakub - well, it would have been rude so we made our way there and found a very pleasant pub in a side street with a wide choice of draught beers including 4 of their own. We chose the 10° light ‘Anna' which was thoroughly acceptable, only falling short of A+ for me because of its slightly odd finish.

A short walk and a tram ride got us to Bratislavský Meštiansky Pivovar, close to the Poštová-Martinus tram stop. This was wedged by now (18:45) but we eventually got a ‘perch' table. Quite annoying as we'd called earlier after the coffee and cake shop, to ask for a reservation at 18:30. Madam had informed us we wouldn't need a reservation at 18:30. Oh really. Food and beer were both very good which mollified us somewhat – beer was Bratislavský Ležiak 12°, light and unfiltered. Excellent, once again falling short of A+ for me only because of a seeming slight lack of taste – this may be a harsh judgment brought about by my quite peppery ‘Pivovarský gulášek' which was most enjoyable.

After that, the trudge home. Being careful souls and in my case mindful of the horror story that was Schönefeld a few weeks ago, we made our way to the airport (tram 5, bus 61 as ever) in good time, arriving at 20:30 for our 22:30 flight. Naturally with only two flights (ours and Liverpool) before midnight there was virtually no queue for security and the airport was almost deserted. So we settled ourselves around one of the mobile/laptop charging points (red circular benches at the west end of the departure lounge if you're interested) and sat out the first hour or so. Despite the inbound flight not having arrived we were then summoned to the gate where a monumental queue waited to get into the gate area. Mercifully we'd invested the required pennies in priority boarding so having got through that little ordeal we were able to wait in comparative comfort (seated) while most pax were corralled into a very small space and made to wait standing as far as we could see. I think you've worked out by now which airline is involved here...

Uneventful flight-wise thereafter with slightly early arrival just before midnight at Brum, where 5 out of 10 electronic immigration gates were working and another flight had arrived moments before us. So after waiting a long time for the gangway then a long time for a full planeload to get on to the buses and a shorter time for the rather hectic ride to the terminal, we arrived in a pretty full immigration area. Then more queueing and eventually the long march back to the arrival gate and outside to find, mercifully, the car park 5 bus just about to go. It wasn't one of BHX's better days, and it was well into Wednesday before we got home.

A very successful trip with quite a bit of steam interest as a bonus. Trencín-Chynorany-Horná Štubňa will just have to wait for next time. It's doable in a day finishing up in Zvolen, so it looks like the late flight BHX-BTS again!

 

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