Route: Bratislava – Prague
Seat: C372 S15
Date: Saturday 8th January 2022
After a packed stay in Bratislava (read about that here), it was time to head back to Hlavna station to start the final leg of my trip. Heading to Prague for the final couple of nights of the trip, this leg was starting with a four-and-a-half-hour journey across Slovakia and Czechia onboard the Hungaria.
My train was the EC286, named the Hungaria, which departs Budapest at 0740 and covers the journey I had made just a couple of days earlier (read about that here) before calling at Bratislava at 1006. We were scheduled to stop at just five stations between Bratislava and Prague, with the bulk of our journey being through Czechia, before arriving at Prague’s main station at 1442.
Given this journey was longer than my previous one I decided to book a 1st class ticket for the journey to the Czech capital, to give myself a bit of extra space and comfort. Unfortunately, Bratislava doesn’t have a 1st class lounge, and so I waited for the slightly delayed train in the waiting room and the east end of platform 1.
As the platform for my train was finally shown on the board I was pleased to see it was going to be at platform 1, right outside the waiting room and avoiding the need to face the stairs with my backpack. With first-class located immediately behind the locomotive, I headed down the platform as the train pulled in. As the locomotive came to a stand next to where I was waiting, I noticed was that this service was hauled by a České Dráhy (CD) Siemens locomotive rather than the Skoda locomotives that had hauled the Metropol sleeper and Metropolitan.
As with the Metropolitan, this service was formed of one 1st class carriage and four 2nd class carriages, however rather than having a full restaurant car, this had a bistro located half of the second carriage with the other half being additional 2nd class seating.
Boarding the main 1st class carriage I was pleased to see the carriage was fairly quiet, with only a few seats taken and the one next to mine thankfully free. The 1st class seating was open plan (no compartments) with a mix of airline style and groups round tables, with a 1-2 configuration meaning plenty of space. One thing I immediately noticed was that there was lots more leg room than most British 1st class seating and that the tray tables were much larger and actually had space for a laptop.
With the train having been delayed somewhere between Budapest and Bratislava, we departed the Slovakian capital 12 minutes late, however the CD website indicated that we would make this up enroute and be running on time by the time we arrived at Kolin, the penultimate stop of the journey.
As we headed north through Slovakia, the surrounding countryside was mostly farmland with some small, wooded areas in the distance. After a short stop at the Slovakian town of Kúty, the railway turned to head north-west, and we were soon crossing the river Morava which marks Slovakia’s western border with Czechia.
The next three stops were all within Czechia’s South Morovian Region, at Břeclav (the region’s third largest town) and then at two stations within the city of Brno (the capital of the region and Czechia’s second largest city). As we continued north-west, deeper into Czechia, the distant foothills came closer and the mountains of the Bohemian-Moravian Highlands began to appear.
As we wound our way between Brno’s Hlavní and Královo Pole stations, the magnificent Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul was visible from the left-hand side of the train, towering above the city from its location on Petrov Hill. As we departed Czechia’s second city, and with just over two-hours until our next stop, I decided to head into the next carriage to the Bistro to order some lunch.
Unlike the full dining cars on some services, the Bistro on this service only occupied half a car and so only had a couple of tables for passengers travelling in 2nd class to sit and eat. Travelling in 1st I was able to order and then have my meal brought to my seat in the adjacent carriage, bringing back the feel of proper 1st class catering (although you do have to pay for anything from the Bistro].
I decided to opt for another meal of dumplings, this time served with sirloin in a cream sauce and cranberries along with a session IPA from Chroust Brewery. These, along with the couple of Lattes that I had during the journey came to under €15 in total, a price that I think was great considering the quality of the food and the fact that its by far the most substantial offering I’ve ever had on a train.
The penultimate stop on our journey was the town of Kolín, about 35 miles east of Prague, and our stop here meant just 45-minutes left onboard one the most comfortable rail journeys I’ve taken. Compared to my journey in 2nd class earlier in the week, I certainly found the additional space and quietness beneficial and, whilst it did cost extra, the at seat meal service from the Bistro was excellent and meant I didn’t have to either leave my luggage or drag it along to the bistro.
As we arrived into Prague Hlavna station five minutes early, I reflected on this being the last train journey of this European adventure and decided it’s definitely a way I want to see more of Europe. With many European countries developing their rail network and an increase in cross-border trains of both the day and sleeper variety, rail is a great way to see more of Europe and add an almost infinite list of smaller towns and cities to your to-visit list!
Overall Rating 19/25 (read about my rating system here!)