After a hiatus so long that I can’t even remember when or even if it began, I’m restarting my European train route documentation series with this look at EuroCity (EC) 102, aka the Polonia, which journeys from Villach, Austria to Warsaw.
More specifically, this 189-second slideshow covers the route’s 646-kilometer stretch from Villach to Ostrava, Czech Republic, whose main stops include Klagenfurt, Weiner Neustadt and Vienna in Austria and Breclav, Hodonin and Prerov before I disembarked at Ostrava’s Svinov station, the westernmost of the Czech city’s two main stations.
About the Series
The way my mother tells the story, I was smuggled into France as a six-month old, wrapped in swaddling clothes and hidden among a small pile of blankets in a crowded sleeper car. Whether the tale is an embellishment I can’t say, but I do know deep down that the episode instilled in me an early love for train travel.
Nothing remotely resembling passenger trains existed in the US midwest while I lived there, so my mild obsession with riding the rails didn’t finally and fully blossom until I moved back to Europe 38 years later.
When I need to go somewhere, for business or pleasure or both, I insist on going by train whenever practical –even when a 13-hour train trip could be covered in about five by car (to Sarajevo from Ljubljana, for instance). Naturally, I also snap lots of photos, both from the trains and in the stations.
I don’t anticipate using a great deal of structure in the series, just several dozen photos snapped with my mobile phone –a Samsung Galaxy S3— between book chapters and brief naps and whenever the mood strikes, then tossed into a slideshow with a groovy soundtrack. In short, just another way to celebrate and share my fetish for train travel in a plain, mundane and unadorned fashion.
And hoping that some beauty can emerge from the banal.
The EC 102 – the Nitty and the Gritty
Introduced in 1997, the Polonia’s route covers 991km (616 mi) through three countries; in its entirety, the journey lasts about 12hrs and 15min. Operating daily, it leaves Warsaw westbound at 05:57; eastbound departures from Villach is at 09:14.
It’s a nice ride, with plenty of variety. From Villach to Wiener Neustadt, just south of Vienna, the geography is mountainous and hilly, and eventually gives way to a long flat expanse on approach to the Austrian capital. It largely remains that way through to the Czech and Polish region of Silesia – ample waves of grain in wind turbine country.
I’ve ridden this route several times since 2004; it’s been interesting to see the region’s changes over that decade, mainly in the form of upgrades to the infrastructure through modernization and expansion of Czech stations.