Rail route of the month: alongside the Franz Josef railway from Prague to Vienna | Rail journey

The traditional rail route from Prague to Vienna by way of southern Bohemia was relegated to secondary standing within the Seventies, however immediately it nonetheless presents one of the partaking railway journeys in central Europe. By no means ones to hurry, my companion and I made a decision earlier this month to journey the size of the Emperor Franz Joseph Railway by sluggish trains.

Map for Prague to Vienna

We may, after all, have simply hopped on one of many quick Railjet providers which sprint from Prague to Vienna through Brno in little greater than 4 hours. However we had been eager to journey by way of an out-of-the-way area of southern Bohemia by recreating a Habsburg-era sluggish journey expertise.

Forged again to 1873, and Vienna was internet hosting the World Truthful whereas celebrating 25 years of Emperor Franz Joseph’s reign. The newly opened railway from Bohemia to the Austrian capital was named after the monarch, and this route was properly utilized by travellers from Prague to Vienna intent on visiting the World Truthful earlier than it closed on 31 October 1873. In these days, there have been 4 direct trains every day working the size of the Franz Joseph Railway from Prague to Vienna, the quickest being a daytime specific with first-class carriages, taking 9 hours, and the slowest an in a single day prepare that took 18 hours for a leisurely experience between the 2 cities.

The Rotunde erected in Vienna for the 1873 World Truthful. {Photograph}: history_docu_photo/Alamy

So on a sunny day in early October, we rattle south from Prague on a regional prepare sure for Tábor, the primary stage in a cross-border journey requiring a number of trains and an sudden experience on a minibus. Looping south by way of Prague’s suburbs, we slip by freight yards and container parks, finally gaining open countryside simply past Hostivař. Then there’s a cavalcade of switchbacks, up and over ridges, briefly touching the Sázava Valley at Čerčany. We uncover a mini-bistro hidden away within the rear carriage of the prepare, so Sunday lunch is Czech goulash soup and native beer.

Forests and lakes

The River Lužnice in Tábor. {Photograph}: Matyas Rehak/Alamy

From Tábor, the Franz Joseph Railway follows the mild Lužnice Valley upstream into Austria. Lengthy sections of the road are simply single monitor so progress is sluggish. The road just isn’t electrified past Veselí nad Lužnicí. We alter trains there on to an area prepare which stops at each wayside halt. The prepare’s two antiquated carriages are hauled by a loud diesel engine. We pull down the home windows and luxuriate in a leisurely Sunday afternoon trundle by way of rural Bohemia. It’s beguilingly stunning, a lot in order that any ambition to get to Vienna by night shortly fades.

Journeys much less deliberate are those who foster enduring recollections. The prepare pauses by a lake at Vikov and we’re tempted to alight. However the prospect of discovering a lodge appears distant. We keep on the prepare, slipping by reedy marshlands with loads of alder and willow. There are tumbledown barns caught in tangles of weeds, stately storks surveying water meadows, and lakes lined with little wood boathouses. Quickly we cease at Třeboň Lázně, the place the station constructing boasts a chic white colonnade. It appears promising, so we seize this chance for an unplanned in a single day cease.

Diesel power: the line from Veselí nad Luznicí to the Austria border is not yet electrified.
Diesel energy … the road from Veselí nad Luznicí to the Austria border just isn’t but electrified. {Photograph}: Hidden Europe

It’s a 10-minute stroll from the station into the centre of Třeboň, a placing small city with an enthralling sq., with attendant citadel and a park by a lake. Small-town Bohemia boasts a few of the most livable communities in Europe, and our potluck arrival in Třeboň strikes gold. In October night sunshine, as summer season slips into autumn, life appears good as we savour the tempting menus on provide at eating places that depend on ample provides of carp and trout from native lakes.

Impromptu in a single day stops work properly, we discover, when there’s ample time to discover. With a mid-afternoon arrival in Třeboň, and no stress to go away early subsequent morning, we have now each alternative to be taught in regards to the historical past of this small city, which serves a rural hinterland with an aquaculture custom that may be traced again over many centuries. The native financial system revolves round freshwater fish.

On into Austria

The train passes close to Eggenburg in Austria.
The prepare passes near Eggenburg in Austria. {Photograph}: CHROMORANGE/Alamy

Subsequent day we’re again on the station platform waving down the native prepare. Třeboň Lázně is a request cease. The prepare conductor checks our Interrail passes and tells us that there aren’t any trains working on over the Austrian border immediately. “Don’t fear,” he says. “There will probably be a bus as a substitute.”

The mere point out of a rail alternative bus service evokes concern for a lot of travellers. However we take such issues in our stride. As we strategy České Velenice, there’s an announcement that the prepare will terminate there and everybody should alight. Within the station constructing, the neatly dressed station supervisor asks if we’re sure for Austria and tells us to attend by the highway outdoors. It seems that we’re the one passengers making this cross-border tour; it’s an eight-minute experience in a white minibus over to Gmünd in Austria, the place a double-decker prepare waits for the onward journey to Vienna.

skip previous publication promotion