As Czechia is centrally located in Eastern Europe the country is a hub for international train travel in the region.
The Czech railway company ČD (České dráhy) operates a number of international trains to various destinations across Europe.
While there are still some overnight EuroNight trains and the line to Vienna is operated under the Railjet banner most services are operated as ‘EuroCity‘. EuroCity was launched as a common brand by the different European railway companies in the 1980’s as the successor to the first class only TEE (Trans Europe Express) featuring also 2nd class coaches and requiring all coaches to be air-conditioned and the train to feature an on-board catering concept.
With the rise of high speed train travel throughout Europe the EC trains have been pushed away by more glamorous high speed train services on most major connections in the western part of Europe, but in the East they still represent the high-end international train services.
During our trip to Poland and Czechia in 2017 we used 2 different routes of Czech EC trains. The first train we took was from the Polish city of Katowice to the Czech Capital of Prague. The train, known as EC116 ‘Varsovia‘ leaves Warsaw at the early morning and travel via Katowice to the Polish-Czech border at Chałupki and Bohumín.
The train on this first sector is composed of a Polish electric locomotive and five Czech coaches, including a restaurant coach. The coaches are older refurbished coaches being rebuilt and fitted with air-conditioning and closed toilet systems as well as sporting the latest ČD corporate design.
The coach where we were sitting in featured an open saloon type seating with 2 seats at each side of the corridor, unfortunately the windows where relatively small thus you had a number of wall seats with little or no view.
After crossing the border into Czechia in Bohumín there where a number of older non air-conditioned domestic coaches added at the rear of the train together with a new Czech locomotive take us the rest of the route to Prague.
As the train also reversed direction here we travelled backwards for the remainder of the trip. From the boring flat industrial lands in northern Czechia we travelled through the central hillier area providing us with some more scenic views.
After a few days in Prague we continued to our next destination of the trip, Hamburg in Germany. ČD and Deutsche Bahn (DB) cooperate to operate a direct EuroCity train from Prague over Dresden and Berlin to Hamburg every two hours.
Departure was from the magnificent Praha hlavní nádraží, Prague’s main station. The main building has been kept and features and impressive dome with different coats of arms depicted, unfortunately the main façade now faces a busy urban motorway so it is not in use anymore as the main entrance to the station.
Nowadays most services can be found in the modern main hall underneath the urban motorway.
We decided to travel a comfortable hour, taking the 10:32 EC174 ‘Berliner‘. The coaching stock of this train is used as a service inbound from Bratislava in the morning, and because of a delay on this inbound service we had a small delay before setting off on our trip. After the Slovakian locomotive and coaches where detached from the rear of the train, a Czech locomotive was added to the front and we headed out of the station the same way as the train had entered.
This time our train consisted of slightly longer nine coaches, all of a more modern designed delivered new to the Czech railways in the 1990’s.
They all have been refurbished recently and sport the contemporary ČD design as well as offering new power and USB plugs to charge your electronic devices.
As the coach we were in still had a traditional compartments design with a side corridor and different compartments for seating, there were only three seats across and two rows facing in each other in each compartment, holding only six seats inside.
This provided with a perfect seat – window alignment giving excellent outside views and very generous personal space (especially for 2nd class). On the ceiling in the corridor there where information screens announcing the route and speed we were travelling at.
The First part of the route between Prague and Dresden followed the Elbe valley and meandered along with the Elbe River, providing us with some very scenic views. As this part is very curvy, speeds of the train are relatively low.
Onwards from Dresden we entered the German flat northern plain, while there is not much to see, the train is able to pick up some more speed here. Especially after having crossed under Berlin using the new north-south tunnel and the lower level of the Berlin Hbf the train could reach speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour on the line to Hamburg.
We arrived well on-time after a swift and comfortable journey on-board the blue Czech train.
All in all the Czech EC trains offer a comfortable and modern product and can be considered as one of the better options to discover the region. ČD also has a very good looking and easy to use website on which you can book your tickets and seat reservations online, even being able to select your favourite seat from the online seat map.
Have you ever travelled on a Czech train, and how did you experience it? Let us know in the comments below!