Autumn 2021. In theory we could travel to other continents, but destinations we had in mind such as Japan or the United Kingdom were impossible to plan ahead. Instead we organised a rail trip to Eastern Europe, travelling to Berlin, Gdańsk, Wrocław, Karlovy Vary, Pilsen, Bratislava, Poprad, Vienna, Linz and Salzburg. By travelling to Germany, Poland, Czechia, Slovakia and Austria, we explore an area which was in the (not too distant) past bonded together by the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and by Austria-Hungary.
To travel from Berlin onwards to Gdansk we opted to travel on the coastal route with a change of trains in Szczecin instead of the inland route of the direct Eurocity via Frankfurt an der Oder and Poznan.
The first stretch was on one of the four daily RE 66 trains direct from Berlin Gesundbrunnen to Szczecin Glowny. As these trains are operated by diesel GTW 2/6 units they use Gesundbrunnen as a terminus station in Berlin as they are not allowed to operate through the inner city tunnel to serve Berlin Hbf. To get to Gesundbrunnen we used a combination of U9 and U8 metro trains from our hotel, the InterContinental Berlin, near Zoologischer Garten.
The train left Gesundbrunnen northbound and took us along the electrified mainline to Stralsund until Angermunde, from where we branched off. While this used to be the mainline from Berlin Stettiner Bahnhof to (back then German) Stettin, it now is only a mere shadow of itself as a non-electrified branch line. The scenery was typical rural with fields, forests and rolling hills.
The train terminates just after the German – Polish border in Szczecin Glowny, the city’s main station. It is a modern station with clean high platforms and a number of shops and services inside the building. As we had a spacious layover of over 1h30, we made a short stroll through the city centre.
We travelled onwards on IC81104 ‘Rybak’, travelling along the coast from Szczecin to Bialystok, passing by Gdansk enroute. The train was composed of a typical older Polish electric locomotive hauling 7 coaches. 1 and a half first class compartment coaches, the rest being second class in both compartments and open saloon seating.
No restaurant coach was in the composition, but a trolley service did pass through the train. The coaches looked and felt modern as they were renovated in 2020. Our first class compartment was clean and modern, with comfortable seats. On the table near the window there was a wireless charging point, while in between the seats there where standard European 220v power plugs as well as 2 USB ports for charging. The air-conditioning also worked really well, a bit too well for my liking, blasting ice-cold air into the compartment. During the ride you could feel the coaches where of an older build, just receiving a big modernisation. The ride was pretty rough and noisy, with lots of rattling sounds. The brakes made an enormous noise as they were still the old type of thread brakes instead of disk brakes.
The route took us through rural northern Poland along more hills, fields and forests with the occasional field along the way.
Only when reaching Gdynia we saw some more buildings as we entered the Gdynia-Sopot-Gdansk metropolitan area. We finished our journey in the impressive looking Gdansk Glowny, where we couldn’t enter the main building as it was under renovations.