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.
After our pleasant journey on the direct Tatran fast train from Bratislava to Strba, we alighted at the rather basic station to connect to the rack railway to take us up the mountain towards Štrbské Pleso.
I knew the railway had been closed for refurbishment over the last year, but according to information on the internet it was supposed to be running again. I checked the ZSSK website and there it confirmed it would be running as a train. However when we followed the signs to the rack railway we found a sign that said it was closed and we had to take the replacement bus service. We followed the signs outside to the buses. First we wanted to board to front half empty bus, but the driver told us to board the second bus. There we barely could get on as the entrance was blocked by a passenger and her luggage.
However in the station of Štrba there was a ZSSK staff member to coordinate everything so it still felt more or less organised, even though it would have been nice to see a mention on the website.
After ascending the hairpins on the road towards Štrbské Pleso, we arrived there more or less on time. We exited the bus and headed for the station as we saw a GTW2/6 electric unit of the Tatra electric railway standing at the platform. The train was dark and closed however, no staff around. Behind a fence we could also see one of the new rack railway units, which obviously weren’t in use yet.
So we continued to the station hall where our train was on the departure boards, but without a platform number; I checked again on the ZSSK website and it said the train would be running.
There where however a number of paper signs with something in Slovak about a bus and dates between 27/09 and 03/10, stating Štrbské Pleso and Vyšné Hágy. We figured that there would be once again a replacement bus service. So lacking any ZSSK staff to ask information, we headed back out to the parking lot and to the buses standing there.
We informed at one of the drivers with a Vyšné Hágy bus if we needed to take that there and change to get to Poprad, which he confirmed. So off we went on another bus ride. This took us two stops down the Tatra electric railway line.
Where we alighted from the bus to board a train that came inbound from Poprad Tatry. The train emptied its passengers onto the buses while we finally boarded a train. It was a Stadler GTW2/6 electric unit, just like the one we saw in Štrbské Pleso. The seats looked super comfortable, but they weren’t, they were just hard seats.
Luckily the views of the trip made up for it. The first part we travelled through the woods along the mountain side with various views on the valley below. While the ride started out quiet as we picked seats in the rear unit and all the rest sat in the front unit, more and more people got on and the train got busier as we continued our trip. Due to this being only a relatively short trip there are no toilets on board.
In Starý Smokovec we stood for a while, this station forms the centre of the Tatra electric network. Here our train provided a connection to the train on the Tatranská Lomnica branch. As at this time school also finished our train was filled with school children heading home.
After Starý Smokovec our train descended downhill and left the wooded slopes for the open country side. Here we also picked up some more speed instead of the curvy mountainous section onto some straighter track. After a few more stops we arrived at the upper level of the gigantic Poprad Tatry station, perpendicular to the mainline tracks on the lower level, a perfect interchange station.
This was the end of our interesting but beautiful trip on the Tatra Electric railway. We finished off by walking to our hotel for the night at the AquaCity Poprad.
Even though the bus replacement services where well organised and we didn’t miss any connections the lack of clear information was a let-down.
I can accept there not being English or other foreign language information posters in deep rural Slovakia, but the lack of correct information in the operator website is really inexcusable in this day and age. You would expect the website to clearly mention that there is replacement bus service in operation. Clearly ZSSK can optimise it’s information on this level. Otherwise it was a very nice experience and I can advise anyone to try and travel in this region.
2021 Rail Tour of Imperial Europe
- POTSDAM 2021 | Schloss Sanssouci.
- 1945 Potsdam Conference’s Cecilienhof Palace.
- Potsdam 2021.
- REVIEW | InterContinental Berlin.
- BERLIN 2021 | Pergamon, ‘Das Panorama’.
- BERLIN 2021 | Humboldt Forum in the Berlin Palace.
- BERLIN 2021 | The Bundestag in the Reichstag.
- Berlin 2021.
- By train from Berlin to Gdansk via Szczecin.
- Stopover in Szczecin.
- REVIEW | Restauracja Ritz in Gdańsk.
- REVIEW | Holiday Inn Gdansk.
- GDAŃSK | Museum of the Second World War.
- GDAŃSK | European Solidarity Centre or Europejskie Centrum Solidarności.
- A walk through Gdańsk.
- Gdańsk 2021.
- POLAND | PKP Intercity Gdansk to Wroclaw via Warsaw.
- Wrocław Museum of Architecture.
- The Dwarfs of Wrocław.
- Poland 2021.
- By train from Wroclaw to Karlovy Vary.
- Karlovy Vary.
- REVIEW | Hotel Imperial Karlovy Vary.
- Czechia’s Great Spa Town of Europe Františkovy Lázně.
- CZECHIA | Pilsen Historical Underground Tunnels.
- CZECHIA | Pilsner Urquell Brewery Tour.
- CZECHIA | Pilsen.
- CZECHIA 2021 | Cheb and its castle.
- Hotel room for one.
- By train from Karlovy Vary to Prague via Pilsen.
- Czechia 2021.
- RegioJet from Prague to Bratislava.
- Bratislava Castle.
- REVIEW | Crowne Plaza Bratislava.
- Bratislava on a rainy Monday.
- ZSSK Fast Train Tatran from Bratislava to Strba.