The Great Circular European Railway Challenge

Discussion in 'International Transport' started by Mark_Lester, 14 Dec 2011.

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  1. Mark_Lester

    Mark_Lester Member

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    we are organising this
    http;//gcerc.wordpress.com

    Which is 15 nights (just down from 16)
    St Pancras
    Brussels
    Amsterdam
    Copenhagen
    Oslo
    Narvik
    Stockholm
    Berlin
    Warsaw
    Prague
    Vienna
    Bratislava
    Budapest
    Bucharest
    Istanbul
    Sofia
    Budapest
    Zagreb (well, just 20 mins, but they have beer in the platform)
    Ljubljana
    Trieste (awesome tram)
    Venice
    Rome
    Bernina (route, we'd prefer NOT those silly observation cars)
    geneva
    Barcelona
    Madrid
    Lisbon
    Paris
    and back


    The current route, which right now includes sicily but we're probably going to have to finally ditch that, is on the blog at /route.
    we need a forum where we can discuss the macroscopic timetabling, and stuff in general.

    I am not a company, I just like organising this kind of thing. I did the equivalent in India earlier this year (gcirc.wordpress.com), in which I raised money for charity in order that my wife would let me do it. There's no charity this time, and I wont be inviting any kids on a fiver a day either,
     
  2. gordonthemoron

    gordonthemoron Established Member

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    Ljubljana toTrieste is a pain unless you get the sleeper or take a bus from the closest Slovenian station to Trieste (about 10 miles)
     
  3. Mark_Lester

    Mark_Lester Member

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    OK, lets start asking questions.

    Now that we are most probably going to accept defeat and turn back at Rome, the most dodgy part of the plan is the 53 minutes we've got in Bucharest for the change from the train from budapest train to the Istanbul train.

    Train 20 – EN 473 – Ister Express – aprox 861 km – duration 15:10
    19:10 Budapest-Keleti pu
    Day 8 – Tuesday June 25th
    11:20 Bucuresti Nord Gara A

    Train 21 – 461 – Bosfor Ekspresi - aprox 667 km – duration 19:37
    12:13 Bucuresti Nord Gara A
    Day 9 – Wednesday June 26th
    07:50 Istanbu

    We spaced out the run back up via Belgrade when I was kindly told by the controller at Belgrade that the Balkan Expresi from Istanbul turns up when it feels like it, usually after the connecting Ljubljana train has left.
    The word I have about the Ister Express from Budapest to Bucharest is, barring the gypos nicking the trackside booty. that it's generally on time.
    I have some excellent contacts in that part of the world, so I may well be able to put together an arse breaking plan B of a clapped out bus to take us down to Istanbul (prob get there mid afternoon).
    My question to you is, have you been on this train in the last few years, or better still do you know anyone in either Hungarian or Romanian railways who can give us some real data on it.
     
  4. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    Which sleeper is that? I don't think that we spotted that one.
     
  5. 87015

    87015 Established Member

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    It (Venice - Budapest) was withdrawn as of last weeks timetable change so there are no passenger trains between Italy and Slovenia which is a sad state of affairs.

    I've viewed the Istanbul - Belgrade and v/v a few times in Bulgaria and it has more often than not been up to two hours late, but the Bulgarians have now reopened the line between Dimitovgrad and Plovdiv which saves a lengthy diversion via Mihilovo. Never seen it not wait at Sofia for the through portion though.

    HAFAS shows the 461/465 Bucharest - Sofia (nee Thessaloniki)/Istanbul is retimed to 1300 vice 1213 so that makes the connection a bit more secure (but at the expense of having to suffer more time in Bucharest)
     
  6. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    87015

    Thanks for the info. We were already reconciled to a non train trip from Slovenia to Trieste so we are no worse off. Two hours delay (and more) is built into the plan for istanbul - Belgrade so that's ok. The extra minutes at Bucharest seem welcome on the face of it. That place seems to have an image problem. Is there anything that we need to know?
     
  7. Mark_Lester

    Mark_Lester Member

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    oh 13:00 out of Bucharest, great. Does it go via Sofia then ?. We can arrange for supply drop there if so, we have special contacts there.

    seat61 raves about Bucharest, I havent been for 20 years but my information is it's still a dump. still, we've time for a beer now in theory, and may be some of these
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mititei
    which if they are good are very very good.
     
  8. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    Mark

    Not according to SCOTTY. They also reckon that the previous train is due in to Bucharest at 11.00 - so that's a whole 2 hours.:)
     
  9. 87015

    87015 Established Member

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    Sorry, it splits at Gorna Orj into portions for Sofia and Istanbul. I wasn't a fan of what we saw of Romania around Bucharest, they don't disinfect the train anymore as it crosses back into Bulgaria though which is a shame if just for the riot value :(

    I do think that the Istanbul - Belgrade has now lost its sleeper car so only a TCDD counchette car goes through looking at recent photos, although that could be temporary given the current mess that BDZ is in.
     
  10. Mark_Lester

    Mark_Lester Member

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    seat61 picked up on the loss of sleeper cars in the Balkan Ekspresi. the word is "until at least the new year", which sounds more like "canceled". I dont know if that's the same story down from Bucharest but I'm expecting it to be so.

    I got this from our new mate in Switzerland
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Also, Krist, our swiss rep, says there's an 11:57 in summer out of Tirano which we can now catch, with open observation cars, and goes to St Moritz, which is just a little spur off the main line. but the through trains dont do it, it's worth it just for the platform shot.

    Oh look
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/andynash/2441055508/

    Sicily is history.
     
    Last edited: 14 Dec 2011
  11. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    I'll pack my cagoule then.
     
  12. Mark_Lester

    Mark_Lester Member

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    Oh come on, yer a northerner, it's got a roof, er. well sort of
    [​IMG]
    bit cattle truck, may be a cushion is more useful.
     
  13. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    I saw that Indian Railways were looking at Swiss built coaches. Now i see why.
     
  14. 87015

    87015 Established Member

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    Viewed both portions in October, and the Belgrade was down to just load two (1 couchette and 1 seated coach Sofia-Svilengrad) but the Bucharest portion was still running as load three with its CFR sleeper car in the consist, can just about be seen here behind the TCDD couchette car so hopefully that has is surviving.
     
  15. stut

    stut Established Member

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    Koper is the station you want to transfer to Trieste (Capodistria in Italian, which is widely spoken in this town anyway). Easy transfer to the bus. The train journey from Ljubljana to Koper is stunning at the Koper end, and the town worth a look around and a burek/cevapcici. The bus journey to Trieste is mostly through heavy dockland, however.

    Oh, and Vienna-Bratislava, I have a preference for the less well advertised and slower service to Bratislava hl st (a tram ride or longish walk), not the fast train to Petrzalka (a fair bus ride from the old town). It's usually in a small railcar, and much more interesting a journey. Gone are the days where you'd have to clamber down from the Austrian railcar on the border (no proper station) and up into the rattling old Slovakian one, though!
     
  16. W-on-Sea

    W-on-Sea Established Member

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    Koper is certainly the logical place to get a bus to Trieste from. But if you go that way you miss the great delights of the "tranvia" that descends rapidly from near the Slovene border (at Vila Opicina/Opcine) into Trieste.

    There was a discussion about this a while back.
    http://railforums.co.uk/showthread.php?t=49785&highlight=Sezana Which I hope is still valid. Local bus timetables are available online, too, I think. But I'm still inclined to think that a taxi from Sezana to the top end of the tram is probably the easiest way.

    It's ridiculous that the cross-border trains (some of which ran through the cold war, for all that Yugoslavia had its own particular stance for most of that period) have stopped, now when both Italy and Slovenia even share a currency!
     
  17. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    I think that now we have stumbled across the tranvia we would like to keep it in. The link you've included about taxis from Sezana looks pretty positive so thanks for that.

    Another of our contacts has suggested that there is a chance of trains from Slovenia to Trieste being restored. We have time on our side so who knows.
     
  18. Mark_Lester

    Mark_Lester Member

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    I was hoping the ride up to Sezana would be Julian Alp heaven, what's that run like ?. Anyway, that tram down is awesome and a must do.

    thanks, we'll check it out, but if it costs much time then it will need to be proper good.
     
  19. stut

    stut Established Member

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    Ah, I couldn't tell you, I've only ever done that run on the sleeper!

    The tram (which I wasn't aware of) does sound fantastic, though - sounds like it would be worth the trip.

    Don't know about "proper good", I just like the atmosphere of a little railcar bouncing through old Czechoslovakian stations!

    There's actually very little time penalty at present, due to the Suedbahnhof remodelling at Vienna - both services take around an hour. Generally, the time penalty's only about 15 minutes, but the railcar is less frequent, so it depends how it fits into your plans.
     
  20. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    Is the train in the shot the spiritual heir of the Orient Express? How the mighty have fallen.
     
  21. Mark_Lester

    Mark_Lester Member

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    dig the SCEPTRE agent bit. (edit, it's SMERSH of course that I was thinking of)
    We've elected to space out the run from Istanbul->Ljubljana as the Belgrade link was too risky, so we've ended up spending the night in here
    http://www.hostelcelica.com/
    which a converted prison, so may be we should arrange to get strafed by a helicopter as we cross the border.

    I checked the route of the sezana train, it's nice enough but I dont think there are any mountain views.
    FYI, the term karst limestone comes from this very area. it comes from the slavic krasne, which means beautiful (well red, but kraseva is ruski for beautiful, whch comes from red).
    Anyway, karst limestone means beautiful limestone, and the term comes from the julian alps, which are well nice if you fancy a walk.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Finally just got a reply from STC (swiss travel), admitting that the bernina is covered by the pass. I've asked them about this 11:57 cattle truck as it's not on bahn.de.

    Her quote for the eurostar was £70, so I checked online and it's £39 when booked 4 months in advance
    BUT
    that 10:57 is sold out at that price, even for April, though there are £57 options. As Caledonians will presumably be arriving on the sleeper you'll have to go for that later one, but we'll wait for you in Brussels. Actually it wil cost me half the difference to get from reading at that time probably, but anyway.
    But he (seat61) also says "avoid Friday and Sunday", so we should. We dont need weekend to weekend, I just want to keep it under 2 weeks and a day, ish.

    Ah!, I just rang up eurostar, £35 for group bookings, might even get on that 10:57.
    prob £40 back from paris though, but they will handle the group aspect,
     
    Last edited: 15 Dec 2011
  22. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    Don't worry about me for the Eurostar timings. I'll probably travel down the day before and stay in a bijou roomette somewhere. That way I can at least start clean. Might have to leave Paris earlier though if I am to get the sleeper home. Plenty of time to sort that out. The group booking thing looks worth going for if we can herd up the cats early enough.

    Been wrestling with a taxi from Chandigarh to Ambala Cantt this morning. Now sorted.

    Don't forget the alternate days for Geneva - Barcelona when fixing D day
     
    Last edited: 15 Dec 2011
  23. Mark_Lester

    Mark_Lester Member

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    If you are coming the day before then you are welcome at châteaux Lester, we'll work that out, but anyway, if we are double figures, which I am quite certain we will be, we can get the sub 40 sods on the eurostar, and get a similar deal on the Thalys, via eurostar group booking.

    Diana, my new efficient mate at STC, gave me this
    http://www.rhb.ch/Open-scenic-carriages.213.0.html?&L=4
    you cant reserve them, they just get tagged on as long as it's not raining. July and August only btw, though she implied these can be sorted out. If there's a heap of us I think they will get one out for us with enough notice and a few francs.
    The dep is 11:27, but we've still enough time to get the salami in at Tirano. These trains dont have the nasty curved windows anyway, which are totally counter productive, you cant open the blinkin' things and you cant video or take any decent photos out of them either.

    St Moritz is a nice extra.
     
    Last edited: 15 Dec 2011
  24. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    Great stuff. I've been wasting my time on the Inverness to Wick/Thurso and back in a day thread.

    I wondered if this might be the place to ask if anybody knew of a source for track mileages for trips in Europe?
     
  25. Mark_Lester

    Mark_Lester Member

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    actually, 10:50, and a passport check, for 11:27, isnt enough time to do the groceries is it. we leave milan at 08:50, so we need a bread and sausages and a bag or oranges option for 8am in Milan.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    I have had to do this by just whacking it all into a road route finder. Once we've finally finally decided on what the hell we are doing, I will lovingly follow the whole route on the OSM and get some numbers out of it. But if, at least for some countries, there are mileages available, or if anyone has worked some of our route out themselves already (I see w-on-sea keeps a running tally) then please give us your numbers.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    and we've now an hour in st moritz. possibly the most expensive place in Europe to buy a picnic in, but we should be able to get enough to keep us going till Geneva.
     
  26. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    Can't spot an earlier option out of Milan. Milan is supposed to be very sophisticated. Perhaps they'll have a 7-11 or a Spar. Thanks for invite by the way.

    I've spotted a way to generate responses by the bucket on here. Just diss J D Wetherspoons.
     
  27. burns20

    burns20 Member

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    The Bratislava Hlavni to Vienna train is an urbanferret pushpull train now through quite tidy stations and a new massive viaduct outside vienna being built.
     
  28. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    Thanks for the update.

    What made you stop at Garve?
     
  29. W-on-Sea

    W-on-Sea Established Member

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    Oh, I've stayed in the celica - admittedly soon after it opened in that form, eight years ago. (It had been an underground art centre and a gay disco, in the ultra-bohemian quarter of Ljubljana, before being smartened up, comprehensively refurbished, and turned into a hostel/art gallery). A strange, but not unpleasant place. Some of the rooms are kind of small (some of the rooms still had bars on the windows...), but it is certainly interesting - it was a Yugoslav military prison, and at least one post-independence Slovene prime minister had been locked up there!

    No mountains to see round Sezana, nice enough journey though. Seem to recall at least two old Yugoslav steam engines rusting away in stations on the line from Ljubljana to Vila Opicina (Sezana and Divica I think), as well. Some great caves around that way too. While the coastal (old venetian) town of Piran (Pirano) - at the tip of the penisular south of Koper - is out of this world...but also probably not on your route.
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    Actgually if you want scenic train journeys in the Julian Alps, I heartily recommend the slightly unfortunately acronymed (and privately owned) FUC train on the Italian side of the border (Udine to Cividale del Fruili). I hear the line along the Sava valley in Slovenia (which I think joins the main line at Sezana, and runs from there north-east up to Bled-jezero and beyond) is also really beautiful, but at least when I was there last trains were infrequent and not at convenient times.

    But again...these are not really on your route
     
  30. Glenmutchkin

    Glenmutchkin Member

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    Sounds absolutely brilliant. We will get our choreographer working on YMCA. :D
     
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