Welcome to the second part of Blog Number 21. I really must stop doing all this Part 1 & Part 2 stuff as it's confusing me what number I'm up to! For anyone that missed the initial bit of this blog, covering the first 3 days of my recent trip to Hungary, please click HERE.
So, the fourth day of our trip included a move from our hotel in Györ to a new one at Székesfehévár for the remaining two nights, and it was also the day we planned to nip over to neighbouring Slovakia for a few hours. Komárom is about 20 minutes along the main line towards Budapest from Györ and it is on the banks of the River Danube, which marks the border between Hungary and Slovakia. It is, I'm fairly sure, the first time I've ever walked over an international border, and it is only about 30 minute walk to the Slovakian station in neighbouring, and somewhat similarly named, Komárno. Below is the group photo of us at the half way across the bridge; I'm stood in Hungary (Magyar), the other two in Slovakia.
The main purpose of the visit across the border was to take the 30 minute train ride to Nové Zámky, which has a large Motive Power Depot next to the station. It was a very productive 30 minutes or so spent there. The depot is accessed through a tunnel from the station subway and no one seemed slightly bothered that we were wandering round taking pictures. Nice to be somewhere where the dreaded Health and Safety we suffer here is, whilst not exactly ignored, just common sense reigns.
So back to Hungary once again via Komárno and Komárom, and a few hours spent photographing on the mainline once again. We bumped into a group of English Enthusiasts who had heard one of the elusive Floyd 86s was heading east. We waited as long as we could, but had to give up in the end as we needed to get the train towards Budapest in order to make connection at Kelenfeld to reach our new hotel in Székesfehévár. Whether it did come in the end we shall never know I guess.
The Hotel Platan is a really nice hotel, only a 5 minute walk from the station (although we went a rather long way round to get there first time!). I'm sure Székesfehévár, twinned with Chorley in Lancashire, is also a nice town, but we didn't actually manage to find the centre.
The next day we headed along the line towards Tapolca which follows the north side of Lake Balaton. This is the largest lake in Central Europe at almost 50 miles in length and is basically Hungary's seaside. The line along the north shore is diesel hauled and mainly single line, however it has (in theory anyway) pretty much an hourly service. I say 'in theory' because the train we caught there got delayed for over an hour at a station in the middle of nowhere by what we think was a fatality at the next station. This put the timetable into chaos for the rest of the day.
As there was obviously going to be a backlog of trains heading east, we jumped off at Balatonfökajär-Felsö, which is somewhat smaller than the name suggests. In fact there's sod all there really apart from a nice little farm crossing a short walk down the track. After a few pictures there we continued on to the side of the lake itself. There doesn't seem to be many locations where you can get both train and lake in shot at the same time, so we got off at one of the main resorts, Balatonalmádi.
We had time for a beer in a small lakeside bar before the next train was due. Richard then decided it was far too hot to take anymore pictures so went looking for a beach to go for a swim; Tim and myself found a bar on the station where we could sit in the shade and have another beer whilst waiting for the next train back towards Budapest. After many beers (the next two eastbound trains didn't turn up), Richard returned from his swim so we all boarded the next train back together.
I'd intended to go past Székesfehévár to get a few shots on the busy line between there and Budapest. I'd spotted a good location near Kápolnásnyék station, though with the earlier delays I only ended up with an hour there and it had gone a bit dull (though no cooler). Still, there were no fewer than 8 loco-hauled trains in that time: being cloudy meant shots both ways were possible.
The final day was a morning spent in Budapest itself, heading slowly towards the airport. In common with many European Cities there is an extensive tram system and also an Underground. We caught the tram a few stops from Déli station to Varosmajor where there is a cog railway. For some reason, probably because I didn't know the topology of Budapest, I hadn't given any thought to WHY it was a rack railway. Needless to say it's because it goes up a hill! Obvious really.
At the top of this hill there is another railway, the 'Budapest Childrens Railway'. This is basically a tourist line, though it is operated by MAV the State Railway. The majority of staff are children aged 10-14. It is possible to do a circular tour by using the Cog Railway to reach the Childrens Railway at Széchenyi-Hegy then returning on the tram from the far terminus at Hüvösvölgy.
We returned back down the hill on the Cog Train though as Richard had to get the Railjet to Vienna for his flight; myself and Tim had a few hours to get some tram pictures as we headed across to Nyugati station for the train to Budapest airport. We ended up having to get a taxi as there was no movement of any trains, and we had no way of understanding any of the announcements! The taxi got us there in plenty of time, though I think Tim was starting to panic at one stage!
Well that's the end of my waffling about the trip, I hope someone might find it useful if they are planning a visit to the country. Thanks for reading, please look out for the next edition of my blog, when (or if) there's ever any decent weather in Britain for me to be able to get out with my camera!
I'll leave you with a picture of one of the funniest things I've seen in ages. Whilst we were waiting at Polgárdi-Ipartelep for the fatality to clear, they ordered a rail-replacement bus. A bendy-bus turned up and, as it was obvious everyone wouldn't get on it, we didn't even try. Watching this overloaded articulated bus trying to do a 20 point turn on a farm track was hilarious and, half way through the manoeuvre, the line was cleared so everyone had to get off again. Bye for now!