Use ALL The Czech Railways!
I've liked trains for as long as I can remember liking anything. For much of my childhood, I could watch them go by my bedroom window. The National Railway Museum in York was within reach, and was always a delight to visit. And, of course, I had a model railway.
I've been living in the Czech Republic since 2015. When I arrived, I was pretty burned out with travel and ready for some nice quiet time at home. Come 2017, I slowly started to travel again - exclusively by train, to avoid the stress of flights and airports. In late 2017, I came across a map of the entire Czech railway network; the map is from the Czech Railway company (České dráhy).
I looked at it and thought: wow! Such a dense network, for a relatively small country. Wouldn't it be fun to travel all of it! Of course, my assumption is that this will take me a good number of years. But, with the Czech Republic my home for as long into the future as I care to think about, this feels like a great way to get to know the country - including plenty of places well off the beaten track. This page will document my progress in my mission, largely for my own record keeping and entertainment, but I figure at least somebody else will find this kind of interesting too.
It was only at the end of 2017 that I got the crazy idea of trying to travel over the entire Czech railway network. Since I had all the travel I'd done in the year readily memorable, I figured I'd mark it on the map. Here it is:
I started out with a trip to Beroun. Since that was before I had any intention of trying to cover the whole railway network, I had no idea that there are at least two different routes from Prague to Beroun. As it was, I did the same bit of line there and back. The Prague suburbs quickly slipped away, leaving views of the pretty surrounding countryside:
I wasn't expecting anything of Beroun station, and so was surprised to be greeted by a large stained glass window over the main station entrance.
Beroun is a small, but very pleasant town, to the west of Prague. It's off the regular tourist track, has a lovely Mexian restaurant, some bears (I only saw one, the other was hiding in the enclosure), and a pretty river running through it. A very nice place for a couple of nights escape.
In summer, I took the SuperCity Pendolino to Olomouc, which heads out east through Pardubice (where they brew a very tasty porter beer, by the way) and on to Česká Třebová; the latter is an important junction, since the line down to Brno branches off to the south. My train continued on east to Olomouc, where I was heading; beyond there, it was headed for Ostrava. Olomouc station offered up a large mural as its most noticeable bit of decoration:
Olomouc is known for its smelly cheese and having a large historical center. I heartily approved of both, not to mention the Moritz microbrewery just near my hotel, where I enjoyed some delicious, freshly brewed, beer and a great plate of goulasch. Here's how the main square looks:
In the summer, I travelled to Switzerland by train. My trip managed to happen exactly during the weeks when the Prague to Linz (Austria) line was partly closed, which meant the sleeper train was not running. Thus, I took the train down to Vienna, and took the sleeper train from there to Zurich. That netted me the line heading south through Brno and Břeclav - though sadly without me actually seeing anything of those places. Still, I'll count it.
On the way back, I took day trains and spent some time in Austria (St Anton turns out to be a very good place to break a journey from south Switzerland to Prague, both in terms of being "in the middle" of the trip, while also being a very pleasant town). Rather than going to Vienna, I changed at Linz. Unfortunately, the line was still out of service, so it was a bus over the border to Rybník and then the train up to Prague. Again, I didn't see the places along the way except from through the train window. Worse, the bus means I missed out on the bit of line south of Rybník!
In autumn, I headed to Plzeň, starting off from Prague's Smichov station, which is walking distance from home. That's the same station I used for heading to Beroun; indeed, the first stretch of the line is the very same as the one I took to Beroun.
Plzeň gave Pilsner beer its name, and the brewery does tours that culminate in tasting the unfiltered, unpasteurized version of the beer. For fans of both railways and beer, they can offer this wagon:
The craft beer scene also appears alive and well, with the Beer Factory microbrewery making some decidedly tasty beer that goes well with their very filling burger. Away from the food and beer, Plzeň is a very pleasant city, and this park was beautiful in autumn:
Plzeň station is a grand building, both outside:
Finally, in winter, I made a trip up to the Sweden for work reasons, taking a break in Hamburg along the way. I used the very comfortable Prague to Hamburg train for this trip; while there, I managed to snap a photo of such a service arriving into Hamburg (Czech carriages, but by this point with German locomotives):
That trip got me the line north from Prague up to the border, with Děčín being the border station on the Czech side and Bad Schandau on the German side. Again, it feels like a slight cheat in that I didn't see any of the places along the way - but it counts, and I'll be sure to vist them in the future! And that was 2017.