A new rail link is launched today, connecting the Hungarian capital with the Croatian port of Pula. The inaugural train departs Budapest Keleti station at 6.38 pm this evening. The new link is a twice-weekly summer season service, with departures from Budapest on Tuesday and Friday evenings and with trains from Pula running back to Budapest on Wednesday and Saturday nights. The service will run until late August. At Györ, where the new service stops two hours after leaving Budapest, there is a good connection from the evening RailJet train from Vienna, thus creating a novel overnight route from the Austrian capital to Pula.
The new train offers a Hungarian sleeping car, couchettes and regular seated accommodation. The train is called Istria; it is run by MÁV-START Zrt. (the passenger division of the Hungarian national rail operator). Table 89 in the Thomas Cook European Rail Timetable has been amended to accommodate the new train.
We find this new service interesting in a number of ways. First of all, it evokes a little bit of history. In the first decade of the last century, Pula and the coast of Istria were favoured holiday destinations among the K&K elite. Yet there is another point to note. Politics have often shaped rail routes. And the particular route that this new train takes shows how the boundaries of Schengen are affecting modern railway geography. The train shuns the route via Zagreb traditionally followed by night trains from Budapest to Ljubljana. Instead it skips Zagreb and travels via Hodos — the first time we think that an overnight service has taken this route.
And why’s that important? Merely because it means that travellers bound for Pula don’t twice have to cross non-Schengen borders in the middle of the night. It makes, we think, for a better night’s sleep when one does not expect to be awoken for border checks.
We shall tell something more of the story behind this new train service in the next issue of hidden europe magazine. Issue 37 of hidden europe is published in the third week of July.