5:25, the local long-distance train station, waiting for the connection to Warsaw. But this only the beginning of quite a diverse train route, Gdansk/Danzig – Budapest.
The international routes in Europe, there is a significant number of these. They are of many types, but they are convenient. There used to be a bit more of these routes, before the age of cheap flights, but they are still quite important, especially on the local routes. On local routes… that's why we've chosen to travel three, long-distance international trains.
Our 10 hours journey from Warsaw to Budapest started on the East Station, the very first stop on this long route. Oh, BTW, the connection, the train is called IC/EC Varsovia and it's operated by PKP Intercity, České dráhy, Železničná spoločnosť Slovensko and MÁV-START Vasúti Személyszállító, on the particular sections. (I just like to play with interesting names in different languages).
There are plenty of stops throughout Poland, but let's skip them all and instead make a pause in a small village of Chałupki, the former border checkpoint, both on the road and on the railway, now, happily, abolished, as there are no borders inside the Schengen Area (except when they are, from time to time). A little bit more than 1.5k people live there, nevertheless the village is quite well-known due to the fact, that, well, there used to be a border here. The region we're currently in is Silesia and they have their own language. Ślůnsko godka, how it is called by itself, is spoken by more than half a million people, and it's not recognized by the Polish state, because no. It is very diverse and, yeah, that is the controversy that might be one of the reasons why it is not officially acknowledged, but as there is no border, other than political (which is not important at all) between a dialect and a language, I won't hesitate calling it a language.
But all right, it's time to cross the border, as smoothly as we cross the borders between local communities. Ostrava hlavní nádraží, there we are. And as we are waiting for the locomotive to be changed, let me tell you why it has to be changed.
Well, it has to be changed because half of Czechia and Slovakia is electrified using the 3kV DC system, and the rest is under the regime of 25 kV, 50 Hz AC. In short, the first system was implemented by dozen of countries during the first era of electrification, roughly in the first part of the 20th century. The companies that wanted to use the alternating current went with 15kV 16.7 Hz AC system. In 1950s the first railway with 25kV 50Hz AC has been built and later it became the European standard. Please refer to the literature (by which I mean DuckDuckGo it) to get more information, it's a very interesting topic.
The locomotive that has been attached here can use both 3kV DC and the second one. This wasn't the case until the loco ES 499.0 was introduced by the State Railways of Czechoslovakia. Before that date, the locomotive had to changed in the middle of the country, or, what was probably more common with the regional trains, the people had to change the trains in the middle of their journey.
Oh yeah, and Ostrava is a really nice city, the most important in the ČR part of the Silesian region, you should definitely visit.
Moving on, we're approaching Slovakia. Czech and Slovak languages are very often confused, due to the fact, that, well, they are very simillar. It's not a surprise, these two (three, four…) languages are part of the dialect continuum, the phenomenon more natural than today nation and langugage borders placed on the false state boundaries. All romance languages throughout Europe has the same root – vulgar latin (obviously, duh), the version of this acient language that was spoken by the regular people. However, every part of the empire spoke a bit differently and the changes occured gradually, therefore the dialect in Galia near what's today the French-Italian border was much more simillar to the dialects of the Italian Peninsula than to the dialect spoken in Lutetia Parisiorum. After that the country borders has been established and they changed a lot, public education and after that radio and TV in most cases destroyed the langugage continuums, standardizing the speech by, predominatingly, the version from the capital.
Incidentally, the Silesian language might be considered the part of the Czech-Slovak langugage continuum, nonetheless, it's mutually intelligible with Polish as well (probably also with some other West Slavic languages).
As we arrived to Bratislava, it's a good moment to talk about international metro areas. There are plenty of them actually, and in the law regimes such as The Schengen Area they can thrive. The most known is probably the one that has been created when the Oresund Bridge was built – Greater Copenhagen, a.k.a. Copenhagen-Malmoe. There are many types of such conglomerates, for example, when the city is divided by the state border due to the war or something, we basically end up with two cities out of the one. There are several examples in Europe, Frankfurt am Oder and Słubice, Görlitz and Zgorzelec, the border between Kerkrade and Herzogenrath is even routed in the middle of the street. Here the situation is quite different however. Vienna and Bratislava (or, as some call it, Pressburg) used to be much more interconnected in the XIX and the first part of the XX century due to the fact that these two cities were part of one empire, Austrian Empire, later Austria-Hungary (although they were placed in two different parts of it). After that, two world wars happened, and, surprise surprise, Bratislava is now secluded from Vienna. Fast forward to 2004, both countries are now the part of the EU, so the citizens can now work and live freely in each city, and later Slovak accession to the Schengen Area makes the travel much easier, even allowing the daily commute. But the direct railway between these two cities has been removed years ago, so now the trains has to take the longer route (a bit more than 1 hour). As we know from the Danish-Swedish example, the railway between the cities is the fastest way to encourage people to create connections that makes the metro area the thing. Maybe one day the railway would be rebuilt (now it ends in Wolfsthal, on S-Bahn line 7) and the acts of creation would emerge. Vienna has now a problem with insufficient number of flats and houses, so that might be a partial solution.
Leaving Bratislava, we're entering the Hungarian-majority part of Slovakia. Half the million people speaks Hungarian as their L1 language. This is a result of the Treaty of Trianon, which divided the Kingdom of Hungary, you know, the one that was the Hungary in Austria-Hungary. Entente decided that the region called Upper Hungary will be the part of Czechoslovakia, as the majority of people living there were apparently Slovaks. Buuut, the border was somehow only loosely based on the ethnic border, which, not suprisingly at all, resulted in 30% of citizens of a new Slovakia (as a part of the Czechoslovakia of course) being ethnic Hungarians. Oopsie. Today, they make around 10% of the total population of Slovakia, which is still quite a lot. But let's be lenient, British and French governments are not very good at creating stable borders that respect ethnic difficulties.
Ok, so as we crossed the border once again, we're in the commuting area of Budapest, which means that there's some civilization here. Vác, a small town (of 33k people), is a seat of the Roman Catholic diocese, which means there's a cathedral here. It is not a surprise that the railway station is nicely renovated and upgraded, I wouldn't be surprised if a huge percentage of there 33k people used the station twice a day. It is probably the most important part of the town from Monday to Friday/Saturday.
Aaaaaand, we're in Budapest. One thousand three hundred and seventy one words with only loose connection to the trip. kthxbye