Twenty Three and ¼ Capitals. That’s Almost an Alphabet

The list of sovereign states, all including their capital cities, on the tour so far, in order of appearance of their leading city, reads United Kingdom, Belgium, The Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, Spain, Portugal and France. Not including all the ex U.S.S.R countries, that leaves Finland, Poland, Greece, Albania, Montenegro and Luxembourg as mainland countries that aren’t really just tax havens, and of course the likes of Ireland, Iceland, Malta and Cyprus. The latter three’s railways are all defunct anyhow.  Turkey has part of it’s territory in Europe, though of course not it’s capital.

Montenegro does have a really cool line down to Bar on the coast, though it’s in a chronic state of disrepair, resulting in a catastrophic derailment in 2006. Enver Hoxha virtually banned private transport in Albania, and so it does actually have a railway that is reputed to be worth doing, but it’s not currently connected to the Montenegrin capital of Podgorica due to the disrepair of the network, which was the the only way in or out.  Warsaw and Helsinki are just too far east to manage, they will have to wait to be included as possible entry and exit points for a similar attempt at every capital city in the former Soviet Union. And Luxembourg can get lost anyway. Greece stopped running international trains last year and it’s looking increasingly doubtful that they will ever re-appear.

As for the tax havens. Andorra doesn’t have a railway. Lichtenstein does, run by the Austrians, but not to it’s capital Vaduz. San Marino actually had a really cool narrow gauge built up the hill in 1932, but it got obliterated in the Battle of Monte Pulito. The only one we could have done is Monaco, which is on the coastal line from Ventimiglia to Nice. The entire line through the Monegasque principality is now underground though, such is the value of land there.

So that’s it, almost. It turns out that the Vatican City actually has a railway. It’s not open to the public alas, although we can get a train from Termini (Rome’s main station) direct to San Pietro station, which is where the line has a short spur into the Vatican. Most of the line’s few hundred metres is made up of a rather elegant viaduct over the Gelsomino valley between San Pietro station and the Vatican.  There’s a public walkway that follows the railway over the viaduct and right up to the city walls, where a pair of massive iron gates would stop anyone feeling a bit juvenile and trying to walk down the track itself. The station, just inside the city, has been described as “looking more like a branch of Barclay’s”, presumably a large one as it’s quite an edifice for a station that’s only ever been used for passenger transport a handful of times since it was built in the 1930s. It’s now been converted into a stamp museum, which I guess is better than it doing nothing at all.

But a capital city is a capital city, and a railway is a railway. We’ve got 5 hours in the Eternal City now, so as St Peter’s would naturally be an obvious target anyway for our whistle-stop tour,  we’ll be popping round the back to the station and I am awarding this a one quarter of a country’s worth. That makes it 23¼ countries in 16½ days, or just over 1.4  capital cities per day.

I found this nice picture of the entrance into the Vatican, through a typically posh looking arch, showing the iron gates in their recess in the city walls. That little yellow thing parked inside the city would do the job just nicely.

A Few Other Capital Claimants En Route

Barcelona, Venice, Milan and Geneva are all regional capitals of course, and four of the most celebrated cities in all Europe. The latter is frequently mistaken as a sovereign capital, and you’ll be lucky to spot a Spanish national flag anywhere in Catalunya that doesn’t benefit from police protection. Chur, another of our stops, albeit for a synchronised 7 minutes, is also the regional capital of Graubünden. Split was never actually the Roman capital of Dalmatia as I had previously claimed but, for 10 years up to the outbreak of WWII,  it was the capital of Littoral Banovina. The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg was a City State until German unification in 1871, and was the “European Green Capital” in 2011. Milan has been, successively, the capital of; The Western Roman Empire, The Duchy of Milan,  The Cisapline Republic and The Kingdom of Italy.


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