Day 12 – Transalpina

Dave Watson

We wake on the approaches to zagreb. Yet another capital city where we have just enough time to get off, find out where the next train is, get on, plug in, send a party off to get 9 coffees, pastries, and sarnies, and leave. We did Croatia yesterday in style on the Adriatic coast. Today we will spend the day in the Julian Alps in Slovenia before walking over the border into Italy at  Nova-Gorica / Gorizia, and arriving at dusk at the Mother of all tourist destinations. Venice.

This is an Austrian train. We are heading for Slovenia, the last country of our Former Yugoslavian tour. We have to change trains in order to get to Ljubljana, another ramification of the Croatians declaring last year that they really cant be bothered anymore liaising with other countries in order to run international trains. There still are cross border trains, we are on one obviously. But they are severely reduced and I suspect the host operator, in this case Austrian Railways, foots the entire bill. At the poverty stricken other end of Yugoslavia the situation is dire. You have Greece going bust at one end and Croatia blocking any kind of escape at the other. In the middle you have half a dozen separate railways, fragmented from what was once an integrated state railway.  All of them are in a dilapidated and perilous condition. If you want to see the railways of the Balkans before they collapse, go now.

Steve Dobson

But that’s all behind us. The carriages have power, the loos have bog roll, and in theory that’s the scenario all the way home now.  We change at Sevnica , and spend a couple of hours in a most politically incorrect station café. The ride from there up the Sava river valley is unexpectedly beautiful and worthy of any itinerary.

Steve Dobson

Ljubljana. Originally we had a whole night here, then when Istanbul had to be dropped that was truncated to just a couple of hours. Then the Croatians stepped in. Have I told you about that ?. We are now down to the all too frequent regime of platform drinks and sarnies. Steve makes a valiant attempt to locate a client hotel of his and returns at least with a stack of photos to make it look as though we actually went there. Ljubljana really is a great city, or so I have been told. This is my 4th time in beautiful Slovenia and I still haven’t seen the capital.

Photo @ Paul Clarke

Photo @ Paul Clarke

We have never the less seen an amazing amount of amazing scenery during our drive round Yugoslavia, and it continues today up the Sava to jesenice where we are to catch the Transalpina line through the Triglav national park and to the Italian border. Our train for the ride isa humble DMU, shamefully smothered in graffiti. But the windows open, and that’s what counts!. I spend the entire ride, along single track mountain railway, with my head, as whenever it is possible to do so, firmly stuck into the Alpine air.  There aren’t the rock faces of the last week to admire, but the ride down into novagorica through lush mountain valleys is a beautiful afternoon.

Darren Foreman

At Nova Gorica we are treated to walking over a conveniently marked border, which runs straight outside the grand station edifice, our passports now superfluous, at least till Spain. We catch the bus into Gorizia and the Italian railway system. More station café beers and sarnies, the train into Venice is late. We might not get in till 10pm, which would be after nightfall and we’d miss the view as we roll over the Santa Lucia bridge. Then it’s not so late, and by some fortune we manage not to miss it.

Darren Foreman

We arrive, as if by sea as we roll over the bridge, at . You can’t do something with Orient Express pretensions and not visit Venice. We have an evening and a whole morning here, more than anywhere else. Steve has, whilst on the trip, managed to organise a whole sequence of activities. We wont waste a second of our time here. After securing our rooms and the usual fight for the showers we set off.

A private boat up the Grand Canal followed by fantastic pizza of the back of St Mark’s at a place called Conca D’Oro. Well it is Italy, and it was very good pizza. We then have to get back at our nice cheap dorm for 12:30 before the doors are locked. Its nearly midnight. We have to walk, very fast, through the maze that is Venice, from somewhere near St Mark’s to the station area. I have been grateful for Darren’s navigational miracle machine throughout the trip, but never as much as now. Throughout the chase, my Chief Navigations Office is bombarded with demands to stray from the true path, as dictated by Google maps. He does not flinch. We arrive back at the hostel with seconds to spare after a fabulous march through a deserted Venice. Without such trust in technology we would have been kipping canal side with the pigeons.

Darren Foreman

Start: Approaching Zagreb
Train 23 – continued sleeper from Split
Train 24 07:25 Zagreb to Sevnica
Train 25 10:35 Sevnica to Ljubljana
Train 26 12:50 Ljubljana to Jesenice
Train 27 14:35 Jesenice to Nova Gorica
Local bus
Train 28 17:40  Gorizia to Venice
Finish: Speed walking through Venice

Also on this day
Paul’s Photos
Darren’s Blog and
Dave’s Blog and


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