The other great bonus is that it is no longer necessary to wait around and change trains at the border, as the European gauge lines have been extended 50 kilometres over the flatlands to Mukachevo (formerly Munkács), finally replacing the different Soviet gauge. Six hours after leaving Budapest, the journey is complete, the only real “change” being the adjustment one hour forwards from Central European Time to the Kyiv time zone.

Seeing off the train from Nyugati were Ukrainian Ambassador to Hungary Liuba Nepop, State Secretary Peter Tóth from the Ministry of Innovations and Technology, and director of Hungarian Railways István Schwartz. The brief ceremony released a cluster of balloons in the colours of the Hungarian and Ukrainian flags as a token of goodwill.

As for me, I am delighted that I can now travel to this region in greater comfort. But I confess I will miss the old-style carriages with their optional sleeping compartments, red carpets and flowers in the window, all creating a nostalgic mid/ late 20th-century atmosphere. With this in mind, the only concern I have is, “Will there be a gracious host on board who will serve uniquely distinct and divine Ukrainian tea?”

Meanwhile, for those not familiar, please see my recent Budapest Times article (as well as others on this area) about glorious Mukachevo/Munkács Palanok Castle


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