It has been a while since I last travelled to Lviv. The Budapest to Lviv train service no longer operates overnight, which gives a wonderful opportunity of seeing much fine scenery along the way. It is a real pleasure travelling through the Hungarian Puszta flatlands with the morning sunlight and watching the stalks flying over by; before venturing through the spectacular Carpathians hills and valleys in evening atmosphere en-route to Western Ukraine’s largest city.
I bought my ticket with seat reservation 2 days in advance. At 7am on a Sunday morning, I arrived at Budapest Nyugati train station and made my way to this particular 7.23am train. I was greeted by 2 friendly and efficient train attendants. After showing documents and passport, I was taken on-board to my compartment, which was entirely mine throughout the journey.
This carriage belonging to Ukraine Railways, carried a wondrous sense of romance and intrigue from a bygone era. I relished its graceful, old-fashioned décor and charm; and felt honoured to be part of its history; knowing perhaps, this carriage with its vintage allure, may be replaced by something modern and high-tech next time.
Linen and blankets were provided, as it was possible to close the curtains and stretch out on the makeshift beds. Teas and coffees were also served by the ladies throughout this occasion. I was comfortable and very happy to be on board.
Whilst in Hungary, this train also stops at Szolnok, Debrecen and Nyiregyhaza and a few others towns, before arriving at the Záhony border, a little over 4 hours later. In terms of distance, one is about half way to Lviv. In terms with the train’s schedule, this is not so!
The train stops for one hour at the edge of Hungary. The in-land carriages are then disconnected; this understandably takes a little time. The border guards and customs officers come on board. Once inspections are complete, the Budapest to Lviv train takes its leave across the majestic River Tisza to Ukraine. At this point, the clock moves 1 hour forward from CET to Ukraine time.
15 minutes later, the train arrives at the Chop border town. Once again, one has to show documents to the Ukraine authorities who also step onto the train. The time is about 2 o’clock and the train is not scheduled to leave until 4, because this carriage has to adapt to wider railway lines.
What makes this journey wearisome at this stage, is not so much this procedure, but when the guards, who have taken everyone’s’ passports away for inspection, do not allow passengers off the train at this particular time until they return.
It was interesting to watch the changings taking place, as I have not witnessed this before. But after a while, all was too much of a long wait, that did not have to be. Please may I recommend to the Chop border authorities and to Ukraine Railways…..
Either allow passengers off the train as soon as they arrive, and attend to all passports inside Chop International. Once cleared, the passengers can wait inside the pleasant Chop National waiting room before continuing with their journey.
Or change trains and provide another for immediate travel to Lviv after passport and customs clearance. This would serve customer and journey time!
One hour later whilst approaching Mukachevo, the sun starts to go down, the train finally ventures into the cool of the Carpathian hills. The scenery is most spectacular when passing through Volovets onto Skole. With high peaks, green fields, alpine trees, wooden buildings, horse and carts, and local people working the land; all this gives a great sense of peace and calm. The train finally passes through the Carpathians to further flatlands onto Stryi, before arriving at Lviv train station, after a 14 ½ hour journey. The time is now 21.51. I was now looking forward to greetings and events that soon followed.
Lviv is an historical and architectural wonder, with numerous fine buildings, churches, theatres, cultural events as well as a variety of exquisite tea shops. Lviv, alongside with Krakow and Budapest is one of the great cities of Central Europe with much to offer.
I really enjoyed this train journey as much as my time in Lviv. I appreciate the Budapest to Lviv train service will have to modernise when the Ukraine tourists boards work with Hungarian and Ukrainian railways with future promotions. However, today’s travellers demand a faster train service. In this case, the Budapest to Lviv train, with its long wait at the border, must improve on this.
I know in time, conditions at the border will get better. I will overcome this and return again soon.
With compliments: Alex Stemp.