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When our train pulls into Split station it is immediately obvious that the sleeping car is a modern piece of stock. On board we have been allocated three very comfortable 3 berth cabins, each with a washbasin. The beds have been made up ready for us - what luxury! The rumour machine even suggests that there is a disco car attched to this train at weekends. We settle for a couple of nightcaps in the corridor and an early night.
Woken at six on another flawless sunny morning we discover that our train is on time. Massive points to Croatian Railways. We have an hour in Zagreb between trains but as the next one is in the station already we pile on board, then send out a foraging party to find breakfast. Our new train is Austrian as it runs through to Vienna although we are only going a ninety minute hop to the first significant place in Slovenia, called Sevnica.
The scouts return with an excellent breakfast of sandwiches, croissants and coffee - just the job. By now we have got very comfortable and are helping ourselves to the abunfant power sockets. We leave on time and soon cross the border into Slovenia where passports are checked and the loco changed. Croatia has made a pretty good impression despite the bus ride.
Sevnica has been described by our leader as the Slovenian Crewe. I don't know what he was on that day but it must induce tall tales. Luckily the place was just about big enough to have a buffet with clean bogs and WiFi. The mutiny was averted and we supped coffees and grapefruit beers until our train to Ljubljana arrived. This is a modern Slovenian railways electric multiple unit. Some accommodation has been arrived at with the local graffiti artists who spray paint the trains but leave the stock numbers and depot details visible. Slovenia is much like the rest of ex Yugoslavia comprising mainly of mountains, gorges and trees but there is a , more Alpine aspect to the architecture here. One noticeable feature is the number of churches perched on hilltops.
Ljubljana is our 17th capital city (if you don't count London). A glass of beer seems appropriate before we continue our in depth testing of the Slovenian rail system. Another EMU takes us north towards the massive mountains that separate Slovenia from Austria. This is train number 25 so we are now past the halfway point by any possible measure. Some of us are in the first coach where the driver has left the cab door open giving us a view along the track towards the aforementioned mountains. Jesenice is the last major town before the border and this is where we change tack and start heading towards Italy.
This leg is on a less modern diesel multiple which fills up with teenage metal music fans on their way to some festival. They get off after a couple of stops so we can spread out and enjoy the view as we traverse the Julian Alps on our way out of the Danube basin. When we are not going through tunnels this view is spectacular even if it is yet more mountains, gorges and endless trees. But these trees are deciduous rather than conifers. At Nova Gorica we arrive on time and walk out of the the station and almost straightaway we cross the border into Italy. A 5km bus ride takes us to the Italian railway station where we have time for a beer. By the end of the beer we have tie for more as our train is isted as 90 minutes late. Italy have a poor start to the tournament yet again.
VERY SAD FOOTNOTE. The hat was left behind on the Split -Zagreb sleeper. RIP.