On my way back from my Interrail trip to Romania and Bulgaria I had the whole day to kill either in Budapest or Bratislava. I was slightly tired after 21 hours train journey from Sofia (my longest one so far) and since I’m not a big fan of Budapest and didn’t feel like spending the whole insanely hot day in Bratislava I was wondering what my other options are. The flexibility of Interrail tickets came in really handy here. A quick look at the train schedules at Budapest Keleti station gave me this crazy idea – what if I’d walk the border between Hungary and Slovakia, just for fun? I was lucky as the train to Komarom was leaving in some 10 minutes!
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Komarom – the Hungarian part of the city
I honestly don’t know how or when I learnt that Komarno and Komarom are basically one city divided by Danube river and state border, it was just stuck in my head. I had no idea how far the train stations are in both cities or if it actually makes sense to travel this way but still I’ve decided to give it a try. After all I had plenty of time to catch my train in Bratislava. The journey from Budapest to Komarom took a little bit over 1 hour and was rather smooth (despite a minor incident when a ticket inspector wanted some extra money from me as it was an InterCity train… either he or I was mistaken, I don’t really know, but since I simply had no Forints or Euro on me he just let me go). To my great surprise the train station in Komarom is located right at the Danube shore, few steps away from the bridge connecting two countries. It couldn’t have been any better as I’ve thought there’s nothing important to see in Komarom, all the interesting things are on the Slovak side. As it turned out there’s a fort not far from the train station, in the opposite direction than the bridge to Slovakia… oh well…
History of Komarno
Komarno has a similar history to one of my all time favorite places – Cieszyn. Both towns are now divided by the border (Cieszyn is split between Poland and Czech Republic) yet both until 1920 used to be a one city. But while in Cieszyn it’s really hard to notice when you leave one country and enter another (that’s how narrow the Olza River is) in Komarno two parts of the city are divided by grand Danube – second longest river in Europe. Crossing Elisabeth Bridge really can take a while and at both sides you’re welcome by the welcoming signs, either Slovenska Republika or Magyarorszag.
The city of Komarno has long and rich history. It’s one of the oldest towns in Slovakia, the first settlement here comes from the Bronze Age but the town was first mentioned in the year 1075. Due to the location at the confluence of Vah and Danube the place has always played a strategic role in the area, with castles and eventually fortifications built around. Komarno was also an important trade and crafts center, it was also the last bastion of the Hungarians in the 1848 revolution. Unfortunately the town was hit by several natural disasters and these days it’s not so easy to find traces of the great past! For centuries Komarno used to be a Hungarian town (with its original name “Komarom”, just like the Hungarian part now). After 1920 Treaty of Trianon the city was divided between two countries and the bigger, central area has become part of Slovakia (it was shortly returned to Hungary again around World War Two). But even today over 60% of inhabitants are Hungarian, being the biggest center of this minority in Slovakia. Now, with European Union and Schengen area the city, even if officially divided into two, might feel reunited again.
Pleasant yet empty Komarno
Komarno is also a center of the large Serbian community in Slovakia, they’ve been living in the town since 17th century. As soon as I walked down from the Elisabeth Bridge on the Slovak side I came across a beautiful yet faded-out church. It turned out to be a Serbian church. On the opposite side of the road I could enter the Old Town of Komarno with all major attractions of the city. It was a sunny Sunday, just before the noon, yet the place felt abandoned. Only the mass in the church gave away that there must be people around. Somehow I managed to find an open restaurant to get some breakfast and when I came out outside again Komarno looked slightly better. There were couple of people walking down the street or enjoying ice cream in this sunny weather but still Komarno didn’t feel like the most lively place you will ever see. That’s the thing with Czech Republic and Slovakia, I’ve noticed, on the weekends smaller towns are simply empty there and it’s difficult to find any people around. I’ve witnessed it so many times and Komarno just proved this.
Highlights of Komarno
There are couple of beautiful buildings along the main pedestrian streets, Zichy Palace or the Neo-Renaissance town hall just to name few. But the biggest attraction of Komarno (at least for me) was The Courtyard of Europe – a small square hidden behind the town hall. At first it might look weird as every building is different and altogether they just don’t fit to each other. But they are there for a reason. Each house shows an unique style of architecture, typical for different parts of Europe. Knowing this you look at the place with a completely different perspective and it suddenly becomes very interesting. I just loved it!
What I missed in Komarno
Komarno really has a lot to offer and I could easily spend the whole day there. After all I missed the fortress – one of the largest in Central Europe that soon might be part of UNESCO list. I was actually very close to some forts but since my visit to Komarno was so spontaneous and the tourist information was closed I didn’t really know where to go and what to see. I could have walked along Danube and Vah rivers, I could have visited Danube Museum or just enjoyed the relaxed vibe of the town. But instead I left for Bratislava and killed time in one of the best cafes I’ve ever visited! Still if you’re traveling between Bratislava and Budapest or the other way around I highly recommend going via Komarno and spending there few hours to get to know the place. It’s really worth it!
From Budapest you can take a direct train to Komarom either from Keleti or Deli stations. Trains depart more or less every half an hour (every hour from each station) and the journey time is between 1:05 and 1:30, depending on the train you take. The full price ticket costs between 1.860HUF (6€ – slower train in the second class) and 3.105HUF (10€ – for a fast train in the first class). You can check the schedule here.
From Komarno you can take the train to Bratislava with a convenient change in Nove Zamky. Trains depart from Komarno every 2 hours, the journey time is 1:30 and the ticket costs around 7€. You can check the schedule here.
Walking from Komarom train station to Komarno train station
If you think of visiting Slovakia or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- Visit Kosice – a perfect city break destination in Europe
- Banska Stiavnica – one of the most beautiful towns in Europe
- Bratislava-more than just a day trip from Vienna
- and more!
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