In the thirteenth century the Republic of Venice was becoming an undisputed master of the Adriatic Sea. Its policy was that of hostile takeovers. Venice would conquer rival port cities and redirect their traffic to its own port. At this time, Triest had no choice but to either submit or ask Habsburgs for protection. The decision made in 1382 had far reaching consequences. For landlocked Habsburg estates, Triest become a window to the sea and with that to the international commerce. As Habsburg Estates evolved into Austrian Empire, Triest became its main commercial port.
With the progress of technology in 1854 the Empire connected Triest and Vienna with the first ever railway to cross the Alps, boasting tunnels and bridges of the Semmering Pass and the gigantic Borovnica Viaduct just west of Ljubljana.
With the current construction of high-speed railway connecting Vienna to Venice rather than Triest, the old Südbahn (Southern Railway) is sliding into history. Surviving early steam engines are stored in the Vienna Technical Museum and in the Südbahn Museum in Mürzuschlag , The Borovnica Viaduct was blown up during the Second World War – never to be reconstructed again and the railway over the Semmering Pass is about to be bypassed by the ‘base tunnel’. Yet a traveller journeying along the route of the former empire’s lifeline will encounter not only numerous preserved parts of Europe’s railway heritage, but also some magnificent country side.