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Europe 2009 – Entering Romania

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He was correct. At what was 11pm (in the Hungary time zone) the train came to a stop and you could hear people knocking on the cabin doors as they made their way along the coach. They finally made it to our cabin and checked our passports. Since I am from the US mine required a little more effort. They logged my information and then gave me a stamp.

Mountains in Romania

A glimpse of the Romanian mountains from my train

After they left it was explained that we would have to go through this again once we crossed over into Romania. So the train pulls off and after a couple of minutes we stop again and go through the same procedure. Of course now we are in Romania so we have officially moved forward one hour. The time is now around 12:32 in the morning.

Once we’re back on our way I try to resume my sleeping. It’s not so easy after you’ve had to wake up and scurry around gathering your documents. But I do finally manage a few more hours of rest before the sun comes up.

Upon awakening I can see we are in a hilly region of Romania now. There is a low fog over everything and gives it a very ethereal appearance. Some parts are very stark looking, others are very pretty. I really don’t know what to expect of this country or Bucharest. What I’ve seen on TV and the internet is not always flattering.

But that is why we do these things I guess, to see new places and give them a chance to impress us.
This overnight train was much different from my other experience. If there was any food or drink it certainly wasn’t offered. I haven’t seen the attendant for a while. I’m a little concerned because he collected our tickets earlier and never brought them back. Mine is a multi day pass and I will need it Saturday to take a trip up to Brasov to see the city and the castle. They call it Dracula’s castle, but there is no proof that Count Vlad spent more than just a short time at that castle. The castle he built is overlooking a canyon and is pretty much in ruin.

Ok, I spoke too soon about food. Because, just as I put my laptop away I heard someone saying “Mister” and look to see the attendant trying to hand me a bag of goodies. There were a couple of packaged croissants, a fruit juice (peach to be exact) and a coffee packet. I’m not sure what to do with the coffee packet; I guess maybe you can go to the attendant station to get the hot water to go with it.

I ate one of the croissants now and will save the other for later. Also, about this time we start passing through a small village. You can see a few cars on the road, but you also see a man on a horse drawn cart slowly going down the road. That is the image of rural Romania that I have seen on TV, people still doing things the old fashioned way.

As we pulled into Brasov my cabin mate grabbed his luggage and prepares to get off the train. He says goodbye and then is off. He was a pleasant fellow and I’m not sure if he is from Hungary or Romania. He said he has a girlfriend in the state of New York somewhere.

The train continued on and made a few more stops along the way. Most of this time we have been in a mountain range. There are some incredible mountains around us. Some make me think of something from Lord of the Rings because of the way they look.

One small station we stop at has an old steam engine on display. I managed to get a few photos before we take off again.

Almost without notice we left the mountains and entered the plains. A lot of farming and I can even see some oil well pumps. It resembles some parts of Texas.

I figure we must be getting close to Bucharest. It’s almost the scheduled arrival time, but since we did leave late I’m not really sure when we will arrive. We pull through a few stations that I really hope aren’t our stop because they don’t look so great.

At some point the attendant shows up at my cabin to return my ticket to me. I guess they just want to hold onto it until you get close to your station.

We finally pull into the Nord (north) station in Bucharest. There is not much to it. A large building with a few food stands and people all hanging around waiting on their train.

I get approached by many people asking if I need a taxi. I wave them off. One guy comes up and starts telling me how I need to go with him to avoid all the gypsies. I try to explain that I need to wait and make a phone call before I can leave the station. He is very insistent that I go with him. I see a few police officers hanging out at the other end of the station. I tell him I am going over there, if he wants to follow me he can. He doesn’t follow and I am finally free of him.

I sit down because I need to wait a little while before calling the apartment management office. There aren’t a lot of actual seats here, so I use my backpack as a soft thing to sit on.

I finally make the call and they tell me where to tell the taxi driver to drop me off. I was hoping they could give me directions on the metro. But I guess I’ll just use a taxi for now. There are a bunch of real taxis parked in front of the station. I find one and give him the instructions they told me and we are on the way. He was pleasant and could speak English pretty good. I definitely would never consider driving in Bucharest. Everyone drives like they are crazy and I couldn’t tell if anyone paid any attention to the traffic signals.

He didn’t drop me off at the exact spot, but pointed me in the right direction. I was looking for the “Studio Cinema” movie theater. I finally found it and made myself comfortable as I waited.
I felt my phone vibrating in my pocket and found a message on it. It was the person from the apartment letting me know he had arrived. I guess he saw me react and he was approaching me as I looked up.

He took me to the door to the building and we used the elevator to go to the 5th floor. It’s kind of a dark and dismal building, but it is a cheap rate. The apartment is not bad. I have a kitchen and full bathroom. There is also an air conditioner in the bedroom. This is the first time on the trip I have had an AC unit. It will be nice not having to leave the windows open at night, especially since it is a pretty busy street below.

After I got settled in I wander across the street for a quick bite to eat. There is a sandwich place and after a bit of communicating I manage to have my order. I go ahead and take it back up to the apartment to relax and try and get online. There is one Wifi that I can get onto sometimes, but it is not great. There was supposed to be a high speed connection here but I can’t seem to locate it.
It’s time to get clean. I didn’t use the shower on the train. It was pretty small and I just wanted to sleep at that point. The shower felt good and after I was ready for a little nap. I didn’t get a great rest on the train.

At least the TV works well and a lot of the American cable channels are in English with Romanian subtitles. So I can watch and understand what’s happening.

Time for another trip across the street to the KFC for some chicken. I can’t see a lot around here in the way of food. Maybe after a little exploring I’ll find something new.

On the way back I stop at a little stand to grab a coke and a couple of beers for the evening. I head upstairs and settle in for the evening.

Alan (Travelin' Al) Stiebing

Author: Alan (Travelin' Al) Stiebing

Alan Stiebing has been traveling for over 20 years. He blogs and photographs his experiences and passions for travelinal.com and other digital and print outlets.

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