The train ride between Romania’s capital of Bucharest (which I’ll talk more about in a future post) and one of the most visited towns in all of Transylvania took a few moments to get used. The train itself was in good condition, the seats looked the same as on all the other trains and the compartment was once again sufficiently warm given the cold temperatures outside. However, what made this train stand out from every single other train I’ve taken during this Eurail trip, were the people.
The simple fact that there were so many people on board this train came as quite a shock as my previous journeys had all taken place on trains there were never more than 40% full. But this train to Brasov was 90% full, with legs everywhere, bags overflowing from the luggage shelves above, from under the seats and even out in the hallway, and jackets and hats and scarfs tossed all over the place.
I’m not saying all of this in a negative way at all. I had just become so used to hopping onto a train, choosing any seat I fancied, stretching my legs and arms out and riding to my next destination in relative peace and quiet.
Of course, as you might imagine, this full train to Brasov, which was quite the opposite of peaceful, was certainly quite memorable as a result. With either a human being or a piece of luggage occupying every seat, there were bound to be interactions with the other passengers. And what started off as nods, and the occasional smile, and maybe an apology for stepping on someone’s foot or spilling a little cherry yogurt on their pants, turned into interesting conversations.
On this journey, I spent much of the time talking with two other passengers, both young locals from Brasov, one who was about to move to Brussels as a student and the other who had recently returned from a motorbike trip in which he and his friends had driven from Mongolia to Romania, having passed through all of Central Asia along the way. It was intriguing to hear both of their stories, to listen to their thoughts on Romanian politics and to share opinions about the state of the world and how it affects each of our lives.
Every now and then I would glance outside as well, but in the end, I missed most of the mountain scenery because of the conversations taking place. However, as a traveler who cares more about such human interactions than I do about visiting any particular tourist site or place of interest, this jam-packed Romanian train from Bucharest to Brasov proved to be exactly the kind of travel experience that I seek, even if my knees hurt afterward from having no room to stretch while on board.
And when I finally stepped off the train, I then had plenty of time to look around, as it was time to begin my exploration of Transylvania.