When it’s a cold, cloudy and rainy day, the idea of sitting on a train for 9 hours, which ordinarily does not invoke a great deal of excitement, doesn’t really sound so bad at all. And this is a good thing considering that today is such a day and I’m actually on such a long-distance train right this very moment, the Inter City 569, traveling from the northwestern Romanian city of Timisoara to the Romanian capital of Bucharest.
I only arrived in Timisoara early yesterday afternoon from Belgrade, Serbia and at the time I was a little naive about the train system in Romania. I simply assumed that I would have many options to travel to Bucharest and that the 550 kilometer distance would be covered in around 5-6 hours.
So when I discovered that the fastest train option left at 6:00am, and still took 9 hours, I had no choice but to prepare myself for a long travel day. With that said, I was definitely looking forward to once again traveling by train as the train systems of Bosnia and Serbia, where I have been over the past 10 days, were not covered by my Eurail Global Pass. As a result, I mostly traveled by bus. (**For EU citizens, when you purchase an InterRail Pass, the Serbian train system is included.)
And during that time away from the trains, I started to miss the comfortable seats, the space to wander and stretch my legs and even the clickety-clack of the wheels on the tracks. Hearing that clickety-clack right now, as I write this post and as we pass through the city of Dobreta Turnu Severin, has admittedly made this lengthy journey significantly easier to digest.
However, despite being back in a wide, soft, reclining train seat, I can’t stop thinking about how I actually almost missed the train this morning.
If there’s a common mistake that every traveler makes at least once (or 100 times in my case) while on the road, it is not checking to see if they have crossed into a different time zone when traveling to a new country. So had I not randomly woken up at 4:16am this morning, which I discovered was actually 5:16am when I suddenly had a feeling I might have changed time zones the day before, I would have missed the train.
After a crazy 6 minutes of brushing my teeth, getting dressed and packing up my stuff, I checked out of the hostel and the staff called me a taxi, which arrived at 5:40am. Luckily, I reached the train station 5 minutes before the 6:00am departure time and after a quick sprint across the tracks, I jumped on board and chose a random seat. Somehow, I had made it.
The train began to roll out of the station shortly after and I could barely stay awake, but unfortunately, before I could fall asleep, the ticket collector came around. And after looking at my Eurail Pass for five minutes she proceeded to give a few shakes of her head, a couple wags of her finger and then place such a mean look on her face that I felt as if my arrest was imminent. Then, just when I began thinking about the conditions of Romanian prisons, she suddenly walked away without saying anything and I decided to stare out the window at the brown fields passing by.
Naturally, five minutes later she returned, this time with another ticket collector, one who spoke a little English. They both sat down and the man immediately said to me, “We have a big problem”. But then I just sat there for a few more minutes as the two ticket collectors looked at my Eurail Pass over and over again, pointing to random words, shaking their heads to each other, glancing at me every once and a while and writing things down in a small notebook. While this was going on I was preparing myself to face that ‘big problem’ but instead, and quite out of nowhere, the man just handed me back the Eurail Pass and welcomed me on board.
That was it. They walked away again and I never did find out what was the big problem.
So, fully relaxed and without having been handcuffed, off to sleep I went amid the relaxing atmosphere of another European train, enjoying a lovely 3 hour rest that just ended about 30 minutes ago. The train is now quite empty, it’s a quiet, warm ride and the dark gray clouds outside have begun to lift at least enough for me to see the river we’re traveling next to. Checking the schedule, it appears that the next major stop, coming up in about an hour, will be the city of Craiova and from there, we shall begin the final stretch to Bucharest, a city that I really know almost nothing about, but one that I am certainly eager to delve into.
While this is my own adventure and my posts are always my own words based upon my own personal experiences, I must make a note that Eurail.com has provided my Eurail Pass as part of their Blogger Project for 2011.