Even though I spent my final week of this Eurail trip in Bucharest, I did manage to get away from the city for one of those days in order to visit a random destination that had been recommended to me by a local Romanian. I had told her that I wanted to visit a town where no tourists go at all, but one that would still make for a pleasant day trip.
And that’s why I ended up visiting Targoviste, an old Wallachian capital that was built in the 12th century during the Second Bulgarian Empire.
After a quick taxi ride to the Gara de Nord train station in Bucharest, a quick stop at the reservations counter to show my Eurail Pass and receive a seat assignment on the train and a quick stop at a bakery inside the station to purchase a couple of sandwiches for lunch, I strolled over to Track #8, found the Accelerated 1793 and took my seat on another Romanian train.
This train was clearly brand new, but had more of a commuter train set-up, with seats facing different directions as well as being placed along the side of the car, instead of the usual six-seat compartment set-up found on the long-distance trains. Of course, this made perfect sense as the train did stop at every single station along the way, as a commuter train would, even picking up people from stations that consisted of nothing more than a bench on the side of the tracks.
As usual, I sat back, turned on my music and, feeling ever so fortunate to have been on this incredible trip in the first place, stared out the window in perfect contentment as I soaked up another slice of the Romanian countryside.
But, the true highlight of this train ride was when the man across the aisle from me produced his ticket and handed it to the ticket collector. The man had clearly scratched off the date on the ticket and the collector was not impressed at all. An argument ensued which lasted for several minutes until the old man pulled out a 10 lei note (approximately $3 USD) and tried to stuff it into the hand of the ticket collector. At first, the ticket collector, aware that I was watching the scene, refused the bribe and brushed the old man’s arm away, but suddenly, he pointed to an empty row of seats, a row that no other passengers had a clear view of, and told the man to sit there.
And then the ticket collector continued checking the tickets of the other passengers in the car. Once he completed his rounds, he returned to the old man, sat down next to him, and out of the corner of my nosy eye, I watched him sneakily take the 10 lei note, get up and walk away.
Bribery. I knew this wasn’t as efficient a train system as in Switzerland or Austria, but I still wasn’t expecting it in Romania. Apparently, however, that’s how things happen from time to time, even in this country.
Not too long after that excitement, the train pulled into the Targoviste Station, a station that took me by surprise because of the one hundred people or so that hurriedly boarded the train as I was disembarking. For such a small town, this was one busy, lively station. Although, the busyness only lasted for about thirty seconds and once the train departed, the station then became eerily empty.
As for Targoviste itself, it was also quite empty, proving to be a very sleepy town in the end. But there were a handful of interesting ruins from it’s days as a capital city, the central plaza was quite a pleasant place to do some people-watching and, most importantly, the local pubs did indeed keep their beer extraordinarily cold.
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I’m surprised that you were surprised about encountering bribery in Romania 🙂 That is all.
Hey Larissa – Things have actually been cleaned up quite a bit in Romania and from everyone I’ve talked with, you rarely see any bribery these days. And I’ve had to deal a lot with several government offices for different reasons over the past few months and there was no way a bribe would be accepted by anyone I came into contact with. So I think it’s changing!
Bribes in India are also common, though traveling without ticket is rare! Generally people travel in incorrect compartments, and pay fines…
Anyway, I would really like to see some images of the ruins that you visited. Did a google search, and the town is beautiful! I wonder why tourists don’t visit the place…
Hey Siddhartha – That is very true and I have had to make a few bribes myself in India over the years in order to get things done 🙂
As for Targoviste, the photos on Google might be a little misleading. The ruins were nice but they are really just that one section. I’ll put some photos on my SmugMug page once I get organized to give you a better idea!