Saturday, April 16, 2011

Train Diary

It took me two tries to successfully purchase a reservation on a sleeper car to travel to Sighetu Maramaţei in Maramureş. The first time I went to Gara de Nord in Bucureşti I was met at the ticket window by a very hostile woman who wasn’t very interested in me from the moment I said “I’m sorry, I only speak a little Romanian.” I showed her my accurately translated ticket and reservation requests, and she immediately began shaking her head at me. She sent me away, and I went to another window where the woman was friendlier but the result was the same- it seemed I could not purchase my tickets. Confused but short on time, I ran to catch my train, resolved that I would return another time.

The next time I tried, I found an agent who admitted to speaking a little bit of English, and discovered that while I could purchase all of the other tickets and reservations for my trip from her; I had to go somewhere special for the ticket on the sleeper car. I wasn’t at all concerned as I set off bolstered by her helpfulness, looking for window 809. Friends… I wandered around that station for about 45 minutes. Walking back and forth, up and down, entirely around the outside and into every little room I could find. No one knew where window 809 might be. Exhausted, I was nearly ready to go back and just book a regular seat on the SIXTEEN hour journey, when I had a stroke of luck. I saw two people walking together, speaking in English. This isn’t entirely uncommon at Gara de Nord in Bucareşti, as it is where many international travelers enter the country. What made this couple different was the fluid Romanian they spoke with service personnel outside the main entrance. Yes, eavesdropping sometimes pays off.

To their credit, they only laughed a little bit when they explained that I could buy my ticket and reservation from window 8 OR 9.

So here I am, about three hours into this journey, and incredibly thankful for a few things. Firstly, that I booked a reservation that doesn’t involve me sitting in a regular seat right now. For one thing, it is crowded- I wanted to see where exactly I would have been slumming it. For another, I’ve already taken a nap on the bed that is even more comfortable than my futon. My first night on spring break in relative luxury, compliments of CFR. Secondly, I am thankful that I have the bottom bunk in this cabin. The reservation said that there were four beds in a cabin; actually, there are three. And they are stacked one on top of another. The nosebleed bed is way up at the top of the cabin, naturally, and if I got up there in Bucureşti, it might be difficult to get back down before arriving in Sighet. I’m sharing a cabin with a grandmother and her two grandsons. Dan is 15 years old and speaks English pretty well, and his younger brother Cristian is 8 and filled with energy. I thought I was going to go crazy on this trip- I have no idea how he is going to survive. Maybe they’ll drug him in a few hours.

It is relatively quiet in the cabin, but the train noises are ever present and make me thankful for my iPod and noise-canceling earphones. I should be able to sleep tonight fairly easily, which will go a long way to making my first day in Maramureş enjoyable. For those of you who know me, I operate under a constant fear that I won’t have water to drink, and this trip is no exception. With the recent demise of Mr. Purple Nalgene (don’t worry, he came along for day trips) I had to rely on purchasing bottled water from the station and bringing it aboard with me. Now, I understand that this is a little bit maniacal, but I’m currently worried that the FOUR liters of water won’t be enough. I mean, I understand on an intellectual level that an entire village in Africa could probably survive on this much water for the trip if necessary, or that I actually could go 16 hours without drinking any water if it came to that. But my heart is still concerned, so much so that I’m going to hop off in Brasov and buy some more water.

*Update* I bought more water and ended up leaving about 3 liters on the train.

That brings me to the last thought for this blog posting- Braşov. I never thought I would find myself complaining about a trip through the mountains, but I’m getting tired of this ride. It’s terrible and horrendously ungrateful, I know. But I have been on these tracks quite a few times since my arrival in Romania. There was the first actual trip to Braşov and return to Bucureşti- 2 trips. Then, the trip to Braşov with my Dad made 3. The return from Sibiu made 4, the return from Sighişoara 5, and traveling to Maramureş makes 6. It is a bit different this time though- nothing like a thick layer of snow on the 15th of April to remind you that you are in the mountains. It is rather beautiful if not the best start to a spring break trip, and it makes me worried that I didn’t pack enough warm clothing. For all the improvement I’ve made on shoving 10 days worth of clothing into a backpack, they never seem to be the RIGHT ones.

One more thing I’m thankful for at the moment- power plug-ins. I’m going to watch a movie in the bottom bunk of a sleeper cabin in a sleeper car in ROMANIA. My life is awesome sometimes.

1 comment:

  1. haha, aw. i'm sorry about the 0-or mixup... and i want to personally remind you that no matter how mean Romanian train-ticket-sellers are to you, in just 2 months you will be back in a country where you are competent, confident, and speak the language with flair and humor :)
    that being said--- you ARE in Romania, going to a beautiful mountain village. your life IS awesome. and you even got to share the trip with a cute little cuddly kid. score.