The two Canadian girls and I stayed in the McDonald’s yesterday for something like eight hours. At 1400 we got the bus to Dunav Station. Oddly enought, after being harassed by the transit authorities I saved just enough to buy us all tickets (450 Dinara). We boarded and I requested them from the bus driver and he just waved us through. Fair enough – now I have a valid excuse. We bought our tickets to Bucharest with a transfer in Timisoara. We waited two more hours for the train, then boarded and we were on our way! Very slowly on our way. Seriously, trains should go faster than that. And why only two cars? It was so crowded.
The transfer occured about three hours later, sometime about 2000. The new train was much longer, and had a few sleeper cars on the end. We didn’t get one of those. Or a seat in first class. Turns out we didn’t get a seat at all. Most seats were, unbeknownst to us, reserveable. We didn’t even get the option. So the game was this: pick a seat and wait for someone to tell you they reserved it. Pick another seat and wait. This went on for about two hours, until all the seats were taken with reservations. I find it highly unethical to overbook (quite possibly double-book) a twelve-hour night-train so that most of your passengers are standing the entire time. I mean there were people in between the cars. I myself had to sit in between cars near the toilet. And I was only sitting because I broke my knee.
Here’s the story behind that. I had to use the bathroom fairly imminently, but knew I’d lose my seat if I moved. Once I was kicked out at one of the stations I decided to buy some water. This was about midnight or so. The little shop didn’t take credit cards, so I had to go to the bankomat right around the corner. As soon as I put my card in the train whistle blew, so I had to RUN back before it left without me. In the darkness I didn’t notice the perfectly foot-sized hole in the platform. It was just big enough for a foot to fit in and not fit back out. So I ate shit. I hit the pavement hard. But I didn’t have time for more than several swear words while grabbing my shoe that got stuck before making it back on the train. By now my knee was bleeding quite a bit and my other foot had some nasty cuts.
So I got some toilet paper and wrapped it aroud a few times. An older lady came up and gave me a few band-aids. Then a guy I can only assume was a doctor looked at it for me. He pressed on it a few times and said it was filling with blood and wrapped it so tight I tought my foot would lose circulation. Then a couple with a dog in the small compartment I was sitting in insisted that I had some of their peanuts. Everyone on the train was incredibly nice.
So there I was, sitting in Romania in a tiny smoke-filled train compartment right next to the bathoom, unfathomably tired and dirty, eating peanuts with a dog, trying not to think about my thumping knee.
About two hours later I noticed the two Canadian girls were sleeping in first class! Well, screw that. I grabbed a seat myself. The seats weren’t much better than coach, but at least it was a damn SEAT. I tried to sleep, but it wasn’t easy. I awoke probably every twenty minutes. A few hours after that, very close to the trian station, I awoke and found the girls gone, assuming they took an early stop. I found them again at the last exit, and they said they were kicked out of first class. So that makes me curios why they were and I wasn’t. Maybe they took some pity on me.
Regardless, we FINALLY made it to Bucharest, after about two full days of either traveling or waiting to travel. The three of us split up (for some reason the girls had booked different hostels, and I had booked none) and headed our own directions. I didn’t have a hostel, so I searched and found one that wasn’t beside the train station but was within hobbling distance. It’s not easy carrying a giant backpack on a busted knee. As soon as I made it to the hostel I chose, one of the Canadians came out of the opposite bedroom. It’s a small world.
The hosts here are really nice. Adriana took me to a corner store for some lunch, then I took the most glorious shower ever. Then I slept until about about 1530 and walked around town for a bit. Not at the same time. I returned to the hostel and Morgan and Adriana and I went out for dinner at a really nice place in the city called “Hanul Iul Manuc.” Morgan and I shared a meat-sampler platter. We all had ice cream and walked to the Parliament Building then caught cab back to the hostel (Green Gate Hostel). We were sitting here talking with some other travelers and I found out that one of them is getting his doctorate in particle physics while working at CERN. And one of the hosts here got a degree in Astrophysics. What are the odds of three physicists at one hostel?!
Well, they just turned the lights out in our room. More adventures tomorrow!