Published: February 6th 2011February 6th 2011
25-6-2007 Oraviţa and the forest railway
We arrived in Oraviţa at 6.00 in the morning. I bade my new friend a swift farewell and I rushed off to the train station to find out about train times up to Anina. I was very keen to take this journey as I had heard that it is the oldest stretch of forest railway in Romania and one of the steepest. It was built between 1847 and 1863 and the process involved cutting several tunnels and building many high slender viaducts. The journey is reputed to be extremely beautiful as it passes through wonderful countryside.
The station lived up to the reputation of the line and was delightfully old fashioned. I met up with a station official whose conversation transfixed me. I couldn’t take my eyes of his teeth which had a completely separate life from the rest of his mouth. Once we’d dealt with the necessary formalities of my immediate journey the way was clear for a little life coaching. Why don’t I get married? He suggested. I got the distinct impression that he considered himself an eminently suitable candidate as my future husband. I thanked him for his kind concern and advice regarding trains and other matters and said goodbye.
As the train didn’t leave for another hour or so I first of all went back to the bus station where Melecxina was now in deep conversation with the lavatory attendant. This lady told me that before the revolution she had been a maths teacher. I suspected that meeting up with her was a large part of the reason for Melecxina’s journey. I must say that she kept a very clean and well run lavatory. The two of them and all of Melecxina’s curls were nodding away intently as I I wandered off to find a bar where I could buy breakfast. This was quite close at hand. The whole meal was accompanied by Ethno TV which has to be seen to be believed. It consists entirely of traditional folk musicians and dancers putting on displays of authentic Romanian folk music and dance. All participants are decked out in traditional dress. The channel is a raging success in the countryside and there is hardly a home or a bar you go into where it won’t be playing at some point in your time there.
I hurried off to the station and boarded the train. The journey was very fine winding through beautiful woodland and past remote villages. All my fellow passengers were taking it as very much a matter of course. The lady opposite me was sleeping on an enormous bag of shopping. Four railway workers on the other side of the carriage were playing an interminable game of cards with the most battered deck I had ever seen. The owner of the deck left but was immediately replaced in the 4tet by another traveller who had an almost equally battered set.