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Published: October 6th 2018
Overnight Train Budapest to Brasov
I got all four of these seats to myself on the non-crowded overnight train
Have you ever done something you didn't like or didn't think you would like? Or that might have been just a little bit on the loopy side?
I’m about to do just that.
It’s not actually something I will do. It’s not something I will eat. It’s something I’m going to be. Cold. I don’t like being cold. I froze in Russia while sleeping outside in minus 12-degree weather. I was chilled to the bone in a protected valley in Mongolia doing the same thing until I crawled up a hill to thaw out my toes in the early morning sun. Will I ever learn? Probably not. I have spent most of my journey traveling in warmer climes, not only for the warmth and the ease of travel, but also to carry a lighter backpack. Now I have to figure out how to live months with very little. Packing for extreme winter weather does not come easy for this California gal. Can I live on one sweater for months on end, even if it’s the right one? It must be the proper blend of poly-whatchamacalit, the moisture wicking one. Or so I have been told.
I’ll probably end up wearing so many layers, including a jacket made of wooly mammoth and fourteen pairs of long underwear, I may actually end up having an empty
Mid January, 2014: I am off now to a mountain village in Romania to volunteer for a couple of months. I arranged this opportunity last October and now the mad thought is about to become reality.
Romania. In the winter.
Because everyone goes to Romania in the dead of winter, right?
But first, I must leave Hungary.
So, after spending a glorious week in Budapest, it was time for me to press on. On the near-empty train, I was assigned a worn out window seat in a grouping of four seats, two facing two, with a table in between, and as it was, I had the entire section to myself for the overnight journey.
A few hours after departure, a Passport Control official appeared before me wearing a bright yellow and orange vest, like one a road construction crew member might wear. He had a primitive leather case around his
neck and at the end was an electronic reader box. It wouldn’t, however, read my passport, despite the man's numerous attempts to feed it into the slit. Since the box wouldn’t cooperate, he took down in pencil
some pertinent info on a form and pulled out his big red and black stamp. Ca-CHUNK. I was now officially out of the Schengen Zone.
Next stop: Romania.
I was woken twice at different times in the middle of the night by two different inspectors. Both wanted to see my passport and train ticket. The first gave me a thumbs up sign when he saw my US passport, the second grabbed my fingers forcefully, pulling them - and me
- towards him, but then tenderly massaged my palm, as my entire hand had fallen asleep and I was unable to reach into my locked bag for my ticket. A humorous moment for us both.
The train pulled into the Brasov station in the pre-dawn light of winter.
Leaving the train station, I adjusted to the crisp morning air, took a quick look around and found myself walking over to a group
of four older gentlemen. I spent the next few minutes trying desperately to explain to these locals my predicament; I was wondering where I might catch a local bus that would take me to my hostel across town. They seemed quite nice and really eager to help me, despite a clear language barrier.
One of the men in the group broke away from the others, indicated for me to follow him and that he would walk me to the bus station. He turned out to be a really nice man. He gestured that he recently had had heart surgery, and therefore was unable to walk too quickly, but I didn't mind as I was just enjoying the company. He held my hand and I assisted him in walking. He wanted to make sure we were on the same "wave length" and thinking the same thoughts, so when we came across a small store, he popped inside and found a young man who spoke English. The English-speaker was therefore able to translate correctly what the elderly man was trying to communicate to me. Smart thinking on the older man's part.
Back on the sidewalk, my
new friend reached into his pocket, pulled out one of his pension bus tickets and presented it to me. I had to flat out refuse his gift as I was not about to take his second to last ticket, despite his kindness and generosity. Besides, it didn't appear he could afford to give up any of his transport tickets.
He then walked me to a bank where I was not only able to get some local currency, but also meet his friend, a friendly young girl working as a teller. Since he knew she spoke English he wanted to make sure I met her, once again, to assure we were communicating effectively. She explained where to get the bus and how many stops the bus would make before I needed to disembark.
During our slow-go to the bus stop, the older man and I communicated in part Spanish/part Italian, a couple of words in English, and many in Romanian (of which I didn't understand, of course, however, Romanian being a Romance Language, some things I could figure out due to the similarities). There was also plenty of smiling and hand gestures to get points
Transylvania. Am I really in the homeland of...Dracula?? :-) This bank seems to tell me I am.
across. He was friendly, kind and extremely welcoming. He also had the ability to think things through, when communication was definitely an issue between us. He took it upon himself to take me to find people who could converse in my language; just to have the ability to think like that was comforting, and telling. Believe me, generally speaking, that rarely happens in my travels. People seem to just give up too quickly without trying to figure out what it is I am trying to convey. They hear English and run away, scared, shy and nervous they wouldn't be able to communicate effectively. This man, despite his age, blew me away with his forethought (it is generally the older generation that has a difficult time communicating in English, or even finding the ability to reason logically, or, "think outside the box", so this was a nice change of pace). I look forward to learning a bit of Romanian so I don't find myself so "lost" or desperate in the coming weeks.
I feel this country of really good-hearted souls has already taken me in. The bus was to cost me four Lei I but I ended up
Home of Dracula. Well, sort of.
not paying anything. One lady made room for me (and my bulging pack) standing on one side of the crowded bus. She noticed the street name written on the piece of paper I held in my hand and using hand gestures assured me she was getting off at the same station. She then proceeded to walk me - presumably to make sure I was going the right way - to the street on which my hostel was located, as did another young girl, who was also on our bus. The lady shook my hand, smiled big, said something in Romanian, pointed up the road towards my hostel, then turned around and headed back in the direction from which we had just come. The kindness of strangers.
In the grand scheme of things, I think it is pretty awesome how, especially given the people I have already met today, we were able to communicate without too many shared, common words. I think too many people are afraid to travel to countries where they don’t know the language, but if someone just takes the time to imagine what someone is trying to say, things can get communicated more easily
than one might believe. The locals are fast proving they know how to do just this!
I found my hostel. This man at the reception was as kind and helpful as could be and gave me more information than I would ever know what to do with. I checked in, chose a bed and left to go explore the town.
It was a perfectly sunny day with a temperature of 4 degrees C.
After a few wonderful days in Brasov, I went to the mountains to volunteer. I stayed until mid-March.
And yeah, it was cold. Really cold.
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