Train Travel Romania

Memorial to 1989 Revolution

Memorial to 1989 Revolution

I like travelling by train, I like the fact that trains are on the ground, you can see what you are what you are passing, you can move around, the seats have leg room , you don’t need to go through the hoops of airport security where your toothpaste or water can be tossed in the bin and trains go very often from the centre of cities.
I have had enjoyable, generally comfortable and interesting trips by train in Europe.

When I started researching for this trip I came upon the blog of an oft cited travel writer who said not to travel by train as they were dirty, you were likely to be robbed and they took too long.
I was incensed as this seemed very precious and was not my experience and after all I would not be in a hurry.

Churches often hidden in horrible modern buildings

Churches often hidden in horrible modern buildings

So the DYI Orient Express
My first trip, from Istanbul to Bucharest, was certainly interesting, the train was not dirty and at no point did I ever feel I would be robbed.
Then 2 trips of 2 hours in 2nd class – Bucharest to Brasov and then Brasov to Sighisoara.
The first was confronting. I boarded the train at Bucharest to find myself as only person in the carriage except for an Orthodox nun who shut her compartment door firmly. I was helped onto the train with my bag by a man with magazines he then wanted money. What I offered was not enough, he kept repeating ‘4 children’ I upped the amount slightly and he left. Then a procession of men appeared offering to sell me magazines, ‘Marie Clare’ ‘National Geographic’. They left quickly, then 2 men each offering to sell me an Iphone. Again they left easily. Then a man dragging himself along the floor appeared so I gave him some coins adding to less than $1. I later saw him walk briskly along the platform.

Train left station and still no other person in the carriage. I was beginning to reconsider my decision to travel 2 class. Then boy of about 17 appeared and opened bag and put collection of items on a spare seat, cotton, needles, lighter, matches, pens etc. He then disappeared.
I was becoming a bit paranoid at this point. Then young conductor, dressed in uniform, appeared. I pointed out items on the seat. He looked cross and asked when they had been put there. He was surprised when I said after train had left station. At that point owner of items appeared and conductor grabbed him and said nicely ‘I am going to kill you’. The boy gathered up items and left with the conductor.
Conductor returned and explained that with high unemployment and no disability allowances people had to earn money somehow and these were items or magazines that train travellers might need. He obviously knew the sellers and tolerated them to a certain extent as long as they did not frighten passengers.
I then felt somewhat ashamed. I have had little experience of tipping, only in restaurants in Australia so I am a novice at tipping in countries where even those in employment rely on tips to live. The first man had shown me the carriage, put my bag into the train, steps are quite high and lifted my bag on to luggage rack. Of course he expected to receive a tip. All I gave him was the equivalent of $1.70 even after haggling.
The magazine sellers and boy were trying to make some money. They were persistent but not threatening.
After considering all this a youngish man appeared selling raspberries attractively presented in baskets and cups. He offered me a taste using a new toothpick. I bought the raspberries after haggling the price down which he took in good part. He was wearing a t shirt with Wellington New Zealand on it and also the word Warsaw. The meaning was lost on me. I got over my thing about clean fruit as I had learnt to wash fruit in plastic bags using my water. Raspberries tasted delicious and he appeared and
left good humouredly 3 more times before I reached Brasov.

This morning on platform at Brasov an older man with station master type cap offered to help me find the right carriage, he also offered a local woman of similar age as well. She agreed so I followed suit and he pulled both our bags and lifted my bag onto the carriage. He then motioned for payment but she spoke to him forcibly and I left as she kept on at him. I later saw her on the train.

And I only came for a pleasant train ride not a challenge to my views.

Sts Archangels Michael and Gabriel Stavropoleos Monastery Church

Sts Archangels Michael and Gabriel Stavropoleos Monastery Church





Filed under Istanbul to Vienna, Travel

9 responses to “Train Travel Romania

  1. victoria

    hi pat
    you cannot expect to go to places like that and NOT be challenged. after all, isnt it kind of the point? i have had so many confusing moments with money / poverty / ethics, you are bound to get it right sometimes and wrong others. i remember one time i bargained HARD with a rickshaw driver in thailand thinking i was so savvy, then it was so much farther than i thought, that i ended up giving him twice what he asked for. but he accepted it gracelessly, he rightly thought i was horrible. i still think about it and cringe. it is impossible to know what is the right way to play it. those photos of the monastery and courtyard are amazing!!!


  2. Chris

    Hi Pat from Ayr where comfortably ensconced ! Love your reports and like others totally enthralled . Next career, writing ??? Chris


  3. Kerry Ilsley

    Hi Pat I’m absolutely hooked on your blog. It’s such compulsive and informative reading. Thanks for sharing the journey with us. Kerry


  4. Sally James

    Hi Pat I haven’t worked out how to reply on the blog (or too lazy to deal with yet another password/log-in) I think you are incredibly brave to do all this travel alone…and yes, we haven’t a clue about how others live and the necessity of tips. You have already changed my ideas when you told me about the young woman at Kings cross station for whom you buy sandwiches.. and that’s in comfortable Sydney. Stay safe Sally


  5. Glenda

    Travelling to other countries sure is educational as well as soul changing. I always learn something from people on my trips that hopefully makes me a better person. More accepting and compassioate.


  6. susangirard

    I have never like the tips or the haggling when I have been overseas. Stay safe.


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