Call of the North (30): The long way home

8/9 august

Maybe it’s better that I missed the train. It would have been an 18 hours ride, no sleeping wagon. Would have gone mad.

Nevertheless, at the moment I was very frustrated. Had thought the train is at 22:54, but it was 22:45. I checked on the way to the train station, at  22:44. Panic. Run. For nothing. I reached at 22:49, train had left.

Demolished, I go to the ticket counter. There’s one open. I start telling my story, she says – “NO. Counter number ten.” At least she could tell me that. Number ten was closed, of course, opening in the morning.

Back to the hostel – luckily they had a bed for me that night, so I didnt have to look further for accomodation. No mood for writing, just shower and go to sleep. Was passed midnight.

Next day, 9am, at the ticket counter. In front of me, an emo kid. She says – please, a ticket to Budapest for tomorrow, and then to Brasov.

Wait a minute.

I ask her how come Brasov. She says she read in a book it was nice. I tell her to go to Sighisoara too. She seems tempted. Next to her, another girl, “normal” kid, german. She asks her “so, where do you go?”.
“La Budapest, then Romania.”
“Romania?!? (Confused look). Where?”
“Bra- what?”
“Never heard of it. And from there?”
“What? (she’s increasingly disbelievingly surprised) Where’s that?”
“Not far from Braşov.”
“Never heard of it.”
Felt like kicking her butt.

Luckily I can buy a ticket, then back to the hostel for breakfast, where I meet two americans who had arrived the night before, when i was back from the disappointing railway station trip. I had barely noticed them, and that only because the girl was cute.

“Where are you from?”

“Romania? How exciting!”
“?!?” (I have NEVER witnessed such a reaction from a stranger when hearing the name of my country! Almost fell off the chair.)
“We are going to Romania too.”
“Cool. Where?”
“Braşov and Bucureşti.”
They were on a megatrip through Eastern Europe. Delighted, I share whatever insight I can remember on the spot, unfortunately I only later remember I should have told them to keep away from the shark-type taxi drivers at the railway station in Bucharest… I hope they will.

On the train to Budapest I had probably one of the most funny companionships for a long time. 4 british students, who seemed to have stepped down from a “friends”-type tv show. There was the smart one (history student, and my favorite), the talkative one (studies “property”, whatever that means), the beautiful one (communication and media, ex-actress 🙂 and… Phoebe. I haven’t watched Friends, but I saw Phoebe in some scenes, and – yes. It was Phoebe alright. Was not making the smartest impression, but had some un-believablyl funny and “deep” lines. She said she would have liked to go to Transylvania, to see Dracula’s castle.

“Oh, have you read the book?” I asked.

“No, I played in a musical, “Dracula spectacula’”.

They were also making a marathon trip, Paris-Vienna-Prague-Krakow-Budapest-Zadar-Dubrovnik-Athens.
They had a Lonely Planet for Eastern Europe. I asked to have a look at the book, to see what is written about Romania. And my eyes probably tripled in surprise – i quote the opening phrase: “Romania is the most interesting country in Europe.” Nothing more, nothing less! It made my day.

The bunch was extremely funny to watch. They were speaking an absolutely p e r f e c t English, no accent, which enabled me to follow their conversation, very funny in its details.

Atmosphere changed in Budapest. Railway station pretty gloomy at that hour of the night, all grey. I had to wait 2 hours. The only interesting event was a group of turbulent football fans who were escorted onto a train by polite police force.

The way home was long and cumbersome. Had a 6-bed sleeping wagon, put my luggage on the bed, so had to curl around it in various uneasy positions. The lady in the bed below was very unlikable, complaining all the time; in the morning she complained about my sneezing (i sneezed about 20 times because of allergy, she got annoyed, stormed out of the compartment and came back giving me some napkins, complaining that “microbs are travelling with 150km/h.” “Up yours”, i thought, and ignored her.

I tried to read “Independent People”, Halldor Laxness’ book, the nobel prize winning icelander. I don’t like it, it’s depressing, i bought it for its “brand”, not impressed, but it’s the only book i have.

Ultimately, train arrives where I need it to. Setting foot on homeland soil, I learn that the Olympic games have started yesterday. I think I arrived in time.


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