Romanian trains suck. I’m not the world’s largest fan of train travel to begin with, but the Romanian train system did nothing to warm me to them. My train from Timisoara to Bucharest left at five in the morning. Of course they only had one train that left far too early and one that left far too late. Grrr Romania. I barely made my train as the hostel worker who had promised to help me get a cab was still out drinking and only returned at the last minute. The day was not starting off well.
When I get to my train compartment I am with a bunch of old Romanian women who don’t speak English. We smiled and mimed things at each other. And slowly they grew on me. We all laughed at the horrible train curtains that instantly fell off the window and to the ground if you tried to close or open them. Not the world’s best engineering. One woman in particular decided to take on the role of mother hen to me. She tried to include me as best she could, and when they decided to switch to larger empty compartment because ours was freezing she basically forced me to lie down and sleep. She mimed that I could lie down, put up the arm rests to make a bed for me, and even went so far as to grab my feet and pull them up on the seat to show me I could lie down all the way. Sadly my mother hen got off a couple hours later as the train began to fill up, and I realized I had to go back to my own seat.
When I got back to my compartment a man was sitting in my seat. I tried to motion that it was my seat. He pointed for me to sit elsewhere. A few moments later as I’m sitting in the seat he’s designated he reaches in his shirt and begins to pull out his necklace and show his friends. It is a large golden swastika necklace. I had seriously just tried to recover my seat from a Nazi. Somehow on this trip I keep running into people with swastikas. The men drank for a bit, and finally got off at another stop. Only one young Romanian man remained.
A few minutes later another older woman and her disabled daughter enter our compartment. The young man and I were both sitting by the window so I thought we were good since the easiest seats to reach were right there for her daughter. Not so. This woman began screaming at me in Romanian. I honestly didn’t have a clue what she wanted. I got up. I tried to move to my original seat, but that pissed her off more. Finally the man points at the seat by the door and says he thinks she wants me to sit there. Then I have the awkward encounter in trying to change places with her daughter who is on crutches in a very small space. Luckily I was able to get seated and the woman and her daughter spent the better part of the ride arguing with each other. Every once in a while a man would come into our compartment and lay out a myriad of objects on the empty seat. Then he would walk off. The others would peruse the little toys and knick knacks and pick something out to buy. When he came back the man bought a lighter, and the woman a cell phone case. I honestly wonder if people try to just pocket the items without paying. Who knows? Another random thing I never understood at the time was we passed fields upon fields of sunflowers. Some of them were bright and alive, and some were dying and wilted. I thought, “What the fuck do they need with all these sunflowers?” They were just dead half the time so they weren’t selling sunflowers. I now know the answer. Thank you google. They are now the world’s largest exporter of sunflower seeds. The more you know.
I’ve learned a lot on this trip, but mainly I’ve learned that Romanian trains suck. But even my experiences with Nazis and mean Romanian women were rivalled by my train out of Romania where I ended up in a desolate car late at night in a compartment where the light didn’t work. I just spent the whole time praying to God I wouldn’t miss Sofia, or be robbed.