Prior to traveling in Europe, the closest I ever got to riding the rails was listening to Johnny Cash. “I hear the train a comin’. It’s comin’ round the bend…”
Electric trains are much quieter than Johnny’s choo-choos. That’s a good thing as I get to spend the next 24 hours on a train. Salzburg to Budapest to Bucharest. This should be interesting…
Late morning, Tuesday, April 22…
The first leg of our journey is in a second class car with assigned seating. Lots of leg room!
The windows are huge so you get terrific views of the passing landscape. We pass the time talking to a young German man who is a freshman at the university in Vienna. His English is impeccable and he is extremely well traveled. He departs at the station in Vienna and I feel rather sad to see our young friend go. Such a delightful conversationalist.
Is there any country in the world that is cleaner than Austria or Germany? The cities are utterly devoid of street trash as are the roadsides and rail beds.
Solar panels and wind turbines are common — modern technology interspersed with the picturesque villages of old.
Hours later in Hungary…
From the train, Hungary looks similar to Austria in landscape, but many of the buildings are in disrepair — a reflection of economies at disparate stages of development. The Danube River keeps us company for a while, but departs behind some trees as we eventually venture southward.
Later in Budapest…
A block from the Budapest-Keleti train station is a fabulous restaurant, called Rosenstein, which was recommended by Trip Advisor. Most excellent! The white asparagus cream soup is out of this world.
We’ve boarded our sleeper car. This is what first-class accommodations on a Hungarian train look like — Soviet Union circa 1980.
The only difference between this and second-class is that I don’t have to share my compartment with anyone but John. For that luxury, we pay an additional 250 bucks.
As my husband says in his best Russian accent, “You vant better car; you need be born in udder cuntry.”
I claim the bottom bunk and watch the Hungarian countryside glide by before the sun goes down.
Around 10 p.m…
A loud rap on the door followed by a curt “Passport!” stirred me from a light slumber. I fumbled for my bag and turned on the light to rouse John.
I opened the door to be greeted by a young man outfitted like a policeman demanding our passports. Seems like old habits die hard. His uniform combined with his dour expression produced a very “behind the Iron Curtain” moment.
Wide awake now, we journeyed to the dining car for a drink where we struck up an interesting conversation with a young British couple on a whirlwind tour of eastern Europe. We chatted past midnight. Time for bed.
We jostled along all night to awake this morning stopped at a tiny station in Dumbraveni, Romania.
We ventured to the dining car which looks like this…
to have an ham and egg omelet which looked like this before it went down the hatch.
Somewhere in Romania…
Romania appears to be a poor country. Most of the structures we’ve passed are old, dirty and in need of repair. Yet, as we draw nearer to Bucharest, prosperity increases.
The land itself is beautiful as the Creation always is. We’ve passed several shepherds tending flocks of sheep and I spotted an elderly woman with her walking stick hobbling down a path like the crone in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
Our train is about three hours late pulling into the main station in Bucharest. Apparently, there was a railway worker strike somewhere along the line last night and we stopped a couple of times.
Bucharest, late afternoon
We made it!
Riding the rails was enjoyable. Now for a hot shower and a roomy apartment!