Since I hate mundane, repetitive routines when I travel, I found myself in Romania recently. I flew into the capital city of Bucharest, based myself in the heart of the Old Town and planned my next few weeks of travel from there. It was a spontaneous decision and I ended up on a rather bumpy, busy ride.
I loved looking at maps as a kid and one of the first things I checked out when I arrived in Romania, was where I was, where I could get to next and the approximate routes I would take. Romania’s location became instantly nostalgic. I glanced over at the Hungarian city of Debrecen, which is close to the Romanian border, the one I had visited back in 2009 when in love with local dancer Noemi Linzenbold.
I thought of the day we saw the road sign for Romania. I had been close to Romania one day, but now here I was. A part of me couldn’t help think of her and that day. But I placed the thought at the back of my mind and at the same time decided I wouldn’t visit the west part of Romania at all. Tinged by the memory, it couldn’t have been a good idea at all. Every time I’d see a road sign for Debrecen, something would strike in my brain again and I didn’t want that.
Debrecen, Hungary – the Nagytemplom.
I first looked far north, and the area known as Bucovina, which is north east and the largest cities are Suceava and Iasi. Having read about the tremendous UNESCO World Heritage Site Monasteries, I decided to head there. It was a double train ride from Bucharest with a choice of day or night trains. This time I opted for day trains, so that when I got there, I could sleep straight away and get up early the next day ready for the touring.
Dor de Bucovina Hostel in Campulung Moldovenesc, Romania.
I found out about the Dor de Bucovina hostel which is run by the Pura Vida Romania Hostels group – the best hostels group in Romania. The Dor de Bucovina is based in the town of Campulung Moldovenesc, which handily enough has a train station.
Train station in Campulung Moldovenesc.
So I headed from the Little Bucharest hostel in the Old Town, on the metro at Piata Unirii in Bucharest to Gara de Nord. On arrival at Gara de Nord, I headed to the ticket office, which is on the corridor on the right before you get to the McDonalds on the corner. I needed a double ticket. The first would be the 11 am train from Bucharest to the city of Suceava and then transfer for a train to Campulung Moldovenesc to Campulung Moldovenesc.
I boarded the train on carriage 1 and went to seat 62. I remembered how much I love train journeys – the memories of that train to Baku, the overnight Mashhad train, the long train journeys through China down the years and the Western Wilderness Railway which I wrote about 10 articles on.
Soon, Bucharest was a distant memory. I made a note of some of the stops and times along the way, but not all of them. After leaving Bucharest, one of the guys came and gave me a free local newspaper.
I met a group of ladies who were interested in chatting immediately. It is not often they see foreigners in their lives and 2 of them spoke a bit of English. French and Spanish worked too and we intertwined the languages until we understood each other. The ladies were Anika, Jetta, Maria and Andrea. All Romanian and all had boarded in Bucharest, heading to Suceava. None would be connecting with me all the way to Campulung Moldovensec, which I assumed would be a remote town and a lonely journey – yes it was.
Another stop on the journey at Ramnicu Sarat.
Darkness fell on northern Romania by the time we passed through Pascani and it was here that I said farewell to Jetta and Maria – you just know those travel moments are over. We enjoyed our chats on the train, Jetta also kindly gave me some tissues on the trip (I was blowing my nose a bit) and we said our goodbyes. By the time we arrived in Suceava, a typical Eastern European darkness was in evidence. You know the type – no lights on at stations. Everything dark and grey. Barking dogs. Not many places open. Barely a street light. Local people know their way in the dark. Station workers and porters shine their torches everywhere. I said goodbye to Anika and Andrea at the station and saw a shop and a cafe so I popped in.
Darkness on arrival in Suceava.
At the start I was the only customer, and I ordered a Timisoreana Beer in a bottle – it was only 3.5 Lei (about 70pence). Cold and fresh and as I sipped it the place got busier. Romanian bars are smoky and I don’t smoke. I don’t enjoying smoking or the smell it brings. But alas it was warmer inside so I stuck it out.
I found a compartment with a local girl in it so I sat down and asked her just confirming I was on the right train (I always confirm just to be sure). It was lucky I asked her as this was the wrong train!! The journey up to the mountains took around 2 hours and it was dark and stale when I arrived (with at least 2 other passengers – both locals) in the town of Campulung Moldovenesc.
Eerily quiet, dark and deserted as I arrive in the town of Campulung Moldovenesc.
There were dogs on the station approach and derelict dogs seem to be a theme in Romania. However there were nowhere near as many as I was warned about in advance. I had taken a photo of the map from Google Maps on how to get to the hotel and for once, it was easy as I assumed. I headed onto the main street in Campulung Moldovenesc and walked all along it out of town to the college, after which I took a right down the lane by the river to 8 Simion Florea Marian Street.
Walking all alone in the darkness of Campulung Moldovenesc.
And the long day was over – door to door it had been over 12 hours.
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