Ahhh faaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaawk. Terrible sleep. Spent the whole time just waiting to get up. It’s 530am, we’re trying to make sure we don’t miss this 705 train to Timisoara. I grab a tiny Rammstein concert on the quick and get packed up. We leave a good portion of leftover Bombay gin in the fridge for the Slayer cleaning crew and spiral down to the giant wooden door. Back out by the Basilica and over to Pal’s ‘office building’. There’s a key drop off box. Done.
Pal’s is a good spot. Not too social (although to be honest we spent zero time in the common area by the front desk in the other building) but definitely an excellent location. Good little apartment. Felt like we got a quick taste of what it’s like to live in Budapest.
We get over to the metro and look out of place with our backpacks as other people are on their way to work. MacKay also takes up the space of four people with his BSB. Off the metro under the train station and we spot a poster for a Bruce Willis sponsored energy drink called Hell. There’s a caption underneath that says “Energy, Taste, Power”. Reminds me of the Tommy Lee Jones sponsored Boss Coffee vending machines Queenie and I kept seeing in Japan.
Dammit, why didn’t I get a picture of that Hell poster with Bruce Willis. And why isn’t it called Yippie Ki Yay Energy Drink? C’mon internet… yes! Found an ad for it. OH FUCK YA!
Oh maaaaaan I wonder if there’s one for Boss Coffee?! HOLY SHIT! This is even better!
Well we made it down to the station with lots of time to spare. The train platform isn’t posted yet. Maybe hit the Starbucks across the street? We’ve got 40 minutes to kill. They’ve just opened and we’re the first customers. We go coffee up and chill. Insanely hot coffee and it still hasn’t cooled enough by the time we have to return to the station.
Bare bones on the train this morning. A quick scout reveals no dining car. The train is split up between a nice section and a shit section. We don’t even pretend to belong up front and grab some seats in the discomfort zone. Ugh, they’re pumping the heat in here. Unnecessary. Almost 6 hours to Timisoara, I think this is gonna be a long ride. So hot.
“I feel like I’m mentally preparing for the shit part of the trip”, “I dunno. We’ve been to Bulgaria and that was decent. Romania is probably somewhat similar”, “That’s true. Well… actually, let’s not forget we stumbled into that insanely sketchy underground human trafficking ring in Sofia”, “Oh right. Ya that was fucked. Peter and that rabbit though haha” (Rally story for another time), “Maybe I’m just hoping for shit trip. Cuz shit trip is always super random and hilarious”, “It would be nice to scuz it up a bit more. Bring the sketch”, “Damn it’s hot. You sure we can’t sit up in the good section?”, “Nah we got the cheap seats”, “We could play dumb…” and then Train Guy comes through and asks to see our tickets.
Train Guy grabs MacKay’s ticket and points at something. He starts speaking Hungarian. “English?”, “You are in wrong section. Please move to Car 2”, “Really? Sure!” Ha! guess we are in the sweet seats. Well sheeeeeeet. We grab our gear and move up. Oh yeah, plush and cozy. Got 4 seats and a table in the middle to ourselves.
We settle in for the ride. The Sun is just over the horizon and the morning light is streaming through fog lifting from the trees in the distance.
The coffee has finally cooled to a reasonable temp. MacKay pounds his and almost immediately falls asleep. Ok. Also sleeping are an elderly couple across the aisle from us. The gentleman is wearing a USS Douglas A Munro DE-422 ball cap. Wonder if he was in WWII. Maybe the Korean War. He’s gotta be late 80s or early 90s. And traveling to Romania by train. Baller.
Wifi on the train is decent enough to get a couple blogs written and posted. Better connection than we had on the way into Budapest. That heat is making me sleepy though. Bose buds in, find Tosca’s Going Going Going album and put my head back. Perfect train tunes. Watch the scenery slide by until my eyelids slide shut.
We both come to as the train slows for the Hungarian border. The border guards step up into the car and start down the aisle. The main guy already has us eyed up from a distance. He’s interested.
The elderly guy beside us has his back turned to them and asks if we speak English. “Yep, from Canada”, “Are we at the border?”, “Yeah, they’re checking passports. Where are you folks from? “We’re from Detroit. Right across the border. Toronto?”, “Nope, Nova Scotia. East of there”, “Cabot Trail?”, “Yep, that’s the one”, “We were there on a big ship. Then Newfoundland and then Iceland”, “Oh wow, that sounds like a great trip”, “It was, it was.”
The border guard gets to our seats. He looks very curious when he asks for my passport. I hand it over. He’s being super thorough, checking each page. He’s pausing at the various visas. I’m expecting some questions at this point but he just nods, “Very good”, and hands it back. “Thank-you.”
We slow roll out of Hungary and into nomansland, chunka chunkin over to Romania. “Banana?”, “Nah”, “Ok butt pisser, your funeral”, “Do you always open bananas from the bottom?”, “Ya. It’s easier”, “Whaaa?”, “Me see monkey do”, “That’s horseshit”, “Try it next time”, “Nope”, “Check out these old posts with speakers”, “Oh ya. Probably used to be barbed wire between them.”
We spend an unusually long time in no man’s land. There are some small deer in the field next to us. I start looking ahead on the map. “You think we can make it all the way to Athens?”, “Oh damn. That’d be cool. No idea what travel times and border crossings are gonna be like here on out. Maybe”, “Tallin to Athens makes for a nice line down through here”, “Yeah, that’s sick. Baltic Sea to the Mediterranean Sea. I like it”, “We’ll see how far we get”, “Yep.”
We get to the Romanian border and the train stops again. New border guards hop on and are running passports through a little handheld scanner. My passport isn’t scanning. To be fair it’s a little worse for wares after all the trips and one particular occasion when it got sopping wet in a Costa Rican thunderstorm.
With everyone just watching and waiting the older of the two border guards is totally over this shit. He grabs my passport from Young Guard and starts ramming it through the scanner again and again and again hoping one of them will just take. It doesn’t. They exchange a look. The elderly couple is getting worried about my chances here too it seems.
Older Guard turns to me, “Where you go?”, “Timisoara”, “How long?”, “Two days”, “Then?”, a quick judgement call tells me these guys don’t need to know our actual plan, “Bucharest”, “D’yes.” He flips through the pages stopping at each one. He stamps it, “Have fun, please”, “We will, thank-you.”
We get in to Timisoara and the station looks run down and junky. I like it. We hop off, adjust the bags and start rucking for a hostel I’d booked along the way named Freeborn. It looks nice and central, just 20 minutes walk. “Oh wait”, “What’s up?”, “We should go back and check on trains or buses to Belgrade”, “Oh right right.”
We spin around back to the station and get in the line that doesn’t look domestic. I look up trains while we wait. Nothing. We get up to the glass and the girl just looks at us with a face, knowing we’re going to speak English to her. We do. No, she doesn’t speak English. She gets a co-worker to come over, “Yes”, “We’re trying to get from here to Belgrade. Are there any trains?”, “No. No trains. They have all been cancelled”, “Ok. Is there any buses?”, “No, no buses”, “What? Really? No trains or buses? There has to be something.”
The girl looks us up and down a bit and then writes on a piece of paper. “You call this number. See if they will help you”, “Ok, thank you very much”, “You’re welcome.”
We’re on the case…
Feeling medium confident about that and having a good slice of day left we pick up the pace towards Freeborn Hostel. Timisoara is basically a dirt hole so far but it starts gradually getting nicer as we approach the main section of town.
Then there is a sudden jump in radness as we come across the beautiful… Timisoara Water Palace?
This Neo-Baroque-ish wonder was built for the Timiș Bega Hydro-Improvement Company back in 1901. I guess the Romanians really take their water management seriously. The walls have seashells and water figures on them. This is seriously decked out for a hydro admin joint. I’m digging it. I’m starting to like this town already.
Almost to the hostel now. We’re stomping at a good clip here, getting some energy back after the train ride (sponsored by Bruce Lee Jones).
“Alright, it’s still super early. What’s the gameplan?”, “Ok let’s get checked in, grab some food, get on the brain suds and figure this Serbia crossing thing out”, “Ya man, brain suds for sure”, “Once we get the border thing covered we can just chill and check out Timisoara. It’s starting to look like a nice town… what’s so funny?”, “The term ‘Brain Suds’. I actually do think a few beers will help”, “Oh one hundred percent. Every time. Remember Warsaw? Brain suds to the rescue”, “Fucking brain suds though”, “Ya dude. Brain Suds.”