May 20, 2016: Taking the Overnight Train East

Today is the day, we begin the trip east to Moldova and the old USSR late tonight.  The plan is that we will leave home in Baita, Mures around eight thirty or nine o’clock this evening.  It is one hour up to Beclean.  We want to be there plenty early, no need to be rushing around at the last minute.  We are getting the eleven thirty train to Iosi just before midnight.  We have a sleeper compartment (or so we think… fingers crossed) and will be arriving in Iosi tomorrow morning around seven in the morning.  Then we have to switch from the Romanian train to the Moldovan train and take that across the border and for a few hours to Chisinau, the capital and largest city in Moldova.

We have an apartment rented there that looks really nice and is right downtown.  Chisinau is the greenest city in all of Europe and is supposed to be incredibly walkable.  Only twelve thousand tourists visit Moldova each year and we are four of them this year!  This is nearly as off the beaten path as you can get and still be around people and definitely as far off of it as you can get while still being in Europe.  Even Georgia and Armenia are less remote!

We do not know how long we are going to be in Moldova.  Probably about five days.  But we are playing it by ear and do not know exactly what the plans will be.  Moldova is very low cost so we are not in a panic to not be there for a while.  And they are second only to Romania for quality of Internet access in Europe.

No rain today.  I love rain but the sun is a nice change of pace.  No rain or sign of rain all day.  No wind and warm sun.  Windows are open and the crickets are going crazy.  Very quiet day.

Dominica spent the morning getting ready for the trip.  I slept in late because we know that there is an extremely high possibility that there will be no power outlet in our berth on the train which means that I will be stuck being awake all night as I will be without my CPAP for the trip.  So I am preparing for that possibility.  We are also sad to learn that there is no dining or drinks car on the Romanian overnight train so we have to bring all snacks and stuff with us as there will be nothing on the train at all,  not even what little bit Amtrak offers in the US.  That’s a disappointment, eating dinner on the train is always a treat and we have not gotten to do that in forever.

Around noon some of the girls’ friends came over and stayed until six.   So they were pretty busy all day.  We made sure that they stayed outside and they pretty much just camped out on the porch and played.  It worked out pretty well.

Once everyone left it was time to get loaded up in the car and drive up to Beclean so that we could catch our train.  It is over an hour to the train station and we did not want anything to go wrong.  So we left quite early.

The drive up was fine and we were to the train station with a lot of time to kill.  Both girls fell asleep in the car on the drive up, it was late and they were quite sleepy.  This will be good for the train later.

We parked the car at the train station and decided to just deal with food right there.  There were not many options, we looked around at what was there, and decided to go for a “fast food” place as they are called here.  It was a little sandwich stand right in front of the station.

It was a struggle to communicate but we found a vegetarian sandwich option which included French fries, cheese shreds, cabbage slaw, mayo, ketchup and mustard on massive, fluffy round bread that was warmed up for us.  The sandwiches were absolutely enormous and turned out to be about three dollars for four of them!  I got a can of beer as well, my driving is done for the foreseeable future so I get to relax and enjoy one!

We ate for about an hour.  Luciana pretty much did not want to try the sandwich at all.  Even though the ingredients were perfect for her, she was tired and cold and just wanted to nap in the car.  So we gave up and let her.  Liesl was a trooper and ate a bit of her sandwich but did not like it that much.  Dominica and I liked ours pretty well.  We certainly appreciated the price!

One of the things that we have found in Romania is that there are two different mayonnaise situations that go on here.  There is good mayo (Helman’s, McDonald’s and similar are available in stores here and lots of home made) and then there is another rash of awful mayos that are not really edible.  We seem to run into each at random when dealing with local brands or restaurants.  Sadly, these sandwiches had the latter.  The bad mayo is gross and the good mayo is, well, normal delicious mayo.  These sandwiches would like have been amazing with good mayo.  It makes all of the difference.

We killed as much time as we could get away with lingering over the sandwiches and beer sitting at a little plastic table outside but it was chilly and the girls were both napping in the car by that point and we wanted to move our luggage to the platform and be totally ready for the train.

The train ended up coming late.  It was supposed to pick us up at Beclean at 11:21 PM but it did not really arrive until about midnight.  We had gotten to the platform around 10:45 so we were standing out there for quite a long time.  We were cold and tired when we boarded our train.

It was time to get prepared and ready for bed the moment that we were onto our train.  This is the Romanian rail running from Beclean to Iasi where we will get off in the morning.  We are not at the initial starting point, we are assuming that the train has been running for many hours before picking us up, but we will ride it to the very end which is easy.

We were very thankful that our train had a single power outlet so I would be able to plug in my CPAP.  We were well prepared and had a power strip with us so we could charge lots of devices while we slept which is super important with how we travel.

Our room is a six bed berth but set up for just four beds, which is very comfortable.  The conductor has set it up with the two bottom bunks and the two top, but with the girls we switched it so that it was the two bottom and the two middle.  This way they are not up so high and we just lift them up and down.  This worked out quite well.

We were caught by surprised ten minutes or so after getting onto the train that suddenly all of the lights went out.  Our guess is that it was very late and that this was some sort of lights out policy to keep the people that get on the train late from keeping the others awake.  Except we had no night lights or reading lights working either, so our room was pitch dark except for the tiny bit of light coming in from time to time from the window.  We had Dominica’s phone’s flashlight and we had to use that to make the beds as we had had time to get settled into the room before it went dark.

We were off to sleep within half an hour, at most.  We had already eaten and were quite tired when we got onto the train.  No one wanted to be awake any more than necessary and the train trip tonight is not all that distant so we knew that we were going to have to be getting up in the morning earlier than we would like as it is.  It is going to be a short night.

The little girls and I all slept great.  I had a few issues from the power going off from time to time on the train which made for CPAP problems but it was not too bad and I found the beds very comfortable so was able to sleep well.  With the window open it was not too hot once we had relaxed.  Dominica, on the other hand, had issues sleeping and got almost no sleep all night, the bed being far too hard for her.

Overall the train was quite nice and we liked it a lot.  We did not like the early lights out policy or issue and we wished that there had been an option for a dining car, we always like getting to do that.  This is definitely a less expensive train option than we have done in the past for an overnight sleeper train.  But we love the idea of affordable, overnight, cross country Romanian train travel.  This is a huge vote towards Romania as a base of operations!