Lots of Photos And Another True Tale of Surviving CFR Railways!


A lot of interesting tidbits here today and QUITE a few photos. Let’s dig in, shall we?

First off, a previously featured Do-Gooder blogger (the one who hates branza) who this time went to Hunedoara. Not quite sure if she’s ever been to EUROPE before (not just Romania):

I cannot express how truly amazing it was to be able to not only see an intact castle in Europe but also to walk around and take pictures inside pondering what the lives of those who lived there before were like.

Hmm… well there’s even a short (home-recorded) video of the inside of the castle, so that is pretty cool. The singing… well to each their own I guess :P

Secondly I just found this blog (99% in English) of some young Swedish Do-Gooders who just returned from a trip to Romania. Hundreds and hundreds of photos at the link, including some very nice ones of both Sighisoara and the palace at Peles (in Sinaia) as well as a few cultural events they witnessed. Quite nice!

And then I found this link, which apparently was a REAL one-week tour someone set up for foreigners to come to Romania on an “all-Dracula” tour, visiting every site even remotely connected to vampires, Vlad Tepes and “spooky” stuff.

Speaking of Do-Gooders, I found this post about an upcoming fundraiser for their work in evangelizing Romanian orphans:

If you are in the Nashville, TN area we would love to have you come out for our Third Annual Pancake Breakfast this Saturday, November 13th, from 7:30 to 9:30, at the Applebee’s at 5055 Old Hickory Blvd., Hermitage, TN. $6.00 gets you a nice, big pancake breakfast and the proceeds go to support our work in Romania.

See folks? Six bucks (18 lei) not only feeds your belly but also helps out the wee folk in Romania. What a deal! :D

I also found this blog, mysteriously called “Things about Transylvania”. Why is that a mystery? Because:

After seeing such pictures is Transylvania a place you would go and travel to this place? A lot of people who live in North America do not think of all the places that they can see in a small area, but Transylvania, has so much to offer.

From Alba Iluia to the mountains and rivers, I am certain this is a place I would go to. I think I am certain to see water buffalo as well. (don’t believe me, check out a book called.. Transylvania to see pictures of these animals.)

Still, to be there for a while will cost money, but if money isn’t a big thing and you want to go… what would be the first place you would visit?

Interesting question, aside from the “water buffaloes”, which I have to assume she means bivol or “bivolita” as it’s often called, a type of horned cow (UPDATE: I see these animals in Romania ARE called water buffaloes in English). Still, some nice photos at the link (of Transylvania, not cows!).

Then I found this blog called “Nuggets from Romania”, written by a Canadian Do-Gooder. There’s lots of personal tidbits about her life but nothing too striking, especially as she speaks very little Romanian so her entire life remains around communicating with home, watching American movies and speaking English. Still, she’s been here seven months so I’ll keep an eye out if she manages to write something worth quoting :D

Meanwhile The Romanian Dream blogger has a new series of lovely photographs taken in Bucharest. Very nice.

I also just came across a commercial website in English called the “Romania Business Insider”. Looks to be another slick, superficial expat kind of magazine but there is a nice Advice section, including how to find an apartment for rent (if you’re foreign), which is pretty darn useful if you’re ever in this situation.

They also have an interview with the outgoing director of the Athenee Palace Hotel (in Bucharest), which you might remember from yesterday’s New York Times piece. Most of it is CEO Corporate Fluff Chatter but I did like this line:

Adjusting to the Romanian way of doing things was among the hardest.

“It was harder at one point, I have to admit it took me a while to adjust to the Romanian culture, because people are quite demanding and emotional,” he says.

YES!!!

And last but not least, yet another Oh My God Welcome To The Lawless Jungle of Romania tale, this one about a ride on Serbian and then later CFR (Romanian) railways.

First off, yes the train service from Belgrade to Timisoara is abysmal. I’ve spoken to many, many people throughout the years and I know that (Serbian) railways are in rough shape. Of course, partly this is due to the fact that, you know, the entire country got the ever living sh*t bombed out of it by the United States. That tends to hamper things.

What’s super weird is what happens AFTER she gets to Timisoara:

We staggered across the street to the one and only hotel. Our hotel room made every whorehouse in existence look like the Ritz Carlton.

I have to laugh because the gara (train station) in Timisoara really is a miserable, filthy, horrible place. Yet literally one mile away or so is the gorgeous, sparkling, amazingly beautiful “downtown” centru with Piata Operei, probably one of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe. Oh yeah, did I mention it has fabulous and amazing hotels there as well?

Oh well. Back to the trip, this time from Timisoara to Deva, a trip I’ve taken many, many times (it’s only about 3 hours, sheesh!):

The next day the insanity began all over again. I wandered around the train station showing people my piece of paper and pointing to trains. Again, they looked at me as if I was crazy and refused to have anything to do with me. A man finally took pity on me and directed us to our train. In a moment of complete idiocy, I asked him if the train had a first class section. He looked at me and said; “I am sorry. My English is not that good. On this train there is only one class. Shit!”. He was right. It was a repeat of the day before. For all I know it was the same train.

What’s bizarre is that in the train station there is both A) an enormous list of the train schedules printed out in huge letters, including time of departure AND track listing and B) a huge, electronic display that shows all the trains departing and arriving AND which track. How the hell can you not see either one of these?

Not to mention that when you buy a (train) ticket, it shows you the number of the train (think “flight number”) and all you’ve got to do is look up at either display board (printed or electronic) and find the track. In fact in Timisoara I think they only use the first three or four platforms so it isn’t like there are 5 billion trains all over the place.

AND let’s not forget there’s a gigantic booth labeled “INFO” with the universal blue box with an “i” in it and the person working there has one job – TO GIVE OUT INFORMATION. Amazing.

Furthermore, judging from what she is saying here, I’m guessing she undoubtedly took a Personal train, or a “local” train that’s often extremely slow, stopping almost every few hundred meters or so. Checking CFR’s website, I see there are 7 trains a day from Timi-Deva and only ONE is a Personal train, so boy she really screwed up. And guess what? It takes almost an hour more to get to Deva by that train too. Oof!

As the train began to move, Lauren turned to me and said, “This cannot be the right train. It is leaving too soon.” I flew out of my seat and went running up and down the aisles frantically showing people my piece of paper. They just stared at me. I ran to the next car, my foot got caught in the dividing doors. I grabbed my leg and yanked it out of the clutches of the sliding doors. Again, no one would talk to me. The train rolled forward ten feet and stopped. I returned to my seat and sat down in a stupor.

I was learning that train schedules in Eastern Europe are merely guesses. We would pass by some train stations and stop at others. The stops would last a minute in some places or an hour in other places. We had passed the allotted time that we were due to arrive in Deva, Romania. As we approached another small town, I showed the people leaving the train my piece of paper, they told me that I had missed my stop. Missed my stop!! How in the hell had I missed my stop??? The train started to take off, I snapped. I stuck my head out the window, frantically waved my arms and and yelled, “Alto!”. I had really lost it, I was yelling in Spanish in Romania. I had become the crazy person that everyone had been avoiding.

Oh my… I mean really. I can’t speak for this Personal train but generally CFR is pretty darn good about timetables. And since Timisoara is always where the trains begin, I cannot imagine why it would have LEFT EARLY FROM THE STATION. It’s inconceivable. The train isn’t coming from somewhere else. Timisoara is just a few kilometers from the border so all these trains are just idling at the Timi train station until they leave.

As for finding the stop at “Deva”, this is almost the easiest city in the country to spot because just outside of town there is an enormous mountain with the words “DEVA” spelled out like the Hollywood sign in gigantic letters. And it’s clearly visible from the train at the train station.

Thankfully, some poor Romanian took pity on these two self-admittedly “crazy people” everyone had been avoiding:

An elderly Romanian gentleman, who spoke no English, tried to calm me down. He showed me his train ticket, he was going to Deva. He invited Lauren and I into his compartment. He pulled out a chocolate bar, broke it into half and gave each of us a piece. I just sat there, staring off into space eating my piece of candy. The train personnel came looking for me and laughed at me.

The whole story? Quite good. That last line? PRICELESS!

Folks, I just decided. I’m going to print up a bunch of T-shirts that say, “I Survived CFR Railways” and sell them for 50 bucks apiece to tourists. That way they can amaze their friends with their True Tales of Lawless Romania. Yes! I’ll be fabulously rich in no time :P

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7 Comments Add yours

  1. Amel says:

    According to my opinion the Romanians are the Italians of East-europa. The have a similar latin language, extremely open, kind and really love the chat. During my 2 month stay i never met a rude or nasty Romanian. Further the country is amazing i fell in love with. And off course the woman are beautifull. I loved to read youre stories about Romanian Railways. It’s avarage and bought the tickets online. But the connections are shitty and the attitude of the conductors are inspired by stalinism. They like a authorian style and like roaring like a Ursi. But today i fought back. I went in a hellish train (regionale) from Sibiu to Sighisoara. It started well when i fell pity for a beggar kid and gave him some lei and bought some water also. Few minutes later another beggar comes over to extort him with a stiletto. Train had of course delay and sat in a cafe with coffe when i saw the waiter kicking a already injured dog. I left disgusted and a hellish regionale train to Medias and then to Sighi. The train was cheap and you get a lot of extra’s like the benefit of the summer sauna, turistic route with 30km each hour and chain smokers. After visit of Sighisoara i went to my girlfriend in Cluj. I actually ate dinner verry fast to be on time in the station. But i was stupid but there was a 20 min delay which turned out to be 70 minutes. Finally when i got in the train the problems weren’t over. After riding 10 km out of town the train stood more then 2 hours still in the summer heat. I tried with english and some french to get the cause but the ursi conductor could only growl like the anim she is. So now i am still in the train with record travel for 6 hours for 150 km. Thank you

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  2. de bun simt says:

    She doesn’t seem to be alright. I think she just wanted to go back-packing like her friends told her it would be so nice. But then, she didn’t consider IQ as one of the pre-requisites for that.

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  3. ike says:

    if there is one thing i don’t miss about romania is the trains…i freaking hate them…4 years of monthly travels from iasi-bucharest it was a nightmare…yeah the iasi-mangalia train ride to the seaside at night holds some great memories for me…getting drunk with your friends and whatnot…..but, when the time to go back home came…..nightmare…because there were no night trains, only ones during the day …can you imagine 40 deg C and ridding for 8-9 hours and due to the imposed speed limits caused by the high temperatures, with the speed of 40-50 km?….and you didn’t have any more money to buy some water from the gypsy lady with her bag of almost hot water and/or beer….yeah the last experience was in august ….

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  4. Emanuel says:

    It is my dream to one day ride the Thalys. Or the French TGV. Or the Shinkansen. While I think those rides would be exhilarating (from a speed standpoint), you are SO right about the experience on the Romanian trains! :-) I can think of countless night-time trips from Timisoara to Constanta (well, Eforie); staying up all night, eating, talking, enjoying the company. *sigh* I miss it… :-(

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  5. Emanuel says:

    Ha! Oddly enough, riding the train is what I miss quite a bit. Yes, the toilets are smelly. Yes, most trains (especially Personal) have no A/C and it’s rather hot in the upper deck (my favorite place to ride while a kid), the infrastructure is in dire need of repairs and updates and all, but man, I miss it! Then again, as the son of a CFRist, I grew up around trains and rode them religiously. It’s funny how my truck’s red cloth interior, especially when it gets hot while sitting around in a parking lot, under the blasted Alabama sun, can so totally remind me and transport me back to my childhood days – it’s the same smell and feel as the train cars’ I used to ride in – especially after being baked in the Banat sun. And if you ever make those shirts, I may just have to buy one. ;-)

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    1. Sam R. says:

      :D:D:D all you need is some brown vinyl and a couple of tan curtains with the CFR logo. I’m half tempted to steal one of those curtains for ya just to mail it to you for a souvenir of the old days. Yah I’ve always enjoyed CFR, even the “wild days” and why timid, “greenfoot” tourists would want to ride it if they find it so terrifying is always a mystery to me. I’ve ridden modern, fancy trains in other European countries and let’s be honest… SNOOZE, super boring! :P I’ve never once had a good old fashioned Train Adventure anywhere in Europe BUT in Romania! :D

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    2. Sam R. says:

      Interestingly enough, the bloc I live in actually used to be the old camin for CFRisti here in the zona, since I live close to the gara. And every morning at 7am sharp I hear them blow some kind of whistle – it’s always accurate to the SECOND. Gosh now I want to ride on the train so badly :P

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