We had achieved what we had set out to do, spend Halloween night in a “vampire” castle. The grand experience was over though and as we groggily got to our feet the next morning; we still had five days left in Romania. We had blown our Romanian load. How do you fill the better part of the week, when you have no idea of what to do? Well, if at first you don’t succeed, drink, drink again.
Because we are Americans, and thus perpetual eat monsters, our move was to grab some traditional Romanian cuisine. Down a narrow alley and up several flights of stairs to an establishment that promised food and drink we went. It was a lovely pub that delivered on its promise with delectable eats. The wait staff was fun and excited to talk to us foreign devils. There was still some holiday spirit left lying about the place so they decided to inject it into their serving staff, who went about their activities in costume. It was great fun getting our order taken by a skeleton, having the drinks served by a zombie, and bussing our tables was a lovely young man decked out in Rastafarian blackface. Wait what? What the what, with the blackface? Yes I’ll have the fries, but can you hold the racism? As an American who is mostly white but doesn’t think the South should rise again,
I found it infinitely perturbing watching this guy go about his business in full minstrel show attire. Not for the first time was I reminded that Central Europe just does not have a firm grasp race relations with black people. Unsurprisingly there’s not a lot of variation in melanin levels in this part of the globe, and as such they find it hard to wrap their head around racism being seen as a negative my non black people. They go about race relations like black people are from fantasy novels, somewhere between elves and cave trolls. But my friends did describe it as having the best schnitzel in the world, so at least there’s that going for it.
We took our time just exploring all that the bohemian shopping district carefully crafted to relieve wealthy foreigners of their money had to offer. We toured, funnily enough, the Black Church so named for the grand fire which blackened the walls and roof of the religious structure. Crepes of delectable nature were consumed at frightful speed. I bought a Swiss Army knife because I had very little faith in the Romanian transportation authority not trying to slow cook me again. My girlfriend purchased a beret, it’s stylish. As the day went on, the wind chill kicked up and the air went from being crisp to being almost frozen. Everyone is in winter coats and here I am wearing a button up and a t-shirt. Not to be deterred, we braved the cold to quest for liquid refreshment. We purchased a much alcohol and retired to our flat to watch 1930s Dracula in Transylvania and playing drinking games. To complete the theme, we decided that we needed to drink Bloody Marys. The cans of tomato sauce that I believed that I purchased turned out to be cans of shriveled tomatoes floating in red goo. Not to be deterred by a little thing like edibility, we mixed up cocktails that could be described as Bloody Mary adjacent. The night ended as well as expected.
The next day we had one more stop at the crepe place and went souvenir shopping for friends and family. Our time in Brasov was at an end, and it was time to get to our next location. We got on the train, and picked the first cabin that had room. After the train moved on some girls come by and said we needed to move because we had taken their seats, they then proceeded to unhelpfully block our exit thus making it more difficult to vacate their cabin. We meandered up the train to procure a new cabin. When the ticket taker comes by, he takes our tickets and mumbles in Romanian how we’re in the wrong place, however he must have decided that attempting to make us understand how foolish we were was high above his pay grade. He shrugs off the inconvenience and walks away. At speed the scenery is gorgeous. Once we pass the city limits, hills and mountains jut into the sky. The autumn colors decorate as far as the eye can see making the hills appear on fire as they pass by our window. The tall hills turn grey and then disappear into a white cap of snow which then blends into the clouded sky.
We achieved Bucharest and to save money we walked to our Airbnb. Bucharest is a city of interesting atmosphere. The majority of the buildings are of old communist design, geometric to a fault, seemingly designed to discourage individuality or excitement. Oppressively dour is a way I would describe parts of it, and what a lovely hue of depression they invented to go along with it. It felt like a place where boiled cabbage would be considered too spicy for native tastes. Perhaps it was the oppressive sensation radiating off of every concrete surface or perhaps it was the activity of the last few days but we ended up crashing hard at our flat. It was a strange sort of vacation away from our vacation, Bucharest. We would get up in the morning and like infant birds wearily clamor for sustenance. Sluggishly we ventured forth to what remained of old town where the most expensive food and drink could be obtained in tourist friendly themed establishments, being careful to avoid the strip clubs and “massage parlors” every five meters. We would consume meats, potatoes, starches, and all things fried in amounts suitable to power our languid ramblings through the few square kilometers of old town that we could muster the energy enough to peruse. The walking served only a momentary diversion for our minds and bellies, entertaining us so that a few hours hence we could devour and drink again. We didn’t so much eat, as we became one with the gorge. Three full days, this was our existence, with me leading the party out in the mornings and back to the flat ever so much heavier in the evenings.
There was this statue of a naked man holding up a dog though, so that’s nothing to scoff at.
The next day we left bright and early for Sibiu to see if we could get a little bit more historical before we had to return home. We only spent six or so hours in Sibiu, but it had an amazing old town. All signs point to Sibiu being the tourist capital of the entire country of Romania, and a city with a great deal of history behind it. We went to a Scottish Pub and later a Romanian one because food perpetuates our very existence. We took many pictures.
Our grand adventure was for all intents and purposes supposed to be over as we boarded the ten hour night train home. However, the spirits of transportation past weren’t willing to let us go without a final struggle. With long journey ahead we had made sure to get assigned beds in a sleeper car. Once boarded, we discovered we had a travelling companion who I shall henceforth refer to as Lord Bed Thief. You see, Sir Bed Thief had deprived me of my sleeping location and was rather asleep for me to make a fuss over. Ascending to the less comfortable top bunk I proceeded to become unconscious with both rapidity and efficiency for what should have been a long and enjoyable rest. What actually happened at 4:00 A.M. was commotion in the car and a conspicuous absence of motion that one would expect from a train. Over the better part of an hour commotion evolved into utter confusion, culminating in all of the passengers being told to vacate the train. Into the blistering pre-dawn frigidity we were herded to a farm cottage labeled a train station. It was very much not Budapest. We were on the Hungarian/Romanian border and replacement busses were on the way to send us on our way. Still confusing but a plan of action it was.
A large luxury liner shows up, and becomes filled with miserable people immediately, filled into the aisles with standing passengers. The bus doors close and then the bus proceeds to very quickly do nothing but wait for the next hour. Continuing the theme, we have no clue as to why. By 7:00 in the morning a second bus arrives and this time my travel companion and I rush the bus to get actual seats for this journey of unspecified length. The second bus fills up quickly too, but runs into some unforeseen snags. A woman named Mustard Pants is one of the last to board the second and presumable last bus. For room reasons, she had to have her bag in the other bus which caused her to experience a luggage meltdown, a fact which she loudly and Americanly made known to the bus. Seeing the necessity for compliance and being yelled at by her friends convinced her to take the path of least resistance.
Then, lastly, to cap off this particular leg of the journey, right as the busses were readying to trundle on a louder and more wrathful yelling erupted from the front of the bus. Who decided that their needs were not being properly met in this whole bargain, why it was none other than Monseigneur Bed Thief himself. The treatment shown to him was unusual and horrifying to his refined palate. To this point, there had been two Hungarian police officers groggily looking over the proceedings, and his wrath was not to be ignored by these simpletons, a fact he made known first to the bus driver and then rather wisely to the two police officers. Proclaiming the illegality of cramming this many people onto a bus, he held on to that point like a token to ward off common sense, demanding to see managers, highers up, or any who should know that Grand Vizier Bed Thief felt such inconveniences. Around the shrieks of blind malice was the missive that if the bus did not leave in five minutes we would miss our connection and the next train to Budapest would leave in six hours. The cranky huddled masses we not willing to extend leniency towards His Excellence during his one man crusade against injustice. Cries of sit down or get out were flung, and Great Chief Bed Thief knew his mutiny had failed. He made sure to stop and take pictures of the police officers and the bus license plates, all the while promising to rain hellfire upon his persecutors. And with that he disappeared into the misty morning, presumably to kick an orphan out of bed before complaining that the comforter wasn’t down. As a nice change of pace though, it was fun to hear a disgruntled Romanian on public transportation yelling in English.
The “illegal” busses took us passengers to the first of two separate train transfers. Inconvenient, maybe, but for the first time in five hours physical progress was being made towards our final destination, I was not about to complain out loud. Seeing its other plots fail to defeat, us the vengeance demon that controls all Central European transportation returned to its old tricks. The heat was cranked to levels that would make magma ask for a fan, and windows locked tight to preserve our essences as they left our bodies. However, I held a talisman of light in this infinite darkness. Swiss army knife in hand, I opened the windows to the literal applause of my fellow travellers. Thus defeated once and for all was the Spirit of Helltrain.
A bus ride and two separate trains later, we finally arrived home at the station a mere six hours late. I complain, but later we discovered that we had actually been the lucky train. The ordeal was caused because the train ahead of us had derailed. All in all, could have been worse.
Well, that was a hell of a saga. I promise that I am finally finished and you my readers are finally free from the month of October 2016. I can proceed yet again closer towards the present. Thank you everyone for seeing this holiday recounting through to its end. Join me next week for something, anything not this. Until then, good day, good night, and good reading.