Day 51 - Thursday, July 14, 2011 - Calafat to Craiova to Caracal, Romania, by Train
Trip 166.4 kms Time 4:39:18 Max 75.38 kph
I managed to sleep in! got up at 6:40 and went down for b'fast at 7:10. I forgot to mention in yesterday's blog that the decor in this restaurant was something like out of "Alice In Wonderland" The tables and chairs were all covered in white and topped off with red bunting. It was quite a huge restaurant that could accommodate several hundred people. There were about 6-8 people in the restaurant for coffee, etc. I ordered tea. It came with a tin of paté, two bits of cheese, a slice of cucumber, bread, butter (1 pat) and jam (1). A British lady, who looked a bit dishevelled, was wandering around looking for a toaster! I didn't dare order anything extra!
I went back to my room and finished packing my panniers and took them down to the lobby. I had to use the scary elevator twice. Even though my room was on the "1st floor" there were 3 or 4 flights of stairs between it and the main floor. After getting my bike out of the storage room and loading my panniers I asked for directions to the train station. I had previously checked the Danube guide book for my next destination and there was a "Tip: Calafat is the last town with half-way acceptable overnight accommodations until you come to Corabia about 170 kms away." Since I dont have any camping equipment and the scenery is fairly monotonous along that stretch the guide book recommended taking the train from Calafat - Craiova- Corabia (about 3 hours). There was also another suggestion but that one was 6 hours by train.
I arrived at the train station at 8:45 after stopping to buy a 1.5L bottle of water. There was absolutely no one around. I took my bike inside the station and went over to what appeared to be a ticket counter. A lady, who spoke no English, was able to sell me a ticket for Calafat - Craiova - Caracal for 31.80 LEI. The next train didn't leave until noon. Oh good! 3 hours to kill! I'm not sure if I have to change trains in Craiova? According to my ticket I should arrive in Caracal at 16:53. I went out and sat on the platform where there were a few employees and a couple of mangy dogs to keep me company.
Before boarding the train I bought a 1L bottle of Fanta at the BUFET. An engineer and his assistant (breakman I think) arrived and fired up the diesel and went up and back to swith the engine to the opposite end of the cars that were on track #2. It was a bit of a hurdle getting down off the main platform and across the tracks and up on to platform #2 but I managed. I then had to manhandle my bike with it's panniers onto the antiquated train itself. I did get a little help.
The train left for Craiova at 12:00. It was a very slow train. It stopped at every village and a few other places where there was just a shack beside the tracks. I arrived in Craiova at 15:45 a much busier station than Calafat. There was an "Express" train about to leave for Caracal on track #1. The conductor montioned for me to hurry and I would be able to get on it rather than wait for the next train. Once again I had to cross two sets of tracks and manhandle my bike onto the train, a much more modern train equiped with A/C and handicap toilet. I'm not sure how someone in a wheelchair would be able to get on the train but....
While I was on the 1st train someone came to get me to tell me that my bike had fallen. I went to the back and found it had only shifted a bit. I propped it up a little better and sat in the back by my bike to keep an eye on it. The guy who had come to get me spoke some English. We talked about my trip. He had just been to Amsterdam in June with his wife. He told me I couldn't go by train from the Black Sea to Istanbul. I would have to take the train from Constanta to Bucharest (about 3 hours) and then from Bucharest to Istanbul (about 10 hours).
Before leaving Calafat a guy got on the train with his bike. There were several empty plastic bottles in the baggage car. He proceeded to toss them into the field across from the tracks. On the 2nd train there were several children with 2 young adults. They had a kitten in a backpack with only its head sticking out of a gap. It looked very sad. It started crying. One of the older boys (8-9 years old) gave it a couple raps on the snout. I told him to be more gentle with the poor creature.
I was able to get off the tain without any difficulty. I cycled into town and checked in at the Hotel Edinburgh at 200 LEI/night with b'fast included and Wi-Fi and A/C. It was a bit hot as there was a power outage. As a matter of fact there were several more power outages especially while I was trying to do my blog.
It actually was an "apartment" i.e. bedroom, sitting room and bathroom (no kitchen). I carried my bags up 2 flights then went back down to secure my bike. I was able to bring it inside and put it in the restaurant which wasn't yet open. I lay down for a nap and later went out for a walk to get some money and find a place to eat. It was much to hot to enjoy a walkabout and I was quickly able to find an ATM. I returned to the Italian restaurant not far from the hotel and had a Heineken beer and a pizza for dinner.
As I said earlier, while I was typing my blog, there were several power outages. My Notebook was still OK running on battery backup but I couldn't see my notes! After several outages lasting anywheres from 1 to 5 minutes I was able to finish a day's blog and decided I would get a good night's rest.
Drum Bun (not sure what it means - it's on all the signs as you're leaving town and must mean good bye - I think)
This blog was posted at the Hotel Turris in Turnu Magurele on Friday, July 15, 2011