Thursday, July 21, 2011

Day 58 - Europe 2011

Day 58 - Thursday, July 21, 2011 - Constanta to Bucharest, Romania by train

I was awake at 6:00 but managed to have a lie in until 7:00. After a quick shower I had some yogurt with cereal and a Nestea mango/pineapple drink and a banana which I had bought at a grocery store last night. While sorting my things for packing I put my cell phone on charge. I went out to the grocery store across the street for water, Fanta and 2 apples for the train ride (3 hours) to Bucharest. There had been quite a thunderstorm during the night and the skies were still very overcast. The lady at the cash was much more pleasant. She even helped me put my purchases in my bag and waited patiently while I got my small change out. I returned to my room, finished packing, checked out, quickly loaded my bags on my bike and headed for the train station which was about 2 kms away. While waiting for the last semaphore (traffic light) to change it started raining. I managed to get inside before it really started tipping down. There were a lot of people milling about the train station, waiting for trains, etc. Thankfully there was no line up at the ticket counters. I paid 53.20 LEI for my ticket to Bucharest departure at 12:00 noon and arriving at 14:39. I found a place to sit while waiting. At 11:30 I went up to Platform 1 and waited, along with a couple hundred other passengers, for the train to Bucharest. It was a bit of a struggle getting up the ramp next to the stairs with my bike but I managed. It was still raining lightly so every one was huddled under the canopy. The train arrived at 11:45 and there was a mad rush by everyone to get on. No baggage car. I was barely able to squeeze my bike on through the narrow door and up the 4 steps to get on the train. A young teenager, who was already on board, helped drag my bike up the steps. Not much room to manoeuvre my bike once I got inside the car. I had to remove my panniers and put the front wheel up on a seat temporarily to get it out of the way in order for the other passengers to get by. Noboby panicked!!! The train left at 12:01. A purser/conductor went by and didn't bat an eye. Same for the 2 policmen who went by. I guess if you can get it on the train and your not blocking the passage it's OK. One guy, with an oversize suitcase, was asked to tuck it in. Very nice new train and moving along at a fairly RAPID pace. I clocked it doing 138 kph with my GPS. The purser(s) came by, checked my ticket and asked for an additional 13 LEI for my bike. One collected the money while the other made out a receipt. I paid and got a receipt. There were also 230V 50Hz outlets in case you wanted to plug in your laptop or charge up your cell phone. There were several stops at various stations on the way and the train slowed down to 40-50 kph for bridges and some areas of the track that were being improved. I got my bike and bags ready to be the 1st one to get off on arrival. I managed to get my bike off OK but when I went to get back on to get my panniers I had to wait for several people to get off. A guy then handed them to me. Once I loaded my panniers back on my bike I went directly to the Information wicket to enquire about the train to Istanbul. I was told to go to International #1 wicket. I asked again and was told there was a train every day at 12:13. It cost 220 LEI for a "couchette" (6 people) or 330 LEI for a single sleeper and that there was no baggage car for bicycles. I would have to talk to the conductor about getting my bike on the train. Yikes!!! I wasn't to thrilled to hear that. I went away to think about this latest snag in my plans to get home. As I was leaving the train station I saw 2 hotels. I was just locking up my bike to go in the Andy Hotel to ask about a room when the receptionist, a 50 ish year old man, came out and asked me if I was looking for a room. I said I was and he started helping take my bike inside a sort of alleyway to secure it. I stopped him and asked him how much it was for a single room. It was 35 E with b'fast, A/C and Wi-Fi. After securing my bike I checked in. The receptionist also spoke French. It's an OK 2-3 star hotel and not far from the train station. I took my bags up to my room on the 1st floor using the elevator. It was OK. I had to go back down to get the remote for the A/C. I rinsed out my Canada jersey cause I think I'm going to be needing it tomorrow. I lay down for a nap but was to worried about getting my bike on the train to get any sleep. I checked out the Wi-Fi and was able to get a connection in my room. I typed up Day 57 of my blog before going out for a walk. It was very windy. I passed by several fast food stands but it was to windy to sit out and eat and also to much traffic. I went into the train station mall and found a KFC and had dinner there. It was very busy. I went back to the International wicket and bought a 1st class ticket for Istanbul. New lady at the wicket sounded a bit more positive about getting my bike on the train, especially since I have a private sleeper. I still have to get it past the purser/conductor though. Oh and by the way the price turned out to actually be 331.10 LEI plus 260.08 LEI. I think it must be basic fare plus private sleeper. I used my VISA to pay. I wanted to get rid of some of my LEI but she wouldn't split the bill. It had to be one or the other. I returned to the hotel and had a beer in the bar before going up to my room. I got an e-mail, with photos, from the Dutch cycling couple I met in Austria. they cycled 1,600 kms from Holland to Vienna then took the train back home. Well I'm off to bed. It's going to be one hell of a long day tomorrow. The train leaves at 12:13 (afternoon) and arrives in Istanbul the following morning at 08:55. Approximately 21 hours of travel time.

This blog was posted at the Andy Hotel in Bucharest, Romania on Thursday, July 21, 2011

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