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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  

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November 7. SUCEAVA - CLUJ NAPOCA  Our train didn't leave early so we were able to sleep in, get our things together, and grab some breakfast at a pastry chain next to McDonalds before we had to catch the bus to the train station.  It wasn't very difficult to buy our tickets to Cluj Napoca but we were surprised to receive three small card board tickets for our journey.  The little old ticket lady punched each of them before handing them over.  They were each a different color and think one was for the basic fare, the other for an express train, and the last one for the first class seat but it never became very clear.  

The dogs at the station were out in force and I was wanting to pick half of them up and take them with us.  There was one little black one that couldn't have been more than weeks old that was already out fending for itself.  It stumbled around on its still too big feet looking for targets.  When it caught a friendly eye it would sit down patiently with its tail wagging brightly until a piece of bread or a biscuit would emerge from a bag.  The Romanians always seemed to have a little bite of something in their purse or bag.  It was cold so she retired to sit under a bench along the wall to keep warm.  If I had been home that little dog would have been mine.

Our train was older this time but nice enough and we had pleasant cabin mates - a young couple and a single older man in a uniform.  The couple got off part way through the trip so just the three of us had a six seat cabin to ourselves.  The man with us didn't speak any English but made sure we understood how the seats worked so we could make ourselves comfortable.  The bottom cushions on either side pulled forward so you could lean back and if you pulled both sides together you nearly had a bed.  The heat was cranked up so we had a warm and cozy ride.  

The scenery was beautiful as the train wound its way through the Carpathian Mountains.  The countryside was absolutely spectacular with tiny villages of decorated cottages tucked into the fall colored mountains.   Snow became more abundant and one of the last stops we made before the sun set was at a ski resort, where many people got off of the train.  Unfortunately our views ran out when the sun went down and we still had several hours until we reached Cluj.  We didn't plan well for food and the train never made a stop long enough to get off and grab something so we started to get hungry.  Our cabin mate picked up on this as he saw us scouring the platforms at each station for a food cart and generously opened his bag to share his bread and meat with us.  It was all home cooked fare and he even had large soda bottles of fresh whole farm milk. When we were done he also showed us how to throw trash out of the window but we didn't follow suit on that one.  We didn't have much to offer in return so Rob handed him one of his bills from Mongolia.  He looked at it curiously and gave a nod before putting it in his wallet.      

The vendors and beggars didn't bother us much on this train ride. They walked by and peered through the door but never tried to come inside.  Our cabin mate watched them with a careful eye and indicated that they wouldn't come in while he was there. There was some consolation in that since there were stories of people getting hassled on trains and it was getting late. He was wearing some sort of uniform so we suspected he worked for the railway company but as the train pulled into Cluj at 9:20 he pulled his jacket and hat down from the luggage rack and we saw that his shoulder patch read "Police" in Romanian.  No wonder nobody bothered our compartment!  He shook his head as we put on our large backpacks and then kissed my hand goodbye as we got off of the train. 

The only hotel option near the station was grim but we thought it was too late to venture into town, especially since we were moving directly on Sighisoara the next morning.  When we went to check in the woman at the front desk said she just had one room left but another would be ready shortly.  We asked to see the available room which was up on the second floor at the very back.  It was in the un-refurbished part of the hotel so we asked to see the other room.  She said that it wasn't ready but we told her that we just wanted to see it for a comparison.  She became a bit flustered and asked us to wait a minute.  She ducked into the room and came out again to waive us over.  There hadn't been time for her to make the beds but they were in tact and the room was freshly smoky.  It had seemed a bit odd that a room would need to be made up at 9:30 at night and then I recalled a young couple that was leaving just as we came into the hotel.  Then it all started to come together.   They had only made a short term rental of the room and then had a smoke.  Well, we didn't want a smoky room or beds that had been "used" so we stayed with the older room.   At least it had satellite TV anyway.

There was little in terms real food available around the station except for a mini market and kebab place.  We were ready to head into downtown when we learned that the buses were just about finished for the day.  We didn't want to deal with taking a taxi back so we gave up on that plan and just had kebab sandwiches and bought some soda and breakfast stuff at the mini market.  It was a shame since Cluj was meant to have a nice old town center but we were more eager to move on to Sighisoara and spend more time there.  Down the hall from our room we met a couple of Australian girls that were also headed for Sighisoara the next day and told us the first train left before dawn and the next at mid morning.  It was a short ride to Sighisoara so we planned to take the later train.  

SLOVENIA Ljubljana Oct 7-8 Piran Oct 9-12

CROATIA Istra Peninsula Oct 13 Split Oct 14-15 Hvar Oct 16-18 Korcula Oct 19 Dubrovnik Oct 20-29


BOSNIA Sarajevo Oct 30 Oct 30 Nov 1

SERBIA Belgrade Nov 2-3

ROMANIA Bucharest Nov 4 Suceava Nov 5 Nov 6 Cluj Napoca Nov 7 Sighisoara Nov 8-9 Brasov Nov 10 Nov 11

BULGARIA Sofia Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14

MACEDONIA Lake Ohrid Nov 15 Nov 16-17

KOSOVO Prishtine Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21

GREECE Thessaloniki Nov 22 Athens Nov 23 Nov 24