Simon and I started the day late. I wandered out to learn that supermarkets close on Sundays in Austria (all four near Simon’s place), and to use the nearby “free” wi-fi. After breakfast in Simon’s garden, we visited the permanent fair located in central Vienna. Just like being at the State Fair back home – with less crowd.
A quick stroll down the Danu, and back to the Metro/train station for my train to the airport. Missing the train we’d planned on by a couple of minutes (but the train runs every thirty minutes), Simon bid me adeiu after some advice for the airport stop. As I now had a few minutes, I stopped in the supermarket in the tram station to pick up fruit and snacks for the trip.
Look at this line. There’s no way I’m getting through this line before the train. Fine, I’ll just put things back.
Finding the train with no issue, I boarded for the airport.
Is this my stop? No, Simon said the stop would be after daylight and a tunnel. Is this my stop? Nope. Not this one. Not this one. Flughaven. That’s it.
There’s McDonalds in the station. I’ve got time before the flight, so I pick up something to eat.
Wow, this is a big airport. I need to check in. No luggage. Good this terminal is for my airline.
The automated sign in kiosk wouldn’t recognize my credit card. Or passport.
Where’s that email with the flight information? Did I remember to download it to be off-line?
Entering the flight information printed out the boarding pass for the outgoing and return flight. The terminal also warns about lithium batteries.
Darn it, I brought the battery for the phone. Euro airlines are more relaxed, but if they won’t let the battery on the plane I’ll have to throw it out. I’ll find somewhere to hide it.
I wander about a bit, trying to find somewhere I can leave it. Outside there’s a parking area, with those large concrete barriers. I sit there and finish my lunch, and covertly place the battery in the gap underneath one.
Hope no one thinks I’m a terrorist placing a bomb. That won’t go well.
Back inside, I quickly go through Passport Control and head for my gate. “Rick Stevens, please report to Information. Rick Stevens, please go the the nearest Information”. From years of experience, that’s almost certainly me.
Uh oh. The battery? No, they wouldn’t know my name. Now where’s Information, I haven’t see one in a while. Well, I’m close to my gate, I’ll just ask there.
Oh that’s interesting. Each gate has its own screening point.
When I get to my gate, I show them my boarding pass, and tell them I was paged. The flight attendant looks at my boarding pass, and tells me for ticket issues I have to go back to the ticket desk.
Once I had several flight delays in Amsterdam, with the stores and restaurants and anything else interesting on one side of Customs, and my flight gate, of course, on the other side of Customs. I’m not sure how many times I wandered back and forth through Customs while I waited for that flight, but by the time I flew out the Customs guys would just wave me through.
Back through Customs to find an Information point. In this case, I’m now in the Returning Flight path, down to Luggage Claim for Information. I report in, and after untangling the confusion about my name, find that in the back and forth for the Boarding Pass, I dropped (one of) my credit card.
Ok, plenty of time still. And I still have 3 other cards.
I work my way back out of the airport, and then back into the airport. Finding Information near where I was before, I reclaim my card, go back through Customs, and back to my gate.
Really strange, there’s no seating or waiting area.
Boarding is uneventful, until I find my seat occupied. Someone misread her ticket, but we just swap spots, and I drop into my new seat.
If we crash, I hope Marnie gets the right parts back.
A short flight, I remember to reset my clocks. While I now have no spare battery for the phone, my e-book reader doesn’t use much power, so I read through most of the flight. Landing slightly delayed, plus the usual delay at Customs, I arrive in Bucharest.
Ok, I just need to get there before tomorrow at 8. Unlikely I can make the 9:10 pm train, but worst case there’s the overnight train at 11:30 pm. Maybe I’ll just rent a car. Car rental was cheap in Bulgaria. $120 Euro + gas. Nope. The bus that will take me directly from the airport to the Bucharest train station just left, next one 40 minutes. Ok, I can still take a bus to City Center, and then switch to the Metro to the train station. I’ve got to get that train by 11:30 pm.
I purchase a bus ticket to City Center, and board the available bus.
Is this my stop? No. Ok, there’s a display that looks like a GPS. I can use that. Is this my stop, someone’s getting off. No. Wait, it looks like everyone’s getting off.
I ask the driver if this is Centru, and he says, “yes yes” and waves me off. I disembark, and the bus drives away.
Wait, I was expecting this to be the main bus station or something. I’m just in the center of town somewhere. How do I get to the train station from here. Where’s there Metro? I don’t see a Metro sign. Hmm wait I don’t know what a Metro sign looks like in Romania. There are buses gathered over there. Nothing that looks like a Metro. Maybe the GPS…
Tinkering with the GPS app on my phone provides an option to display all of the Metro stops. One 100 m away, I head down. It’s getting late, but someone manning the ticket booth sells me a ticket and says, “Down and left, down and left” in response to my query about the train station. There’s a train there, and I board.
Great, now how do I know which Metro stop is the train station. Or how to change to the train station. Oh good a metro map. Wait, it looks like there are two separate stops for the train station, and this line splits before then.
Is this my stop?
Why do they keep announcing the train station over and over. The sign doesn’t look like it’s saying the next stop is the train station. We’re at the split, maybe they’re telling me to change trains!
I leap off the Metro as the doors close. Having more time, and a better map display, and the overhead schedule, I decide there are two different trains that stop here, and figure out the next one artives in less than 10 minutes. Fine. I board and disembark at the train station stop. Emerging from the Metro, I recognize the train station across the way from my last time in Bucharest, and proceed to the ticket office. I ask for a ticket to Brasov, and am told there’s not a train to Brasov tonight. I show her my screen capture of the 11:30 pm train (I made screen captures of most of the information in case I didn’t have cell service). She shows me the computer display, and says the next train is at 5:50 am, arriving 8:30 am.
8:30 am means I won’t get to the post office before 9 am. Not a lot of time to lose!
Not willing to risk not being able to be on that train, I purchase the available ticket, and head outside to research the issue on my phone, hoping the cell service still works from the SIMM from when I was in Romania. I dig further into the schedule, and head back to the ticket office. I show her the schedule on my phone, where the train goes to Ploesti at 11:30 pm, and then (with a four hour layover) I change trains to arrive in Brasov at 7:15 am. Fairly sure she thought I was crazy, but she exchanged my ticket (and about $5 cheaper).
Finally, all set. And I’ve got a while since the train isn’t until 11:30 so I can go get something to eat. Hmm, wait, the ticket says 11:00. 11! That’s 10 minutes from now!
I rush over to the train platform, and, unsure of which platform is the desired train, I ask one of the staff, who waves me off.
I think that’s the same person that waved me off in the train station the last time I tried this. Ok, we can solve this. I’ll just check each platform for the train number on the ticket. Ok, there it is. No train on the platform. Perhaps I’ll recheck the sign. That looks right. There’s a main board here somewhere. Ok, that’s right too. Still no train on the platform. Ok, I’ll wait.
The train pulls in, and I get on the correct car, and find my way to my compartment and seat.
Why is it dark still? Great, the light is out in this compartment. Or maybe the light is out for a overnight train? Other compartments are dark, but not all of them. Is there a switch? Nope.
An older gentleman joins me in my car. Peering about, he asks me, presumably, about the excessive darkness. He doesn’t speak English, and my Romanian being somewhat lacking, the exchange is confusing, but we get there. He asked where I’m going, and I manage to convey that I’m headed to Brasov via Ploesti. He settles in for a nap. The train heads out.
Is this my stop?
I pull out my phone/GPS and monitor our progress aware that my battery life is limited, I have no way to recharge, and the phone is likely to play a critical part in the upcoming expedition. He notices what I’m doing, and tells me, “Not Ploesti”, and then keeps me updated until finally he tells me the stop is coming up.
Well this isn’t a very big station. No food here. No people here. Definitely Ploesti. Sign indicates train to Brasov 4:40 am, on Track 3. Good. No outlets for power here. This is going to be boring. Four hours in this station? And I’ve got to stay awake.
Outside the station, there’s a major street, with no traffic at midnight, leading … away. Looks like city parks on both sides, and a sign indicating “Centrum” down that main street. I know I’m at the Ploesti South station (both from using the GPS earlier, and the fact that the station is Ploesti Sud).
Nothing else to do, might as well walk into town. Maybe something will be open and I can find something to eat. As long as I stay on this street, I can’t get lost, and I have almost 5 hours.
I leave the station, and head into town. The walk to City Center is about 1 km, most of the walk along the edge of city park. I can still see folks wandering through the parks or sitting on park benches.
Ok, not completely alone. A but less likely to get mugged that way.
All the way into city Center I searched for food. I passed on a kebab/doner place on the way in, but I’ve been avoiding those since the food poisoning in Sunny Beach. Ploesti at night.
Might as well keep walking, nothing else to do.
On the far northern edge of town, I find a McDonalds. The apparent social hub of town, still open, I eat the first food I’ve had since about 3 pm, and head back to the station.
Is that a zombie? It’s dark but it looks like a zombie. I’m in Romania. Wait, that’s vampires. Ok, maybe just some drunk guy.
Back at the station not completely deserted by 2 am, with nothing to do. I didn’t want to use the phone, not knowing how much power I’d need to resolve everything. I didn’t want to sit still, fall asleep, and miss my train.
Hmm, surely there’s a power outlet here somewhere. Nope. Behind the ticket machine? Nope. Behind the .. AHA!
Behind the ATM machine I find a power outlet. Checking carefully to ensure I am unobserved, I connect the phone and position the phone and cable so to the casual eye it should be non-obvious, and kept wandering about, keeping an eye on my phone.
Is he moving towards the phone? What about? Nope. I hope the phone’s charging. I shouldn’t check how much charge and draw attention to it.
I counted off the minutes the phone had been charging, until the train should arrive. Inside the station the temperature considerably higher than outside, I regularly move to outside and then back in to check on the phone. Another at the station, moving about like me, I’m sure thought I was stalking him, as each time he would move where I couldn’t see him and the phone I too would move. I finally engaged him in conversation, and we discussed why we were both at a train station at 4 in the morning. A 400-meter dash runner running returning from the National Championships; no way I could have caught him even if he did grab my phone! He talked about visiting the US, and I gave him my email address.
As the time approached, I moved to the platform, and at 4:40 am I board the train to Brasov.