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Where I stayed
Firstly, I had been told that the train left at 10pm and got into Bucharest at about 7. Stupidly I thought this was 7am......no it was 7 pm. And I had decided to stay at Brasov not bucharest which turned out to be another 3 hours ( not the half hour I had thought). So we had a long day of travel ahead.
We had last drinks on the terrace at Istanbul and sadly said goodbye to a pod of dolphins. We had enjoyed our time there and it felt like 'home'. We found out that the train - the Bosphor express ( the biggest misnomer ever!)- started as a bus trip to the Bulgarian border. Two hours later we arrived at a seedy outpost surrounded by container trucks. At this stage I retrieved my pack from under the bus to find that somehow water had got onto the storage section. My pack was on the bottom and was now wet through. Many of my clothes inside were soaked ( I was not to know how many until much later. We waited in line and had our passports stamped. We then got to our carriages. Of course, Ashley and I had taken the cheapest option and booked a room with 6 beds. It was crap, far below the standards on Chinese trains. With 6 people in the compartment it would be akin to Changi.....you all slept or you all sat up.
Fortunately the conductor, a nice Turkish man, realized that the train was largely empty and moved people. In the end Ashley and I had our own room with a choice of 6 beds.
It was now 1am so I wanted to sleep. We now found out that our train would sit for the next two hours waiting for a connection. I fell asleep.
At about 4:30am we were woken by a uniformed person yelling 'Passport, Passport'. We sleepily gave him our passports and he disappeared. Great we had handed over our passports and hadn't the faintest idea who this person was or where we were. It took about 30 min before our passports were finally returned. during this time we had another guard demand 'ticket, ticket '. We showed him our ticket and we got into an argument about not buying the right ticket. I finally remembered that we had the eurail pass which now kicked in (since Turkey is not in EU we had to buy a ticket but only as far as the border). The confusion was cleared up and he signed our ticket. This became important later.
The whole ordeal was unsettling and from then on Ashley did not sleep.
I went back to sleep but at about 9am another guard demanded 'Ticket, Ticket'. This time he refused to accept that our ticket was valid. No, no stamp, not valid. He took the ticket down to corridor to consult with some other men who were playing cards in a carriage. The guy next to us indicated for me to come over. 'he's just looking for a bribe' he said. I suppose if you grow up in east Germany you learn to recognize such things. I got a little heated and kept repeating 'no problem. Is valid'. While he consulted some sort of book, I took the ticket from him. 'I hold'. Our nice Turkish guard was now involved and Ashley and I went back to the cabin. I was very glad that our guard was there to protect us. All these guys were Bulgarian officials. Apparently corruption is rife in Bulgaria. Our friend from next door said he had seen police driving latest model Porsches which they had 'confiscated'. It was all unsettling.
During the journey there were at least two occasions when the train stayed at a station for an hour or more waiting for a connection. We couldn't buy any food because the did not take euro and we had no Turkish liars left.
Finally at about 8pm we arrived at Bucharest. Now we had to buy ticket to Brasov and find out where it was. We got our eurail pass stamped and authorized and got our reservation on the train to leave at 8:40pm. Ashley changed some euros into Romanian new lei and we had a McDonald's meal. We then waited, and waited. In the end our train was delayed by one hour. We reached Brasov and caught a taxi - a rare luxury. We finally reached our hostel at 1:30am - 27.5 hours after leaving Istanbul.
Our hostel host had tried to call us -actually rang Australia - and had given our room to someone else. We were in an 8 bed dorm with three other guys. This turned out to be a blessing as it was close to the bathroom. I showered and went to bed.
At 5:30am I woke with a full blown migraine, brought on by stress and dehydration (we had not been able to buy water). I then spent the next 4 hours throwing up every half hour. I took 6 dolased in the first hour and then two more an hour later. I managed to keep an anti nausea tablet down about 9am and spent the rest of the day in bed. I felt depressed and wondered if I could continue. I just wanted to catch a plane home.
At about 3 pm I staggered to my feet and walked the 200m to the little corner store. I made a chicken and veggie soup -all I could face -while Ashley cooked up a chicken, capsicum tomato sauce to go over pasta for the next night's dinner. At 8pm I took two more dolased and collapsed back into bed.
And that was how I spent my birthday.