A chronicle of Alison and Ron's trip around the world in 2009-2010.

"Not all those who wander are lost"
- Tolkien

Monday, July 27, 2009

30 hour train through Serbia

We boarded the train just before noon. It was supposed to be a 17 hour ride arriving at 5am the next morning in Budapest. Famous last words, Gilligan. The train wasn’t full so we ended up having a 3 bunk room all to ourselves and high fived in our triumph. What luck!

We had dinner and watched a movie on our laptop (our new favorite pasttime when we have battery power) and caught an amazing sunset. All was going as scheduled.

We realized something was wrong around midnight. We seemed to have gone through Belgrade but we were going backwards now. And then suddenly the worst thing happened, we stopped. The hours pass, and still no movement. I peek out a crack in the window and we are surrounded on all sides by dark empty trains. One train is being hosed down by a creepy guy in overalls. A single lamp overhead casts long angular shadows in all directions.

Why aren’t we going anywhere? A Dutch kid named Simon in the next car sticks his head out the window, "we missed the connecting train to Budapest, they left us here.” Left us?! How can that happen? And more importantly is anyone coming to get us? I suddenly feel a little anxiety. I’m in a dark, desolate train parking lot (or more like graveyard) in the middle of...Serbia. Dun duh dunnnnnn.

At some point we sleep because there isn’t much else to do. The train has stopped so there is no breeze to quell the suffocating heat. The window is down. The mosquitoes are out in swarms.

We wake up around 8am in the exact same spot. A few hours later and we finally move but dreadfully slowly. And a couple hours into the ride we start going....backwards! Talk about two steps forward, one step back.

We were extremely fortunate to have loaded up on food supplies: chicken gyros, cheese pastries, crackers, nuts, and bananas but we ate nearly everything the night before and were hungry by hour number 24 and counting. At least Ron had filtered several liters of water so we weren’t dehydrated. To pass the time we alternated between reading, napping, playing backgammon, and praying we were headed in the right direction.

I got a lot of use out of my freshette, which is a little pink doohickey that let‘s women pee standing up. The invention of the century. Necessary to avoid all the bathroom pitfalls, unsanitary ills, and general nastiness of having to use a unisex toilet. Why are all guys such pigs? I mean seriously, do you have to pee all over the toilet seat and floor like a cave man? If you are saying to yourself, “Hey! I’m not a pig” then do explain why there is pee all over 9 out of 10 toilet seats only in the bathrooms where we have to share. It can’t be the same guy running around giving you a bad rap. Even if its just half of you, I’m appalled at your bad manners. And another thing, after you pee all over the seat, try washing your grubby hands every once in a while. There are no towels in that bathroom so unless you're licking your hands dry you aren't even washing up!

On a more pleasant note...sometime during the day a bright spot appeared on the horizon, an electric yellow field of sunflowers as far as you could see. Obviously we couldn't get a shot like the one below from a speeding train but this is almost exactly what it looked like. Sunflowers are such a happy flower with their smiling faces craned up towards the sky. You can’t feel anything but good about life looking at them. Next time you are down in the dumps, get yourself a sunflower and stare at it for 15 minutes. (For added fun, try not to blink) Problems solved. Nature’s secret flower therapist to the rescue.

We arrived into the Kereli station in Budapest a little before 6pm. Smelly. Hungry. Exhausted after 30 hours of train travel.


Eben August 12, 2009 at 1:51 AM  

have you guys seen 'Transiberia'? an eastern europe train ride gone wrong wrong wrong... Glad you didn't find yourselves running from ben kingsley.

Alison August 12, 2009 at 10:23 PM  

no we haven't but we'll put it in the queue! it was a long ride but not exactly a harrowing experience...

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