Our day started at 6 AM, as we got ready to hop on the 7 AM train into Bucharest. Our ultimate destination being Varna, on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, we were bracing ourselves for a long travel day. It seems that even though Varna is quite the popular destination, it’s not an easy one to get to. In the plans to get there were: a 7 hour train ride, a 5+ hour stop-over in Bucharest, a 3 hour train ride, a 5 hour wait (in the middle of the night, no less) at a train station in Russe, Bulgaria and finally, a 6 hour train ride. In all, it would be just shy of 24 hours of travel, with no sleeper cars and no hostel bed. This was going to be a long one.
The first train ride was lovely, taking us back into Bucharest the way we came in from. While the day started with blue skies, soon enough we caught up with yesterday’s weather. As we crept higher in altitude in the mountains, the rain transformed into snow. At first it was just snow on the trees on the mountain, but soon it was snow everywhere. It was pretty, fluffy stuff and when it started to snow heavily it was those large snowflakes that take forever to fall down. It made for beautiful, moody scenery, but it was odd to see it in May. I was sure glad to be in the comfort of our warm wagon.
As soon as we arrived in Bucharest we set out to book our ongoing ticket into Varna. Booking the ticket was easy, but understanding it was not. We had first class tickets for the first part of the trek, and 2nd class tickets for the remaining. In first class we had assigned seats, but our 2nd class tickets had no seat, no date and no train time. Eventually we realized that this played in our favour: having an open-ticket meant that we could stop in Ruse for the night and catch the train the next day in the afternoon instead.
With this new plan hatched, we happily headed into Bucharest for lunch. We ended up at Caru Cu Bere, a traditional restaurant that seemed pretty touristic but was packed with locals. There were violinists playing and opera singing and beer-tastic murals inside the really old building. The food was also quite good, even though in the end we didn’t really order the right thing. It was a fantastic place to spend our last hours in Romania at.
Our train ride was pretty straightforward into Bulgaria. We got off the train in Ruse after our passport check and headed into the city. It was 11 PM, and the streets were deserted. It was a bit strange but also nice, and it never felt unsafe. The city felt like a mix of Moldova and the former USSR countries, with wide avenues and Soviet blocks. It wasn’t really ugly nor pretty, it mostly just was. The central square though had nicer, older buildings but not really enough to warrant the city the status of having a quaint old town.
We arrived at our hostel just past midnight, and happily opted for a private room. After so many days of staying in shared dorm rooms, it was nice to have a quiet, snore-free night of sleep.
The plan this morning was to walk around town to check out the few old buildings and the famous, historical Danube River. The comfort of our room and of our heater, along with the fastest internet ever, won us over and we got lazy. We stayed in bed, slowly working on our computers while the lady running the hostel generously offered that we stay until our train.
In the end, today was a first: a quick sightseeing session was done with our backpacks on. It was strange and cumbersome to take pictures this was, but I had really needed our morning break.
What I miss from Romania thus far:
– Fresh from the oven, hot pretzels everywhere.
– The fancy trains that don’t shake.
– The easy to read and pronounce language. We are back into the land of Cyrillic: in fact, Bulgarians invented the language, and it was the Russians who borrowed it.