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Thursday, August 20, 2015

LIVE AND STAGGERING: ROMANIA TO POLAND

LIVE AND STAGGERING: ROMANIA TO POLAND

My host Sorin had gotten back in from partying and dancing the night away with his wife Diana (oh, the lives those without children live!) an hour before it was time for me to leave.  The original plan had been for him to take me to the train station, but he was partied out.  He called me a cab and went (staggered) downstairs to make sure I got it.  Don't get the wrong impression about Sorin and Diana - they are amazingly gracious hosts.  They are also very experienced at hosting having taken in over one hundred couch surfers.  The whole concept of having that many strangers in ones home (sometimes unsupervised) is baffling to fear fed Americans.  Again, turn off the news gang - it's not doing you any favors.  After working non-stop, constantly on call for a month I suspected it was just time to cut loose for them.  I got sleep instead.

At the deserted, mostly abandoned and under construction train station I bought a large bottle of water to keep me company on the journey.  As I walked toward the station, a couple guys in a car stopped to warn me that three guys had taken an unhealthy interest in me.  "Great.  I'm going to get stabbed and robbed before I can even wake up." I thought.   Even at my peak I couldn't take three - it was the odds the old USSR liked.  It was odd getting this warning because I hadn't sensed any malice in the area.  While I'm by no means infallible, I do have a pretty good nose for these things.  Nothing ended up coming of it but it is a hell of a way to wake up.


In retrospect, it was probably three gypsies.  Romanians dislike gypsies.  Not as much as police in the USA seem to dislike blacks but...

I hope Morgan Freeman never gets gunned down.  Who would explain over complicated movie plots to me?

Getting a seat with high visibility and starting a cigarette (possible weapon or distraction and I like to smoke) I blearily glared around me.  One of the ladies who works the ticket counter came out to tell me which train I needed and which specific cars to use.  They drop some of the cars off at different places.

Because that's not confusing at all.

The toilets within the train are disgusting.  I did see the cleaning lady making her rounds but it appeared she was only checking to see if the bathroom itself had been stolen rather than anything to do with cleaning.

I did try to take a pic but it did not come out.  Apparently, my camera even has limits of disgusting shots.  I did find this meme though.

On European trains, it is often fun to sit near the door and watch people try to figure it out.  Often it's something like 'push this button, wait for two seconds and the door opens'.  The first time they came to use the door they get a free pass.  Time to figure out the door.  After the third time of them getting unexpectedly caught in the door or needing to try to figure it out all over again you begin to get the feeling they may be retarded.

And they are so much fun to watch.


Aside from the dungeon like bathrooms (I've actually seen nicer dungeons) the train was fairly modern.  Like buses, they've been squishing the seats closer and closer together as people get fatter and fatter.  Wonder if it is some sort of 'press'.

A 'duck press' for those who don't know what it is.  Apparently, the rich like to squeeze the shit out of their fowl.


Indeed the train was climate controlled.  It was set to 'sweltering' and the first class cabins were even worse.

Once we crossed the border into Hungary, the formerly happy smoking area within the dining car became non-smoking.  Strange.

More importantly, for my trip, the train was inexplicably delayed for an hour.  I got to see some other foreigners go and complain to the driver.  They had clearly not traveled often.  Complaining does nothing.  According to my ticket, I had to travel back in time fifty minutes to make my connecting train.  Rather than speaking aggressively to the conductor, I politely inquired the next time he passed by about my lack of time machine problem.  By careful use of body language and his hands, he conveyed to me that it was not his fucking problem.

It turns out later that two other trains had a head on collision.  Twenty people or so were injured but nobody was killed.  I doubt the angry foreigner found out about this but they must have felt like an asshole.  Unless they were the 'look, I don't care if we have to drive the train over people' type.

Drive over all these people so I am not late!

Avoid Budapest train station ticket office.  If you need a ticket, buy it online.  Yes, this is the actual advice the only English speaker was giving the hoard of people trying to get in to the ticket office.  Rather than having lines inside and queuing like regular folk, they kept everyone outside and employed pushers to keep the people out of the ticket office.  Yes, I got pushed and pissed.

Fortunately, I found some nice volunteer (?) customer service teens who directed me to a different 'lineless' office.  They told me my ticket would still work on the next train.  Do I need a seat reservation?  Not at all.  If they tell you that you don't need a seat reservation, howl and scream till  you get one.  Really.

Otherwise, on the train you will probably need to change seats several times and may end up lurking in the aisles or connecting areas between the car like a troll whose bridge has been destroyed.

Fucking goats...

I was so out of it I needed to go back and ask the customer service guy four different questions - or the same one four different times.  I forget which.  My hands were shaking and I was covered in sweat.  And I stank.  Ah, the world of budget traveling.

I feel and smell homeless while en-route...

Since I was in this state, I completely forgot about the whole seat reservation thing.

After a few hours layover I was back on the train watching locals and tourists alike dislodging reservation-less people from their seats and feeling resentful.  By some miracle, I didn't have to move or lurk.  Possibly they thought I couldn't stand.

Generally, there was a lot of beer drinking (but no smoking) going on.  Several patrons got sprayed by a badly open beer can.  It was that kind of crowd.


One of the locals I spoke with told me the train station was not a good place to wait.  There were no chairs inside.  Apparently, homeless people had been using them to avoid freezing to death.  They took out all the chairs because, 'fuck the homeless'.  She advised the bus station.


Which turned out to be closed for several hours so I dug my sweater out of my backpack and put it on my sweaty body for the long wait.   The bus station in Bratislava is a major transportation hub.  Although buses are in and out of there 24/7, they close the building and businesses within for many hours daily.  Because, fuck tourists!


Some Polish night hitchhikers trying to get back home after going to some music festival joined me.  They had a bottle of wine but no way to open it.  They were impressed I carry a professional corkscrew.  Professional alcoholic!

And I blacked out for several hours.  When I awoke, it was daytime.  Of the hitchhikers, the two girls went to try their luck on the road, the guy got a ticket to Prague.  Afterward, he discovered there were no buses going from Prague back to Poland.  I advised him to start a new life in the Czech Republic.  He seemed less than enthusiastic with this option.

Since people in Europe don't watch CNN, they have no fears about hitchhiking.  Not everyone is interested in making your skin into a suit, apparently.

At least in Europe...

Eventually, Polski bus arrived.  This has the most uncomfortable small seats of any Western European bus I've ever been on.  Yes, it is cheap but your ass pays for it.

And that got me without incident to Poland where Pawel picked me up.

More in the next exciting edition!



TJ'S GUIDE TO LEVELS OF THINKING ABOUT MOVING OUT OF THE USA

Level 1 we have talked about it.
Level 2 we have also surfed the Internet looking at nice places to live.
Level 3 we have researched the legal requirements to move to another country.
Level 4 we have been saving money for a year exclusively for the cost of moving.
Level 5 we have our passports and both have applied to companies over seas to see what our chances of getting employment are.
Level 6 we have spent a few weeks living and traveling out side of the United States to see what life is like elsewhere and done all the previous items listed.

Do you agree with his levels?



WHY DO AMERICAN (US) RESTAURANTS SERVE FREE TAP WATER?

I had thought it was due to the laws of hospitality, crossing of the plains and such during the colonization, take over and destruction of the indigenous people.  I was wrong.  Again, the answer seems to have been religious wackjobs.  Check out this article here.



FEELING OLD YET?

Mad Max 2, The Road Warrior.


As of the writing of the blog, this guy is now forty three.  Holy crap.



STUPID SAYINGS

"You've got some big shoes to fill here."

Tired of people using that 'old chestnut' (a different subject entirely) on you?  Feel like smacking them in the face with a wet pimp stick?

Try these helpful comebacks instead!

>>> "You've got some big shoes to fill here." <<<

"Don't worry, I've brought my own."

"Not as big as the ones at Clown College!"

"Are you saying my predecessors' most memorable feature was his/her freakishly large feet?"

"There is a uniform that comes with this job?"

"So when someone leaves your company, they are stripped of their clothing, pushed out the door naked and the next person has to wear the same clothing?  Can I bring an extra set of clothing in case you are unsatisfied with my performance?"



BOOK REVIEW

D6 Caverns and Creatures by Robert Bevan

A collection of short stories.  See previous blog for his other book.  I found this one to be even better than the first book.  The characters are really hitting their stride.  Some very funny parts.

7/10



COSTS

Taxi ride from train station to main bus station in Bratislava at night, 15 EUR
Using the toilet in the bus station, Bratislava, .25 EUR
Small sandwich and juice, 3 EUR

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan | Portugal: Faro

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