Cluj, Romania

Getting on a train at 6am is about as enjoyable as getting hit by a train at 10am. We made it on time* and had cash money to blow on the buffet cart as soon as either of us could stomach some hot food. 

*I want to interject here to mention the nail-biting ten minutes during which I was on the train and Dave went to get cash out. Considering we had been more than a little confused as to which platform our train was on, and exactly what time it would be leaving, I thought it was a bit of a risk when Dave ran off to get cash. Granted, we needed it, but he was gone for ages, my phone wasn't working, I couldn't communicate with anyone and at one point the conductor walked along the train, closing all of the doors! I honestly thought the train was going to leave before he got back and I was fully prepared to leap off at the last second! With hindsight my level of anxiety was definitely OTT but at the time I really did feel panicked.

We would be on the train for 13 hours and actually ended up with six seat cabin to ourselves for the entire journey. Not bad for £15 each. Which reminds me... We learnt something about the British rail system on this trip. The privatisation of British rail is heralded across Europe as a shining example of when privatisation goes wrong. And this isn't surprising, when you consider that it costs more than £15 to get from Maidenhead to London, a 20-40 min journey that's 350km shorter than Budapest to Cluj, Romania.

Anyway, the train journey was delightful, we saw lots of farmland and small villages and were treated to a few beautiful views. It wasn't the best train we have ever taken (thanks Sri Lanka!) but it was enjoyable. One aspect of this journey did surprise us though, and it was the aforementioned food from the buffet cart. I ended up having a bit of banter with the lady running the kitchen and she cooked us a great meal of chicken and veg. It may not sound too special but with the accompanying beer, it was surprisingly tasty and it was great to have some vegetables, having not seen many on the menus so far. Eastern Europe seems to value potato above all other vegetables. 

We eventually arrived in Cluj, Romania, and made our way to the hostel we were staying in. It was superbly located in between the two main squares and had a good vibe. As was a theme on this trip, we didn't have too much time to explore the town but we did see enough to know there was a lot going on at night, with an abundance of bars, clubs, etc. It didn't have the beauty of some of the other towns we would later explore in Romania, but the squares were pleasant. I love a good war statue. Terrifying, but magnificent.

We visited the botanical gardens, as we are massive fans of such things. The downside of being fans, however, is that we have seen some incredible gardens (Rio, especially) and are thus somewhat spoilt, meaning we can feel a bit disappointed by them if we don't see something really distinctive, like a toucan. Anyway, it was a lovely way to spend half a day, even with no toucan sightings. This may have been due to the fact that there aren't any toucans in Romania. Saying that, I don't think we'd ever seen pine cones so early in development before, so that was something.

We also went up a large hill and got a nice panoramic of the city, accompanied by a delicious drink. On the subject of pine cones actually, we played a fun game of kicking fallen pine cones down the steps to see whose would go farthest. Katie actually beat me at this, which was the biggest surprise of the holiday. 

After two nights in Cluj we picked up the rental car and continued our journey on Romanian roads. We had a delightful couple of days in Cluj to get our trip around Romania started. But the adventure had only just begun and there's much more to come so stay tuned!

The fields we saw from the train window were full of these hay stacks.
Beautiful Cluj