Yolda / Onderweg / En route

Night train 1: Bucharest – Budapest

At 10h I’m standing at the hotel reception. “Would it be possible to rehearse somewhere?” After insisting we could use the conference hall of the hotel: the word combination European project and famous musicians performs miracles. Paolo accompanies us today as well. He apparently feels a bit like a patron during our stay here.

Around 1h hunger starts to strike. Paolo proposes to go to a Sunday market closeby: local food, palinka and a market with local specialties. We end up in some kind of cultural centre / museum where residents from the neighborhood run into each other and socialize over some food. No palinka today unfortunately. It’s election day in Romania and selling alcohol is officially not allowed then.

It’s Mathijs’s birthday, he turned 24, and after dinner he treats us with cake and coffee. “A treat?”, Meriç responds surprised. “In Turkey it’s common that the others pay for you.” Meanwhile the rest of the group lets him subtly know that it will only go downhill from here.

Leaving Bucharest is complicated

Leaving Bucharest is complicated

We return to the hotel to pick up our luggage. From then on, the trip to the night train just got a little bit more complicated than we first expected. The taxis do not show up and when they do the drivers whine and try to charge too much again… Only 10 minutes before the departure of the train we reach the platform. Therefore our provisions mainly consisted of quick decisions and impulsive purchases.

Making music on a kemençe case

Making music on a kemençe case

Finally, on the night train we gather in one of the small compartments for what must have been the best beer of the trip. Everyone comes to rest. The tone of the evening is immediately set. The bottle of plum liqueur is quickly empty. At the request of Mathijs, Mehmet and Mattias take their instruments with them. It’s amazing how many Turkish songs Mattias strikes off. Mehmet and Meriç also know these songs. Smuggling a harp to the cabin is not a good idea. But playing percussion on the kemençe case is.

Later in the evening Mathijs, Dirk and I even go to the ‘restaurant’. A surreal experience. A brief description: in the kitchen a ‘Carnivale’-type is preparing food in the dirtiest pan that I have seen in my life. While ordering we are all stared at by the other attendees. We take place in the space where the train staff (all men over 40) spends their time. Discussions about – probably – politics are very animated. In the background heavy dubstep à la Skrillex is playing.

It’s 1h30 and time to go to sleep. Beforehand it was difficult to imagine how sleeping on this night train would be like. You can compare it to falling asleep on the back seat of a moving car. A blissful feeling and a true recommendation.

The rest of the night I go into a sleeping daze. Occasionally I wake up by the slowing down close to a stop.

5h15: passport control when leaving Romania. Everyone is awakened in the train.
5h30: effective passport control, we were already asleep.
5h45: train moves on.
6h15: passport control when entering Hungary. Everyone is awakened in the train again.
6h20: effective passport control, once again we fell asleep.
9h00: we arrive in Budapest. A totally different city than Bucharest, unfortunately the tricks of the taxi drivers remain the same …

Text written by Jasper Persoons, production assistant at Handelsbeurs Concertzaal