Sunday, 19 May 2013


The sun is shining here, and indeed it's rather too hot for sight-seeing; so after a mini-wander around (an an excellent lunch), I'm sitting in the cool lobby of Hotel Casa Wagner, in Brasov's main square, away from the Whitsunday crowds, with an equally cool beer to hand. In other words, it's a good life!

My train journey came to an end this morning at 10ish, just under 48 hours after leaving Cheltenham. The best part was the last: I had my 3-person sleeper from Budapest on the Ister Express all to myself, and awoke to see hills peeping out of the mist and the sun slanting across the landscape from left to right, rather than from right to left as last evening.

The train was not, thankfully, in a hurry, so I was able to enjoy the very attractive and varied landscape - fields much divided up, sheep (with shepherds), hay stooks, woodlands with banks of false acacia trees in bloom, lakes and rivers, birdlife (plentiful), and even a couple of horse-drawn carts. They obviously haven't all gone for lasagna.

In the villages, each house with its steeply-raked roof, there was not a lawn to be seen: gardens are intensively cultivated with vegetables - all of course far ahead of ours at home.

The final run into Brasov was across flatter territory, snowy mountains being now the backdrop, a reminder of Brasov's strategic importance in old times. I received an uninvited (but rather welcome) history lesson from a certain Peter, who was unashamedly out to earn a little money: he approached me with a distinctive brand of English (Orwell is his favourite writer) as I stood taking a photograph of three trumpeters in costume high up on the platform of the city centre tower (they perform at 12 each day as a reminder of the role of the human fire alarms of former days, Peter told me). Vlad the Impaler was, he assured me, a goody: having read a full and very gory description of his methods in my Rough Guide, I remain unconvinced.

I really do recommend coming by train if you are thinking of Romania for a holiday. I had a delicious dinner in Paris - at Brasserie Flo, the station restaurant: in Munich, I arrived off the Cassiopeia in time for breakfast near the Marienplatz; and in Budapest I ate well at the recommended Rosenstein. Both German and Hungarian sleeping cars were more than adequate, though, going for a shower this morning, I found it in full use as a broom cupboard. And loo paper is BYO.

Switching between French, German, Hungarian and Romanian may sound interesting, but - though this feels like a contradiction in terms - English is the lingua franca.

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