It is 5:30 Monday evening and we boarded our train a bit ago. Quite the Soviet era throwback. I can almost see the faces of the thousands who have traveled this rout for decades. Chisinau, Moldova – Bucharest, Romania and beyond. Our ride should take much of the night, about fourteen hours with stops. We’ll arrive in Burcahrest at 7 a.m. tomorrow.
In about two hours we will stop for an undercarriage change which should take just over an hour. In effort to control borders, tracks are narrower by about 5″ than in other European countries. Russia implemented narrower tracks to prevent invasion and unauthorized border crossings during the cold war. Only two places in the world does this change still happen, the Moldova/Romania border and the Russia/Mongolia border.
The room we’re in doesn’t leave much space for luggage. In fact, it’s a really good thing we purchased the fourth bed. Jim and Bill are already quite cozy on the lower bunks while I’m perched atop mine looking across at our luggage comfortably snuggled on the other top bunk.
I have chosen to forgo using the complimentary mattress toppers which I’ve stowed for safe keeping in the overhead compartment. From the looks of them, they may predate the train. I’m surrounded by wood and 1960’s wood grain plastic paneling. Certainly in it’s day this was quite the sight. I can imagine this old car has been remodeled at least once since she was built in the 40’s-50’s, but certainly hasn’t seen an upfit since the 80’s. The coal fired fireplace at the front of the car is cherry red as the attendant has it chocked full of coal and broken rail road ties. Space in the hallways, restroom and our cabin reflect the communist mindset – each one works and sacrifices for the good of all. The unforgettable image of the sickle and hammer which I’ve seen spray painted throughout Moldova this week comes to mind. (The country seems evenly divided between those who want to return to what once was and those who want to pursue true freedom.)
The drone of the engine, never ending clickety-clack of rails and the rocking of the train are a rare treat for me. Only once before have I had the pleasure of traveling by rail and that years ago from London to Edinburgh. I must say, this is a very different experience than that ride. The light scent of diesel fumes, burning creosote treated rail cross-ties, and cigarette smoke seasons the air in the cabin. As I open the hall window to lean out for fresh air, my mind is abuzz with wonder of what this leg of our adventure might hold. I am reminded of the beautiful sounds of the Russian language which we now leave behind. Moldova is blessed with people who speak a plethora of languages, but two are primary – Russian to the North, Romanian to the south.
Good night Moldova.