Wednesday, December 17, 2008


I got to Budapest as organised for about 19:30 their time, only to be told the trains were all off as a strict had been called at 3pm that day.
Small problem - how was I supposed to get 600 odd kilometers down to Sighisoara?
Fortunately I had spotted a Romanian tour company and asked if they had a spare seat. Not one. The guide did point out several other coach operators who were hanging about so I started going round them. I finally found one going to Satu Mare which is just inside the Romanian Border and would take me there for Eur 25. I texted Alin to tell him and said I would catch a train in the morning from Satu Mare, and immediately got a call.
" No Sir Mr. King, I am coming right now to pick you up!
"But Alin, its a six hour drive.!
"No no, those Hungarians Bandits they will attack you."
"Actually its a Romanian minibus"
" You see?"
I wasn't quite sure what this meant but assured him I would meet him at the Railway station.
The bus was full, so the driver was making a good profit on the night. The roads to the border are almost entirely motorway - all that money the Hungarians borrowed has been spent on infrastructure - and we were within 50 kms of the border within 3 hours. We stopped at a service station and grabbed some food, then we were off, whisked through in moments instead of the hour or so the train border police take, and by 2am Romanian time I was texting Alin to say I was in the waiting room at Satu Mare.
It held the usual bunch of overnight people, but after half an hour or so a new group came in of elderly men, clutching what was clearly violin cases.
I've told you before how fascinated I am with the overnight travels that people undertake, and so I went up and asked them where they were going.
They were Hungarian and had been to the wedding of a Hungarian couple at Targu Mures. Now they were trying to get home and there were no trains.
" Play something for me and I will arrange to get you home."
They looked at me in astonishment. After a bit of chat between themselves ( which I guess amounted to "What's to lose?" they took out their instruments and began to play.
The music was the saccharine Tzigane music we associate with Hungary, flashing mustaches and swarthy Gypsies. With a few minutes all the taxi drivers from outside had come in to listen, as well as everyone else hanging about in the vicinity.
I took a hat and gathered some money for them.
They finished and there was a huge round of applause, and much bowing and twirling of hands.
"So how will you get us home?"
I had kept the card from the minibus, and phoned him. I told the driver there were 8 people wanting to get home to Hungary and within ten minutes he was back, collected them and took the money that had been gathered.
Alin turned up a bit later and we got to Sighisoara at the time the train would have got us there - even if both of us were somewhat more tired than usual.
But I at least was uplifted by the music.

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