Having a few days before I had to be in Munich but getting a little weary of Prague, I hopped on a train to Budapest, where I always knew where to go for fun, only to sit next to a guy who I took for American—totally no accent—only to have him be Norwegian. He was going to visit his girlfriend in Deva, the capital of Transylvania, as well as invest in a nightclub, and since at that point I’d never been to Romania, I figured why not and joined him on the train that would go across Hungary.
One of my main reasons for going, besides hopefully meeting some Olympic gymnasts in their training town, was the two books I had in my backpack. I’d taken many books on the trip and bought even more—sent a whole box back home I’d bought in Germany and Netherlands—which I kept in my big backpack, but I would always have a couple in my go bag, and in this case they were Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Interview With a Vampire. If that wasn’t a sign to go to Transylvania. . .
And they were needed, as eastern Hungary has some of the most boring landscape Nature ever created: a solid hundred miles of nothing but wheat fields. Kansas has nothing on this. The only exciting thing was at the border, where I was extorted $31 for a visa. It only got better—so to speak—when darkness fell, but the train was so slow we didn’t get into town until after two in the morning, and that’s only because I asked someone where we were. Bugsy—yep, that was his name, said so on the passport—was fast asleep and had about two seconds to gather his gear. By the time we got to the door the train was in motion and, big backpack strapped on, I jumped off and tried to land on two feet, which was a stupid thing to do for someone who was a big fan of inertia. Luckily the backpack stopped me before too long, but Bugsy took much harder and numerous shots from the cement.
So then I had to grumpily sit on my backpack while he called his local contacts, only to find no one could pick us up. Luckily there was one guy—a barber or baker or something—who made extra money by meeting the trains to see if anyone needed a taxi, so only an hour later–after two stops to pour water in the radiator–I was sitting at a table in a small dining room in a small house, snacking on potatoes and who knows what else while politely fending off glasses of the local moonshine. Soon after that I was catching some shuteye on a couch next to a stranger, wondering why I wasn’t in Budapest with a beautiful girl I’d met on a previous trip. . .
Finally excitement happened the next day. . . which you can read about next week.