How do you reserve 3 beds from Thessaloniki to Bucharesti?

9.00am Greek train book­ing office, Athens:

“No, I can’t give you reser­va­tions on the train  Bucharest.  I have only 3 beds and I must sell them.  But you can buy in Thessaloniki.  The Romanians have more — it’s easy”

1.30pm Larissa train sta­tion, Athens.  Inernational book­ing office opens:

“No train to Bucharest”

“Why?”

“I don’t know!”

1.40pm at inter­na­tional book­ing office, Larissa again, armed with Thomas Cook timetable show­ing the 23.45 train fom Thessaloniki to Bucharest:

“Train full. No beds.  I have no beds until 4 August.  You can make reser­va­tion to Beograd in Thessaloniki”

(But we want to go to Bucharesti, not Beograd!)

20.50 Thessaloniki doem­stic ticket office:

“International ticket office opens at 10pm.  Ask there.”

21.50 Thessaloniki inter­na­tional book­ing office opens, Thessaloniki station:

“You get bed on train.  Just get on train and pay for bed.  Plenty of room.  Bulgarians take money on train, but Romanians don’t do that.  In Romania you have to make reservation.”

So we get a couchette to ourselves with some friendly Germans next door and a very friendly and help­ful Bulgarian guard the other side.  The air con­di­tion­ing works and we’ve crois­sants in the bag for breakfast.

I’m so proud of Callum who’s been a model of calm through­out all the uncertainty!

The train jour­ney from Athens to Thessaloniki goes down as one of the most stun­ning ever.  Past Mount Parnassus and then Mount Olympus from where Zeus is send­ing out dra­matic streaks of sun­light from his home tucked up in some of the first clouds we have seen for weeks. A very swanky train and a win­dow facing back down the miles of straight track.

Woken twice by bor­der guards (Greek and then Bulgarian),  Stunnning scenery again from Sofia as we go through a lush river val­ley with moun­tains on either side.

We pass field upon field of drop­ping sun­flowers and people work­ing the fields by hand with horse and cart.

Wheel tapperOne of the train high­lights are the “wheeltap­pers” — people who tap each wheel of the train peri­od­ic­ally with a spe­cial ham­mer to make sure that the wheels give the right sort of chime and aren’t dam­aged.  And the depar­ture board at Bucharest staion was some­thing else…

We’re booked on a couchette tonight to Budapest, so it looks like we will make it home!  But in Romania you have to book at a spe­cial rail­way agency, rather than at the station…

2 thoughts on “How do you reserve 3 beds from Thessaloniki to Bucharesti?

  1. We had wheel-tappers in my youth on the (steam) trains and the very old ham­mer in the garden shed belonged to my mother’s Auntie Hastie’s hus­band, a wheel-tapper who was acci­dently killed on the rail­way line back in the 1850s. Glad you had such a superb jour­ney past Mts Olympus & Parnassus — and that you over­came the couchette prob­lem so suc­cess­fully. Congratulations to Callum for retain­ing his sang-froid!
    Here, more har­vest­ing of red cur­rants (and we thought that was them all last week­end.
    If you’d like to come for a meal on your return home, just let Martha know.

  2. I just about remembered enough about wheel tap­pers to know what they were called — won­der­ful that there is a fam­ily con­nec­tion!
    Here is what Wikipedia has to say on the subject:

    Wheel Tapper: An his­tor­ical rail­way occu­pa­tion; people employed to tap train wheels with ham­mers and listen to the sound made to determ­ine the integ­rity of the wheel; cracked wheels, like cracked bells, do not sound the same as their intact coun­ter­parts. The job was asso­ci­ated with the steam age, but they still oper­ate in some east­ern European coun­tries. Modern planned main­ten­ance pro­ced­ures have mostly obvi­ated the need for the wheel-tapper.

    Thanks for the offer of a meal — will let you know once we have a clearer idea of ETA.

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