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”
“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.
One 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…