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25th August
written by Justin

Our plan to leave Budapest was a good one — take the overnight train to Belgrade (Serbia) and then take the train the next day to Sofia, in Bulgaria. This would be a long, but not ridiculous train journey that took us most of the way down through Eastern europe and get us to a place where the travel time to Istanbul would be reasonably short. It didn’t turn out that way — in a thankfully rare instance where the Eurail pass failed us — because it turns out that Eurail “Global” passes (the ones with travel through the entire Eurail network) were not valid in Serbia! This is written in fine print in a few places but was not noted on our map or on our ticket. Thankfully we discovered this fact before we boarded the sleeper train (we would probably have been kicked off at the Serbian border) and made a hasty decision to reroute through Bucharest, in Romania. That way we’d be able to arrive the same day as before and also to use up the same number of days on our Eurail pass.

Unfortunately that also meant that we’d be on the train for nearly 24 hours! We boarded the sleeper train in Budapest and found that we had much more friendly cabin-partners who spoke English. They also didn’t mind leaving the beds out the whole time so we each had our own little space the whole sleeper train. Hazel and I both enjoy sleeper trains; the swaying motion of the train car is much more relaxing than an automobile or airplane. The motion on a train tends to rock you to sleep instead of jolting you awake. Another benefit – free coffee! What could be bettter! And Romanian scenery is really beautiful so we were entertained the whole time.

We only had about an hour once we arrived in Bucharest, unfortunately, because it turned out not to be enough time to prepare for our trip on to Sofia. First, the ATM wouldn’t dispense money — I guess Romania is a risky area for Visa and so they just block any withdrawals. We only tried to take out a small amount to buy lunch with, but they wouldn’t have it. On top of that, the places wouldn’t take Euros and would only accept credit cards with a PIN! So we were unable to buy any food for lunch or dinner which would pass on the coming train ride.

That ride was the worst train on our entire Eurail trip! It was a cabin which had 4 people on either side all crammed together. Combine that with no showers for a day and 100 degree weather, and you have the makings for a really horrible ride. We also only had one sausage (luckily we bought a big enough one to last us the day), one loaf of bread, and half a big bottle of water to last us. The water was the first to go. I think that the heat really increased our need for water because we normally wouldn’t drink that much all at once; we felt pretty parched by the end of the journey. Then the bread went and I ate the rest of the sausage and then we were out. A quick glance at our watches told us we still had a few hours left on the train! We managed, but the only nice parts about the end of the ride were that all of our cabin-partners left us and that the temperature got a lot nicer. I don’t know if we would have survived otherwise!

Our troubles were not quite at an end, though, because we arrived in Sofia after dark. Hazel and I hate to arrive anywhere after dark with all our stuff and this was one of the worst places we’ve done that, because the train terminal was empty and we had to walk to the bus terminal a few hundred yards down the road to catch a taxi to our hostel. Of course it was raining and the taxi driver got the wrong name from the hostess at the taxi rank. So we were taken to a different hostel than we had booked! After the taxi driver tried to get the directions to the other hostel from a few hookers on the corner near the first hostel, we wrote down the address and finally convinced the driver to use his GPS to take us to the other hostel. So we arrived — finally — and crashed in our super nice room at the hostel, wiped out but safe and sound.


  1. Nigel Ball

    Horrible at the time, I’m sure, but we can romanticize for the movie.

  2. Nigel Ball

    BTW, classic tags!!!

  3. Rachael

    How are you going to romanticize that… Julia Roberts could be one of the hookers? Emril Lagassee as the taxi driver?

  4. Nigel Ball

    The train ride
    Justin (Matt Damon) and Hazel (Diane Kruger) having given the slip to the Islamic terrorists, dash onto a departing train in @@@, and Justin sets to work stemming Hazel’s bleeding. It’s hot, and the accommodations are dirty and uncomfortable. Hazel drifts in and out of consciousness. Justin pleads with the conductor (Ricky Gervais) for water, but he smugly claims that there’s none on board. An ex-boyfriend of Hazel’s (Bradley Cooper), looking suspiciously like one of the terrorists, appears as a carriage sharer, and Hazel, in her distressed state, imagines a time before her marriage… Justin, however, only has thoughts for Hazel’s safety. Reluctantly leaving the carriage, he searches for water and food. And finds nothing, except a well-locked door suspiciously guarded by the conductor.
    Back in the third-class seats a nun (Helen Mirren) learns of his plight and gestures for him to join her. She tells him that there is a supply in the locked room guarded by a giant albino (Rowen Atkinson). She tells Justin that she will seduce the conductor giving Justin seven minutes and thirty-seven seconds to break into the room. As the nun lifts her skirts and the conductor starts drooling, Justin raises a floor plate and drops to the axles, using his strength to move forwards under the moving train, climb up the outside, and drops down and kills the giant albino with his hands.
    Meanwhile, Heather (Tina Fey) an old school friend of Hazel’s arrives in the carriage in time to save Hazel from the ex-boyfriends evil advances by supreme self sacrifice. Justin returns. Hazel is too far gone to survive by drinking alone, so he quickly fashions an IV drip out of a plastic coke bottle and a ball-point pen. She recovers. Justin searches for the nun who is dying from an advanced and rare form of leukemia. Her dying wish is that they save her lost daughter (Kathy Griffin) from a life of prostitution in Sophia. She dies. Hazel and Justin look at each other, the moon overhead, the rattle of the train, realizing that from the horror of the train ride has flowered the pinnacle of their love for each other. Their unity has a new determination. The catchphrase “love, moon, love” is uttered.
    On alighting in Sophia station, they stride into the gas-lamped darkness searching for hookers. At the corner stands the nun’s daughter and her hooker friend (Michelle Bachman). At first reluctant to believe them, it is only when Hazel shows her mother the nun’s rosary beads that the nun’s daughter agrees to be saved. The hookers friend cannot be convinced and stays on the street. They take the daughter to the hostel where she immediately falls in love with the clerk (Jason Bateman). Hazel and Justin go to their room through the French windows of which can be seen the moon while a distant band plays the haunting strains of “love, moon, love”.

  5. Mom

    Where do you come up with this stuff???you must be horribly bored without MAggie at home
    Great write tho—- do i sense a screenplay in the works?????

  6. Hazel

    This has to be the best series of comments on any of our posts!

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