Buses, Trains

Monday, December 20, 2010

As promised, this week we are taking a break from our Turkey posts in order to share snowy Vienna, Austria with you, in honor of Christmas.

While in Turkey, we met a pair of travelers from Brazil who said we absolutely must not miss the city of Budapest—their favorite city in the world. This was not the first time we heard good things about Budapest, so we did a little research. Turkey was supposed to be our last stop in Europe before we flew out to Thailand for some sunshine. Budapest was definitely tempting, and when we found out that Vienna (another top European city) was just 3 hours away from Budapest, we decided it was worth the trip up north to check out both. Our original plan was to evade winter at home and chase summer around the globe. But since we were venturing north, there was no way we could miss our nearby home country, Ukraine, even though everyone warned us about the frigid cold. Everything is so close together in Europe that there is constantly a city nearby luring you... just a train ride away. From Vienna, there’s Prague, and from Prague, there’s Munich. We were tempted again and again. But alas, you can’t visit every city in one trip.

In Istanbul, Turkey we got on an overnight bus to Bucharest, Romania. We didn’t know what we were getting ourselves into. Our bus experiences in Turkey had been pretty comfortable. This bus was full of smelly old Romanian ladies who had arrived in Istanbul that morning for a few hours of shopping. They were stuffing their new clothes and bedding purchases under every seat and cramming them into the overhead spaces because the luggage storage underneath the bus was full! Yuriy and I were the only Americans on the bus. We figured either shopping in Istanbul was a lot cheaper or they were smuggling something. As we started moving, everyone started lighting up. My jaw dropped when I realized the bus allowed smoking onboard, absolutely everyone around us were smokers, and we had all night to travel. Periodically the women would pull out some awful smelling food that we all got to enjoy with our noses for awhile. They kicked off their shows and propped them up all over the seats. Honestly, we have been around a lot of different cultures and poor people on our travels, but we had never been so disgusted. When crossing the border into Bulgaria, we all had to evacuate the bus in the middle of the night while the border patrol searched the bus for an hour. Two women got called out and yelled at for having too much perfume and cigarettes from Turkey and had to pay bribes in order to keep their goods. The attendant on the bus really didn’t want us to sleep for some reason because she decided to play a game during the night. She turned up some music and if you danced in the aisle, you were eligible to win a prize. The aisle of the moving bus filled up with a bunch of Romanian women shaking their stuff.

We arrived in Bucharest 12 hours later around 4 am. Did a lot of waiting for everything to open, a lot of walking in the cold, and got talked into flying to Vienna by a taxi driver instead of taking a train, as originally planned. He told us the flights were less than an hour but the train was another day wasted of traveling. He told us flights were 50-70 euros, and after a long day of traveling on the wacky bus, we were sold. The taxi driver dropped us off at the airport, which was away from town. Our hopes went down the drain when we found out the short flight was actually around 250 euro. The taxi driver just wanted to give us a ride and make some money. Now we had to get back to town to get to the train station. On a whim, we decided to go to Vienna first instead of Budapest.

The train left midday and arrived the next morning in Vienna. This was my first train ride in a cabin, and I felt like we were in a movie as we watched the landscape change out our window. We went from warm (60-70 degree) weather in Turkey to a winter wonderland. Let’s just say, I was ecstatic to be in Vienna. Several days of travel was worth it.

- Julia


  1. these photos are so gorgeous! i want to cozy up in a train car and watch the snowflakes fall!

  2. whoa. your trains look much nicer than the soviet-era trains we had the pleasure of riding in europe!

  3. Ow Julia. I'm so sorry for everything what happened with you two, in Bucharest ( while I was reading I said to myself : this country embaresses me.) I was only twice in Bucharest and I dont like it at all . Cluj is a beautiful city, but there are things I dont like. ) Buses and trains here, are not so well developed. I quess you'll never come back.

    The good part is : you already forgot about it...

    Take care and have a great trip in the weeks ahead.

  4. Bianca- Nonsense! Every traveler has bad experiences every now and then. I know Bucharest is just a big city and I'm sure the true beauty of Romania lies outside of it. We just didn't have time to stay and explore. We were only passing through. Thank you for caring!