Monday, 13 February 2012

Istanbul to Belgrade - The train west

Bulgaria was our first EU country. We had caught the Istanbul to Belgrade night train, an 20 hour journey, but had come to a shuddering halt the next morning somewhere between Plodiv and Sophia. Strikes. The train guard couldn't tell us when the train would get moving again but it sounded like it might be a while. He suggested getting the bus to Sophia. But it was Sunday and no buses were running. 

There were only a few people on the train. James and I had a six bed compartment to ourselves, next door were three Italian students and then Helen and Jamie, who we first met in Armenia and then bumped into in Istanbul, but even more incredibly had travelled the same route as us from Chengdu in China, and had also got the same train and were next door but one. Helen and Jamie decided to take a taxi to Sophia and James and I headed to check out what the town had to offer.

Our carriage awaits!

After a few enquires and an explore we discovered that the town had two coffee shops (only coffee and beer sold), a supermarket, station waiting room (no toilet) and an cash machine. On the up side the supermarket was playing Christmas songs which we found quite exciting. We went for a coffee and then bought food and beers in the supermarket. Back on the train we ate baguettes and then sat with the Italians drinking beer all day.

That evening the train shunted and groaned before getting going. Within the hour it stopped again this time in Sophia. Looking out the window we saw two familiar characters walking along the platform - Jamie and Helen. They joined us for a beer. 

Although a 12 hour delay might have irritated most people we were quite happy with the situation. The train was due to arrive in Belgrade at 8 pm but with the delay we would now be arriving at 8 am. This meant a second night on the train, a second FREE night. We had a compartment to ourselves and, with the help of another beer, slept soundly through until the morning.

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