Chaos in Sofia and a Russian Train

Right now I’m on a Russian train heading for Bucharest…the train continues on to Moscow and I feel like that would be so relaxing to just stay on for the next couple days.  Today was fairly exhausting.  Avi didn’t sleep well last night – was up a lot to nurse – and then woke at 630.  So, I started the day tired.  We got breakfast, packed up, and then checked out of Hostel Mostel in Veliko Tarnovo.  The drive from their to Sofia was crazy….the ‘freeway’ is basically a two lane road that has limited access.  It was packed with cars driving super close and passing around corners.  The scenery along the way was lovely, and made Bethany and I think of Pennsylvania…just with bigger mountains.  Both the kids slept for a majority of the drive.  I did have to jump in the back and nurse Avi for a bit to get him sleepy.  He seems to be enjoying his bright pink forward-facing car seat. 

Once we arrived in Sofia the challenge was finding the train station.  I had a map, but the train station was just off it.  The traffic and signage in Sofia is also horrible.  Up until now we’ve been out on country roads full of potholes and horse poo, but also roads with English translations.  Here, in the biggest city, the road signs are few and far between and all in Bulgarian.  The map was in English.  So we counted roads and tried for landmarks.  After popping in a casino/hotel to ask directions I was given a crazy look by the bellhop when I asked for directions and “is it far”. The central train station was just around the corner.  tee hee…I’m a tourist.  Anyway, with all the chaotic driving and sleeping kids Bethany dropped me off to buy tix and went around the block until a space opened.  I bought our tickets for the overnight train to Bucharest.  3 beds in a 4 bed berth.  I tried to buy all 4 beds, but the lady just wouldn’t sell them too me.  She insisted the train would not be full and it would’nt be a problem.  I wasn’t sure, but she wouldn’t let me waste my money…good thing, too, as our car seems to have only us in it and 3 other ladies down the hall.  I assume more people will get on as it makes it’s way to Moscow.  We won’t really know, though, since we get off tomorrow at 630 in Bucharest.

 After buying tickets we drove around for an hour or so trying to find the zoo, and it became a wild goose chase.  Even after getting explicit written wording from a hotel desk and ‘turn left’ the zoo remained allusive.  By this time Avi had had enough of the car and was crying, the insane city driving was stressing out Bethany, and I started to feel a bit sick.  So, we scrapped the zoo and found a restaurant with a playground instead.  There was also an apothicary across the street so I got some medicine for my aching flu symptoms (seems to have worked), and we grabbed food at a grocer for dinner on the train.

 Back in the car a less chaotic drive back to the train station to drop the vehicle with the rental agency and then wait an hour or so until we could board the train.  We were allowed on an hour prior to departure which was great!  So at 1940 we promptly walked to platform 1 and found a whole hoard of soldiers lining up to get on the train.  well, they all are in another car.  Our Russian train really favors the one we took in China.  It has a nice hall, and 9 berths down the other side.  We are room 8 – there are 4 beds – two bunks opposite each other with a small table between them at the window.  There is also an enclosed storage area below the bottom bunks.  It’s old – seems 1940’s – but nice and well maintained.  There were big futons to roll out on each bunk and the attendent brought us each a set of sheets and towels.  Fancy and fun!  Unlike the train from Istanbul, the bathroom is quite nice and stocked with TP and even toilet seat covers!  Now the kids are asleep after having some snacky-dinner on the train, and I’m beat.  Tomorrow we are picking up another rental car in Bucharest for the Romania section of our trip…Transylvania here we come!

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