I was worried. It was four a.m., I was on a train bound for Bucharest, and somebody was tugging at my bed sheets from below. Coming around from a bout of deep sleep, I urged my weary eyes to focus. They were having none of it though, refusing point blank to reveal the person before me.
'Is there a problem?' I asked, hoping that a response might bowl my way in English.
'Yes. This bed has been double-booked. You must get out now.'
I recognized the conductor's voice in an instant.
'But I paid you twenty euros for this berth,' I protested.
It was no word of a lie, but he had only meant for me to make the most of the bed between us pulling out of Budapest and reaching the border with Romania.
Too exhausted to argue any further, I gathered my gear and hopped down, apologizing to the three other men in the compartment for disturbing them. I was promptly led to a second-class seat where I was told I had to stay for the remainder of the journey. I wouldn't have minded if Bucharest bustled on the horizon, but we were still ten hours shy of the Romanian capital.
The upshot was that as soon as the sun came up I got to savour the remarkable scenery that rural Romania proudly bestows. Through a thick veil of fog I managed to make out jumbles of tumbledown shacks lining the railway line.
Beyond them, families were out in the fields, harvesting by hand in the company of cows dragging ploughs.
Paved roads were few and far between, as were motorized vehicles. Save for a handful of battered pick-up trucks frequenting the dirt tracks, the most common form of transport came courtesy of horses and carts.
The pace of life eased forth at a paralyzed snail's pace. No power-lines were visible, a reality that meant most children were out and about, either larking around near the railway line or toiling beside their parents in the gently undulating fields.
As the train crawled past the village of Predeal, one young girl - decked in traditional attire - was energetically practicing a combination of modern dance steps, as though outside influences in the form of music had had a profound impact on her life, even if she was bound to her village… at least for the time being.
Beyond Brasov the grandeur of the scenery accosted my attention like never before.
At least it took my mind off the man who'd got on at Brasov and sat opposite me; he seemed friendly enough, but the hunting knife that was sticking out of the top of his turquoise-coloured corduroy trousers couldn't fail to taunt me.
Our train was now trailing beside a river and road in the middle of an overwhelmingly beautiful valley. I couldn't tear my eyes from the scenery, yet the old-timer wanted to talk. His slow Romanian drawl made the language resemble Sioux.
The old town of Bucharest was in complete disarray, with sub-level excavations making an eyesore of many a street, not least the otherwise attractive Lipscani Street. Perhaps the most popular commercial street of old Bucharest, it became a major axis of the trading quarter in the seventeenth century. However, many of its buildings have been rebuilt since 1850 due to extensive damage caused by earthquakes and fires.
Even more stunning than the city's old town is The Palace of the Parliament, the world's largest civilian administrative building after The Pentagon. It's a sight to behold, languishing at the top of a long, fountain-graced boulevard.
Places to Visit - Gibraltar and La Linea, Spain By Mo
Recently I went on a week long trip to Gibraltar and La LÍnea, Spain staying with my mum and dad in their La Linea flat. My twin sister and her boyfriend were also at the flat on holiday for a week and had rented a small car booked online for only 60 quid for the week. I think that included car insurance too so a pretty good deal.
They all met me at Gibraltar airport and we walked across the border with Spain
Places to Visit - The London, Bath and Bristol Chronicles By Steve Rudd
I knew I should have taken the train. Being stuck behind a combine harvester is never fun in a car. In a coach, it's murder. The battalion of towering power-line supports that stoically marched across the dead level Lincolnshire landscape didn't help. From their indifferent vantage point, they simply taunted.
'Technology is overtaking everything,' said the woman in front, Read more...
Places to Visit - Kate Langan's Travel Journal - Thailand
Tonight we ate at a Thai Taverna, there was a baby elephant going by so Becky took my photo. We are staying in Phuket also as we have found a really nice basic room that's really cheap. It's clean and got 4 stone walls - not like the wood hut! I loved the wood hut but was bitten to death by the mozzies. No mozzies here - yey! And I'm not a huge fan of the cockroaches!
Places to Visit - The Three Peaks Of Yorkshire Challenge 10th June 2006 By Steve Rudd
'Good morning gentlemen - rise and shine!' As I slowly came to my senses I couldn't
help but glance at my watch. I'd been warned the previous night that we would be
woken up at 4:15am sharp, and barely a second later.
Unfortunately, that really was the case, and as exhausted as I was, there
was a mammoth 25 mile walk ahead...
It's a shame that I'd only managed
Places to Visit - A Weekend in Amsterdam By Dave F
Amsterdam is a city of freedom which instantly appeals on a lot of levels.
What's the point of a holiday if you don't have the freedom to go and do what you want, when you want?
If, like me, you want to wander aimlessly from coffee shop to coffee shop getting as
stoned as humanly possible whilst ogling half-naked women through dirty windows
and snacking heavily along the way,
Places to Visit - Christmas in Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka By Dave F
I hate Christmas for too many reasons to mention and the chance to get away from it
all this year it was an opportunity too good to pass up. Knowing someone with a
house in Sri Lanka which stands empty for 9 months every year definitely has its benefits.
I'm travelling with a mate and his daughter who've been here several times before
so I get some insight
Places to Visit - Skiing In Bulgaria - Part Two By Steve Rudd
Giant Christmas trees loomed as far as the eye could see below, as I marvelled
at the extraordinary engineering it must take to make a gondola a reality.
After the thirty-minute ride to the top we were immediately greeted by a
stunning panorama of the surrounding countryside which was beautiful beyond words.
So pristine and so serene.
Well, serene if you can discount the
Places to Visit - Skiing In Bulgaria - Part One By Steve Rudd
I could have thought of worst places to be, seeing in the New Year, as the last
second of 2005 ticked over into 2006. Happy New Year indeed.
For the best part of the past ten years myself and my friends have contented
ourselves with heading into the town centre of Driffield every December 31st
for one of the few nights of the year when it genuinely hustles and bustles.
Places to Visit - Walking The Pembrokeshire Coastal Path - Part One By Steve Rudd
Get out of the city and into the country, sooner rather than later.
A great many people genuinely have no idea how scenically diverse and breathtaking some
swathes of countryside are in the UK, and such a fact is a great shame,
because while they might be spending all their spare time in dirty and cramped
urban environments, there's often fresh air and inspirational
Places to Visit - Thailand By Rich Mills
Expressing the experience of being here in Thailand is difficult to put into words.
The sensorial experience is so mind blowing that you begin to feel overloaded.
However it is the smallest of things that grab your attention, and stick in the mind.
We are waiting for a taxi to take us down to the ferry, so that we can go
over to the small island of Koh Maak.
This is where we will get the full
Places to Visit - Ostend Weekend By John Allbones
I needed a break. Well, you just do sometimes don't you?
The constant day to day drudge of the nine to five erodes your spirit until a
change of scene is all you crave. Nothing fancy, just a few days will do.
Preferably abroad, it just seems more of a break when you're on foreign soil.
I managed to grab a late deal on a long weekend in Ostend.
So desperate was I to get away,
Places to Visit - Eight Feet and Two Weeks On Crete Part 2 by Steve Rudd
One of the best ways of exploring the huge island of Crete is by car: in your own time, at
your own speed and in your own style.
Without the stress and cost of embarking on guided tours.
Head into any of Crete's major cities such as
Hania, Rethymno or Iraklion and you'll be bombarded by rent-a-vehicle establishments, all
of which are fiercely trying to
Places to Visit - Eight Feet and Two Weeks On Crete Part One by Steve Rudd
While I might be a massive fan of Michael Palin's epic travels, and while I do aspire to
follow him in many of his footsteps, up until now I've only ever been abroad three times.
The first time was in 2000, when I was lucky enough to accompany a work colleague for a month in Nepal.
The second time was for a holiday with some friends, last year, to the gorgeous
Places to Visit - Greetings From Amsterdam Part One By Steve Rudd
As the blazing red sunset slowly but surely cast Hull into shadow, the P&O ferry was ready,
and so were the passengers.
I'd never travelled by ferry across to the Netherlands, and thus was naturally overwhelmed
by the sheer scale of the ferry and the wealth of entertainment on board, what with
two cinemas, a kids play area, a restaurant and casino
Places to Visit - On The Pennine Way Part Two By Steve Rudd
After surviving the nightmare of Kinder Scout's mountainous bulk and getting back on track,
the next 'hill' of worth en-route along the Pennine Way is called Bleaklow.
Just like its predecessor, it could quite potentially be the death of you if
you're not careful in negotiating the peaty wastes as you go up and over and
onwards towards the tiny hamlet of
Places to Visit - On The Pennine Way Part One By Steve Rudd
Why on earth would anyone want to go walking on their week off work? That's the question that most people would routinely ask anybody who would do exactly that, as though walking - and long distance walking in particular - is something simply not to be indulged in.
I always argue that there is very little more
Places to Visit - Down South By Steve Rudd
Brighton has always been one hell of a popular place, but until one freezing cold
day in February of this year I had never before spent anytime whatsoever there
in my twenty-four years in this forever-overwhelming world.
I thought it was high time I paid the place a visit, and seeing as though
I was down in London anyway - and a return National Express coach ticket
Places to Visit - Up North By Steve Rudd
So, you look forward all week - at work - to your one or two days off... right? And what do you do on such days off? Housework, no doubt. Do you ever think you should do something more worthwhile with your sacred time off? Like travel, for instance.
County Durham isn't that far a trip from East Yorkshire, and if
Places to Visit - To Hampstead Heath and Beyond ... By Steve Rudd
So, you live in London and wish to escape the hustle and bustle of the inner city scene.
Where can you turn to? Why, the plethora of beautiful parks of course - and there are few
places nicer than Hampstead Heath, in North London, for some quality peace and quiet.
Places to Visit - On the Moors By Steve Rudd
So much for me confiding to people that I thought we were collectively out of the woods
and that Spring was just around the corner.
Clearly I spoke too soon and paid for such a misdemeanour yesterday
(13th February 2005) when I ventured up onto the
Places to Visit - Dinostar - THIS IS HISTORY By Daniel Laney
In the last two months Hull has welcomed a new addition to its ever growing tourist trade.
Dinostar, which opened on Easter Sunday of this year, should hopefully
be welcomed with open arms by families and budding historians alike and with it
being a quick
Places to Visit - Our Samhain Visit to Avebury by Janie Spencer
Before we start on our journey, let me give you a bit of background on Avebury.
It is a beautiful stone circle, so big that you can in fact fit a village inside it, as you can see from this overhead map!
As well as being a tourist spot, it is both a home and a gathering