Our mammoth overland journey from the edge of Europe to Munich began at Istanbul’s Sirkeci station with the Bosfor Ekspresi. We decided to splash out on a compartment in the sleeping car for the Istanbul to Bucharest leg of the journey. However, on arriving at the platform, we discovered that the train only comprised of two carriages, neither of which was the sleeping car. It turned out that the sleeping car wasn’t running. Instead we were allocated couchettes and refunded the fifty-odd euros difference.
Sharing our six-berth compartment with us was Sven a Danish gentleman also on his way home from Iran. Sven was pretty miffed about the non-appearance of the sleeping-car though he proved to be very good company and he soon got over having to share a compartment with us. The Turkish/Bulgarian border at Kapıkule is unusual in that instead of the immigration officers boarding the train, shining their torches into the compartment and demanding ‘passportz’ the passengers are required to leave the train and queue to have their passports stamped. At around 3am we were summoned from our beds and after an hour or so we were entering Bulgaria. The next morning we woke as the train was passing through picturesque Bulgarian countryside.
As there was no restaurant car we tucked into the provisions we had brought from Istanbul (bread, cheese, apples, crisps and lokum!) Late afternoon we crossed the mighty Danube and entered Romania. A few hours later, after successfully acquiring a reservation for the train to Budapest, we were sipping beer at Bucharest’s Gara de Nord.
Our carriage for the journey to Budapest was new and very comfortable. We shared our six berth compartment with a young man on his way to Budapest to work on a Danube passenger ship. We shared a beer with him as the sun set over the Romanian countryside.
Arriving in Budapest we secured a reservation on that nights train to Munich. After leaving our bags at left luggage and having a spot of brunch, we headed to the Széchenyi baths. We had visited the baths nine years ago on our Interrailing trip and it was pretty much as we had remembered it – a maze!
We spent five hours steaming, sweating and washing away two days worth of grime before heading back towards the city centre and enjoying an excellent meal (we’d given up on budgeting by this point) before boarding the train to Munich.