The train between Bucharest and Chisinau is absolutely wonderful. It have been unaffected by time and is a real treat for Soviet nostalgic like myself.
Buying a ticket in Bucharest main station Gara de Nord was absolutely no problem. Now 435km of pure nostalgia on wheels was ahead. In the front of the train there were 2 passenger carriers for local not going on the whole length of the trip. The implications of this is that this is going to be one time-consuming trip. The train will stop at every single village on the way. But as I see it, this makes it a true little adventure. It was warm like a Russian sauna when I entered the train. The smell of sausage, sweat and cigarettes was very strong. I asked if it was possible to open the window but according to the conductor it was not possible. I was in a 4 bed compartment. This is 2nd class. In 1st class there is only two beds. I shared the compartment with a man from Moldova. Most compartments where empty in my carriage. At 1700 sharp the train was set in motion. The little ventilation from the speed helped.
The slow journey trough the relatively flat landscape with frequent stops commenced. The train was signalling trough the night and the monotone sound of wheels on track had a mesmerising sound to it. The further we drove into the night, the colder it got. Lined has been provided by the conductor. And I had good use of the rough thick blanket At 0230 we arrived at the border. All the border and custom control was done. I had a problem, as the Moldavian side had to check my passport. Normally I will be very reluctant to leave my passport out of sight, but if you cannot trust border authorities, who can you trust. It took the better part of 3 hours before I got my passport back. I put it all to a part of the experience.
Now one of the weirdest scenes and part of the reason for going on this train. The changing of the wheels. In our modern efficient time this is relic from older civilised ages where travel took time. To prevent any invasion by rail the gauges is a little smaller in Moldova than in Romania. Hence they will lift the carriages and change the wheels. This is a very loud business and there is a lot of moving around and working with heavy tools. During this time you will find the toilet locked….They need to change the Engine too. In the next compartment there has been removed some steel poles to release wheels from the body. To separate the body from the wheels heavy duty hydraulic lifts are used. It is a massive job and takes 3-4 hours. During this time you are going to stay inside the train. I do not know if it is a military secret anymore, this business with the track, but I took some pictures with my phone. In II world war it didn’t hold the German invasion and nowadays it is just a mayor inconvenience. For non tourists I can see their point of view.
For me however it is a genuine adventure. This is what train travel is all about. Original and unique. It is just like looking into a world 40 years ago. A time machine on wheels. And gives you time to reflection or some much needed sleep (bring earplugs .o) ).
Facts: Bus 8 hours – Night train 13 hours 49 min.