I reached the Brasov railway/bus station (they’re right next to each other) looking to catch a ride to Bucharest. Toothless and scruffy looking touts gathered around me and started badgering me to go with them in their taxis for ONLY 300 Lei (60-something Euros). I wove my way through them and walked into the bus station first. 5pm. One hour to go. I walked into the railway station next. 4.40pm. I’ll take it, I said.
An Australian guy I had met at a previous hostel had told me the stations in Romania were sketchy as hell. Meh, I thought. I’m from India, I doubt they get sketchier than that. My frame of reference is India, his, Australia. It was just 4pm and I was freaking out. Brasov station is supposed to be one of the best ones in Romania. It was almost empty and there were lots of questionable looking people hanging around. Yes, I’m aware that’s very Dobler-Dahmery of me, but that’s how (most) human minds work, okay?
The ticket checker had eyebrows that reminded me that Bogdan was Romanian too (I had just finished a Breaking Bad marathon).
The thing with this December trip of mine to Romania and Bulgaria had a problem. It got dark really early, and by really I mean sunlight started fading by 4pm. So anyway, by the time it was 6 and the train had just a few people left (some of them quite sketchy looking) I was getting more and more nervous.
It was not the first time I was in such a situation. Time and again I’ve found myself on public transport late at night with nowhere to run for cover and no one to hide behind if the need arose. So evolution played its part and I developed a way to keep myself calm and sane and not go overboard with paranoia.
Pick a safe spot, ideally a family with mummy, daddy and babies. If there’s no family around, just pick someone who looks approachable and nice and mentally anchor yourself to them. Safety net. Sometimes I strike up a conversation with them so they keep a subconscious watch over me.
Once there was a huge Brazilian family on my overnight train from Prague to Krakow. They had been to India, loved it and couldn’t stop talking to me. Another time, on a late night train to a host who lived just outside Munich, I picked a grandpa who was traveling with two young kids. On this particular train to Bucharest, I picked a very geeky looking couple, both were skinny and specs-y, and when I eventually asked them for some directions, they were almost falling over themselves to help me as much as they could.
Yes, I get it. The logic is flawed. There’s no guarantee in the world that the people who look ‘safe’ actually are. But since the need to freak out never presented itself to me… I’m going to keep it as it is. And, of course, go with your gut!
I don’t know how or why this works though. I just know that it does. At least for me. It’s kept me from crying on so MANY occasions that I don’t foresee changing anything. It’s probably going to be creepy for them if they find out that the girl sitting there in the corner has formed an imaginary family with them, but if ignorance is bliss 😉 Then let’s just let it be!