A Night Train Crossing Borders
Romania seemed like a far away land where people seemed to exit more than they entered. But after a long stay in Northern Croatia and a short period in Belgrade, mystic Romania was nearer than ever. My companion and I took a gloomy old train from Belgrade on which we were stopped twice for border inspections. In the dark hours, some time after sunset, officials ascended onto the train at the EU border carrying ladders and screw drivers and they promptly began to dismantle overhead and under seat portions of the train looking for contraband. The foreign words spoken in muffled voices and the clattering and shaking of train parts being tampered with began to make me nervous. We had been sitting there listening to the noises for a suspiciously long time and I felt as though we were the only passengers. As we pulled away from the station, I opened the door to our little seating area to get some air and have a look around the corridor. As I turned a young man with slicked hair, a leather jacket, and a smoke emerged. "Hey" he said. Startled I looked over and he drew a long breath from the cigarette and asked "You from the US?" "I'm from Queens. Welcome to Romania."