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I know, ‘What’ isn’t one of the three questions in the title. But just to preface my answers to the title (Where, How, Why)… tomorrow I’m off on a trip. So rather than begin my blog with a ‘Day 2’ description of how some Romanian fruit sellers accosted me with pomegranetes (could happen, see photo), I thought I’d better first explain the plan…

1 – WHERE?RomaniaFruit

Budapest, Hungary to Izmir, Turkey. I’ve heard of the former, never of the latter. It’s a journey from the known into the unknown, through lots of other unknowns. There’s a map below.

According to various guidebooks (I read The Balkans Since The Second World War, which was a little heavy going and also the Picture Book Eyewitness Guide to Bulgaria, much lighter) I’ll be passing through summery ski resorts, eating local specialities such as ‘piept de pui – cooked chicken’ and ‘muschi de vaca – cooked pork’ (…doesn’t sound particularly creative), and experiencing cities described as ‘a place you’re unlikely to warm to, but visitors who linger often find hidden charms’; I shall, however, not be staying anywhere long.

All that, however, provides mere trifling detail. The important part is getting from one place to the other, and finally to the end before coming back home again, hopefully without too many tatty nick nacks. It’s all about the journey-challenge… even if it is an entirely self-created and reasonably straightforward one.

2 – HOW?

By train.steam_train_in_northern_turkey_postcard-p239380554160696859z8iat_400

No rail pass, no pre-bookings, just turn up, get on and go. Some journeys will be overnight, most a solid 6-or-so-hours, and the final few are really rather zippy. It’s certainly possible, and often highly advisable, to cover the same ground by other means – bus, coach, taxi, etc – but wherever possible I shall stick to the rails.

Where it certainly isn’t possible is the route out of Istanbul South, which necessitates a bit of a boat trip, but connects up to a really great train that’s reputed to be worth a deviation from the plan.

3 – WHY?

1 – In 2008 I took the train from Munich to Budapest. This continues that journey. Perhaps one day I’ll connect the dots of a round-the-world-trip, each part completed over individual fortnights. That’d be nice.theroux$paul_hres

2 – I’ve read lots of Paul Theroux books – The Great Railway Bazaar, Riding the iron Rooster, the one about Patagonia that took all the mystery out of Patagonia but was quite good in the getting there – and his philosophy on trains is infectious; they’re great, so get on one and go somewhere.

3 – This trip will take me from Europe into Asia over-land. I’ve never crossed a continental border at ground level.

4 – War correspondents often hang out in Istanbul, in the same way that minicab drivers hang around Oceana Nightclubs at 4am on a Sunday morning. Perhaps I’ll meet one and, somehow, end up getting a job as a military spy. Cool.

5 – My hostelworld account had a few quid credit due to a cancelled booking. May as well use that up.

See you!

(Check back here in a few days – I’ve got a feeling that by then I might have some Romanian fruit seller anecdotes to tell…)

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Or view the full map on GoogleMaps: Budapest to Izmir Map

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