Thursday, March 11, 2010


The first time I stepped onto a train with my host in Petrosani I asked him, "don't we need a ticket?", he said, "shh nasul" with a smerk on his face.

This will be one of those stories about "a friend" that had yet another interesting cultural encounter involving transportation in Romania.

This "friend" had to take the night train from Petrosani to Bucharest. He had taken that particular train before. He was very accustomed to the train scheldule and how long it would take him to get to the train station, but still in his natural procrastinating, always rushing ways he decided to get a late start on packing, forcing him to basically have to run to the train station. As he was crossing the catwalk above the tracks he looked down to see that on this particular night his train happened to be on time and his phone told him that he only had one minute until it departs. There was no time to buy a ticket.

As the tired, obviously not Romanian, volunteer approached the cfr(train company) authorities he asked if it would be ok if he could buy the ticket on the train. They said "yes" of course and then told him the price was 61 lei. My friend was surprised. He had never paid over 50 lei for a ticket and he only had 51 lei in his wallet. He showed the authorities that he did not have 61 lei but they told him to board the train anyway. When the authorities came around to check tickets they told my friend to come out of the compartment. My friend gave the man all of his money, 51 lei, and the man said that it wasn't enough. He told my friend that it costs 68 lei. Naturally, my friend thought "is it 61 or 68 or even cheaper than 50 lei like I'm used to". After giving up his 50 lei my the man who took the money told my friend to tell anybody asking that he was going to Craiova instead of Bucharest.

It was hard to sleep for the first couple of hours on the train. He was nervous about the upcoming encounter where he would have to lie, wondering if it would even work. There is the chance that the last man just kept the money and my friend would be kicked off the train, or even worse, fined. It wasn't until after Craiova had passed when someone finally came in to check the tickets. That someone was a man that was not dressed in a proper uniform but he had two uniformed men behind him. He checked the tickets of the other men in the compartment and completely ignored my friend who was relieved after the encounter and could finally sleep.

Within an hour from Bucharest, almost there, and 4 old men enter my friends compartment. He knew that someone would be around to check their tickets. He looked out for someone to come, someone came, checked tickets, but this time my friend completely ignored the man checking the tickets. The man didn't press my friend too hard for the ticket as my friend pretended to be just waking up, posing as someone who has been on the train for a while and therefor his ticket doesn't need to be checked again. The act worked and my friend cruised in to Bucharest on the Arad-Constanta line.

"Nasul" means "The Godfather" in Romanian and when my host first said that on the train he was refering to corruption. My "friend" doesn't condone or approve of this kind of activity however this particular time he found himself in situations where "nasul" saved him.

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