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My friends and I were headed to Cluj-Napoca, Romania for a quick weekend getaway from Budapest. An opportunity to explore another city, another country and just see what is out there.
I went with no expectations. I didn’t know too much about this part of the world. What I did know were mostly negative and the butt of many jokes. But I hopped on the train with an open mind.
Our tickets read that we were leaving Budapest at 13:30 and would arrive in Cluj at 21:45. It would be long journey, but an easy one. No transfers. We were going from the first stop to the last stop on the route.
I love train rides. Watching the countryside go rushing past. As afternoon turns into evening and evening turns into night, you get a completely different view of the world as it goes whizzing past. It also makes you appreciate how big and diverse this world really is. On the map, Budapest and Cluj looks relatively close to one another, but in reality, when on a train you really appreciate the distance. (Not to mention, the poor infrastructure which tends to slow down the trains. No high speed rail service like in some Western countries.)
At the border, we caused quite the commotion. I was traveling with three other individuals: two from New Zealand and one from Japan. Throw in my Canadian passport and there was a big flurry of activity to get us through the border.
Around 20:30 we started noticing a lot of activity in the passengers around us. Everyone was getting up and getting ready to get off the train as it slowed down. We looked at our tickets and we were sure that we had another hour to go.
We asked another passenger which city it was and we were told that this was Cluj. Confused we gathered our things and got off the train with everyone else.
Turns out, Romania is in a different time zone. Of all beginner, ignorant tourist mistake to make, it was this one. Rather embarrassing. You never think of Europe has having multiple time zones. Even when on a plane, usually you don’t need to concern yourself with a time change. It didn’t occur to any of us that Romania would be an hour ahead. We all just assumed that it was in the same one.
Despite (or maybe as a result?) this, I will never forget what time zone Romania is in. Ever. I still cringe every time I think about it.
Fast forward almost a year later and I’m headed to a wedding in Romania with my boyfriend. The reception was held in Hungary in a border town, but the ceremony was in another small village on the other side of the border in Romania.
We arrived in the border city with plenty of time. The invitation said that the ceremony was at 17:00 and it was only just after 15:00. It was a hot day, so I was laying down trying to cool off. As I dozed, I started thinking about the last time I was in Romania. I was reliving the embarrassment, when it occurred to me. The time on the invitation – was that in Hungarian time or Romanian time? Because if Romanian, then that meant the ceremony started in less than an hour and we still needed to cross the border.
A few quick phone calls to friends that we were traveling with and we confirmed that the ceremony was in fact 17:00 Romanian time. We all hopped into the car, raced to the border, waited for them to process my passport (this is what happens when you’re not an EU citizen), and made it in time to catch the end of the ceremony, right before they exchanged vows.
Despite traveling with three other Hungarians, it took a Canadian to realize there is a time difference. I still tease my boyfriend about this occasionally.
After two mishaps, I’m very aware of the time difference between these two neighbouring countries.
Have you had problems with time zones? Or made any silly traveling mistakes?