I’m only passing through Bucharest, spending a couple of hours at most, but on the overnight train from Budapest I get to know a small part of Romania.
Rodika is a doctor, in her forties, tiny with dark hair and a pinkish manicure. She grew up in Transylvannia which she assures me is not culturally part of Hungary, despite historic links. ‘There are some people who feel strongly Hungarian,’ she admits in French. I’m pleased to be back with a Romance language.
She’s been in Budapest visiting a childhood friend. They grew up in the same village, ‘She, she is Hungarian. And she lives in Budapest now. But Transylvannia is not Hungarian, no matter what some people say.’
We settle back onto her lower bunk as the train travels through the darkened plains of Europe. I ask her about Romania; is it thriving, do the young people stay there? ‘No,’ she tells me ‘Even my son, he left this morning for Germany. He wants to study architecture but he’s never shown any interest in buildings before. But how can I say no to what he wants?’
‘It was different under Communism. I was never a Communist, but everybody had a place in the world. It’s not like that now, you need to be rich.’
She stops twisting her fingers together and brings out some cakes, baked by her old friend in Budapest. They’ve been laid on a fluted cardboard tray and carefully double-wrapped in paper.
We share them between us and they’re almond and plum and delicious.