I remember, when I was a girl, getting out my school atlas during a dull lesson and poring over it, instead of paying attention to the teacher, daydreaming about journeys I might make from England to the far reaches of the world. I am still at it (when I should be doing other, more useful things), and nowadays, instead of my trusty atlas, I have the whole internet as an exploration tool. I have been wasting an inordinate amount of time imagining an overland journey from Stuttgart to a place I hadn't heard of, until a couple of days ago, called Timișoara, pronounced Timmy-shwahra, which is in Transylvania, Romania. I must refrain from calling it Tiramisu. The letter ș is pronounced sh.
Someone has contacted Chris to inform him he might have to do some work there soon. Or perhaps nothing will come of it. Chris is always telling me of possible work assignments in far away places, and as a rule, the suggestion comes to nothing. He is also being asked if he'd revisit Japan, and it's fairly certain that he'll have to be in southwest Germany again, in September. He was wondering if he might be able to combine that business trip with a side-excursion to Romania; time and travel budget permitting, I'd come with him.
Timișoara is closer to Budapest than to Bucharest (București) and getting there will give us an interesting challenge. It's an hour's flight from Bucharest or a 4 hour drive from Budapest. By train, the best bet is Stuttgart-München-Salzburg-Wien by intercity services, then to take a sleeper train to București via Budapest but get out at Arad, just beyond the Hungarian border, at 4am for a 26 minute wait on the "platforma". A connecting local train reaches Timișoara Nord at 5:52am. The total time en route without stopping to see any of those places would be 16 and a half hours, but I think the 12 minute connection time in Wien could be a bit risky. If we missed the sleeper train and had to wait for the next available service, we'd be stuck in a Hungarian place called Györ for over 6 hours in the middle of the night and would have to put up with non-sleeper trains all the way across Hungary, changing at Budapest and other places.
Budapest to Timișoara is 6 hours by train at normal times of the day. Budapest has three railway stations which could cause us problems. Quote from a traveller writing on Tripadvisor, whose first language is obviously not English: "The Déli Pályaudvar train station is covering the domestic western part of Hungary as well as some Internetional trains. The station is very rotten and ugly."
I note that we should need to acquire VISAs for Hungary and Romania.
Looking at the google map of the destination, I have learned some easy-to-remember Romanian vocabulary: strada, bulevardul, universitatea, catedrala, cimitirul, canalul, zona industriala, gara, platforma, oficul postal. I don't think I'd have too much trouble reading signs in that language, or to pick up enough phrases to cope. I had a look at some teach-yourself-Romanian videos this morning, too.
If we choose to fly, there's a Romanian company called Wizz Air (!) that offers very cheap direct flights lasting 2 hours between Frankfurt and Timișoara. It has very mixed reviews. One reviewer recommends "member sheep" (a rather apt mistake, perhaps). Travelling by Lufthansa STR to TSR via MUC might be a safer bet: 3 hrs including the 50 minute layover in München.