Finding a good place to spend the New Year's Eve is never easy... and this year was no exception. I had no idea where I will spend it for just a month before the end of the year, when a clever person came up with a great idea: let's spend the New Year's Eve on the Mocanita train, at Viseu de Sus! And so we did...
This was not the first time I visited the Mocanita of Viseu de Sus. I've been on it before, in 2009, as I have wrote about it here. Mocanita is a nickname for the small narrow gauge (760 mm) Romanian forest railway. The one at Viseu de Sus, in the Vaser Valley, to be more specific, is said to be the last remaining forest railway which operates steam trains regularly for the purpose of transporting logs. It is also the only steam line in Romania on which people can travel a reasonable distance (about 21 kilometers). Recently, as a result of some people's noble effort to rehabilitate some of Romania's Mocanita lines, small portions of other Romanian narrow gauge lines have been restored. I heard that it's possible to travel with the Mocanita between Brad and Criscior and also at Moldovita. Still, the Mocanita of the Vaser Valley remains the most important one in the country. It runs from the station at Viseu de Sus to Paltin and back with tourists and further into the thick forest for the purpose of transporting raw wood, in places where man can go only by the means of this train, as there are no roads in the wild forest. The steam locomotives employed on the line belong to the once wide-spread 764.000 series. The little steam route received quite a blow in 2008, when an unexpected flood devastated the tracks, even trapping some tourists in the woods. But, with the work of locals and with the help of the Swiss foundation "Hilfe für die Wassertalbahn", the line was quickly restored and visitors can enjoy it again.
The Mocanita of the Vasser Valley takes tourists into the forest regularly from May to September, but on special occasions like Christmas, the New Year's Eve and Easter, there are special trains which allows people to visit the Vaser Valley steam line in winter and even at night. This is the combination we aimed for: a train ride in the snow on the last night of 2011. We were very enthusiastic about the idea as soon as we came up with it. I quickly called CFF Viseu de Sus and I received a positive answer: there were still available places. But there was a problem: the trip to and from Viseu de Sus was more than an easy drive, especially when you are tired after being up on the New Year's Eve. So we needed some place to sleep before and after the event itself. I started calling hotels and pensions at Viseu de Sus and around it... but they all gave me the same answer: they were fully booked for that period. I called at least 50 of them, but no luck. The situation was looking bad... it seemed that we will not be able to spend the New Year's Eve on the Mocanita train because we could not find a place to sleep. Others have booked rooms starting from September and we only woke up at the end of November.
When all hope seemed to be lost, a very friendly lady from a hotel directed me to one of her friends, who also owned a hotel. She also had all rooms booked, but she was very kind and she convinced her brother to take us in. I quickly made reservations for the rooms and for the train too and so we were set to go!
The New Year's Eve train was scheduled to leave the station of Viseu de Sus at 19:00. When we arrived there we found out that there were many tourists (150-200 persons according to my count), so not one, but two trains were prepared, pulled by the famous little steamers, CFF Viseu de Sus 764.421 "Elvetia" and CFF Viseu de Sus 764.221 "Mariuta". The first one was scheduled to leave at 19:00 and the second one at 19:10. Most people got on the first one and it became a little crowded, so we chose the second one, pulled by "Mariuta".
The cost of the New Year's Eve train ride was a lot higher than the usual cost of such a trip, 175 RON (about 40 Euro) for a person, but the train ride itself was not the only thing we got for that money: along with the train ticket we received vouchers for warm food, warm drinks and cold drinks and even a Mocanita calendar for 2012 as a small attention from the organizers. But, as we were about to soon find out, the price included even some other "free" food and fireworks! As Romanian trains usually are, ours was late from start too, we only left the station of Viseu de Sus before 19:30, but it was no problem really, we were all there to relax and enjoy the ride.
The first nice surprise on the train was that the cars were fitted with stoves (burning wood, of course), so it was nice and warm inside. We dressed in thick clothes because we knew that at the end station, at Paltin, it would be cold, but in the train cars we could take off most of them. The second nice surprise, not long after we started moving, was a small shot of palinca (palinka), a strong (about 50-60 degrees) traditional Romanian/Hungarian drink made from prunes.
When we arrived to Paltin, the party was already starting. There were small torches all around the place, wooden shelters were you could get food and drinks, gas burners to get warm by, music and a huge campfire. The warm food we received was on a plate that contained about 4 different kind of meat, bread and the usual auxiliary stuff. I confess, I was quite afraid of what kind of food they would give us, people in that region are used to fat meat, but I must congratulate the organizers, the chicken, the sausages, the mici, everything was delicious! So we ate and drank, we moved around, we watched the fire and some of us even spent time taking photos with tripods. The only thing the organizers did not pay attention to was to leave the steam locomotives near the campfire so the tourists could take photos of them. Unfortunately they sat in the dark so it was really difficult to get some shots, even with a tripod. The final nice surprise was the show of fireworks. It was a lot more than we expected. They were many and colorful and beautiful. The forest echoed with the sound of explosions as the amazing lights lit up the sky above us. And so, without even noticing, we slipped into the year 2012. Too bad I did not manage to take some photos of the fireworks, but at that point I was too busy enjoying the whole thing :)
We stayed at Paltin for about two more hours after that. Some people ate stuffed cabbages (also "for free"), some danced. Around 2:00 both trains and the auxiliary rail cars headed back for Viseu de Sus. We arrived there around 4:00 AM, very tired but with some nice memories of the Mocanita ride :)