I'm writing this from my comfy, 5-foot-long couchette on the 371 Ister. It's about 7:30 AM Romanian time. I slept pretty well considering what I was up against-- Well enough anyway to reverse my position on night trains for the time being.
I shared a room with five Romanian teachers who were coming back from a conference in Budapest. So I can cross that off my list.
Fortunately for me, one of them was an English teacher, who despite never living in the US or the UK spoke perfectly with a slight trace of a british accent. I asked her about Romanian (it's a romance language, very closely related to Italian), and it turned out that her daughter had worked in Dubai for about three years, so we talked about that. Anyway, it was really nice to finally get to talk to a local in depth about something. She was probably a little too old for me (60?), but...
There are a couple of American bros (literally brothers) who have friends in the airlines so they're taking a two-week backpacking trip through Hungary and Romania. They work in a resort town in Utah as airport shuttle drivers, I think. They're a little older than me, but very similar in their motivations for getting travelling.
Their room only has one other person in it, but I actually got the better end of the deal because that one person happens to be a Romanian guy that can't stop talking about religion. I actually had to bail out of that room after about thirty minutes, even though the brothers seemed cool.
Anyway, It's been a much better experience than my previous three train rides.
The Romanian countryside is lurching past at 30 miles per hour or so. We're starting to come out of the mountains now, so the snow is starting to give way to that wonderful eastern Europe brown. It looks a little like Borat's village, but raining.