While it may not be everyone’s idea of a great day out (and indeed may strike many as being a frankly bizarre thing to do), for a small number of people with an endless fascination for underground railways the first port of call in any new city is often the metro. Just as some tourists will go out of their way to see a local football match when in a new city, or find a certain local food, to some people local public transport is a sight to be seen as valid as any other.
So it is in keeping with our long-standing commitment to focus on unconventional tourism as and when we can that we decided to visit - for no apparent reason - every metro station on the Bucharest system. In one go. As quickly as possible. We named it the Bucharest Metro Challenge.
Like the very idea of underground railways, that of visiting every station on a metro system as quickly as possible comes from London. Known there as the Tube Challenge, the idea has been around since the early 1960s, and the current record holder is Mark Gawley, who visited all 270 London Underground stations in 16 hours and 29 minutes.
The rules of a tube or metro challenge are relatively simple. The clock starts the moment the doors close on the first train taken. To `visit' a station, you must arrive and/or depart by an underground train in normal public service. It is only necessary for a train to stop at the station for the visit to count: you do not need to get out. Stations served by more than one line only need to be visited once. Other forms of public transport (except taxis) can be used to transfer between lines if needs be.
Now, while visiting every station on the Bucharest metro (when we did it there were 43, there are now 45) is a far less arduous task than doing the same thing in London, it still requires a fair bit of planning: where to begin and what route to follow probably being the most important things to consider. So it was after much consultation of timetables and route maps (not all of which are reliable) that we decided our Bucharest Metro Challenge would start at Pantelimon, that eastern outpost of the Bucharest metro served only by a shuttle to and from Republica.