Sunday, August 18, 2013

Backpacking in Romania - one week trip from Turkey

My Romanian Journey

Out of Cappadocia 

When I got out of my cave (actually cave hotel) at the early morning, I was cursing myself for booking the early morning flight out of Cappadocia but all that changed when I really opened my eyes.  The view from my cave hotel entrance at the early morning was awesome and there a number of colorful hot air balloons just taking off, they are very close that I could hear the noise from the balloon burners.  The plan is to catch the shuttle from the hotel to the Kayseri airport at 630am, the Dervish Cave hotel staff arranged for the shuttle at the last minute and got us some breakfast ready by 6am.  The shuttle was on time, we had an excellent sight of a number of hot air balloons and the traffic of their support vehicles on our way to the airport.

Kayseri Airport

The Kayseri airport was about an hour from the Cappadocia with decent cafeteria before the security hall.  My daughter was leaving to her college via Istanbul Ataturk (IST) airport and I was going to Bucharest via Sabiha (SAW), the plan was her to call or message once she checked in to her to flight to USA.  I was hoping that she could find a wifi site in the airport but with my experience at SAW airport, I realized that no free wifi available in the airport and to get the wifi access using one of the providers, you need to have a smart phone to get the access code.  I had to wait for another 8 hours before I could find out my daughter was on her way to USA.  While thinking about the hi-tech of getting wifi access, she seems to forget the lo-tech option of getting the phone card and make the call using the landline available at the airport ;-)

It's pretty short flight from Kayseri to SAW and the SAW airport was much bigger/better than I expected, with a lot of nice places to eat and chill out (but no wifi).  I couldn't believe that the Starbucks at the airport, but there's a small coffee shop in the security area where you could spend 10 Lira to get one hour of free internet.

At Istanbul Airport

While waiting for the flight to Bucharest, I had an interesting conversation with a dentist from Dallas area, who was traveling back home about the Turkish language and how the Ottomans didn't force the language on the people whom they ruled for about 400 years.  Couldn't comprehend how the Turkish language is not spoken widely in the areas ruled by the Ottomans.  I don't have an answer for this question yet.  He was saying that the cost of travel in Turkey is more than doubled in the last couple of years and I was shocked to see the prices equivalent (almost) USA prices.

Story of an American Traveller - Meeting with Jay

I was sitting next to Jay on my flight to Bucharest and after a few minutes of conversation with Jay, I realized that Jay's story is the interesting(!) story that I can talk when I talk about my trip to Romania.  Jay, who is from Utah (USA), is on a three week European trip covering Balkans and Romania, and who very well planned the trip by booking the hotels/air tickets had little misfortune hit him when in Croatia.  Jay lost his debit card, with no other currency but with only credit card, decided to get help from the credit card company asked them to send him money when he's in Croatia.  Not sure whether it is by design or God wanted to mess with him, he got all of the money he requested in Croatian currency just the day before leaving Croatia.  At that Jay didn't realize that Croatian money is pretty much useless outside Croatia.

 Struggle to Convert Kuna

Jay booked a hotel in Brasov and planning to take the train from Bucharest to Brasov after landing, told him that it's was plan too and told him that I'd wait after the immigration to see whether he could get some cash to support himself in Romania for the next two days.  You may think what in the world he's doing Romania without money...his flight back home is from Bucharest.  After clearing the immigration waited for Jay in the baggage area for more than 15 minutes and I was really tempted to leave but decided to hang around to make sure that he's fine.  Jay showed up after 25 minutes with a dejected look on his face because he found out that the Croatian money that he had couldn't be converted to Romanian money or Dollars or Euros.  He checked with a bunch of money changers at the airport but no luck.  He was ready to make changes to his flight and leave Bucharest next day.  I told him that I could lend him some money that he could use for the train tickets and after reaching the hotel, he could try to get cash advance to support himself...and he could PayPal the money to me once reaches home.  Jay didn't want to get any money from me and feeling guilty for me waiting for him.

 Gentlemen Agreement

Convinced Jay to go the train station with me and he could buy the ticket for me & him using his credit card to Brasov so that I could give him the train ticket money in cash for him.  The bad luck followed him to the train station too, when he was trying to use the credit card at the train station, they informed him that only the international tickets could be bought with credit card not the domestic tickets.  Since the train tickets reasonably cheaper, told him that he could get the money from his hotel but he refused to accept my money for the tickets and wanted to just hang around in Bucharest for his return trip.

I didn't book any hotels or tickets for my stay or trip in Romania and I decided to experiment just backpack without any planning.  So I didn't have any hotel or hostel reservations.  I asked Jay whether he'd accept money from me if he could share the hotel room (he booked a very nice place in the city center (Casa Wagner)) so that he could avoid hanging around in the train station/airport for the next two days.  So got the tickets for him to go to Brasov and got some dinner in the super market.  When Jay wanted to pay for the dinner in the super market, God showed up there with his punishing hand, and he was requested to enter PIN for the credit card purchase, which he didn't have...;-(  So in the two hour time frame that I spent with this guy, I was able to see how he was getting screwed by his misfortune.

Bucharest Nord

I read so much about how unorganized or chaotic the Bucharest Nord train station is, but don't believe it.  It is an easy place to navigate and there's a help/information counter right where you get out of the train where you find help.  There's a super market, money exchange and luggage storage facility in the train station - all well marked.

Romanian Hospitality

Bucharest airport is relatively small airport for the capital of a country and managing the communications in the airport was not issue.  Instead of taking a bus to the train station, decided to take the train from the airport (mini bus ride for 10 minutes from airport to airport train station).  I got a glimpse of the Romanian spirituality when I started with a Romanian guy (Alex) traveling from the airport to the train station.  Alex was returning from Ottawa, Canada from his two week training camp for the NGO work and he was indicating that the west is very materialistic, no one was spiritual there. Only after seeing the small status of Jesus in the mini bus, he was happy and he's glad to be home.  Alex's home is Transylvania and going in the same train to Brasov.  On our way to the train station, he was talking about time during Ceausescu and after he was toppled how the infrastructure is crumbling.  He invited me to his home in Brasov as well as willing to give us ride to the hotel from the train station.  The Romanians are very spiritual and I could see that whenever we cross the church in going in the bus, you can see a whole bunch of people do a quick prayer ;-)

 Arriving at Brasov

I could judge (may be I am wrong) that Jay was ill prepared for his trip and he was thinking that he could walk to the hotel but the hotel was at least 10 minutes away from the train station by taxi.  So we got a taxi for about less than $3 to go to the Casa Wagner hotel and by the time we reached the hotel it's midnight.  Jay was paranoid that the hotel may ask for the PIN number when they use the credit card, so he checked whether the PIN is needed before checking into the hotel.  The hotel was very well located and could spot a number of people at the city center having dinner or drinks at that time.

Visiting Dracula's Home  

Decided to explore the Dracula castle and the surrounding areas the next day by myself
and Jay indicated that he's going to explore Brasov.  The breakfast at the hotel was decent but I got woken up by the noise of people going to the breakfast area in the morning.  The hotel staff was not very helpful in getting my laundry done or getting more information going to places around the area, so decided to check out the tourist information center at the city center to figure the way around.  The girl, Iuliana, at the Information center was very helpful and informed that there's no need to go on a package tour but I could manage by myself going on the bus - also provided the bus information to go to Bran, where the Dracula castle is located.

The public transportation in Romania is (dead) cheap and the bus ride to Bran (about an hour away) cost me less than $5.  I had to take a local bus from the city center to Autogara#2 to catch the long distance bus to Bran.  Getting the bus ticket and bus from the city center was not a problem at all and luckily I had asked someone (sign language) in the bus where Autogara#2 and he told me where to get down.  I thought that the long distance bus stand should be easily identifiable from the bus, but I was wrong...I had to cross the road to go to a different area for the bus stand.

While walking to bus stand, I met Rachel who got down from the same bus and going to Bran also.  So we decided team up and explore Bran & Rasnov.  The Dracula castle looks small but walking through the castle interior shows the awesome design of the palace in fitting in so many rooms so nicely.  Getting here by bus is so easy and on the way to the castle there are a lot of shops to eat or buy souvenirs.  If you are planning to visit, go early, else you will be spending some time in the lines.

 Visit to Rasnov

Rachel and I decided to reach Rasnov and have lunch there before visiting the Rasnov fort thinking that the lunch choices in Rasnov would be better.  But we were wrong and there're only a very few places for lunch at Rasnov.  The bus, which is a 12 seater van, dropped us off near the center of the town and there're not many people in the town - maybe it was siesta time.   Rachel is an elementary school teacher in UK and with my limited knowledge of education about education system, we were discussing how the schools are run in our respective countries.  After having lunch in a pub, we started walking towards the fort which initially started off as one kilometer walk ended up longer than that.  At one point we were wondering whether we were going to the right place - later on we found out that the bus normally drops off people in a different place, very closer to the parking lot of Rasnov fort.

While having lunch at the pub, we saw a group Hari Krishna follower distributing pamphlets in that area for the band playing in the music festival in Rosnov that night and the name of the band that they were promoting was Maha Mandra band.  

There is nothing impressive about the Rasnov fort but the view from the top was really good.  We took the fun train (tractor pulling a few carriages) to the top to save time and we took the same train to come down after spending about 30 minutes in the fort.  We were not sure whether the bus to Brasov will stop, so decided to walk back to the Rasnov town to catch the bus.  It was getting closer to 5pm and we were worried that we may not back in Brasov for the walking tour, so we decided to try hitch hiking to the town.  First couple cars that passed us were full and almost an empty van with two elderly couple didn't stop but after crossing us they stopped at about 25 meters.  We started running towards the van, we found out later that they stopped the van to take pictures of some birds but seeing us running towards the van, they gave us ride to the city.


While waiting for the bus to Brasov, a car pulled over asked us where we were going, asked us to pay the bus fare to go to Brasov and on the way picked up two more people.  Asked him whether he's running competitive business with the bus service, he indicated that he was on his way to Brasov and making money on the way ;-)

 Back to Brasov

On the way back to Brasov, I was thinking about Jay and wondering what he had done that day.  Since the hotel is right on the city center, checked with the receptionist whether she had any news about Jay but none.  While waiting for the walking tour, there was flag lowering ceremony kind of a thing was happening at the city center at 6pm with music and marching band.  The guided tour of Brasov was excellent, walked for more than 2 hours and at the end of the tour I was totally ready to hit the bed.  Went alone for dinner near the city center area and dinned with a couple of guys from Jordan touring Romania.  By the time I was back from dinner, Jay was in the room and we talked about the day and the plan for the next day.  Even though, Jay had some money, he didn't spend any because he was paranoid about the next two days.

 More (Sad) Stories from Jay

Asked him about his logic for not spending the money that he had for food or anything, he came up with the other troubles he went through during the trip and it was bad.  While traveling from Serbia to Croatia in the train, he boarded the train at mid-night, got into the compartment, climbed up to his upper berth and slowly unpacked his stuff (in the dark) because a couple of other guys were sleeping in that compartment.   When the train conductor came to check the tickets Jay looked (almost) everywhere for the tickets without disturbing the other passenger at early morning wee hours and he couldn't find the ticket. The conductor kicked out of the compartment and asked him to sit near the exit door near the toilets are and he tried to sleep sitting there.  It was pretty bad because of the looks he was getting from the passenger going around that area and the conductor was not willing trust him to let him stay in the compartment.  After the daylight arrived, he went to his compartments to find the ticket between the seats and showed it to the conductor to get back his pride back (at least some of it).

 Jay's Trouble in Turkey

Jay's return trip to Utah was from Bucharest and he was flying to Bucharest from Croatia with 20 hr stopover in Istanbul.  After losing his debit card in Croatia, Jay got his Croatian money from the credit card company just a day before flying out of Croatia and he landed in the Istanbul airport where he had to get visa to get to the city & to his hotel.  The visa section in the Istanbul airport doesn't accept credit card and need the visa fee of US$20 for the visa.  When Jay decided to stay in the airport for the 20hrs, someone in the visa realized his situation and helped him to get the visa.  And after all of these God's tests, I met Jay in the flight to Bucharest from Istanbul ;-)  At that point, he was not willing to take any more troubles and ready to go back home, I could understand why he wanted to hang on to the cash.

 Sinaia Visit

 After having breakfast at the hotel with Jay, wished him good luck on his trip back home, decided to leave my bags with the front desk and left to the train station to make the trip to Sinaia to visit the Peles Castle and monastery.  The train was late by an hour, so looked for the mini buses and luckily the buses to Sinaia go from the bus station near the train station (there are 3 different bus station and depending on where you want to go, you have to go to different bus stands).  Even though reaching Sinaia early, I made a mistake of spending too much time in the monastery and when reached the Peles castle, there was a long line to get into the castle.  The arrangement of the castle tour was a complete mess, first there were different lines for language groups where the wait was long, at the start of the tour you have drop of your backpacks and put 
Peles Castle
cover over the shoes (looks like they don't want to vacuum the place even though it's built with centralized vacuum ;-)) The palace was built late 1800s and early 1900s,  really impressive and built with modern heating, elevators and other niceties at that time.  While walking around and taking pictures near the palace, I met Jay again (what a small world) and wished him good luck.

 Leaving Brasov

Instead of staying in Brasov for one more night, decided to head out Sighisoara and I was confident that I could find hostels to stay.  I decided to make a quick trip to Poiana Brasov, which is just 30 minutes bus ride from the center, before leaving Brasov and the train @830pm was working out better.  Because of the bus schedule to Poiana Brasov (every one hour there's a bus), I was not able to spend more than 15 minutes in Poiana Brasov and not sure what I could have done if had more time, because it was ski resort and not many things to do in summer.  The drive was good and there are places where you could see the mountains and Brasov city, and since the bus ticket was about 50 cents (return), it was not a bad way to pass some time.

 Encounter with Romanian Red Neck

The train ride from Brasov to Sighisoara was interesting that interacted with a different kind of character in the train.  I was sitting next to a non-smiling Romanian guy and a Romanian couple in the train, and my tries to start a discussion with the Romanian guy was in vain, and since our compartment had a lot of empty seats, leaving my backpack on my seat I moved to a seat closer that empty so that I could stretch my legs.  There was a drama going on a couple of seats from me where a drunken deaf and dumb was having a lot of fun and his wife was trying control him.  He was trying to run to the toilet for a smoke and the wife was trying to control him.  This was going on for the whole 3 hours of the trip. 
 Whereas the Romanian guy who was sitting next to me took out the water bottle from my backpack and poured some water in his water cup without bothering to ask me.  I thought that it's fine but when I was trying to get my backpack ready to get out of my station, he was arguing with me in Romanian and didn't want to give away the water bottle.  Don't think that he was a poor guy but very well dressed character and the couple sitting across from us having their laughs because a few minutes back he just lied across on the seat putting his legs on the aisle.  Whoever was trying to walk on the aisle had to hop over his leg and he's not responding to anyone asking him to move the leg.  Once the drunken man was trying to go to the other side and I was afraid that he's going to hop over but luckily he decided to go to the toilet on the other end of the train.  The conductor didn't seem to do anything about these and not sure how to handle these kind of characters in the train.  I wished the good luck to the couple sitting across from me because they were traveling with this non-smiling Romanian guy for the next 8 hours.

 Hunting for Hostel @ Mid-Night

Sighisoara has a small train station and the center of the city is about 15 minutes walk from the train station.  I had a list of 3 hostels that are about 5 minutes walk from the train station, so I was not worried about walking around and looking for a place at about mid-night.  The first hostel very close the train station didn't have any beds so I started to walk towards the other places, while looking for those two place I came across another hostel that I didn't try to get a  room but after walking about 10 minutes, I couldn't find the two hostels I had in my list.  Walking in the dark at night was not the problem but the number of stray dogs in Romania was giving me fits..;-)  When I asked for any close by hotels in the petrol station at the end of the road, the guy at the station offered to take me in his to drop off at a hostel and when we reached hostel that I didn't bother to check while passing by, they didn't have room.  But the staff at the hostel (Gia Hostel) was helpful in directing me another hostel (Hostel Mario), and misfortune that hostel also didn't have beds available. 
With Mary

 The German guy managing hostel Mario, Marios, asked me whether I was interested in staying in an apartment, asked him how much it would cost me and he told me that same amount as the hostel (<US$30).  He wanted to check with his friend whether she has any availability and it would be very close to his hostel.  Remember that whole discussions were happening in German and sign language at mid-night ;-)  An elderly German lady (I forgot her name, let’s call Mary) showed up in less than 5 minutes and we three (Marios, Mary and I) left to her apartment after I sent myself an email what I was doing.  With all of the dumb things that I may do, I try to compensate with a few close to smart things ;-)  Mary has two apartments in a big building, while staying in one of the apartments with her husband who works with Marios, she rents the other apartment 
@City Center
and the apartment was very well furnished.  After showing me where the coffee machine, coffee and other things that I may need to use the kitchen, Mary invited me to her apartment to meet her husband who was watching football while she was running business at mid-night;-)  We four started to discuss in German/English/sign language after having a couple of shots of homemade brandy about where I was from, where all I had been, how I like Romania, etc.  We were sitting together having drinks and talking(!!) for 30 minutes before I decided to give the apartment rent to Mary and go to my room to sleep.

 Sighisoara Visit

Woke up around 830am, dropped off the apartment keys with Mary around 9am, headed out the hostel Mario to thank Mario and leave my backpack with the hostel Mario before heading to the city center.  Sighisoara is a nice little town where there's not much crowd despite the town is so beautiful like any other touristy places in the Western Europe.  After having a nice breakfast, walked around the town for a couple of hours before headed to the train station to catch the train to Sibiu after picking up the backpack.

 Train Trip to Sibiu

On the way to Sibiu, I met girls from Prague, Susanne and Carole, who were hiking the Transfagarasan Mountain for the last four days on their way back home.  We had very discussions about the Indian culture, marriages in India, the relationships in Europe and other topics.  Susanne is doing medical in Prague and she was stating her problems about getting to know someone in her busy and having relationships.  She was saying that the arranged marriages may be a good thing but when I said that in the Indian cities the arranged marriages disappearing or seeing more divorces, the discussion got much deeper but at the end we didn't solve the problems of the world ;-)  But it is amazing to note how meeting random people in train, having very good discussions and build friendships - advantages of backpacking.  Carole's sister's boy friend is studying in San Diego and the discussion went on how he was forced into getting driver license within a couple week because of lack mobility without car and both Carole and Susanne do not have driving license ;-)

Because of my Sighisoara hostel experience, I wanted to make sure that I'd have a place to stay so I just sent emails to two hostels in Sibiu enquiring about beds and wanted them to hold a bed for me.  I was not sure whether, they had any beds are not but I was not worried because I was reaching Sibiu around 330pm, so more time to figure out.  Luckily, the fist hostel (Felinarul hostel) that I sent the email to, had a bed for me and it was a very old building but very well maintained.

The owner of the hostel mentioned about a couple of things happening in the town what’re really interesting: Gypsy King Funeral the next day and middle Ages festival in the next two days.  There's non-stop news program about Gypsy King Funeral and they're projecting more than 100,000 gypsies showing up for the festival.

New Friends 

After settling down in the room, met the other roommates, Monica and Pia, and started talking about the field trip to the Gypsy funeral the next day.  Everyone was interested in going for the funeral next and the hostel staff, Mark, is from UK was interested in going too, so we all decided to meet around 1030am to head out to the funeral.  Monica from Los Angeles, who is getting ready to go to freshman year in UCLA, is backpacking Baltic and Romania for six weeks before starting her undergraduate program.  Pia is from Switzerland, who could speak about 5 different languages.  Just when we were getting ready to go for dinner, we got the company of Pier and Lawrence from Paris, and Lawrence mentioned about a Greek place that's supposed to be good in Sibiu (recommended by someone in Brasov).  After failing to locate the Greek place, we settled down in a pizza place for dinner where we enjoyed dinner, wine and tukia (local alcohol) for a couple of hours before heading out to the hostel.  It's almost 1am, Pier wanted to go to another bar, so all of us went to the bar on the way to our hostel and the gals bailed after 5 minute.  We hung around there for another hour talking about Lawrence's work as a documentary videographer and his experiences before going to our hostel.

Gypsy King Funeral

When started from the hostel for the funeral, we have a group of seven people lead by the hostel staff Mark and we all excited about the King's funeral - it's a surprise to all of us that there's a king for Gypsies.  It's a long walk to the new part of the town and gave us exposure to the real Sibiu.  When we reached the king's home, there're not thousands of people for that matter not more 150 people in that area but the slowly the crowds started to gather - mostly spectators not Gypsies.  There're about 500 people in that area at the maximum and a lot of Gypsy gentleman very well dressed giving TV interviews to a number of TV channels.  The president of Romania was attending the funeral to pay respect to the king and we were just 10 feet  away from the President of Romania. 
 There're a lot police but we couldn't spot any security around the President and a lot of people can get very close the President.  The funeral procession was supposed to start at 1pm but there's no sign of that at 1pm, there're about 500 people in that area at 1pm and we didn't think that the funeral procession anything great, since we already spent 2 hours there, we wanted to see the King but the French guy lost their patience and left.  I was sitting on the railway track bridge for some time and not patience, we all decided to wait there 'til 2pm for the funeral, if not nothing happens, we'd leave at 2pm.  Nothing happened at 2pm so we all left to visit a local market place we saw on the way to buy some fresh fruits.  Later on we read in the internet that thousands of people were there, which seemed to be publicity news and not the real numbers ;-)

Walking to the other side of the town and waiting under the hot sun made us tired, so most of us bought some fruits in the local open market and after having lunch @Lucas, we went to the hostel to take rest.  Lucas is one of the best sandwich places I had been to in Romania and there're a lot of vegetarian choices there.  On the way to the hostel Monica, Pia and I decided to rent a car to drive in the Transfagarasan the next day and I was the driver because none of them know how to drive stick shift.

After taking rest at the hostel, I came back to the center to enjoy the Middle Ages festivities and see some of the local attractions.  The whole center was filled with local merchants and middle age related shows and music.  Also, there's a rock music band was playing in a different section of the center and a number of friends from the hostel were there.  While I was having a quiet moment enjoying the Middle Ages themed music at the center, I met Hugo from the hostel there and we left to have some beer.  Hugo was an IT consultant, travelling by bike from Netherlands and planning to cover Romania, Ukraine and Georgia in the next 2 months.  He was planning to visit his girl friend's place in Taiwan and after that planning to backpack in Burma in the next six months.  We talked for long about the IT consulting work in Europe and how it is different from US before going back to the hostel.

 Field Trip to Balea Lake

Tino, from Germany, wanted to join the gang for the Transfagarasan drive, to my luck he knows the drive stick shift and felt comfortable driving in Romania.  The Transfagarasan road was being listed as one of the best roads for scenery and fun driving experience, so we decided to do the drive and one the way back we wanted to go back to a Monastery.  We picked up the car from the Autonam near the city center and I started to drive towards the north end of the Transfagarasan road.  Overall, the roads are in very good condition and the 
literature talks about the road being gravel road which is wrong.  We never felt that the road was dangerous or we were taking a lot of risk (me being the driver).  The scenery is amazing and we stopped at the Balea Lake for an hour to have lunch and enjoy the views.

After crossing the tunnel, which is 820m long, near the Balea Lake the scenery as well as the weather completely changed - we saw the clouds moving in and started to rain.  Even when it was raining the road was good with drainage as well as traction.  We stopped near a lake on the way down to take 
some pictures and continued toward Curtea de Arges.  The view of the Transfagarasan dam simply amazing and we spent more time there than in the Balea lake area.  In such a beautiful area, the Romanian put an ugly Iron Man statue which does not suit there ;-(

The drive from the Transfagarasan dam to Sibiu took much longer than what we thought because of the speed limits and traffic, and we reached Sibiu around 930pm.  We had to stop over near the petrol station to get directions to get to our hostel, somehow Tino managed to drive to the hostel and Robert, the Autonam staff, came over to the hostel to collect the car.  We were happy that we drove on the Transfagarasan and we didn't have any incidents with the rental car.  After dropping off the car, all of us went out celebrate our drive and enjoy the dinner before we all go to different directions the next day.

 Return to Bucharest

Left the hostel around 530am after having the breakfast that Mark left for me in the fridge, to the train station to catch 6am train to Bucharest.  Had the goat cheese and bread that I got from the super market for the lunch in the train while enjoying the beautiful Romanian country side.  After leaving the backpack at the train station storage area, got the tickets to Sofia at the 11pm train and took the metro to the Palace of the People.

 Palace of the People

Getting the tickets for the tour of the Palace is an arcane process, where you have to drop off your passport at one place and pay at a different place.  So remember to take your passports with you if you want to take the tour.  The Palace is very impressive and could not believe how it was built within four years (I know that it was built by slave labors and abusing a number of people).  The sad part of the Palace is that it's not being maintained properly now and it will be sad to see such a national treasure getting wasted.  With two hours of walking, we saw only 5% of the overall Palace area.

Someone mentioned that the view of the Palace from the Carol's Park will be very impressive, so decided to walk to Carol's Park that has war memorial too.  It is the first place I have ever been where the soldiers were not standing stiff but just joking around near the mausoleum, also witnessed the eternal flame going off and one of the soldiers running around to get the light to start the flame ;-)  The view from the park is not that impressive but the park is a very beautiful place to relax and watch people.

 Winding Down

I spent about three hours walking around Lipscani square, University square and Revolution square before taking the metro to go back to the train station to college my backpack and catch the train to Sofia.  I spent only half a day in Bucharest and really think that there's nothing much to do for more than a day in Bucharest instead I would more time Transylvania.

The train to Sofia was delayed by an hour and while waiting for the train, met two girls, one from Prague and the other girl from Estonia, doing voluntary work in Sofia.  Started talking to them about the voluntary work they do in Sofia, it was impressive that they took time off from their regular work for six months to serve mentally challenged children in Sofia.  They took a weekend trip from Sofia to Bucharest because there's nothing much to do in Sofia and there are a lot of things to do in Bucharest than in Sofia.  They felt that Bucharest is much more modern than Sofia.

 International Train Experience

When I got in the train, there's a family already sitting in the seats assigned to me and it was the same case for another backpacker from Swiss too.  While we were wondering what to do, someone indicated not to worry about the reserved seat numbers and asked us to occupy the empty seats available.  We both moved to the next room in the compartment and wondering whether the conductor would kick us out, but that didn't happen.  The Swiss guy asked me to take the seat and he was getting ready to sleep on the floor.  When I went to the toilet, I noticed that the most of the rooms were empty in the train, so asked the Swiss guy to move to the next room where he could occupy the empty seat and could sleep on the seat instead on the floor.

 Final Thoughts

Overall the backpacking trip in Romania was good, made a lot of good friends and learnt a lot from the fellow travelers.  My advice to my friends is to visit Romania before the others find out about this hidden gem and prices start going up.


1 comment:

  1. hello Gunny! Thanks for sharing your travel experience in Romania. Did you go there during the summer? I am planning to travel there next month and l'd like to know the weather during the summer. Thanks a lot!