And Yet Another Change of Plans

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September 10th 2008
Published: September 10th 2008
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Sunset on the overnight bus in Bulgaria
We slept in pretty late on the first day in Romania. Then again, so did everyone else in our dorm; they ended up getting in at 6 am or something. Steve and I walked around for a bit but we happened to be in Bucharest during a rare September heat wave (95 Fahrenheit!) so we didn't do much sightseeing. However, we were both tired of sightseeing anyway. We did eat at this really nice Romanian place for lunch. It looked a lot like a German beer hall. They even had 1 liter beer steins and I had the house beer, which ended up being my best beer of the trip so far (African beer is unsurprisingly terrible). The food might have been my favorite of the trip as well. I had really good soup followed by an amazing pork knuckle of some sort (sorry, I forget the Romanian name). It completely filled me up, Steve had some, and it was enough for 4 later that night. It was massive!

We bummed around the hostel for most of the afternoon because it was so hot. We met a bunch of people and watched a soccer match (I'm way under par so
Brasov 1Brasov 1Brasov 1

The pedestrian street in Brasov
far this season). We ended up going out with a couple German girls to the town square where they have free rock concerts. The band wasn't great but it was again refreshing to hear music that was somewhat tolerable.

We left the concert early for some bar hopping and realized that, despite the negative critisism, Bucharest is really not that bad of a city. It doesn't live up to a lot of other European capitals but it's not hard at all to stay out all night. After the aforementioned pork knuckle snack, we were up until well after sunrise.

The next day we parted with the German girls and took the train to Brasov, one of the main cities in Transylvania. Our hostel was a great place to meet more people but aside from that it was pretty terrible. There were 2 toilets and 2 showers for about 50 people and the breakfast consisted only of bread and hard boiled eggs. And that was if you woke up early enough to get some before it ran out. But Sylvia, the receptionist was really cool and helpful, and also energetic. She went through more energy in an hour than
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Inside Castle Dran
I do all day.

We had originally planned on staying in Brasov only for 2 nights and then heading to Belgrade the following morning. But castle Dran, Dracula's castle, was closed on Mondays. Also we realized that we would seriously be rushing through the Balkans too much to enjoy it because I have to be back in Istanbul by the 20th. So we decided to stay the 2 nights in Brasov, do the castle tour on the 3rd day and then take the overnight bus to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. For a bit, we were also toying with the idea of flying to Athens but it ended up being a bit too expensive.

We met a bunch of English people at the hostel (I think we were the only non English there!) and wandered around Brasov. It's a typical European town, which means it's really nice, clean and filled with all kinds of culinary treats. We went to go hike up the hill to the Brasov sign, which is a better version of the Hollywood sign, so says Steve. The English got intimidated at the hill and turned back from the start. Steve and I went for
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The View from Dran
it, but we weren't going to make it before sunset. And there had been a lot of bear attacks lately and it started thundering. That night ended up being just the second time in almost 3 months of traveling that I've seen rain. And the first time was a 10 minute drizzle when we were on the truck in Africa.

We signed up for a full day, two castle tour. Castle Dran was first and it sucked! Other than the t-shirt vendors outside, almost nothing had to do with Dracula at all. The castle was plain and boring and disappointingly almost not gothic at all.

The day was redeemed in the end though when we got to Castle Sinaia. This place might have been the greatest building I've ever seen, rivaling probably the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and the Prague Castle for my top 3. I literally can't even explain how amazing the inside was. It's too bad they charge 30 Lei for a photography ticket. But I'm sure there are pictures online.

We also unexpectedly ran into the German girls again so we grabbed lunch with them and then took an overnight bus to Chisinau.

Steve and I with the English girls from the hostel
The bus guy tried ripping us off by charging us 5 Lei for each bag stored under the bus but we just flat out refused to pay and he didn't do anything. An Argentine couple at the hostel also tried selling us $1,000 Eurail tickets for $50. They said they changed their itinerary and didn't need them anymore. It was really tempting but we went with our instincts in the end as it seemed like a scam.

The bus ride was awful. The roads weren't good at all and it was roasting in the bus. People love hot, stuffy air around here. I barely slept at all and we rolled into the bus station at 4:30 am, much too early to check in or take the local bus to the hostel. So we found a bench in the bus station and took a great 2 1/2 hour nap until security woke us up.

We're killing time now before check in and we'll probably go to sleep again for a bit. Then we're going to check out the town and decide if we're spending 1 or 2 nights here. Next stop is Odessa, Ukraine. Oh and we have to

Castle Sinaia exterior
go through this infamous region called Transnistria. I think it's one of those "they say they're a country, everyone else says they aren't" kind of situations. There are a lot of stories of border patrol taking bribes and the like so it should be an interesting day of travel. Stay tuned.

Additional photos below
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Inside the Monastery

24th September 2008

Ok, it is not my business but...
Ok, I know this is not my business but... it is BRAN castle, not DRAN! :) I haven't had the time to read till the end, but I hope you've enjoyed your stay in Romania.

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