Friday, September 19, 2008

3rd World Europe

Greetings from Romania!

It's hard to even know where to start on this one.  So I will just go day-by-day and see where I end up.

Monday/Tuesday:  This was my epic journey from Klangenfurt, Austria to Bucharest, Romania.  It took a total of 25 hours to do it, but I made it!  The big train ride, from Vienna to Bucharest was 17 hours.  Fortunately, I got three seats in a row to myself, so I slept for about 14 hours of the trip.  It wasn't particularly comfortable, but it worked.  The really irritating part of it was that the Romanian border police, railway employees, etc. came through the train to look at our tickets/passports atleast 11 times that I counted.  In the middle of the night.  I never slept more than 30 minutes at a time before an angry Romanian police officer would blast open our door and demand our tickets.  My blood pressure was through the roof.  The particularly scary part about it was that they didn't speak English and seemed very confused as to what my rail pass is.  I had to hand over my passport every time, and I had visions of getting tossed in a Romanian prison.  But I survived.  Sharing my little compartment was a Bulgarian (I think) lady who spoke no English, but spoke German.  So we chatted for a while in German.  She told me that my German was better than a lot of Austrians she knew.  I think that's just because we were both non-native speakers and therefore could understand each other well.  It was fun.

Anyway, I got to Bucharest at about 2 PM.  And, as my Romanian train buddy had warned me about, there were dogs all over the place.  I saw at least a dozen dogs in packs on the way to my hostel!  Definitely decided to be inside before nightfall!  For the rest of Tuesday I basically just wandered around the area near my hostel and went grocery shopping

Wednesday-  I slept in til 12:30.  I'm on vacation! :)  I then went on my first sightseeing adventure in Bucharest.  I saw the place where the revolution of 1989 started (very cool!), the opera hall, and their parliament building, which is the 2nd largest government building in the world behind the Pentagon.  And then I ate Pizza Hut.  The evening, I watched 12 episodes of "The Office" on my laptop.  I <3>

Thursday-  I popped up at 6:00 AM to go catch a train.  I had decided the night before to take a day trip to Constanza, which is the 2nd largest city in Romania and a port city on the Black Sea.  I'm very glad I went, but I did spend a total of 9 hours on a train for about 3 hours in the actual city.  And those three hours were mainly spent lost.  Apparently, no one in Constanza sells a map.  So I didn't actually see any of the things I meant to see.  But I did get to see the Black Sea and I did get to wander around for a long time.  I did get a little lost trying to get back to the train station and tried asking someone how to get back.  Her Spanish/English and my English got it figured out. :)  The worst part about my day trip was that the train ride back was full, and since I didn't have reservation, I had to stand.  For 4 hours.  It sucked a lot.  And this old Romanian lady (think Babushka) came up to me and started rambling in Romanian, I told her I spoke English, she petted my hair several times, and then proceeded to stare at me for the next 2 and a half hours.  It was awkward.

Friday- Oh.  That's today!  I slept in til 11:30.  And I've been talking to this Aussie who has been backpacking for 5 months and will be for the next 3.  Crazy!   Anyway, today I will be visiting several churches and going the Lipiscani district.  Think: Gypsies selling cheap stuff.  Yay!

Thoughts on Romania:

1) In the outskirts of the cities, Romania is a third world country.  No water, no electricty, donkeys for transportation, starvation, disease, etc.  Slums with cardboard and corrugated metal.  It may not be as bad as Africa, but it's pretty damn bad.  And no on knows about it.

2) Barely anyone here speaks English.  Which is difficult.

3) There are honest to God gypsies (politically correct: Roma) here.  Fascinating.

4) I have been such a bum at night here!  I have gotten through almost all of Season 3 of "The Office".  

5) Bucharest is unlike any European city I've seen.  It's really, really sad actually.  You can just tell that it was once an incredibly gorgeous city.  Until Ceausescu came through.  That man was freaking nuts!

6) Bucharest is dirty, kind of ugly, and very Eastern European.  But I like it.

7) It is very expensive to eat out here.  The majority of Romanians can never afford to eat out.  They can barely buy groceries.  But I am going to go to a Romanian restaurant for lunch and see what I can do.

That is all for now.  I'm sorry the post is so long!  I just haven't had anyone to talk to the whole time, so I needed to get it out of my system!

I head back to Vienna tomorrow.  Another 15 hour train ride.  Woo hoo!

6 comments:

Gary said...

Re: angry Romanian police - At least you already had some experience with angry Austrian police. Have you no respect for the law? :-)

Re: sleeping in and watching "The Office" - This is a healthy thing. One should relax on vacation. Except when one is at Disney World, when 6:00 a.m. wakeup calls are mandatory. Mandatory!

Maybe the Babushka who petted your hair thought you were a cat. Or Ceaucescu. Or Ceaucescu's cat. In any event, it's probably a good thing that you got off the train when you did.

Travel blogs are great things. I get to travel vicariously throughout parts of Europe and Africa - and without the 17 hour train rides! I'll soon be submitting a proposed itinerary for other destinations that I would like to experience. Hmm, I've always wanted to see the Great Wall of China - and the Great Pyramids would be nice, too....... :-)

JUSTSMITH said...

I would like to pet your hair as well....

I think you should get tested now, its the responcible thing to do

amanda said...

I can't believe you spent almost a week in Bucharest. I would have taken the packs of dogs roaming the city as a sign that maybe this wasn't the ideal vacation spot. But then again, you do have a thing for dirty Eastern European cities. :)

Emily McKnight said...

wow, that sounds awesome. Your experiences and travels are makin me a little jealous : )

Tiffany said...

It sounds like it was fun to buy cheap things from gypsies/Roma...those items will always have a story behind them!

G AND G O. said...

BRAVO, BETHANY, COURAGE AND DETERMINATION YOU HAVE IN GREAT ABUNDANCE. I ALSO THINK THAT IT WOULD BE GREAT IF FED EX OVERNITE COULD BRING YOU A COUPLE OF PIT BULLS OR ROTTWEILERS AS COMPANIONS TO KEEP WILD DOG PACKS, ANCRY POLICEMEN AND OTHER UNSAVORY CHARACTERS AT BAY DURING YOUR TOUR OF THEIR LOVELY?? COUNTRY. GREAT REPORTING, NOW VIENNA IS CALLING. LOVE FROM G AND G O.