Bucharest is an amazing city, and I say that despite the negative connotations I had of it from last year. Granted, Bucharest itself had nothing to do with it, but my first impressions of Romania were quite unpleasant. By the time I actually made it into the capital, I had a fractured knee from the shoddy infrastructure here. The 10-hour standing-only night train didn’t much help the situation. But I gave the Bucharest another chance and I absolutely love it here, especially at night. The city really changes when the sun goes down. It comes alive, takes on a whole new air of vibrancy. Even if the club scene isn’t for you, just walking around the Old Town is pleasant. Leaving the crowded streets is not a problem, at it seems there is something happening just about everywhere.
The hostel that I chose is acceptable. It’s cheap, but any of us that have flown on Ryan Air knows that they find ways to make up the difference. Here, too, they nickle and dime for just about everything. Beer is about twice as much as you would find anywhere else in the city (except for maybe the clubs). Checkout is earlier than most hostels – at 1030 – and if you are late they charge for an extra half-day. Oddly, if you don’t keep your bed made they also charge a service fee. This fee isn’t for them to make the bed, just for the assumed “unsightliness” of having sheets that aren’t fully tucked in. I was able to avoid these charges (after the first beer I bought on premises), but it seems like they could just be upfront and honest with their guests instead of inventing new ways to charge them.
I was packing up my belongings this morning and started a conversation with a Belgian girl, Clara, who was leaving at the same time. She has a flight to Greece later in the evening, and I had a ride share still a few hours out, so we decided to attend the free walking tour of Bucharest in our spare time. Most of it was basic information one could easily obtain in a third of the time from Wikipedia. At one point we came to a statue of Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler as he more commonly known. The guide told us that his army had defended against an invading Ottoman force, and to dissuade any future attacks he ordered the prisoners to be impaled, while still alive, and put on display all the way from the Bulgarian border to Bucharest. She claimed that sometimes those impaled would survive for up to 72 hours, and to add insult to injury they would grease the ends of the poles with pig fat – pigs being unholy to the invading Muslim Ottomans. Now, I have no experience in this area, but it seems like if someone is getting impaled, rectally, while still alive, then they should really be grateful for ANY type of lubrication that is used. I can only imagine that many of the prisoners were probably begging for MORE pig grease. Vlad Tepes probably thought he was doing them a favor, and pig grease was just the most widely available.
After the tour ended I returned to the hostel, after a quick stop at Subway. I’ll eat traditional Romanian food as soon as I get to a city without a Subway. Which hopefully will be today. I have booked a ride share to the town of Sibiu, past the Carpathian Mountains. Now, the last few times I used this same website to book a ride it worked out not in the slightest. If my ride does not show up, then I guess I will spend yet one more day in Bucharest while I figure out just what my next plan is. I don’t want to rush through Romania. In fact, I worried a little bit that going all the way to Sibiu was too drastic. I want to travel slow and enjoy the beautiful mountains in the center of the country. Sibiu is close to Cluj, which is definitely somewhere I would like to stop (gotta make some more orange juice). I am also considering Timisoara as a city to visit, but that would require a bit of back-tracking. My next country to visit is Moldova, so I will most likely slowly work my way east, hiking the mountains as much as possible.
Oh, hate to cut this short, but my ride should be here any minute!