Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Romanian holiday

Playing it by ear does not necessarily mean being disorganized and unprepared, but unfortunately, when you're me, it often does. I woke up this morning in Bucharest thinking, "what was the name of the hostel I booked at?" There were some brits on the train who were heading to one that sounded vaguely like it might be where I am meeting my friend Ben, but I couldn't be sure. I had no idea where the train station was in relation to the town, or even what train station I was at, or what Bucharest had to offer. Thank goodness for lonely planet. I settled down for a muffin in the train station, after finding the only working bankomat, and had a read, deciding to head to an internet cafe in the center and hopefully be able to walk to the hostel. I'm a bit farther than I thought I would be but I think it will be a nice walk.

The train journey was the most comfortable I've been on all trip. I had my own compartment (empty except for me) and a sleeper, and my friends from the hostel a few doors down to chat with before we went to sleep and while we were all waiting at the border. It's nice to be American in a way, because even though they looked at your passport with jaundiced eyes, scan it and write down your number and ask you lots of questions and look at you suspicously as though you might be coming to Romania to live off the state!, at least you always get a stamp whereas those with EU passports have to ask if they are trying to collect them, and sometimes are denied. I am actually running out of room in my passport and will have to get more pages before another big trip. The guy at the Bulgarian side stamped over my (very faint) Croatian stamp which I wasn't too happy about. I only have one because for some reason passport control in Istria was very lax and I went through 5 borders without my passport really being looked at. I only have one at all because I ended up in Zagreb unexpectedly when I didn't know which route my train from Ljubljana was taking.

I haven't decided about Bucharest yet. It seems nice in the center but you can never tell with first impressions. After 2 hours in Sofia I was ready to leave that day but it turned out to be all right. That's the curse of capital cities, I think, and Bucharest more than any other I have noticed. Most people say its total crap and not to bother, but one or two have loved it so much they say to stay for 5 days. Well, I'm not going to stay for 5 days but I wanted to decide for myself. In this I think it is a matter of personal taste. I could have done without Sofia; but on the other hand I have never heaard a good word spoken about Skopje and it was one of my favorite places I visited last summer, I think I was there for 3 or 4 days when most would say it isn't worth 2 hours.

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