I blog when I go abroad, and occasionally when I do stuff in the UK too. There's a nicer interface over here.

Monday, July 15, 2013

When in Romania

Given the prodigious amount of absurdity, fun, and alcohol had on Friday, there was surely no way Saturday could come close. Though actually what I most felt like when waking up was a bit of respite. That the 2 hour delay was now about 3 hours, and that we as a group decided to skip Brašov and stay on until Bucharest, was very much welcome then.

11am - we had now switched timezone to BST+2 - marked pretty much exactly the one week mark in this trip. I tried to recall a few stats: 7 days, 13 countries, 15 border crossings, 23° of latitude, 3 timezones, 10-12-10 people, 112 unread emails, 17 trains, 5 sleepers, 2 hostels/campsites, countless tubes of squeezy bacony cheese, ... 

Like I said before, I had no right to feel as good as I did. I can only put it down to my mood trumping the physical symptoms of such over indulgence as Friday had seen. So surely I had no right to be treated to some world class scenery on a beautiful ride through the Carpathian Mountains and forests, topped off with a compartment to myself for a couple of hours? Well whether I had the right or not, I had that exact experience.

The scenery, including the train line itself, was just wonderful. Sunny, colourful, breathtaking, and contributory to a state of peaceful bliss, one actually helped by the lateness and slowness of our train (at points where we paired with roads, cars overtook us).

Originally we should have been to Brašov at 0930, leaving at about 1600. Instead we reached Bucharest at about 3pm, with a scheduled departure on the Russian ghost train at just after 11pm. Lester had promised us that the Romanian capital was shit and not worth a lot of hours, so there was some trepidation. Nonetheless, we dumped bags in lockers and headed towards the area my phone had told us was a scene of many eateries and watering holes: Lipscani and the old town.

We got on a tube, for 7 stops. There was a quicker route, but this trip is hardly one in which we take the shortest or quickest way from A to B, is it? Emerging from the station we crossed the wide communist boulevard and HOLY SHIT LOOK AT THAT PALACE. Despite being many, many blocks away, Ceaușescu's palace really was an imposing sight. We'd read that it's the second biggest building in the world behind the pentagon, and I'm not sure I'm surprised. We didn't get too close to it yet, preferring instead to find a base, and somewhere to eat and drink.

In the old town we hit pay dirt straight away. Or at least I did. An English pub which served cracking Guinness and had the ashes test on. So bloody topsy turvy. I love test cricket. Australia were going great guns in their second innings but we took two important wickets before we left, much to the annoyance of the 3 Aussies in the pub. Hah.

Bucharest was a bit odd. The old town had masses and masses of bars, including a great many theme bars ("Glasgow - always drinking of you" and "the schengen bar" being two I can remember) plus restaurants. We ate in a traditional Romanian one and the food was bloody cracking. I forget my main course because the memory of it was instantly wiped by the cheese strudel I had for dessert. Nom.

After dinner, 4 of us headed to the palace to get up close and a few sunset photos. Jesus, what a place. It's not just an impressive facade, but square - it must be a good 2km wide and deep. Good work, Nicolae. Shame your countrymen couldn't afford to fucking eat, eh?

I'd never been somewhere so clearly still showing the effects of communism. In particular the architecture and general road layout - grand boulevards, etc. A real same some of the housing blocks are in faded disrepair as they are really very nice buildings.

The language struck me. For no good reason, I've always thought if Romania as more eastern and alien than Hungary, but lots of the words had a distinct French tinge. Also, fewer accents.

Anyway, once our splintering finished we all met back at a bar near where we'd left each other and partook of a drink. I had a 1.9% lemon beer and loved it. People seemed tired.

Bucuresti gara nord has live departure information on the Internet these days. They've put a webcam up pointing at the physical board in the station. Good work, Bucharest. Unfortunately the page didn't work on my phone. At the station we got our luggage back and camped uncomfortably at the bar, waiting for our train to be given a platform.

There had been some doubt as to this train's existence. We all called it the Russian ghost train, cos it started in Moscow and seemed to appear in virtually no timetables. Nonethless, it was on the board and running late. Near the originally scheduled departure time, we got the platform and boarded our coach, a Ukrainian carriage that had been to Kyiv.

If was nearly midnight. The couchettes were 4s, not 6s. Mine had a Ukrainian in it already. People still seemed tired, though we knew there was border control at about 1am. Wonder if I can stay awake that long? 

No comments: