A Travellerspoint blog

Romania

Bucharest, Brasov, Sibiu, Sighisora, Rasnov, Bran, Sinaia

sunny 27 °C

Yes its been bloody ages since i updated this site!

I arrived in Bucharest on the train from Veliko Tarnovo and was relieved to get there as Bulgarian trains are crap! I decided first of all to spend a couple of nights in Bucharest to get the feel for the city, culture and people. Off i went then to find a hostel, and like the sheep iam i followed the recommendation in Lonely Planet. After hunting it out....in the classy location of above a strip joint i spent the first night relaxing and reading. So the first proper day in Bucharest was spent having a look around and my conclusion is.....well.....its alright but nothing special. The good points of the city are that there are loads of cool little churches hidden away behind tower blocks as it was govt policy in the 1980's to surround churches with apartment blocks and factories in order to hide them so the population couldnt visit them. Another good point is it has the second biggest building in the world (after the Pentagon) which is The Palace of Parliament which dominates a whole area of Bucharest. Maybe not surprisingly it has never actually been finished as the Romanian govt cant afford it despite spending £1 billion on it, apparently about 15% of the building is still just a shell, but its so damn huge nobody will ever know exactly. However my favourite bit of Bucharest was a combination of the old town (the bit that wasnt being dug up) and a huge roundabout which had a park in the middle and loads of comedy capitalist signs that u associate with eastern europe.

After finishing up in Bucharest with a visit to a nice little resturant for some spagetti carbonara i booked a train ticket to Brasov which is in the heart of translyvania and romania's main tourist destination. The train ticket cost about £5 and the train was about ten times better than Virgin trains, so pay attention Branson! With everyone's ticket there was a seat number, free drink and sandwich, bag storage and generally nice staff....all for one tenth of the price u pay in UK! Anyway Brasov the place was......fantastic!! It is a really really beautiful little city of about 200,000 or so i think and has one of the most beautiful central squares of my entire trip. My hostel was superb, cheap and central and the food in Brasov was great.

Though there is a slight issue there, before coming to Romania from Bulgaria i had been told that Romanian food was rubbish. However i found that it was not at all that bad, granted its quite plain with not much additional sauces, spices etc but i thought it was well cooked, served up in huge portions and generaly alright, it wasnt as good as the Bulgarian earthenware bowls, but then again that was one of the best things from my entire trip foodwise.

Anyway back to normal, the most important thing about Brasov however was its potential for daytrips, as it lay within distance of at least 3/4 daytrips. The most important one is the tour of the two castles which can be done by bus for about £4 return. The first castle you goto is Bran Castle which is famous for being the home of Vlad Tepes who is the basis for the fictional character of Dracula. I thought this castle was alright though it strangely ignores all the dracula stuff (kinda valid when u find out Tepes only actually went there once!) but basically it is just a former royal palace that still looks like it is lived in or at least u can move in pretty quickly! The second castle is called Rasnov and in my opinion far far better. For one thing its a proper castle and by this i mean, ancient, derelict and on a hill. It has a fantastic view looking one way from the castle u can see the town of Rasnov spread about before u on a huge plain but turn round and look the other way and all u can see is forest and mountains, i preferred the latter view obviously! This castle was beautiful and worth the trip out to it alone and for one thing it wasnt packed with tourists like Bran.

The other day trips from Brasov are Peles Castle in Sinaia which is a really romantic fairytale palace about an hour on the train away from Brasov. However i preferred the little town of Sighisora which is famous for being the birthplace of Vlad Tepes but it is a really interesting little place of its own accord with lots of cool little museums, shops, towers and churches to look around.

The final leg of my trip was a coupe of days in Sibiu (oh i spent just over a week in Brasov) which is an amazing city full of cafe's, squares, baroque buildings, huge churches and shops. It was like a very very minature prague and comes highly recommended from this author! However it is very very difficult to get to, the only way u can get there is on a train from Brasov (if u come from bucharest transfer at brasov) and its really out of the way. I loved this city so much, but i cant really describe how! I guess it was because i was in another great hostel, met some good people, had lots of fun, found some great cafes...the only problem was that a lot of places stopped serving food about 9 at night!

I ended my entire trip by coming back to bucharest as i had to fly home. had 2 u say?...well yes i did...im out of money...stupid crap pay at holiday inn!

Anyway thats it from my trip, i hope u all enjoyed reading about it and thanks for all the e-mails in my inbox and messages on facebook!

now if anyone wants 2 give me a job in UK...get in touch! and no im not a journalist or author...haha ;)

Posted by coldposts 07:39 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

some pics

Albania, Macedonia and Bulgaria

i cant remember when i stopped giving out pic links so here are the last 3 countries:

Albania - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=14014&l=86e72&id=514972396

Macedonia - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=14019&l=1f543&id=514972396

Bulgaria - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=15035&l=12cfa&id=514972396
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=15038&l=c19c5&id=514972396

Posted by coldposts 12:44 Archived in Albania Comments (0)

Bulgaria

Sofia, Plovdiv, Veliko Tarnovo, Drynovo, Tryavna

overcast 25 °C

Travelling into Bulgaria on the bus from Skopje i had an immediate sense of relief at leaving Skopje. I got chatting to an Aussie guy called Paul on the bus and we were both heading the same direction so decided to team up together in Sofia at least. We got off the bus and because it was about 10pm decided to get a taxi to the hostel and i then experienced being ripped off for the second time in two days!! taxi drivers near bus or train stations....stear clear of them!!

After checking in and getting settled at the hostel we went out for some food and had a quick walk around Sofia at night and all we basically saw was people gorging on mcdonalds and prostitutes. So basically first impressions werent all that great, but after waking up the following morning we decided to follow the map and went for a proper walk around the city and discovered hidden away amongst the high-rises a quite pretty city, lots of interesting little churches, statues, monuments and some great parks! I'm not really gonna write a lot about Sofia because its not really the key part of Bulgaria to be honest. The next stop on my list (Paul was still with me for the first day) was Plovdiv, which is a town right in the middle of Bulgaria (those with good sporting memories might remember Bolton conquering Lokomotiv Plovdiv in the UEFA Cup a couple of years ago....i remember it, it was the only game i left early, remember it mum?!!). I stayed in a really great hostel there called Hikers Hostel. After having a look around we discovered a really pretty old city with lots of colourful old buildings and the old town positioned between a network of hills. I stayed here for 2 more days and even walked up a couple of the hills when i had done everything in the basin of the town. I was really pleased i decided to visit Plovdiv as its a wonderful little town and even has a cool ampitheatre that u can wander round.

After Plovdiv i met a Canadian girl in the hostel who was getting the same bus as me but she was going to Tryavna not Veliko Tarnovo, so we set off to get the bus together. Unfortunatly upon arrival at the bus station she found out the bus wasnt stopping in Tryavna so she came along with me to Veliko. Her name was Jeri and we got on really well and would spend the next few days together and had a lot of fun. Veliko Tarnovo was a place i had never really heard of to be honest until about a week before i planned my route but im now unbelievably glad i went there. It is a gorgeous little town sent on the S-bend of a river, with loads of old buildings, a huge castle, the coolest church ever, mountains surrounding it on all sides and loads of cute little villages on the hillside. It was probably amongst my 2 or 3 favourite places so far in the whole trip.

There were a few things that worried me though, first off me and jeri noticed an estate agent and had a nosy in the window (as u do) and both stood their in shock for about 10mins.....all the houses were under 30,000 euros (thats about 17,000 pounds!).....granted they werent in Veliko but in the villages just outside, but even so!!! The second thing was possibly the most bizzarre thing i have done on my travels, we were wandering around a church in a little village called Arbanaisi and decided to pop in, we opened the squeaky door only to walk into the very start of an orthodox christening! As the door was really really noisy we couldnt sneak out, so we had to linger at the back of the hall and watch a little girl of about 4 getting baptised! We ended up taking pictures for the family who's kid it was (so both parents and godparents could be in all the pics) and generally helping out in tiny bits and at the end we were rewarded with some nice bread!!

We then went to Tryavna (where Jeri was originally trying to get in the first place) and spent half a day there, which was fun. Before we decided to hitch-hike the last 15miles or so to the Drynovo monestary.....alas what both of us didnt know was that it was up hill and a very rarely used road! we ended up walking about 3 miles before we got picked up by a man in a carpet van who could take us to the town of drynovo which was about 2 miles short of the monestary, after taking this lift, we almost immediatly got picked up again by 2 men in a lada who would take us to the monestary aslong as we would talk like posh english people too them......deal! The monestary itself was gorgeous, as it was in a fantastic location surrounded by mountains and cliffs, with caves u could go exploring in, a river running right past and a forest surrounding it on all other sides. It was really mind-blowing! After taking in the sights for an hour or two and then getting something to eat we wandered back to the main road and after trying unsuccesfully for about 15mins to get a lift we eventually got offered a lift by some old guy in a comedy old soviet car whos name i cant even remember. However he could only take us back to Drynovo (couple of miles) and the fee was 2 cigarrette's (neither of us smoked, but we bought one pack between us as we understood this was the normal currency....plus they r only 1 euro for a pack of 20!). After getting back to Drynovo we encountered a real problem as we couldnt get a lift for about 45mins, but just as we were about to give up and a get a bus back the last 40miles or so a random guy and girl pulled up and said they could take us all the way to Veliko Tarnovo as they were heading to Varna anyway. We snapped up this offer and got back to our hostel both exhausted after the days travels.

The next day i moved onto Romania while Jeri moved onto Varna on the black sea coast.

Bulgaria was probably my second favourite country so far as it had lots of everything, but i think it will have been reinforced by the really good company i met in both Plovdiv and Veliko Tarnovo

Posted by coldposts 12:44 Archived in Bulgaria Comments (0)

Macedonia

Ohrid, Vevcani, Prelip, Skopje

overcast 25 °C

After crossing the border from Albania with a trio of Canadians who i met on the bus, we decided to get a taxi and just split it four ways for the 20km journey to the town of Ohrid. However we quickly encountered our first problem, there were no taxi's and no buses due for another couple of hours. At this point some random guy pulled up in a car and offered to take us to Ohrid for 15 euros. We accepted as we were splitting 4 ways so it was only about 4 euros each but we were surprised to find the guy to tell us he will be back in one min. He then drives off, parks up about 10 yards away and opens a side door, basically hauls his wife out of the car, opens the boot takes out all his shopping and roughly tells his wife he will be back in 30mins and comes round to pick us up as if nothing has happened! Having no other option we took the lift and got down into Ohrid. I had a room booked but the three canadians didnt so we dumped all the bags in my room and went to explore the town. First off we headed up to the fortress which from far away look superb, but as u got closer u realised that all the external walls had been rebuilt sometime in the 1990's so actually it was just fake. Upon entering the castle u realised why they had rebuilt the walls, because everything else had fallen down! there was nothing in the castle except the external walls, it was terrible!! Plus there was a Macedonian bagpiper who was god-awful and just followed u around all the time. On the plus side though the recently rebuilt walls did give superb views of the town all of which i have on my phone because i forgot my camera. After that we went to see some cool little churches and a really fascinating archelogical dig then headed back to get some food. Somehow and im not sure how this happened we ended up in a Irish pub drinking the local dark beer, which was really nice. This countinued till about 1am where we left and kinda realised they all had nowhere to sleep so, in my one bed room we had 4 people...and we paid 5 euros for the whole lot! They all actually paid me a couple of euros each so for that one night i was actually paid to sleep in there! On the next day we went to Vevcani for the day which was a weird little village that declared itself independent from Yugoslavia in 1988 and designed its own passports and printed its own money etc. We went mostly to see if we could buy a passport (which in the end were just 2 expensive) but we found a beautiful little village with loads of fantastic natural springs. After spending a second night in Ohrid we then headed out to spend the night in a monestary on top of a mountain in a place called Prelip. After a good couple of miles climb we arrived and sorted everthing out with the monks, u dont have 2 pay but u r expected to make a donation etc. we went for a wander round the hills etc before coming back and kinda making conversations with the monks via signlanguage and gesturing (no rude jokes though...surprisingly!) and helping them with a view bits and pieces.

The next day the Canucks moved onto Bitola while i moved in the opposite direction to the capital city, Skopje. Now my guide book said there wasnt much in Skopje but i went with an open mind and was willing to give it a chance. After checking into the worst and most over-priced hotel of my trip so far i went for a wander and found that Skopje has a really nice little Muslim quarter and Bazzar and......well absolutely nothing else. I had paid for 2 nights so had to stay and suffered easily the most boring days of my trip so far as i did............well............nothing!! i just wandered around town and passed the time, i did find a good sandwich shop though! I did also meet a random nutter at the bus station, he was a kinda destitute guy who spoke ok english who asked me if i needed help, i said no i was ok, but then he started talking to me, he said he was in trouble with the macedonian govt because the president wanted to kill him. He also said the president has stolen his girlfriend and then offered him 20million euros to flee the country...apparently the guy refused and it was now his aim to be the next president of macedonia....high aims for a homeless guy :) Also i got ripped off for the first time, i paid around 10 euros for a 2 euro taxi ride......another key bit of advice, never take a taxi from the train or bus station as they will always rip u off!

Basically if u r going to Macedonia i would recommend missing out Skopje all together if possible and just going straight for Ohrid and the surrounding area as it is fantastic for scenary, hiking, biking etc.

Posted by coldposts 12:58 Archived in Macedonia Comments (0)

Albania

Shkoder, Tirana and Berat

sunny 34 °C

Welcome to Albania....that will be 10 euros please!! Yes thats right you have to pay for the honour of entering albania!

My first stop was the main city in the north called Shkoder which i only really wanted too see because it has a huge fortress overlooking the entire town. I got into town at around 4pm and went off to find my hotel (12 euro a night...thats about 8 pound and it was a 3*) without a map and with nobody in town speaking english, plus i was loaded up with my bag and it was about 35 degrees. Two hours later i was still looking for my hotel with no map and still unable to find an english speaker. Eventually i found a man who spoke a mini bit of french and between us we managed to work out a rough route. The man then amazingly kindly decided to escort me all the way to the hotel even though it was about 2 miles away. So upon arriving at the hotel i threw my bags down outside and went to find someone. So i wander inside dripping in sweat and find.....a huge wedding going on!!! i have to walk through this wedding looking like something recently arrived from a swimming pool and find a hotel staff person who also didnt speak any english (only italian). I then had to take my bags in through the fire exit so i didnt disturb the wedding (which was fair enough), had a quick shower and headed off to the fortress which was......amazing!! it was huge, really really intact and really really good!.....though i forgot my camera so u will just have to take my word for that. After returning to the hotel and having a quick drink i headed out to see the city and quickly i discovered it was.....an absolute heap of shit!!!! There was nothing to see, it was dirty, horrible and there was rubbish everywhere. I'm not joking about this, there were piles of rubbish that were higher than me!! So maybe not surprisingly i went to bed early that night so i could head to tirana early on.

Getting on the bus in the morning i headed off to Tirana. I had been warned previously that buses just abandoned you anywhere they could in Tirana (instead of taking u to a bus station) and i found this to be amazingly....true! I got dumped somewhere about 3 miles away from the centre of Tirana and therefore my hostel and proceeded to get lost for the second time in 2 days though luckily this time it only lasted for about an hour. Again i found a guy and asked him for directions and before i knew it i had about ten albanians all pointing in totally different directions to this place. Eventually though we sorted out the direction i wanted to go in and i found my hostel. Now Tirana itself is possibly the most insane city i have encountered and this is mostly for one reason.....nobody can drive! In my three days there i saw loads of cars driving the wrong way down one way streets, ignoring red traffic lights and failing to notice people crossing the street on pedastrian crossings, so it quickly became clear that the only way to cross the road was too leg it as quick as u can!!

After seeing the sights and sounds of Tirana i headed off to Berat which is the most beautiful town in Albania by an absolute mile, it is an old Ottoman town with all the houses still preserved perfectly and was just so beautiful that i couldnt really believe i was in the same rubbish infested country i had spent the last few days.

I headed off then to Elbasan but only to catch a transfer to the Macedonian border and to say goodye albania....and oh, you owe us another 10 euros............bast(snip!....my mum reads this!)

Posted by coldposts 08:17 Archived in Albania Comments (0)

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