25 hours to bucharest in the last entry we ...
Trip Start Oct 02, 2001
8Trip End Nov 01, 2001
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In the last entry we left you as we were leaving for Bucharest on a 25 hour train ride. Although we expected the train ride to be brutal, we had no idea it would be like this...
It started like most other train rides did. Seat reservations, a rush to get to the train before the departure and then the scramble to climb aboard before the train leaves.
Glowing from our successful departure, sitting in our lavish first class train compartment we made ourselves comfortable.
"25 hours in this train is going to be a breeze!" we though to ourselves while stretching out on the cushy seats
When the non-english speaking train official started spouting instructions for train connections and buses we knew something wasn't quite right. Although english wasn't his strong suit, we managed to get the name of a town we would have to connect in from in. Seeing as how this was a "direct" train, it was a little odd that we would have to change trains but it wouldn't be the first time the illustrious train information personel had led us astray.
Thinking all was fine we decided to nap for a while to help the hangover we had been nursing.
Suddenly we were awaken by the sound of the train screeching to a halt.
"Everyone out! BUS! BUS!" the conductor yelled as he herded the passengers to a bus.
In the flurry of activity which was suddenly all around us, confused and still half asleep, we quickly realized that if we didn't get off now and jump on the bus we would end up in the back woods of poland flocking sheep
So off to the first bus we went... then to another train, then to another bus... by this point our 1:30 train was most certainly gone. Looking at the blinking 2:00pm on our watches we new we had missed our 1:30 train to Bucharest. What we didn't know was why we were on a bus, where in Poland we were and why we were getting off of a bus in a remote region of Poland, staring at 3 well armed and camouflage clad military personel. Being the only 3 non-eastern european people on the bus we were sure that we had been rerouted to some place we most likely didn't want to be.
Looking off in the distance, across a wooden bridge guarded by a red and white gate we could see another picknic table with yet another 3 rambo look alikes each stradling ak47's
"What the hell have we gotten ourselves into boys?" was the question we were asking ourselves...
Slowly the pieces started coming together and we realized that we had been rushed off to the Slovakian border to cross over, *on foot*, to catch our train to Bucharest
Now, we have been on alot of trains but never have we actually had to get off of our train, take 2 buses and yet another train to cross a country border, by foot none the less. Feeling a little intimidated by the AK47s we took a quick picture of the border from the bus window ( See picture in this entry).
The trains in Eastern Europe don't exactly run on time, as we stumbled onto the final train tracks, the run down, rusted, old train idling in front of us had sign which read "Bucharesti". It was our train... just waiting for the herd to enter the train before leaving.
" We made it!" we shouted as we scambled for the 3 person couchette we had reserved for the 25 hour ride.
The ride actually wasn't all that bad. A polish, slightly neurotic, student was in the next compartment over and made for a good 4th player for some card games. We also managed to buy a case of Tuborg from the conductor using our US $ reserves. Money well spent considering the circumstances.
Bucharest is dirty, crazy, insanely unsafe for driving and infested with wild rabies infected dogs and shady looking people just waiting to rip you off. We were aware of this before getting off the train so we sprinted through the train station beating off touts, shady looking gypsies and staying clear of the dogs. Down boy.
Luckily we stumbled onto an english speaking tout from the Elvis Villa Hostel which turned out to be a brilliant find. Elvis, runs 3 hostels in Romania which are a welcome change to this harsh city.
Free laundry, clean beds, tv room, free beer, satelite TV and 2 $ hair cuts made the hostel an easy sell for us.
One mad cab run through the maze that is downtown Bucarest later and we were soaking in the comforts of Elvis's Hostel.
Canada Meets Dracula
Elvis, managed to sell us on visiting his other hostel in Zigi Swarma ( I know that's spelled wrong but it's the only way I can remember the name :) ). Zigi is were dracula was born and lived. On the way to Zigi we would stop in Brasov, home of the over hyped but still enjoyeable Dracula Castle.
The big disapointement is that Dracula didn't suck blood or kill virgins. Although he only inspired the Dracula legends, in reality he was still a bad ass... Dracula, better known as ( well, better known in Romania at least ) Vlad the impaler ruled his people with an iron fist and had the nasty habit of impaling captured enemy soldiers. Their impaled bodies were left planted on, well ... their impaling stick for lack of a better term, and littered the country side around his villages. Enemies attacking Vlad would quickly run into thousands of bodies impaled on route and would think twice about their planned assault. Rather effective technique qouldn't you say?
It is said that the Turks taught Vlad how to impale his victims without killing them. Victims would live for hours and sometimes days before finaly dying. Nasty, just nasty..
Although Vlad had nothing to do with Vampires the Brasovians were more then happy to hawk their cheesy Vampire warez at the castle. Vampire toothbrush anyone?
Brasov is an great little village 3 hours away from Bucharest. Aside from the Dracula Castle, the city is just wonderful to walk around in, well preserved and much more reminicent of a meideval town than any other we had seen, until we headed to Zigi Swarma.
Zigi, Dracula's birth place, is a town of 3000 with barely any tourists. We stayed at the Elvis Hostel in Zigi with 3 other travellers. That's it, just 3! Zigi is the only town on the UNESCO world heritage list and for good reason. The town is 100% medeival with it's castle in the center, churches and rundown houses on cobble stone streets.
Goats roam freely through the street and it's possible to catch a glimpse at people going around in horse drawn wooden carts. This city is just as close to the 13th century as you can get. We took lots of pictures so check em out to see for yourself...
Now we are off back to Bucharest to catch our train to Istanbul. We heard yesterday that Turkey will be sending troops to Afghanstan soon making Turkey the firt Muslim country to engage Afghanistan. We are a little worried but we're still going and will check out the situation as it progresses.