Braila to Bucharest

Trip Start Jul 09, 2007
Trip End Aug 06, 2007

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Friday, August 3, 2007

Friday 3 August
Up and cycled to station anxiously waiting for hassle of getting bike on train. To my surprise a nice new train arrived although I put the bike across the doors and there was a special bike area much to the conductors disgust but he didn't speak English. Pretty boring flat and straight journey into Bucharest. Went to find hostel info point in station that didn't exist so went for a wander and found hotel that was not too expensive. Did some research, changed and went to buy my ticket to Budapest, decided I would take a 2 person couchette for not much more than a 3 person which happened to be a great decision. Went on a strange mission to try and change some Russian, Bulgarian and Moldovan cash at many money changers and banks eventually having to change some of my many dollars. Walked around taking in the sites - monastery, university library, communist party building where Ceausescu made his last speech before being escaping by helicopter from the roof, another monastery and caru cu bere Bucharest's oldest and most beautiful beer hall. Went in for what I expected to be a decent drink but ended up been carlsberg as they weren't brewing. Slow service and prices steep so did some research and after 1 beer walked 3k to Belgian beer and food place. Had excellent jacket potato and got slightly sloshed on draught Leffe blond. Walked to university square where the anti Ceausescu revolution started, and all the elevators to the underground weren't working. Wandered to the city park and Cismigiu lake where me, mother and brother had spent happy times during the depressing visit about 25 years earlier, rowing round the lake. Phoned mother while walking round and went for a drink next to lake as feeling quite emotional. Back to hotel disturbing a cat who was in the room, getting in through an open window, and to bed.

Saturday 4 August
Went on another strange mission to find internet connection and got told by reception where to go so caught underground. Strange new rolling stock where you could walk from one end to another and also lots of space as wide gauge. Got off at strange station where platform was very narrow and went to find my goal without success, so went into travel office. Eventually after going through 4 people mostly unhelpful met the owner in a separate office who dealt with incoming meaning internal tourism. Tried to arrange a guided tour of city but one didn't exist so that was that but they told me where to find internet access, which I found in an old university building. Found out where Funky Chicken hostel was so popped in and they had space that night and the next so I went back to hotel to try and cancel but they wouldn't give me my money back. Walked to parliament building where Ceausescu spent $10bn in 1980's, but was too late to go round so walked down the main boulevard where a whole district was flattened including monasteries moved on rails to create. Fantastic fountains working but in need of repair, another monastery cramped in by communist style buildings, a fast food restaurant called Sheriffs next to desolated building and into the old town and found a locals bar. Beer cheap, a few smashed people about, live gypsy music so stayed for a while. Onto the national theatre where we'd been filmed years before, near to Bucharest's 0 marker where all distances are measured from next to memorial to people killed during demonstrations in 1989. Down the road a memorial to the location where the first person was killed in the same demonstrations. When we came before we had a lavish banquet in a posh hotel which I found to be the hilton as I recognised the inside. Good outside photo exhibition but I noticed a political one had the eye of the subject scratched out. Walked the 3k to the Belgian restaurant getting slightly sloshed after eating jacket potato again. Back to hotel and to bed.

Sunday 5 August
Up and cycled to Funky Chicken hostel then cycled to Parliament building meeting a German cyclist on the way. We both went on disappointing guided tour around worlds 3rd biggest building and I offered to take him on a site seeing tour as he was only there for a few hours and I had nothing else better to do. Cycled down the fountain boulevard and then onto a busy dual carriageway where a car crashed and careered onto our side of the road smashing into the concrete barrier where we'd been a few seconds earlier. This was quite a shock so we went for a drink at caru cu bere to recover, the German going down very well with the waitress as he was quite attractive. Took him to all the sites I'd been to but he refused to cycle on the road, and then to the arch de triumph and nearby beautiful park. We wanted to stay longer but he had to get his train then flight so I dropped him off near Gare de Nord and I went back to the hostel. Invited guest who may have been the owner looking bored watching TV out for a drink but he refused. Asked receptionist for recommended restaurant and she said the best was by the Hilton hotel so I was surprised at the quality and price in a bit of a tourist trap which was very popular with the locals. Service was terrible so went back to caru cu bere where the waitress asked where the German was and the service was terrible. Decided to drink litres as it was easier but the service was so bad I walked out of bar without paying. Back to hostel where everyone was asleep so I joined them. Went to the toilet up the corner in the night while sleep walking.
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