Fri 28/08/09 02:24
A good time, but I didn’t meet any cute girls from Russia…

So I’m back in Dubai and getting ready for my classes that start on Sunday. I really can’t believe that the summer is over and I am back to work. It seems like I was just starting to head out to Jordan not that long ago, but when I think back on all the things that I did and all the new places I saw, it actually seems a long time ago. Regardless, I’m back at “it” and with only a trip to India expected sometime in the next month or two, I’m pretty much ready for the new school year.

This trip was marked with some great times and some not so very great times. The great was seeing Masai Mara, and the not so great was not being able to complete my volunteering in Cameroon, and in between times were seeing Petra, swimming in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. I met a lot of nice people, and in Sofia I met a lot of mean people. Yeah, I know I need to get over it, but there’s a prof here that’s from Sofia and I’ve been teasing him lately about how mean the people are from his home town. ☺ I found out that Bucharest is probably the city to be if you’re into nice people, great architecture, and culture. Since every one that I met told me not to waste my time in Bucharest it was such and nice surprise what I found when I got there.

In many regards I saw a lot of aftermaths of war. In Beirut I saw so many building with bullet holes that I soon became oblivious to them. In Sarajevo I saw major destruction in blast marks, but in both cases I saw the resiliency of the people working to restore their culture. I saw what looked like bullet holes in buildings in other cities too, but not on the magnitude of Beirut or Sarajevo.

A friend asked if she could use the laptop that I use when I’m traveling and I said sure, so I prepped it for her by freeing up some space in my large hard drive. Not a problem, I’m happy to do it. The problem arose when I realized that there were the last round of pictures that I had yet to transfer to my desktop computer. So I ended up deleting about forty photos of the last two days of my trip. Specifically the photos were of the Ukraine. It sucks, but I didn’t do a lot of sightseeing there so the photos were mostly of things taken from the window of the train.

There weren’t a lot of people paying attention this year to my blog, and it wasn’t that much of a surprise. I’ve always said that the blog is my way to chronicle the journeys that I take on, and not for others. I want people to read it, but even if nobody comes to my web site I’d still keep my blog updated. If you were one of the few that followed along let me say thanks.

I don’t know if there’s much more to write about, but I’m no closing this blog just yet. I have to upload more photos and the videos, and I have a feeling that I need a little more time to reminisce about the summer before I close it out.

Fri 21/08/09 00:59
I am ready to leave

This morning I’m all ready packed and ready to catch my train, but the only holdback is that I have about five hours before the train leaves. The challenge is going to be not going to the train station too early and have to sit somewhere out of the way for a few hours. If I don’t leave now, I don’t really have anything to do so it will be a challenge. The one thing I know is that I want to get out of this hostel.

These are all the pictures that I’ve take since I’ve been here. It’s not much but here they are.

  

  

Wed 19/08/09 14:53

The train ride from Bucharest was really a nice one. In fact it was probably one of the best that I’ve had in a while. Having electricity was a real bonus too. About halfway through the trip I got the urge to watch some tv shows and a movie. I usually don’t even watch movies on airplanes, but for some reason it felt good to kind of zone out with a good episode of Stargate Atlantis.

I am in Suceava, Romania right now. I had planned for this to be just a one night stop before I boarded the train to Kiev, but it turned out that I made a mistake, actually I don’t know if I made a mistake or there is just a flaw in the system. I was told that I should make the reservation today, so I went to the train station and she goes to write up the ticket, but for some reason it won’t let her print it out. So either out of experience or out of confusion she tells me that I can’t leave tomorrow, that I’ll have to leave the next day. This was completely unexpected and really puts me in a bind. I wanted to get to Kiev at least two days before I leave for Dubai, now I’ll be showing the day that I need to leave. I guess that there’s nothing that I can do about it now, but I really wish that the last stop in my vacation wouldn’t have been this stressful.

I’ve seen quite a bit of Suceava considering that I’ve only been here a few hours, and from what I can tell it’s a working class city. What I mean is that it feels like the majority of the residents aren’t wealthy. Nothing wrong with that, and for the most part the city is nice, and tomorrow I’ll spend some time and take a few pictures of the highlights.

I really don’t like to put negative things into the blog, but I feel like I have to say something to someone, even if nobody ever reads this I want to say that the girl who runs this hostel is the annoying person I’ve ever met. I’m not exaggerating either. She talks in the “we” like, “…and this is where “we” take are shoes off.” Yeah, she did say just that. Another good one was, “When you close the door, turn the knob.” Oh, and, “This is the number to the combination, so “we” can go in and out when “we” want.” My God she is annoying.

Wed 19/08/09 14:33
One of the best cities so far

After I wrote that last entry I looked at my watch and realized that I was running about 40 minutes late. I hate when I do that. I’m just doing my thing, whatever “my thing” may be and suddenly realize that I’m late. Not to worry though I made it to the train station, got my ticket, and had enough time to relax a few minutes before the train left. I found out that the train has electricity too, which means that I can write a little, maybe watch a movie and anything else that I need a computer for. This is the first time that I’ve had that kind of luxury.

Bucharest has been one of my favorite cities that I’ve been to either on this trip or any other. I think mostly it was the people, they have in nearly all regards been the friendliest I’ve ever met. I’m not going to go into too many examples here, but one short one should give you an idea of what I mean. I get off my bus in Bucharest and a guy starts talking to me. Not a big deal, but I’m a little bit wary when a local starts a conversation with me, he’s asking all the usual questions like, “Where are you from?” and “Where are you staying?” I kind of brush him off, but just like it seems every time I get off a bus, I have no clue on where I am or where I need to go. I guess he sees my confusion and asks if he can call my hotel, so he does. He gets the directions, and hails a taxi, rides with me in the taxi, and then waits for the hostel owner to show up. The whole thing took about 30 minutes, and even now after walking around the city for two days I think if I were left on my own it would have taken forever to find the hostel on my own. I mean, even the fact that the hostel owner came and picked me up shows the kind of people the Romanians are.

The city is kind of rough, there are a lot of buildings that are in disrepair, some completely gutted, but there are signs that the city is going to be very cosmopolitan some day. Most of the older buildings are very ornate, appearing more to have been crafted than built, very much like Budapest and maybe Paris, but in some regards the Romanians seem to have a unique flair for architecture. I saw a few buildings that looked unlike anything I’ve seen to date. With the restoration that seems to be taking place my guess is that it will only be a decade or two before going to Bucharest will be the same as going to any of the other better known cities like Paris, Prague, or Krakow.

  

  

When I got to Bucharest about the only thing that I wanted to see was the People’s Palace. I had seen pictures of it from time to time, but what I remember the most was during the revolution in Romania back during the end of the Soviet Union. If I remember correctly, the building was seen as one of the things that made the people so mad as to revolt. I wanted to go for a tour of it, but I would have had to wait for two hours and I didn’t have the time if I wanted to see anything else. Even though I only knew of the palace before I got here, I did find lots of other things that I wanted to see once I talked to the hostel manager. Pictures will do the job better than writing, so I won’t waste time writing.

  

In the end I met some very nice people here and continue to be surprised that I only heard negative comments from backpackers that have been here before me. I think it is one of the best cities in Eastern Europe and strongly suggest to any one interested, to go if they have the chance.

  

  

  

Wed 19/08/09 01:03

I’ve spent two nights and almost two days in Bucharest and right now I’m sitting in my hostel drinking a cup of coffee before I go back to my room and start to pack. I’m leaving at 11 for a trip to northern Romania, though right now I can’t remember the name. I was going to go straight to Kiev, but decided that the 30 hour train ride would be too long.

Bucharest has been surprisingly better than what I was told it was going to be. Before coming here everybody that I spoke to told me that just one day would be enough to see what I wanted to see, and any longer would end up being just a waste, but the truth of the matter is, is that I’ve enjoyed myself here. The weather has been good, the people are incredibly friendly, and probably best of all the town has loads of culture. Who could ask for anything else?

Since I am going to be leaving here shortly, I don’t have any time to write about what I’ve done since arriving, or to post any pictures, so for now this small message will have to do until I get somewhere when I have a little more time.

Tue 18/08/09 12:56
On the hunt for Dracula

Day two in Brasov was fun. The night earlier I was hanging out with a guy that was living in Romania for a few weeks during an internship in a nearby town. I guess that he was so bored that he decided to do a little sightseeing over the weekend. We ended up going and having dinner and a couple of beers. My stomach was still a little queasy from whatever I ate in Budapest so I didn’t, or couldn’t, really do any “real” drinking, plus I was still very tired from Vlad and the other people in the train keeping me awake the night before.

  

There was one thing that I felt that I had to do while I was in Romania… for that matter the main reason that I went to Romania was for the whole Dracula thing. Of course I want to see Bucharest and other parts, but Vlad the Impaler is, and was the main reason. I got what I wanted too, the train ride, the fact that I could see the Carpathian Mountains, and of course, just seeing signs like, Transylvania Bank made for a good time. The one thing that I still needed to see though was Dracula’s Castle. Yeah, I know that Dracula is a fictional character that was very loosely based on a real person known as Vlad the Impaler and that Vlad’s castle doesn’t actually exist anymore, but just like when I watch a “Vampire” movie I let myself believe, that what I’ve been doing while I’ve been here in Romania. It just seems to make things more fun.

So the guy I had dinner with, Michael, an American programmer on Sabbatical, Jeff, and a student in both med school and law school at Chapel Hill went on a tour of three castles. The first castle was very nice. It seemed like a real castle that you would expect to see portrayed in nearly every movie with a fortress style castle. I don’t know what else to say about it except that it was a great experience.

  

  

  

The second castle was Bran’s Castle…this is the castle that’s being marketed as Dracula’s. The castle was for the most part a disappointment. I don’t want to sound too negative, but you have to be there to understand. First there was a traffic jam about 10 km away that started at the castle, second at the base of the castle there are vendors selling souvenirs, not the kind that would make sense if you were visiting Dracula’s castle, they were selling, Monopoly boards, chess sets, Halloween costumes, and a lot of things that didn’t make any sense at all. I guess that’s where people go to get a good price on board games. There were some vampire things but only a few, and every shop had them so no variety. Lastly, the castle was the type of castle that a king would live in. It was pretty, no dungeon, and no visible link to Vlad. So that was pretty negative I know, so let me say that it was pretty, and it was a castle, and in one room they did have plaques that gave the history of vampires and werewolves, and I would’ve rather seen this castle than none at all.

  

  

  

Finally, the last place we went was not really a castle, but more of a palace constructed about one hundred years ago. That’s about all I can really say about it, it was like going to the Hearst Castle in California in its opulence, but not the kind of thing that I was hoping for.