Tag Archives: Romania


Sunday, 10 July 2011

Bucharest has Transylvanian banks:



And fountains:


Just as Transylvanian

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The World’s Heaviest Building

Sunday, 10 July 2011

I know this is a question you’ve pondered, late at night: which building weighs more than all the others? This one:


The Romanian Parliament

Wikipedia offers a better view:


The Romanian Parliament

This is the Romanian Parliament building, but it’s so, so much more. In fact it’s so much more that it’s actually called the “Palace of the Parliament.” It was commissioned and mostly built by Romania’s ill-fated communist leader Nicolae Ceauşescu, whose grave I didn’t bother to visit while I was there. He didn’t live to see its completion – and neither did many other Romanian citizens. The Parliament is fronted by a park with grass and trees, and each blade of grass and each leaf on every tree bears the inscribed name of a Romanian citizen who died under the Ceauşescu. No one knows who does the inscribing, but some have suggested that there is no inscription; that the plants grow that way naturally. Personally, I find this theory doubtful.

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Bucharest Is…

Sunday, 10 July 2011

A single, seething mass of construction. Most streets look like this one. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a city that’s reconstructing its entire self so simultaneously. Of course, I haven’t been to China.



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Saturday, 9 July 2011

Some graffiti in Bucharest, advocating the unification of Romania and the nearby nation of Moldova. Although, presumably, they’d want Moldova itself to be unified first.



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How Do You Know When You’re in Bucharest?

Saturday, 9 July 2011

When people wish you a “buena sera” and thank you by saying “Merci”. Romanian is a Romance language, like French and Italian, not a Slavic language like Bulgarian or Serbian.

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Saturday, 9 July 2011

…Is alive and well in Bucharest.


Ce este Zumba?

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Better Business

Saturday, 9 July 2011

I spoke with the proprietor of this shop in Bucharest, and asked him why he called his restaurant “Yummy Food.”


Food is yummy, I must agree.

He said that it led to better business. Better than what? Apparently his restaurant used to be called “Crappy Food.” “But why did you call it that?” I asked. “Because it is,” he replied. “It is, seriously. Here, try some, and tell me if this isn’t the worst food you’ve ever tasted.”

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The Train

Saturday, 9 July 2011

So, let me tell you about the train ride to Budapest.

It was an overnight train, and I was told that I should take the Ister car, which is a first-class sleeper. My Eurail pass already entitles me to ten days of first-class train travel, but for a sleeping berth instead of a seat, you still have to pay extra. In this case, it was about $40 USD, which was a little high on my pay scale. But the accommodations are deluxe. There’s air-conditioning. A sink/wash-basin with a mirror and bottled water already waiting for you. More comfortable beds, and fewer of them – only 2/3 per compartment. Plugs for your electrical appliances. Coat hangers.

But here’s the thing: I don’t really care about any of that stuff. I don’t mind sleeping with five other people – in the hostels I’m staying at, there are often more people than that in a room. I don’t need air-conditioning. I can buy my own water and I don’t need a special little sink that only I get to use. Collective accommodations are fine with me. From now on, I think I’ll take the second-class couchette sleepers rather than paying even more for first. It’s just not worth it.

But what vexed me even more was the conductor. He turned the air-conditioning off at night because it would “make us too cold” (quite the opposite was occurring) and it took the intervention of my bunk-mate and his language skills to get it turned on again, though only half-way.

He locked the door to the first-class car, which is at the end of the train. This caused me some trouble when I came back from the restaurant car, and since the nearest WC was outside that same door, I spent the evening rushing through my time in the bathroom lest I be locked out again.

Finally, when he came to collect my Eurail pass, I asked him whether I should mark in only one day on the calendar (7/7) or two days (6/7 and 7/7). It’s an overnight train so train travel occurs on both days. However the Eurail rulebook says that if travel starts after 7 PM for an overnight train, only the second of the two days need be recorded (which is great, because I only have 10 days of pre-paid travel on my pass). My train from Bucharest, however – the only one leaving for Budapest each day – starts at 5:45 PM. So I was relieved when the conductor said I need only mark one day – he was cutting me a break, but it’s a beak I felt somewhat entitled to, given the circumstances.

But when I got my pass back, he had rewritten the first day as 6/7 and added a second, 7/7 day. This causes two problems. First, I paid $800 for that damn pass, and that one train trip just used up a fifth of my travel on it. Second, rewriting days on the calendar is a BIG no-no: it suggests fraud, which is why I made sure to ask the conductor before I marked anything on the calendar. Now, not only are two full days used, but there are scribbles besides. Scribbles accompanies by a signature, sure, but that doesn’t look much different than scribbles either. Now I’m worried that for the rest of my travels I’m going to have angry conductors asking if I’ve altered the pass.

That one train trip from Bucharest to Budapest cost me $200, all included. I might have flown.

At least I got to look at some pretty mountains along the way:


A view


A view

And a closer look at the cross at the top:


A view

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Romanian Recycling

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Yes, those are as tall – taller – than I am:



Don’t forget to sort!

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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

“But what about the train trip itself,” you may ask. How much did THAT rock?” Well, it was pretty cool, I’ll admit. These were my sleeping quarters:


The train


The train

Ahh, reminds me of India! I love the Indian trains and missed the 30-hour train trip from Chennai to Bhopal that I’d been planning on taking this trip. Yes, I was somewhat looking forward to that. This compartment wasn’t a sleeper; it’s second-class, called a “couchette.” Apparently it lacks some of the amenities of a first-class sleeper – maybe air conditioning? A private wash-basin? Fewer beds, certainly; I think first-class sleepers hold either three or four. Regardless; this was fine, fine! Just like India, except different: In India the compartment would be full, with five other people. Here it was empty: I had the entire space to myself. I still took the top bunk, like I always do – it’s a habit from India that serves two purposes: first, people are less likely to steal the valuables you carry up there with you (i.e. everything aside from my non-rolly, very heavy suitcase, which you’d have to be dumb as a rock to try stealing; it’s locked anyway). Second, you can sleep as long as you like, because while the middle bunks are taken down so that people can sit on the lower bunks, the top ones remain. Neither reason for sleeping up top pertained in this case, but I did so anyway.

What a treat!

Most of my waking hours were spent reading about budgeting. I’m now half-done with that painfully boring textbook (I assistant-teach the course next term) and I can’t wait to be finished with it. The other portion was spent looking out the window and munching on cucumbers.

That, and going through endless passport/ticket turmoil. During the day, it didn’t matter so much when people wanted to re-check and re-re-check your ticket, or check your passport when you crossed the border. However the first border we crossed was the one from Turkey into Bulgaria, and that was at 4 AM. In that case, we all had to exit the train, cross some train tracks, and wait in a very slow line for an hour until our passports were checked. These are the tracks we had to cross, just in case you’re curious:


Train Station

So, up at 4 AM, back to sleep at 5 AM, right? Au contraire. Then there were the passport checks – two consecutively – aboard the train. Then my ticket was re-checked. Then customs came in and asked if I had anything to declare. I swear, this song-and-dance didn’t end until 7 AM. Don’t they realize I’m an American, privileged, and therefore immune from these kinds of checks? My word – or the very fact of my presence, words unsaid – should inspire implicit trust and confidence.

Okay, fine, maybe not, but I DO wish I’d had the chance to sleep.

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