NOTE: Ths keyboard still has a really dodgy letter “I”, so f I’m mssng lots, ts not my usual terrible typng as normal, mostly at least. All other errors are my own incompetence
After finally working out that I wasn’t going to get cards any quicker or easier in Brasov than anywhere else and that it would work out easer to bounce stuff elsewhere (which turned out to be Warszawa) and continue my trip rather than hang around Brasov for 2 weeks and then have to shoot like a maniac and miss chunks later on, I actually left. With my feet still hurting like hell.
My feet really didn't like me so much by this point...
My original intenton had been to bounce via Transylvana to Timisoara to catch up with an old frend, Ille, and then head via Eastern Hungary to the Ukraine for a week or so and into South East Poland. However a combinaton of lost days in Brasov, a short notice work trip for ilie and the fact that with no working bank cards until i got my replacements in Warszawa meant was on a short and very specific budget, and it wasn’t feasible. I hadn’t originally expected to go to Warszawa until the end of my Polish vst, but now I had to base all my plans around getting there as relatively cheap and easily as possible within a week.
I Had been ummng and ah-ng between Sighisoara and Sibiu previously, but wth Sighi on the way to Budapest anyway, the decision was made for me. The 2 hour journey was uneventful expcet that i had my second dodgy ticketting experience. I was sold a normal ticket instead of one with an intercity supplement as i‘d supposed – the fact that there was a rail strike with virtually only intercity trans running, and the next train to Sighi which asked for tickets for was an intercty seemed to by pass the woman n the staton, and I had thought the tcket to be absurdly cheap (about 1.60gbp for over 2 hours trip) – which meant that the friendly conductor on the train understandable wanted me to pay the difference. Honest mistake, so no trouble for me, and once he realised was a foregner, none for him ether. And true to form in Romania, as he had no desire to write out the supplement ticket for the extra (228,000 or about 4.50gbp), and I had no specal need for the tcket t wasn’t long before a mutually agreeablesoluton was reached, whereby I pad him 100000 and he ddnt have to write the ticket was arranged. And to thnk i couldnt even brbe the polceman togve me a polce report.
Sighsoara is a lovely little place, nestled in the valley, with a walled citadell and whilst not unknown, without anywhere near the number of tourists that were in Brasov. Despite that, for some odd reason it just didnt really jump out at me and go ‘wow’ as it possibly should have. Maybe I had just seen enough similar-ish places on the trip and previously, maybe it was something else, but was actually surprised that i did essentially feel non plused about it. However, it was really cheap and there was a great group of people at the small but friendly Nathans Villa Hostel.
Notice in Nathans Villas Hostel, Sighisoara.
I hadn’t arrived that early, so after a quck trp around town and dinner, I returned to the hostel, and the hostel cellar became base for the nghts entertainments. Refreshments was mostly n the form of local Naroc (essentially meaning “Cheers”) beer, in plastic litre screw top bottles for 20000 (i.e.40p for a litre – although oddly the 2ltre bottles were prced at 44000. They haven’t quite grasped the concept here). An ever changing crowd included the now famous Warszawa trio of (very) English Craig, Dutch Jopp and Portuguese Paolo – of whom more later - and ended long after 5am (and a good 2 hours after everybody else had disappeared) and a very long, deep and waaay too serious conversation about military matters and cartography – and our general uselessness (comments on a postcard) - with a local (who worked at the hostel) and an American, who were both ex army and not always too impressed by people in my profession…
One of these days really will learn how to write consisely. Or even spell concise.
The following morning, I took a proper wander around the city and did the sightseeing thing with Adelaide, an American girl i‘d met in Brasov, and again I had the feeling that i should be more impressed than i actually was with the city. We went up the clock tower to see the museum and view from the top, up the covered stairs, got slightly bemused at the end of school celebrations, round the church and graveyard on the top of the citadell (allegedly the only currently – and continuously – inhabited one n the world which must admit doubt) whilst searching for that elusive panorama view which had to exist somewhere n town but we never found, and also a (very) quick look n the Torture museum, which was just funny. Not the subject of the museum, but the fact there were maybe 4 exhibits and it covered an area barely the size of the average bathroom!
Sighisoara Citadell, allegedly the largest inhabited citadell in the world
After seemingly exhausting the basic sights, and with the scorching temperatures not condusive to hill climbing (WooHoo – maybe i‘m cured!), the two of us in the company of 2 Melbourne girls, Rachel and Melanie, took a wander to the swimming pool, recommended by all the hostel staff as the place to go/thing to do. It was slightly surreal to have a swimming pool recommended as a must see thing, but hey, why not? At the pool, we hooked up with the Warszawa trio, an English guy Will and briefly, the army guys from the previous night. It was basically an outdoor pool with a bar and grass area where everybody – mostly young people - were doing nothing much except sunbathing, swimming (or more accurately, diving) and drinking. And as they say, when in Rome…
The Tower in Sighisoara Citadell
Adelaide, Craig and Paolo at the Pool
Apart from the obligatory talking rubbish, watching the local nutters diving into the pool, drinking and laughing at Paolo (at his football skills which included taking a chunk out of a roof , his attempts at wrestling with the girls where he tended to loose badly – although as Adelaide’s foot was to discover, not before he tried to play hard - and just in general), we invented a game, which we feel certain should become an olympic sport and which basically involved guessing the age of random local girls and betting on it. The girls would pick a girl at random, the guys would guess the age and slam their money into the swimming pool (Romanian notes are made of plastic so non tearable or affected by water, and chucking it into water instead of on a table seemed appropriate) before muggings would then go and using a combination of English, Romanian (ahem) and gesturing start talking randomly to the ‘lucky’ girl to try and find out how old they actually were. I guess you had to be there for that to make any sense at all.
Money being chucked into the pool
We went out to dinner at a restaurant based in a house where, allegedly, Vlad Tepes himself – aka Dracula – was born, and indulged in the odd game of Scaffold racing (another Olympic sport in the making) before retiring to the hostel cellar again, baring a heavily limping Adelaide who left on the night train for Budapest, but including the Tennesse music producer Nathan and Britney from Brasov, and a few others. An extremely entertaining night included asst drinking games, water fights, sombrero love, naked wrestling (and yes, Paolo was again embarrassed by the women), and blindfolded musical chairs and ended with a very serious competition between the Warszawa trio which involved vodka, bodily hair and a cigarette lighter. Yup, you got it.
Sombrero Lovin' at work...
Hostel nights in, including the Warszawa trio at their finest...
And no, today isn’t when i learn to be concise, although bet your wishing it was after reading all this crap for no apparent reason.
Out of sheer pig-headedness (yes, that does mean stupidity) i elected not to go overnight to Budapest, but instead stop off in Cluj Napoica (Cluj to everybody). It’s a major student centre and had been recommended by Oana and a few others, so figured I may as well have a look even though I wouldn’t be there for more than a few hours. So stopping only to burst the now humunguos blister on the outside of my right ankle, went to the station for a slow 4.5hour trip on the only 2 slow trains running in the strike gave me ample time to examine every abandoned industrial facility, hay stack and field in north west Romania, and was notable only for the reappearance of my own private thunder storm, who had been following me on and off for weeks being menacing and offering some great thunder and lightning, but never really getting serous with the rain.
The length of journey and inflexible departure meant I only had from about 7pm until 8am in Cluj (see, stupidity) and was notable only for meeting the only New Caledonian – Philippe - I have ever met traveling, the stupendous rain storm at dinner which broke through the umbrella (of the restaurant/beer garden style) in torrents and left the 2 of us and a stunning Belgian girl Elise looking comically like drowned rats, the most amazingly inept service in the same place (amongst others, Elise and I were told after Philippe had finished eating – and well over an hour after ordering - that our meals would take another 2 hours to do [pizza is not that hard] and perhaps we should order something else) and the evil hatred directed at me by the woman in the ticket office the following morning when I dared (a) try and buy a train ticket and (b) not speak Romanian. Oddly though, I did get the correct ticket, although i‘m sure she pocketed half of the cost of the scarily expensive ticket.
Budapest hadn’t been on my plan this trip in the slightest, as its somewhere know quite well and have been many times, but a combination of the Romanian rail strike, lack of straightforward alternative routes and a need to get to Warszawa on the Monday – as cheap as possible, and its now Saturday - to collect my cards meant that it made sense. Got to the Backpackers Guesthouse – a great place – where despite a little misunderstanding between them, Philippe (who had left on the night train about 2am the previous night) and Adelaide had managed to make me a reservation. Space was tight, so I ended up sleeping in a tent in the garden, but with the temperatures still high, was probably the best bed in the place, and absolutely no complaints from me.
Budapest Hostel accomodation
Had a wander through town with Phillipe, sorted my ticket for the following nights Warszawa train (again, too expensive, and cash reserves beginning to diminish), and watched part of an international dance/music festival going on around Deak Ter before returning to veg at the hostel, sitting outside on the covered stage type lounge in the garden and talking to random people. Where something strange happened. A scarily large chunk of people already knew about me, and most of my life story, or sot seemed.
Admittedly when traveling, you are prone to meeting the same people periodically, or people who have met people you have, and as South Eastern Europe has a limited number of hostels and fits relatively well into a fairly standard circular-ish trail for a while, this re-meeting is more constant. Also admittedly, there are relatively few Welsh backpackers out there, especially those who are Swedish based cartographers, and in the past couple of weeks have been bitten by a dog and had their wallet stolen amongst others, but the sheer number of people who knew the stories scared me a tad, although in a way I suppose its almost a good thing (is it? I don’t know) as it means I’ve made enough of an impression on people I met to then be talked about later (although i‘m beginning to realise why have such a hard time at certain border crossings), and in more details than the standard “I met this guy” way that tends to be used amongst travelers.
It reached its peak when I started talking to a girl from Melbourne, Melanie (I think, but really can’t remember – if you know who ‘m talking about and can confirm her name, please let me know). Random aside – why am meeting so many Melbourners???? So, far i‘ve basically been meeting Brits (unusual enough for me, as i meet surprisingly few Brits normally when traveling in Europe) and people from Melbourne in huge numbers, and very little of anything else. Melanie had met both Adelaide, whose foot was now huge, and Philippe in the hostel, but had also previously spent a few days with Katie (her of the bank card problems in Bucharest) and then with Camilla and Maaret from Brasov, and possibly someone else as well, and really did seem to know my previous months life n better detail than I did.
Stopping only to cunningly chuck my ordered (and part cold) lasange on the floor, and then wait for a succession of people to finally get ready, and hence miss the last tram into the city, a group of 7 or 8 of us including Melanie, Adelaide and Gary from Doncaster* (undoubtedly one of the best guys i‘ve met on the trip to date, despite being from Doncaster – its obviously well known to most of you [and if not, you don’t know me, so why the hell are you wasting your life reading all of this crap?] that have a warped sense of humor, most of which doesn’t work with many of you [almost certainly because most of it isn’t humoruss]. But with Gary it was great, as he was absolutely on the same wave length – scary thought, that, isn’t it? – and so we could bounce stuff off each other with alarming regularity, which is something that rarely happens with me, at least without being followed by people ushering me in to a padded room and giving me a trendy white coat to wear. *DISCLAMER – He might not actually have been called Gary, or be from Doncaster, [Greg from Sheffield?] but guessing that’s close enough, and I know he wasn’t called Brad or come from Wisconsin) wandered into town to cheaply see what Saturday night Budapest had to offer. Which turned out to be an assortment of abortive bus trips, an extortionate taxi ride and lots of walking in between two reasonably decent courtyard style drinking holes, although without the dancing possibilities requested by a couple, and without getting anywhere near where i was actually aiming for. And oddly, I singularly failed to manage to convince the 4 remaining others at the end (i.e. a taxi full) to get a taxi, even though one of the guys was happy to pay for it, as I was happy to walk. Which meant everybody then complained about the walk [i deliberately walked in the opposite direction to the hostel, heading for a night bus for a chunk of the trip when i realized this, but they thought just wanted them to walk further as punishment or some such]. And now time to sleep for all those not already unconscious.