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Two Years & Twice Around the World...  
Bran Castle, Brasov, Romania
SLOVENIA Ljubljana Oct 7-8 Piran Oct 9-12

CROATIA Istra Peninsula Oct 13 Split Oct 14-15 Hvar Oct 16-18 Korcula Oct 19 Dubrovnik Oct 20-29


BOSNIA Sarajevo Oct 30 Oct 30 Nov 1

SERBIA Belgrade Nov 2-3

ROMANIA Bucharest Nov 4 Suceava Nov 5 Nov 6 Cluj Napoca Nov 7 Sighisoara Nov 8-9 Brasov Nov 10 Nov 11

BULGARIA Sofia Nov 12 Nov 13 Nov 14

MACEDONIA Lake Ohrid Nov 15 Nov 16-17

KOSOVO Prishtine Nov 18 Nov 19 Nov 20 Nov 21

GREECE Thessaloniki Nov 22 Athens Nov 23 Nov 24
Bran Castle, Brasov, Romania, November 11, 2003

Romanian Flag ROMANIA

November 10. SIGHISOARA - BRASOV Rob had told our hotel that we were leaving early but they still seemed surprised when we showed up for breakfast.  We saw one of the guys duck out the front door, probably in search of food for our breakfast, so we just told them to forget and went to the train station.  The bigger disappointment was that the train was late so we just had coffee at a bar in front of the train station.  It was cloudy with smoke inside so we just sat on the patio with a lone dog giving us a willful eye, our teeth chattering in the cold.  There was a waiting room for the first class passengers but the heater wasn't working.  When the rescheduled time finally arrived we stood on the platform and waited another ten minutes until the train finally pulled in.

As stood shivering on the platform a young man approached us and tried to interest us in a place to stay in Brasov!  We were still in Sighisoara and we were encountering touts for Brasov!  I told him we already had a reservation but it still took a few reiterations to get him to shut up and go away.  The train ride to Brasov only took two hours and we were accosted by four or five touts before we even got out of the station.  They were really obnoxious.  We tried to just walk quickly and fend them off but they were persistent.  Some were just taxi drivers trying to get a kickback from driving you to a hotel.  One guy practically started running along side us and when Rob put his hand up by his face to brush him off the man hit Rob's hand and yelled at him!  It was out of control.  We just wanted to get away from the station and figure out where to stay without all of the hassle.  While we were waiting in line for bus tickets a young guy from the hostel started to harass us as well.  He was determined to shove his fliers under our face.  We just kept telling him that we had a reservation and we didn't need his help but he just wouldn't let up.  He said he wanted to help us and tried to force his flyer in our face again.  At that point we wouldn't have cared if he could have given us the best room in Brasov for $10/night we just wanted to be left alone.  He didn't care and just kept harassing us.  Finally we got our bus ticket and a person standing nearby kindly directed us to the right bus stop and told us where to get off.  There was always some relief when you encountered someone who really just wanted to help and didn't have a ulterior motive.

We tried the best hotel option in town but were shocked to find that it was booked out until February!  Of course we hadn't really made a reservation because most of the hostels and hotels had been empty outside of Bucharest.  We could have gotten two single rooms but that didn't appeal so we got back on the bus and headed to the dreaded hostel.  As we got off the bus we saw a funeral procession coming up the street, the person in front carrying a large cross followed by people carrying flowers and wreaths.  They crossed in front of us and entered the tall and narrow Orthodox Church of St. Nicolas (1595).  

The hostel was a good disappointment but given the limited options we felt stuck.  The only consolation was that was where we expected to find Lesley.  The hostel only had one double room which they called the "Shagging Room" and it had bright pink walls and some mumbo jumbo on the door about responsible love with the Chinese character for love above it.  We were starting to think that we were too old for this hostel business.  (The free condom on the bedside stand in Sighisoara was another clue.)  The mattress felt more like a box spring but the room did have good heat going for it and Brasov was freezing cold. The toilet and shower were across the hall but the door didn't lock.  The two showers and one toilet had shower curtains around them?!  Who would really like to be sitting on the toilet behind a shower curtain while people come traipsing in and out of the bathroom? And all this turned out to cost more than getting two single rooms at the hotel in the center of town!  But let's not forget that we also got our all-you-can-eat breakfast, our free drink, and an hour of Internet access each day.  The breakfast was do-it-yourself toast and instant coffee, the drink was a soda or beer, and the Internet access was a ten minute walk from the hostel. 

After settling into our "Shagging Room" we walked into town and had lunch at odd Romanian-Mexican restaurant that served a shot of complimentary shot of tequila and chips.  The food was okay but not really filling and the waiter tried to trip himself by not bringing our change.  They always shorted themselves when they did that because we asked for our change and then didn't tip him for his presumptuousness.  Rob was still hungry so we made another quick stop at McDonald's.

We tried back at the first hotel again and ended up making a reservation for two single rooms in case we didn't find Lesley and wanted to move the next day.  We made a stop at the train office in downtown to check on schedules but the women weren't very nice, almost downright rude actually.  It was a shame since most of the people we had met in Romania had been really nice, except the touts, but Brasov was the country's most popular tourist destination and they were getting that "we are sick of tourists and don't want to deal with you attitude".

In spite of Brasov's grand central square there were few coffee options for a break.  It was too cold to just stroll around outside so we looked hard until we found a cozy little place down a side alley that had few customers and we really quiet.  When we could feel our toes and fingers again we walked back to the hostel and found Lesley.  The thought of heading back out for dinner was too grim so we ended up ordering pizza to be delivered and grabbed a bottle of wine a nearby market.

The crowd at the hostel was pretty mellow and on the older side.  It wasn't nearly full and everyone seemed in the mood to just relax, talk, and watch some TV.  Of course that didn't stop the hotel staff from whooping it up.  They had their friends over and cranked up the music in the basement so we could hardly hear ourselves talk.  It would have been harder to complain if any of the hostel guests were partaking in the partying but they weren't.  We shouted at each other over the thumping sounds.  Lesley had met an Aussie fellow named Dave and they did up their own dinner of potato soup and then settled in the TV room with the rest of us.  Dave was the only person we had met that had covered a similar itinerary to ours.  He had come from Mongolia and across Russia as well so we had a good time exchanging stories.

Late in the evening the snotty tout from the train station showed up and wasted no time in pointing his finger right as us and giving us an "I told you so!". It was particularly annoying since this hostel was hardly our lodging of choice and we weren't feeling fortunate to have ended up there.  When he arrogantly continued to rub it in Rob went to have a talk with his boss, who was all of six months older than the snotty kid, and he humbled the guy up a bit and got him to apologize.