Sunday, 27 September 2009

Don't Judge a city by first impressions

This Post is for yesterday:

MP3 track of the day: Oasis - I'm free

At around 8:00am I left my hostel and went towards the train station; on the way I stopped off and purchased breakfast. I was sad to see Big Fish go ... but I was looking forward to moving on. 2 days in Budapest was enough ... umm maybe another day to spend in the baths.

Anyway that wasn't possible to I boarded the train and sat at a table with 2 other women opposite. The journey was around 12 hours so I planned to do a bit of reading, sight seeing and eating. After around 2 hours the women left the train, which was great as I needed to stretch my legs and I made the most of it (little did I know at the time that the 4 seater would be mine for the rest of the journey).

I watched outside as Hungary passed into Romania (I knew this had happened as we had 2 passport checks ... I thought the boarders were open). As I looked outside my window, and saw Romania pass by, I expected to see a sort of evil looking land; I was after all heading towards Transylvania and I thought the land would be a darkish green with black buildings on the mountainside ... however it wasn't like that at all. I would describe it more like Spain; the ground was a sandy, dry dirt colour with fields that were full of dead wheat plants.

Also as we went through Romania I looked at the buildings and industrial equipment that littered the sides of the train line from time to time. I came up with two conclusions, either Romania was at war (and was losing) and none of the Western world knew about it because it was hidden in the depths of the news papers due to Peter Andrea divorcing Jordan ... or Romania hadn't quite grasped the concept of the UNESCO details and the Romanian governments thought they couldn't repair any buildings within their country. Either way the track side was littered with skeletons of industrial sites, houses with fallen off plaster and train platforms that looked more like the Ben Nevis hiking trail.

Throughout the route I checked my timetable and compared it with the names of train stations which were passing ... it didn't add up. I reckon, probably because of the two passport inspections we had incurred earlier, that we were 40 mins late.

When I was around 30mins before my arrival time (20:49) I asked one of the Romanian train inspectors if we were on time or late (buy pointing at the name 'Brasov' and the time '20:42' on my train ticket). He smiled and got out a piece of paper, he wrote '20:42 +1 = 21:42'. He then smiled again, said it was okay and walked off. Great an hour late; I tried to ring my hostel to tell them that I was going to be an hour later but no answer. I tried 6 or 7 times but nothing ... I started to worry because, unlike other hostels, there were no maps or travel directions to Hostel Mara on the website. I had an address but I didn't know it was right.

The last 90 minutes of my trip wasn't very comfortable ... I tried to work out what I was going to do; I decided the best thing to do was to get a taxi as they would know the street and number of where the hostel was. On the train I had met a Romanian in Budapest ... he told me he was going to Brasov as he lived 30 mins near there. When we eventually arrived at Braslov he let me know and also showed me to the taxi ranks.

At the taxi ranks I went into the first taxi I could find ... I showed him the piece of paper with the address on; he then called over some of his taxi mates to have a discussion about it, with allot of pointing involved (odear). Finally he said 'okay that will cost 10 Lie' .... £2.50 in real money ... bargain. As we travelled through the city for a good 20 minutes he spoke quite good English; he pointed to sites and areas saying 'centre' or 'church' or 'monument'. We also talked about English football and my nerves we settled ... until we reached the place where my hostel should be.

We couldn't find it; two or three times he got out of the car and said 'moment' and went rushing off to ask someone where the place was. He tried a hotel, the police, and a couple of other people around. At this point I was out of the car trying to call the hostel (still no answer) and another bloke came up; he spoke very good English but the only thing he had to say was he didn't know the hostel but he had a room for rent ... 40 lie a night. After the 4th time of asking me (and also I could see the taxi driver was getting a bit annoyed) I gave him a firm look and said strongly 'no' ... if I couldn't find the hostel I would I say in the hotel the taxi driver had asked previously (me 1 - annoying man on the street 0). The taxi driver was getting abit annoyed at this point (he had been with me about 40 mins), but I think he looked at me, and the fact I looked a little worried, smiled and said 'it okay, it okay'. Finally the policeman returned and said he had found the hostel. The taxi driver smiled and said I go with him ... I thought £2.50 for all the taxi drivers work wasn't enough so I tried to give him double. He said 'no,no,no' smiled for the last time, shock my hand and said 'good luck' ... I think I was going to need it.

I walked with the policeman across the square and there I saw the 'IH' (International Hostel) sign ... a big sight of relief. However it was on a gate which lead into a back street tunnel with no lighting; luckily the policeman had a torch on his phone and we went on. It was weird ... wooden floor boards and just a tunnel with the occasional door. I was glad to be with a policemen as it scare the **** out of me, but finally we made it to a small square and the hostel reception ... it was closed (how can a hostel reception close).

Not giving up the policeman went up the outside stairs and banged on a couple of doors. A next door neighbour came out (with a IH shirt on) and told me to come up. I said thank you to the policeman and he smiled back and said 'good luck' (I wish they would stop saying good luck ... have a nice stay or have a wonderful time but not good luck).

The next door neighbour stunk of (what I thought at the time was) drink; however he was very helpful and showed me the room and how all the security worked. I think he wanted to stay and chat for longer but I was tired so I made a sharp exit to my room. Surprisingly my room looked very clean and nothing what you would of guessed it would look like from the outside of the building. Inside there were suit cases but no people; it was 11pm and I thought this was odd ... still must all be out for a drink.

At about midnight I woke and still no one ... maybe they had been taken, and this was all that was left of there existence. About 30 minutes later they arrived and they introduced themselves; one woman and 2 men all from Spain, they seemed very nice but I didn't talk for long ... I wanted to sleep.

So far Romania did seem a very poor country; however what they lack in money they make up for in it's people ... the guy on the train, the train attendant, the policemen and of course the taxi driver!

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