A lot of interesting tidbits here today and QUITE a few photos. Let’s dig in, shall we?
First off, a previously featured Do-Gooder blogger (the one who hates branza) who this time went to Hunedoara. Not quite sure if she’s ever been to EUROPE before (not just Romania):
I cannot express how truly amazing it was to be able to not only see an intact castle in Europe but also to walk around and take pictures inside pondering what the lives of those who lived there before were like.
Hmm… well there’s even a short (home-recorded) video of the inside of the castle, so that is pretty cool. The singing… well to each their own I guess :P
Secondly I just found this blog (99% in English) of some young Swedish Do-Gooders who just returned from a trip to Romania. Hundreds and hundreds of photos at the link, including some very nice ones of both Sighisoara and the palace at Peles (in Sinaia) as well as a few cultural events they witnessed. Quite nice!
And then I found this link, which apparently was a REAL one-week tour someone set up for foreigners to come to Romania on an “all-Dracula” tour, visiting every site even remotely connected to vampires, Vlad Tepes and “spooky” stuff.
Speaking of Do-Gooders, I found this post about an upcoming fundraiser for their work in evangelizing Romanian orphans:
If you are in the Nashville, TN area we would love to have you come out for our Third Annual Pancake Breakfast this Saturday, November 13th, from 7:30 to 9:30, at the Applebee’s at 5055 Old Hickory Blvd., Hermitage, TN. $6.00 gets you a nice, big pancake breakfast and the proceeds go to support our work in Romania.
See folks? Six bucks (18 lei) not only feeds your belly but also helps out the wee folk in Romania. What a deal! :D
I also found this blog, mysteriously called “Things about Transylvania”. Why is that a mystery? Because:
After seeing such pictures is Transylvania a place you would go and travel to this place? A lot of people who live in North America do not think of all the places that they can see in a small area, but Transylvania, has so much to offer.
From Alba Iluia to the mountains and rivers, I am certain this is a place I would go to. I think I am certain to see water buffalo as well. (don’t believe me, check out a book called.. Transylvania to see pictures of these animals.)
Still, to be there for a while will cost money, but if money isn’t a big thing and you want to go… what would be the first place you would visit?
Interesting question, aside from the “water buffaloes”, which I have to assume she means bivol or “bivolita” as it’s often called, a type of horned cow (UPDATE: I see these animals in Romania ARE called water buffaloes in English). Still, some nice photos at the link (of Transylvania, not cows!).
Then I found this blog called “Nuggets from Romania”, written by a Canadian Do-Gooder. There’s lots of personal tidbits about her life but nothing too striking, especially as she speaks very little Romanian so her entire life remains around communicating with home, watching American movies and speaking English. Still, she’s been here seven months so I’ll keep an eye out if she manages to write something worth quoting :D
Meanwhile The Romanian Dream blogger has a new series of lovely photographs taken in Bucharest. Very nice.
I also just came across a commercial website in English called the “Romania Business Insider”. Looks to be another slick, superficial expat kind of magazine but there is a nice Advice section, including how to find an apartment for rent (if you’re foreign), which is pretty darn useful if you’re ever in this situation.
They also have an interview with the outgoing director of the Athenee Palace Hotel (in Bucharest), which you might remember from yesterday’s New York Times piece. Most of it is CEO Corporate Fluff Chatter but I did like this line:
Adjusting to the Romanian way of doing things was among the hardest.
“It was harder at one point, I have to admit it took me a while to adjust to the Romanian culture, because people are quite demanding and emotional,” he says.
And last but not least, yet another Oh My God Welcome To The Lawless Jungle of Romania tale, this one about a ride on Serbian and then later CFR (Romanian) railways.
First off, yes the train service from Belgrade to Timisoara is abysmal. I’ve spoken to many, many people throughout the years and I know that (Serbian) railways are in rough shape. Of course, partly this is due to the fact that, you know, the entire country got the ever living sh*t bombed out of it by the United States. That tends to hamper things.
What’s super weird is what happens AFTER she gets to Timisoara:
We staggered across the street to the one and only hotel. Our hotel room made every whorehouse in existence look like the Ritz Carlton.
I have to laugh because the gara (train station) in Timisoara really is a miserable, filthy, horrible place. Yet literally one mile away or so is the gorgeous, sparkling, amazingly beautiful “downtown” centru with Piata Operei, probably one of the most beautiful squares in all of Europe. Oh yeah, did I mention it has fabulous and amazing hotels there as well?
Oh well. Back to the trip, this time from Timisoara to Deva, a trip I’ve taken many, many times (it’s only about 3 hours, sheesh!):
The next day the insanity began all over again. I wandered around the train station showing people my piece of paper and pointing to trains. Again, they looked at me as if I was crazy and refused to have anything to do with me. A man finally took pity on me and directed us to our train. In a moment of complete idiocy, I asked him if the train had a first class section. He looked at me and said; “I am sorry. My English is not that good. On this train there is only one class. Shit!”. He was right. It was a repeat of the day before. For all I know it was the same train.
What’s bizarre is that in the train station there is both A) an enormous list of the train schedules printed out in huge letters, including time of departure AND track listing and B) a huge, electronic display that shows all the trains departing and arriving AND which track. How the hell can you not see either one of these?
Not to mention that when you buy a (train) ticket, it shows you the number of the train (think “flight number”) and all you’ve got to do is look up at either display board (printed or electronic) and find the track. In fact in Timisoara I think they only use the first three or four platforms so it isn’t like there are 5 billion trains all over the place.
AND let’s not forget there’s a gigantic booth labeled “INFO” with the universal blue box with an “i” in it and the person working there has one job – TO GIVE OUT INFORMATION. Amazing.
Furthermore, judging from what she is saying here, I’m guessing she undoubtedly took a Personal train, or a “local” train that’s often extremely slow, stopping almost every few hundred meters or so. Checking CFR’s website, I see there are 7 trains a day from Timi-Deva and only ONE is a Personal train, so boy she really screwed up. And guess what? It takes almost an hour more to get to Deva by that train too. Oof!
As the train began to move, Lauren turned to me and said, “This cannot be the right train. It is leaving too soon.” I flew out of my seat and went running up and down the aisles frantically showing people my piece of paper. They just stared at me. I ran to the next car, my foot got caught in the dividing doors. I grabbed my leg and yanked it out of the clutches of the sliding doors. Again, no one would talk to me. The train rolled forward ten feet and stopped. I returned to my seat and sat down in a stupor.
I was learning that train schedules in Eastern Europe are merely guesses. We would pass by some train stations and stop at others. The stops would last a minute in some places or an hour in other places. We had passed the allotted time that we were due to arrive in Deva, Romania. As we approached another small town, I showed the people leaving the train my piece of paper, they told me that I had missed my stop. Missed my stop!! How in the hell had I missed my stop??? The train started to take off, I snapped. I stuck my head out the window, frantically waved my arms and and yelled, “Alto!”. I had really lost it, I was yelling in Spanish in Romania. I had become the crazy person that everyone had been avoiding.
Oh my… I mean really. I can’t speak for this Personal train but generally CFR is pretty darn good about timetables. And since Timisoara is always where the trains begin, I cannot imagine why it would have LEFT EARLY FROM THE STATION. It’s inconceivable. The train isn’t coming from somewhere else. Timisoara is just a few kilometers from the border so all these trains are just idling at the Timi train station until they leave.
As for finding the stop at “Deva”, this is almost the easiest city in the country to spot because just outside of town there is an enormous mountain with the words “DEVA” spelled out like the Hollywood sign in gigantic letters. And it’s clearly visible from the train at the train station.
Thankfully, some poor Romanian took pity on these two self-admittedly “crazy people” everyone had been avoiding:
An elderly Romanian gentleman, who spoke no English, tried to calm me down. He showed me his train ticket, he was going to Deva. He invited Lauren and I into his compartment. He pulled out a chocolate bar, broke it into half and gave each of us a piece. I just sat there, staring off into space eating my piece of candy. The train personnel came looking for me and laughed at me.
The whole story? Quite good. That last line? PRICELESS!
Folks, I just decided. I’m going to print up a bunch of T-shirts that say, “I Survived CFR Railways” and sell them for 50 bucks apiece to tourists. That way they can amaze their friends with their True Tales of Lawless Romania. Yes! I’ll be fabulously rich in no time :P