Bucharest, Brasov and Sighisoara, oh my!

Trip Start Jul 04, 2006
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Trip End Jan 15, 2007


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Flag of Romania  ,
Saturday, September 23, 2006

OK - so even though the map pin for this entry says Brasov, the entry itself covers everywhere we've been in Romania (as per the title - Bucharest, Brasov and Sighisoara). We actually spent the majority of our time in Brasov, mainly due to the fact that the city is pretty cool, and the hostel we were in was fantastic (could have had something to do with the free beer...).

Anyway, a few days ago, after another tiring overnight train journey involving multiple stops for border checks, a very sleep-deprived pair of travellers arrived in Bucharest. Having heard that there wasn't a heck of a lot to see in Romania's capital, we decided to spend a few hours there and then move on to Brasov later in the day.

Good decision.

Now I'm sure many Bucharestians would argue, but I wasn't a super-huge fan of Bucharest itself. Now, I do admit I was crazy tired so that may have influenced my opinion of the city. The pouring rain probably didn't help much either...

That all being said, I think my biggest grievance of the city was the fact that it was too sprawled out for my liking. After a bit of a discussion with Tania, we figured that we prefer cities that have a definite core.

For example (yes, I'm going way off tangent here, but I'll come back - don't worry):

- Vancouver: a very definite downtown core where one can find just about everything they need (groceries, pubs, a hockey team that just refuses to win...).

- Moscow: Red Square - you don't get a more centrally-oriented landmark than that. There is even a point where all distances are measured from. You also have the rings going around the city to ensure that all the good stuff stays inside.

- Edinburgh: The castle is right in the centre of the town, providing a great landmark for directions - especially important when trying to locate oneself after partaking of Scotland's chief export.

Cities that rather rely on the "chaos method" of city planning:

- Toronto - centre of the universe...maybe if it had a centre (and a good hockey team...).

- London - can someone really get around this town? Seriously, you have to take a very convoluted metro system to get anywhere.

Anyway, back to Bucharest...

After lots of walking, we got to the Romanian Parliamentary Palace - the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. Sadly, it was closed for visitors until October (which I guess is fair as I'm pretty sure the Pentagon is closed for visitors all the time). Neat building though. Big.

The Archeological museum - some neat jewelry was there. That and a really big column, which wasn't as neat.

We then walked through old Bucharest which seemed to consist of streets of shops selling wedding dresses. Kinda freaky actually.

Next up - The Romanian Village Museum. I actually liked this museum as you could get the feeling of what life was like back-in-the-day in a Romanian Village. Unfortunately they wanted to charge me 20 Lei to take pictures (entry was only 4) so you'll just have to go to Bucharest to see it yourself.

After all this we went back to the train station to wait for our train. Fortunately the Romanian radio was quite entertaining, with a playlist consisting of Elvis, mo-town hits, and the brand new Chili Peppers. Random.


Brasov

Brasov is a cool town. It has a centre. It's easy to navigate. It's got a cool hostel that has a rep at the train station, free laundry, free Internet, free movies (though everyone made fun of me after I made them watch Highlander...), a free laundry fairy (seriously, you put dirty clothes in a basket and they come back clean), and free beer (0.5 litres for each day you stay). Given that we have not been in one location for more than 2 nights in over month, we decided to stick around in Brasov for a while.

Right in the heart of Transylvania, Brasov just had a fun vibe about it. It even has a Hollywood-esque sign to welcome you. A good place to for hikes and castle viewing, including a great, very gothic castle, complete with ottoman style-smoking room and theatre. So during our stay we hiked, visited castles and met some pretty good "peeps" from Toronto (Shaun and Amber - take no offence at the TO comment before. Fantastic city whose hockey team has actually won a cup...) and Germany (Tania and I have no idea what the girl's name was, but she was nice...) and the good ol' US of A (Ben and Melissa - any more cats along the travels??). Tania even managed to find a kitten to rescue.

Sighisoara

The birthplace of Dracula. You know this because in the shops Vlad Tepes (aka Dracula) can be found on paintings, mugs, t-shirts and chip-dip (seriously). That being said, the town is nice, even in a bit of rain. We visited the citadel today, which is basically the old town, all walled in. Even saw the house that Vlad was born and lived in for the first 6 years of his life. Not too sure where he was for the years between that and age 10 when his dad sent him to the Ottoman Empire to be a hostage. Probably strained the father/son relationship a bit.

So now we're sitting in an Internet cafe, catching up on blog entries and e-mails prior to the overnight train to Budapest. Yeah, the ride should be fun. As the sleeper car was so expensive we'll be sitting up all night for this one. Wheee...

Any sympathy out there...


Didn't think so.
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