Day: 124 & 125
Cities / Towns Visited: 64
Countries Visited: 19
Steps Taken Today: 21,650
Steps Taken Around the World: 2,197,554
The two days that make up this blog were, for the most part, travel days, but don’t let that put you off. If I’ve learnt anything about travel days on this trip, its that they are sometimes the more relaxing of the days; as juxtapose as that sounds. You see, when planning a trip like this, or any trip in general, its a good rule of thumb not to plan to do too much on a day when you need to catch a flight, or travel a few hours to get to a new town. One, because you should allow for the worst in terms of delays, but also because its just too damn stressful to arrive somewhere new, then bolt off into an unknown city to try and reach a certain attraction or booked activity at an allotted time. With that in mind day 124 would see us rising somewhat early, and catching a taxi to the airport in order to catch our flight to Bucharest. As I explained in my last blog, we had had grandiose plans to catch a train over into Romania, but with that literally not an option, and the road based transfers seeming slightly dodgier and much more potentially illegal than we were comfortable with, we decided flying was our quickest and safest option; although notably more expensive.
We had managed to select front row seats on the plane for no extra charge, which is a godsend for people like us who have rather long legs, but, of course, it was not going to be that simple. Despite our backpacks fitting in any normal overhead compartment (and with no one at check-in or whilst boarding mentioning anything), we were surprised to find that our bags were much too large to fit in the tiny overhead lockers of this small, propeller endowed Serbia Airlines flight. We were told by the flight attendant that because our bags wouldn’t fit up above, we would need to sit in a normal seats further down the plane and put the bags under the seats in front of us. All well and good, except when we sat in those seats the bags also did not fit there, due to the tiny size of the plane, and thus we just had to sit with them jammed between our legs for the entirety of the flight. This was made more irritating by the fact that we couldn’t have them in front of our legs in the front row as they cause a tripping hazard in an emergency situation, but if the plane had been going down it would have been almost impossible to vacate our seats with the bags the way they were. Also the other two front seats across from where we were supposed to be sitting were vacant and we could have simply buckled the bags in there, as a man was doing on the seats across from where we currently were. We figured it wasn’t worth making a scene over, and consoled ourselves with the fact it was only a relatively short flight, whilst hoping that we weren’t going to find ourselves having to clamber out to escape at any point. Ah, the joys of travel.
Flight done and dusted, we then got to enjoy an always fun local bus ride into the city, made doubly so by the fact that it was from the airport. therefore the bus was chock full with not only people, but an uncomfortable amount of luggage. Finally we arrived in the city centre, albeit not in the best mood, and made our way to our nearby hotel to nap off some of the mixture of fatigue and repressed rage. Trust me, going with the flow is much harder when you’re running on an insufficient amount of sleep.
Our day ended with us venturing out to a rather cool little grill place just across the road for dinner. I must say, the food was pretty damn good, they served cider which wasn’t the sickly sweet concoction that is Somersby, and their quirky point of difference was that you get a free mug of peanuts to eat while you wait for your food, that you shell yourself, then are encouraged to simply throw the shells on the floor. I’m not sure that would fly in the strict OH&S world of the more western countries (you know, tripping hazard and pest control, and all of that) but there was something rather satisfying and childlike about being able to toss things on the ground. Maybe it was the stress relieving nature of cracking open the nuts, then throwing the disused husk, somewhat forcefully, at the cold hard floor that made it all the more fun.
Believe me when I say that the fact that our hotel didn’t require us to check out until midday did not go unappreciated, and the morning was swiftly coming to a close before we bothered to rise and check out. We had booked a place to rest, and rest we had. Eventually we made a move though, and we stowed our bags at the hotel, as we headed out the have a quick explore of Romania’s capital before we headed to catch our train to Brasov that we had booked tickets for when we arrived the previous day. We didn’t have any solid plans so much as we had just agreed that we’d wander the city and admire it; perhaps find ourselves some lunch.
As we meandered the streets and admired the grand old buildings, it was clear to see the influences of other cultures here. Like much of Eastern Europe, Romania’s land has been partially or fully ruled by a number of other empires over the centuries, from the Ottomans, to the Austro-Hungarians, the Nazis, and the Soviet Union. These influences are clear in the architecture, from Ottoman style temples, to Austrian style banks and justice buildings. That’s not to say there isn’t a fair smattering of wholly Romanian looking gothic-esque buildings; you know, the kind that are slightly reminiscent of every Dracula related movie you’ve ever seen.
Eventually our lust for city exploration was overtaken with the need for food, and a short search found us sitting down at a huge restaurant with a stunning, rather church-like interior, and ordering a couple of Romanian style peasant dishes; a Moravian style stew with polenta, and another hearty stew with beans and sausage. Washed down with handmade elderflower lemonade and we were good to go for our scurry back to grab our bags.
A rather painless train ride, despite the fact that the carriages looked way passed their prime, saw us making our way into Transylvania and arriving in Brașov without a hiccup. Another somewhat squished local bus ride, and we stepped out into the old town. It was immediately clear as we trundled our suitcases across the cobblestones of the old town square, that this beautiful place was awash with other English speaking tourists, the majority of whom were English and American in equal measure. Regardless of this fact, we quickly found our Airbnb and checked in with our friendly host. It turns out that the apartment we were staying in had quite the history, and has been in her family for way over a century, although there was a goodly amount of time where it was confiscated and kept by the Communist government when it was in power in Romania.
A quick duck down to the nearby grocery store and we were soon eating a home-cooked meal and tucking ourselves into bed. Tomorrow would be another full day of exploring, and if all went to plan my brother would be arriving in town in the evening, thus drinks and dinner would be in order. As I settled down to sleep I wondered what the next week in Brașov would bring. This was one of only a few places in the world we would be staying for this long, and this is mainly because it’s a good central base for visiting a number of surrounding attractions. We had been looking forward to the place for quite some time, and if our adventures were as beautiful as the town square and the massive mountain just behind it, then we were in for a treat. I took a quiet moment to bask in the joy of anticipation. It was essentially the adult version of that excitement you get on Christmas eve as a kid, wondering what Santa would bring; that buzz that makes it hard to fall asleep, but usually brings good dreams with it when you finally do. I guess that kind of made sense though, after years of barely buying each other any birthday, Christmas, or anniversary presents, we were finally on the trip we had sacrificed them all for. This was ‘the greater good’, so to speak, and being in the midst of such a long planned dream truly is a comforting pillow to drift off to sleep on.