Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bucharest July 23 - July 29

Words cannot describe the amazing experience this vacation has been. After a horrible start with my travel agency trying to screw me over with the flight ticket, everything became 100 times better. Being in Romania was exactly what I needed!

So, I arrived in Bucharest at the airport at midnight on Saturday, instead of arriving around noon. My couchsurfing host was kind enough to come and pick me up from the airport even at that time. Turns out my host was this DJ from a very cool radio station in Romania called "Radio Guerrilla". He had a really nice house out in Otopeni. Next day, we went to his house in the country side. On the way, we stopped by a shop and bought some fresh bread. WHOA!!

We actually bought about 3 loafs of bread, but ate 1 in just a few minutes, and almost finished up the 2nd one too. I missed real fantastic bread!

At the house there were some of his friends and they were preparing a BBQ. The lady also made egg plant salad. WHOA!!!! I nearly died!! The bread and eggplant combo was PHENOMENAL!!

Then later in the day we went for a little walk in the village. It was really cute. Apparently, there were many vacation houses there. I was very surprised. Who can afford a vacation home in Romania?

There was a dog cooling off in the little stream. He was really enjoying himself.

And then, we went back to his house. In the morning, his girlfriend Alexandra gave me a ride into Bucharest to where I was staying next. It was very central.

The vibe was very different. At the new place, my new host was working from home, so he was very busy and didn't really have any time to even go for a drink. It was OK in the end, because I got to explore on my own and just try to adjust to being in Romania and speak Romanian.

I went out and using my trusted iPod map, I went in search of things to see.

This is the statue of King Carol. He was a German dude that ended up being the king of Romania. He did a lot of good things for the country. I'm not sure if I remember all the history correctly. I got so much info these few days in Bucharest, but I might have jumbled them up a little. At least now I've got a better clue of how the country was in the past.

And on this balcony is where Ceausescu had his last speech, where he was booed away by the crowds below. I got goosebumps when I was there and thought of the change that was happening.

The next picture, I was told, is of a building that has the entrance of the old opera hall that was destroyed, and now rebuilt. It's the entrance of a bank I think. I'm not actually sure. But it looks very nice when you are walking up the street and you can see just the front part until you get much closer. Interesting design.

This was a house that apparently belonged to Vlad Tepes. So it was a bunch of ruins with his statue in front. It might have been for all the tourists there. I'm not sure.

This is how all the buildings used to look like in the old part of Bucuresti before it was renovated. There are still many buildings that look like this, but very many have been fixed up.

I was walking around the old town, looking at all the beautiful buildings, and admiring all the gorgeous people and smelling all the amazing fragrances that were hitting my nose from everyone and everywhere. There was this beautiful statue/sculpture on one of the side streets. And, as a proper tourist, I had to take a picture of it :).

The whole old district was full of terraces. Every restaurant had tables outside. It was so lively and wonderful.

This was in the center at Piata Unirii. I was waiting here for a free walking tour to start. I sitting on a bench, watching people walk by. It was sunny, the sound of the water from the fountain in front of me was covering the sound of nearby traffic. It was such a beautiful day.

This was a famous restaurant. They were restoring it to reopen the rooms and make it into a hotel. Before, a long long time ago, when Romania was a center for commerce, traders would come and stay in this Inn and the owner would be able to lock their goods away for safe keeping while they slept here overnight.

More of old town with its beautiful buildings and terraces :).

On a little alley, there was an old beautiful church. Typically decorated with beautiful paintings and carvings over every available space.

This was the inside garden that was being restored.

"Caru cu Bere" is a famous and popular restaurant in old town Bucharest. In the evening they have live music and dancing inside. The atmosphere is just as good as the music and hospitality. I went there twice, and loved it fully!

All these wonderful buildings were on one road. Hm... I don't remember the name of it.

This is a museum. I looks really pretty from the outside, with those columns. I heard the actual exposition inside was not worth checking out, so I didn't go. I had lots of other places I wanted to visit, so I didn't want to waste my time.

We went into one of the many MANY beautiful churches around. The lighting wasn't very good, hence the darker pictures.

Then we went on this little street, it was covered and most of the restaurants offered shishas. They are those Turkish water pipes where you smoke this falvoured tobacco jelly. We stopped here for a drink and a smoke.

This was the renovated hospital that had it's own church. It didn't look like a hospital at all, but more like a palace.

And this is the Ateneum. It's where they have classical music concerts throughout the year. It was closed now for the summer, unfortunately. I would have loved to go to a concert there. I did go inside and take some pictures on another day.

The next day, I went on another organized tour of Bucharest. This time it was paid. I met the tour guide and the rest of the group at a hotel next to the Ateneum. The group, was made up of 6 Americans that were travelling together and me. It was a very funny sight because they were all old people. I felt strange too because at this point I was still not comfortable speaking Romanian and letting other people know I was born there. I'm not sure why. I guess I had a negative view of Romania before going there and I didn't want to be associated with that bad image. Once I realized what crap that was, and got over it, I felt better. But it took a while for me to get to that state of mind.

So here we were driving around, going towards one of the big parks in the city where we went to visit a sort of national museum of old style country houses and churches from all over the country.

Here we arrived at the museum, and our guide told us all about these houses and why they had the shapes they did. I don't really remember what he said. Actually, I think the reason these houses had such steep roofs was to help keep water and snow off of them.

These houses were built below ground and the roofs looked like piles of hay, so that invading forced wouldn't see these houses and would not attack them. It looked very dark and depressing inside though.

This is how they used to make Romanian alcohol, Tuica and Palinca.

We were told that all these buildings were made without using any nails or glue. They were built in such a way that the pieces of wood just interlocked and kept the whole structure securely together. That's amazing. And in order to move these buildings to this outdoor museum, they had to dismantle the buildings, transport them, and put them back together again in the park. Fantastic!!

In the park there were many children's camps. Tabere. They were making all sorts of things. Masks, necklaces, religious pictures, paintings. It looked like a lot of fun.

And then we went to the "Peoples Palace". WOW! It was really impressive. I've seen it before, but only from the outside, and only from a distance. This time, I saw it up close, and then I saw it from the inside too. What extravagant idiotic luxury. WHY??!!

The rooms were huge, beautifully carved ceilings, and amazingly extravagant chandeliers. Who ever imagined these things? And then was insane enough to say, heck, why not build this??!!

And there was so much marble everywhere. Incredible!!

And then we had a little break, and I wanted to check if the palace had Wi-Fi. Hell yes!! THEY DID :). I had to take a pictures.

And then, even cooler, I was able to check my location. I obviously took a picture of that too :). That blue dot is where I was.

And then, Ceausescu had these 2 sets of stairs built. I'm on the left side, which is his wife's stairs, and then the ones in the front, the right side, are his stairs. They were built to fit his height exactly, so that when he goes up he looks really good, or some other crap like that. Seriously!! Who can rationalize such money spending??

And then we step outside on the balcony. So beautiful from up there.

This is the front view, of the parking space blow, and the large buildings ahead.

And me too :)

After finishing the tour, I went to this restaurant I was told of. It's supposed to be a really good restaurant with traditional Romanian food. Well, it really was delicious. It's called "La Mama", and there were 3 locations in Bucharest, as far as I knew of. I went to this one and from here I skyped with my neightbours back in Korea and made them jealous of the beautiful weather, fantastic food and wine, and European style patio :).

With every meal I ordered red wine. It was always so perfect. Not too dry, not too sweet. Just perfect. This time I ordered mashed potatoes. I loooove mashed potatoes, and well, nothing like eating something you love in a place you love :).

This was a river that was flowing through the city. It apparently was covered before during communism, and was since uncovered. I think it's really nice to have such a nice little stream going through a town. It gives it a different vibe.

Another restaurant, another meal, another glass of delicious red wine :).

Oh, and these were "Papanasi". They were more like cheesecake donuts. Not so much like how I remember them from childhood, but still, very very nice.

And then I went to the museum of Romanian National Art. It was REALLY interesting. On the bottom floor they had religious art. I learned some VERY interesting things from one of the people who was working there. There were many beautiful bibles on display there, but none of them were written in Romanian, or in the Roman alphabet. So, apparently, the Romanians didn't speak the way they do now, nor did they write the way they write now. They used an alphabet similar to the Russian one, and the language was very different back then. There were a lot of details that lady told me, but obviously I forgot. I'm going to have to read up some more on Romanian history. Can't wait :).

And as I mentioned earlier, I did go inside the Ateneum. It was incredibly beautiful. And this was only the main foyer. Imagine when everyone comes to the concert, the men dressed in beautiful suits, and the women in beautiful dresses all together to experience such cultural richness. Wonderful! I hope to be able to experience that one day.

And this was Km 0 in front of a giant set of statues.

These two guys were singing Pasarea Colibri for money. It was so cool. People who were walking by were singing along to the music. I was here with my last couchsurfing host, his girlfriend, and 3 other couchsurfers that were staying at his place who were from Poland.

Like I mentioned before, there were many dilapidated, old and abandoned buildings that had not yet been restored to their former glory. So, like any curious tourist, we ventured through and up to the roof to get a panoramic view of the old town.

So this is that famous restaurant from the old town: "Caru cu Bere" (The beer wagon). I went there with the 3 Polish people after we left the couchsurfers house. They were heading back to Poland, and I was heading to Brasov.

The last couchsurfer I stayed at suggested that I hitchhike to Brasov after I found out that my original ride had cancelled and now I was left without a way to get there so last minute. And that's what I did. I made a sign that said BV, which is short for Brasov. I took a taxi to the main road leading out of Bucharest towards Brasov, got out, put my backpack on, and took my sign out. My hands were shaking a bit because I was naturally a bit nervous. But honestly, after 5 seconds a car stopped and gave me a ride all the way to Brasov. WHOAAAAA!! FANTASTIC!!!! That was the first time in my life I hitchhiked. It was phenomenal!!! I will definitely do that again.

These are a few pictures from the car.

Bye bye Bucharest, and hello Brasov!!