500,000 bottles of sparkling wine mature in this section of the underground cellars at Cricova Winery just north of Chisinau, Moldova. Photo taken December 3, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Chisinau, Republic of Moldova.

Where are they going next? Transnistria. The country that doesn't exist!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Arrived in Romania!

When we left you yesterday, we were sitting in Zurich airport, waiting for our flight from Zurich to Bucharest.

The mid afternoon flight went fine, and in fact we even slept for part of it, which is not normal for us. But the previous overnight transatlantic flight and six hour time change does funny stuff to your system, so we were glad that we managed to get another hour's nap!

Arrived in Bucharest, Romania right on time at 3:20pm.

Sorry, no pictures from then on...we had our bags with us and were simply concentrating on getting to our AirBnb host apartment!

Made it through customs and passport control without a problem. The border guard didn't even ask us any questions...he simply stamped our passport and we were in.

Normally we don't check luggage. But because we had wanted to do the train trip into Zurich yesterday, we had checked our normal bags way back in Ottawa. That way, they would carry on to our final destination in Bucharest so we didn't have to worry about them while we went in to Zurich. So we also had smaller day trip type backpacks that had our laptops and other important stuff in them.

We went to pick up our baggage, and sure enough they had made it on all three flights and arrived when we did. Always nice to see! We took a couple of minutes and rearranged things to make our day packs lighter, and then exited to the arrivals area.

First thing was to get some local cash. You don't want to load up on too much at an airport ATM, so I only took out 500 lei ($166 CAD, $125 USD) until we can get to  standard machine at an actual bank branch. We always feel better in a foreign country using a machine at the bank itself. Anyhow, the ATM worked fine and spit out five brand new 100 leu notes. (The currency in Romania is the leu...or plural, lei.)

Next step was to get the bus from the airport to downtown. I had researched this in advance, and knew that we wanted to take the 780 express bus from the airport to the Gara de Nord train station near downtown. Found the booth to buy the two tickets. Cost was 8.6 lei for the two of us. That's less than $1.50 each for the 40 minute bus ride!

Bus arrived shortly, and off we went. There is lots of traffic in Bucharest!

We arrived at the train station. We had instructions from our AirBnb host to walk about a half a mile to another bus stop and take the 226. I had this all routed out on our iPhone with the maps.me software, and made it to the bus stop without a problem.

Only problem was, we didn't have tickets!

You need to buy a rechargeable green card here to use the public bus system. In some places they have machines, and in other places they have manned booths where you actually talk to someone. But I had read in advance that a common problem is there aren't enough booths or machines...and very often people will simply get on the bus without paying. Because apparently there aren't enough inspectors either!

Sure enough, we couldn't find anywhere to buy a green card. So as much as we didn't like doing it that way, we would just get on the bus and see what happens! Worse case scenario, we had the one way blue cards from the airport bus. We would simply claim to be stupid tourists if we were questioned!

We were waiting for the 226 bus...but it never came. I had checked the route online in advance, and I was sure we were at the right stop. I was also following our host's instructions. We waited well over a half an hour. We then started thinking about taking a taxi. I had read that taxis are cheap in Bucharest, but they have a bad reputation of trying to rip you off...and of course as tourists who can't speak Romanian, we would be a prime target!

Before we could think any further, a taxi pulled off the busy street in front of us. A young fellow, and he spoke not bad English. I explained where we wanted to go, and I knew from the mapping system that it was about 5 kms. The going rate is 1.39 lei per km, which is in fact very cheap. We put the bags in the back, and off we went.

But remember I mentioned that Bucharest traffic is heavy? We could have walked faster! I'm not exaggerating...we sat still more than we moved. But besides the mileage charge, there is also a time charge. And when you're not moving, you're paying for nothing.

The young fellow seemed to be a nice enough guy and was interesting to talk to. But I think his meter was rigged! It started off slow enough, but the longer we sat there, the faster the meter seemed to go. We were about half way when we decided that was enough and got out. The meter now read almost 25 lei ($8.50 CAD, $6.25 USD) which still sounds pretty cheap by Canadian or American standards, but it was too expensive here for the distance we had traveled. I paid him 25 lei and we started walking.

It was dark by now, but there were still quite a few people out walking. We arrived at our hosts apartment just after 6:30pm. It's in an old 1980's communist style apartment block, but each apartment is now privately owned and many have been refurbished.

Cosmin and Carmen were there to greet us. They're a young couple about 30 years old, with their cat Katya. Nice place, and despite the old concrete exterior, their apartment on the inside is very modern. I'll take some pics today for you.

The view from our balcony.

In the distance, we can see the Palace of Parliament...we're going to be going there today.

Cosmin gave us each a shot glass of tuica (or palinca, a northern variety)...the national drink. It's rocket fuel alright...you wouldn't want too much all at once! Then, he made us some dinner...a nice turkish meal with eggplant and ground beef. We had a couple of Romanian beer, and lots of conversation...but we were tired, and hit the sack by 9:30pm. We're now six hours ahead of EST, so as I publish this, most of you are still sleeping. But it will be here for you when you wake up!

We slept well! Feeling very refreshed, today, we're going exploring. Cosmin and Carmen gave us some great ideas, and we're going to do lots of walking!

Slightly overcast, and calling for a high of 13C (56F). Not bad.

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23 comments:

  1. You made it! Our travel experiences are certainly modest by comparison. Sucks to sit in a cab and not be moving, AND hear that meter tick away.
    Enjoy the day.

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    1. We don't like taxis at the best of times normally, however when they are cheap we don't mind so much unless of course you are sitting in traffic and not moving.

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  2. Glad you made it safely! Not sure I could handle such a long trip, but I am sure once you get there, it's all worth it. Have a great time!

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    1. Yes, it was a long trip but it sure helped being able to get out of the airport and explore Zurich for a couple of hours.

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  3. The cars parked absolutely anywhere and everywhere, a remnant of communism whereby high rises were built without parking garages because no one owned a car- but of course now they all do! -is our most vivid recollection of Bucharest.

    You will much enjoy the People's Palace, even as you cringe at the cost of maintaining it for far-from-prosperous Romanians.

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    Replies
    1. Sounds like Los Angeles, New York and Washington DC...have to pay to park at their hotels. Last time I parked at a hotel I stayed in LA, it was $16 a night..yikes!!

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    2. Yep, cars are parked everywhere, many taking up most of the sidewalk even.

      We saw the Parliament Building/White House/People's Palace but we didn't do the tour just admired it's size from the outside.

      Rita, most of the cars that are parked don't pay for parking!

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  4. Were your hosts able to tell you anything about the 226 bus? Did you hear that the Cubs won the World Series 8 - 7? A very exciting game.

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    1. They were the ones that told us to take the 226 bus but maybe we should have been on the other side of the road.

      Yes, we heard that the Cubs won and that it as a great game, sorry that we missed seeing it.

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  5. Glad you got there with your luggage (my biggest fear is that it won't show up). I wonder if all the buses are as reliable.

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    1. Yes, that is our biggest fear as well when checking our luggage through.

      I think perhaps we were on the wrong side of the road for the bus we wanted. I guess we will see how the bus travel goes as we will be using the bus again today.

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  6. Replies
    1. It was a long day but a good one!

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  7. That palace of parliament is considered one of the most hated in Romania since it was built by the communist leaders. It still peaked my interest as to what it looks like inside and how much it cost...I have to admint it did look ugly LOL

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    1. Maybe at the time it might have been hated but from talking to our hosts here, it certainly isn't hated anymore. We never got to see the inside, the tour was too rich for us and from what we have heard you only see about 5 different rooms and not some of the really beautiful ones, so we just admired it from the outside.

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  8. It sounds awesome. You are giving us itchy feet. Love traveling with you.

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    1. We feel the same way when we read about other people's travels during the summer when we aren't traveling. Hope you enjoy the trip with us. :-)

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  9. Glad you made it safely. Keep the stories coming.

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    1. No worries, there will be lots of stories ahead.

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  10. It sounds like you are having a grand time so far (minus the minor inconveniences that are always bound to happen). Loved your experience yesterday in the early hours in Zurich. What a lovely, timeless city!

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    1. Yes, we are having a great start to the trip. Looking forward to the adventures that lie ahead. :-)

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