Yes, we got on a train again. For the past couple of weeks it seems we have been doing planes, trains, automobiles, buses and walking. We haven’t done a horse drawn cart yet. Thank goodness we didn’t get pedometers- we might faint at the number of miles we walked. We got into Bucharest yesterday afternoon and checked into our air conditioned hotel. Our last hotel was not air conditioned and there were no screens on the windows plus out the window everyone had chickens and roosters that crowed every morning. I have to say the hotel was clean and nice and all the staff tried to make us very comfortable. Last night in Bucharest we went on a free 2 1/2 hour walking tour. See pics.
One of the pics is the inside of an Orthodox Church and there are a lot here. These tours are also interesting because they give us a lot of info on how it was when they were under Communist regimes. It is amazing how little we know about these countries. I find it astounding that Romanians speak Italian. We slept in this morning – I think the traveling and the heat are taking their toll. We would have done the free Communist walking tour, but it was also 2 1//2 hours and we figured it would be too hot. We went into town – again. All the cities seem to have the “Old Town”, a shopping district – with all the same stores (Sephora, Claire’s, H&M etc) and a restaurant district. We went onto a restaurant for “breakfast” even though it was 1pm . I wasn’t going to take pictures of the food, but it was so pretty I had to. Marsha and Stephanie had grilled eggplant and zucchini and a focaccia bread. I had a stuffed pancake with ricotta and spinach. Mine was truly delicious and very light. See pics.
We wanted to tour the 2nd largest building in the world (#1 is the Pentagon). But it is a government building and they require passports for entry. Stephanie didn’t have her passport with her so we didn’t take the tour. See pic. Again we walked around for a while and now we are in the hotel lobby killing time until our overnight train to Sophia. Another train!!!
I also went into a pharmacy to get some aspirin. The pharmacist spoke excellent English and he told me he learned it from the Cartoon Network as a child. These pharmacists are great. They make sure they are selling you the right product and provide you with all the necessary information. The dosages are very different here so they want to make sure you take the correct amount. I have to say all the people in these Eastern European countries have been wonderful. It truly is an eye- opening experience.
We were going to take the train to Bucharest today, but heard there was going to be a rock concert tonight in the stadium right by our hotel. Since we did not know how much there is to do in Bucharest we decided to stay in this little town. We walked around again in the heat and finally stopped for a drink at our hotel. They have “coolers” – 1/2 beer and 1/2 lemonade – sounds awful, but quite refreshing and low in alcohol. See pic.
About 6pm we walked to the stadium to see what was going on. It was so hot not much was happening so we returned to our hotel for dinner. The concert/fair had tons of food, but it is all sausages and heavy meals. It is just too hot to eat all of that. At the hotel I had chicken schnitzel and cucumber and garlic salad. Marsha had mushrooms and a tomato and cucumber salad. Stephanie had a pizza.
About 8pm we went back to the stadium. There was a lot more activity and it was much, much cooler. We watched the first performer and decided to listen to the rest from our hotel room window. I think this constant heat is draining. We are hoping for a cool front to move thru. Tomorrow we will go to Bucharest.
Almost forgot – while we were walking to the stadium we were stopped by a girl taking a survey for Ursus Cooler, which is the drink we like. Of course she couldn’t speak English, but no matter we signed her form, told her how much we liked the cooler and she gave us a free can.
We had breakfast at the pension (included with room price). Not a buffet here but fried cheese, sausages, bread and coffee. See pic.
Then we went to catch a local bus since the castle is 23km from the town. The bus is a minibus with a sign in the window. There are designated stops, but not designated times, so you just flag down the bus get on and pay the driver. The 1st driver was very helpful and wanted to make sure we got off in the right place and headed in the right direction. It was 2km to the base of the steps to get to the castle. There are pics as we got closer to the castle. As you can see in the last pic it is that small building on the hill of the hill in the middle of the pic.
To get to the castle we had to do 1550 steps to get to the top. It was hot today but at least there was a breeze. It was hard doing that many steps, but we made it!
There was a guide at the top even though the ruins are relatively small. She walks what we did everyday to get to work- she sure doesn’t need to join a gym. Also many pics on my camera. The walk down was much easier than going up but I was surprised at how long it seemed for us to get down. There was a restaurant there so, of course, we stopped for a cold drink. Then we walked to 2km to the bus stop and caught the bus back to town. I should tell you that here in Curtea de Arges the old women still wear babushkas and there are still horse and donkey drawn hay carts. Instead of hay bales and rolls the locals here dry and stack hay on homemade triangular racks – like those you see in old photos.
We did our usual for a place to eat, but there are not many restaurants here. However, the portions in Eastern Europe are huge and we have started ordering appetizers. I had a Serbian salad and potatoes fried with bacon, onions and peppers. Marsha had a pickle salad and polenta stuffed with cheese and Stephanie had dishes very similar to Msrsha’s.
Tomorrow we return to Bucharest by train.
We were in Bucharest a total of 3 hours. We got on the train in Sophia. It was a Russian train, very nice and air conditioned. The 3 of us were in a 4 bed couchette so we had plenty of room. Much nicer than the crowded, non-air conditioned train we had the night before.
The final destination of the train was Moscow with stops in Kiev and Minsk. All was fine but the air stopped working in the middle of the night. When we stopped for the border crossing it took almost an hour for everything to clear. We woke up early – thank goodness- because we were just outside Bucharest. The conductor was sound asleep and he had our Euro rail passes so we had to wake him up, we don’t know what would have happened if we didn’t get off in Bucharest because we need visas for the Ukraine and Russia. We got to Bucharest about 6am checked into our hotel to take showers and headed for the train station to catch a train to Petesti. In Petesti we had a 2 hour wait for the train to Curtea de Arges. We just went to McDonald’s across the street for a soda and to kill time. It was only 90 today, so not as hot as it has been. In Petesti no one spoke English and we needed to buy a ticket to Curtea de Arges. The ticket lady only spoke Romanian and Italian. A man came along and asked us if we spoke French. So with limited French we made ourselves understood to the man and he translated it all to Romanian. We bought the tickets and said “merci”. We laughed ourselves silly about how crazy this was.
We arrived in Curtea de Arges and were looking at a map when a policeman from the train station came over and gave us directions. Of course by the time we got to the pension we were dropping with sweat. But we are now in Transylvania.
Naturally we went on our restaurant search. Here is what we came up with.
We have to get up early for tomorrow. Just to let you know there is no direct train from Belgrade to Bucharest – we have not lost our minds yet.