Kraków… I REALLY like this place. 

The good times just kept on rolling in Krakow. Anna went ahead and Jason and I were headed up north to meet up with her. The great thing is that other people from Grampa’s Hostel were going to meet up with us withing a day or two later. Anna was staying at Little Havana Party Hostel and  Jason and I decided to stay there for one night.

Now, when you stay at a party hostel you have to be ready for some things. Especially a hostel that doesn’t hide the fact that it’s a party hostel. See, I have no problems with that as long as they’re upfront with it. I’ve had my share of party hostels when I backpacked Southeast Asia and I have an idea of how it goes. When I booked a bed I actually got an email stating that yes, it’s a party hostel so be prepared to party and also the fact that it’s for people ages 18-35. I’ve got one more year, then I can’t stay there anymore…. Lastly, it says that if you’re not comfortable with that atmosphere it’s better to cancel your reservations. I just find it amusing that in general if you’re 36+ you can’t stay there anymore.

So the three of us met up and just as expected you’re going to party hard if you stay there. Honestly, for me it was good for one night. So, if you want to party in Krakow a good start would be to stay at Little Havana Party Hostel. After that was done it was time for me to move on.

IMG_20170903_182828-COLLAGE
The Three Amigos.

The three of us stayed at different hostels and I stayed at Submarine Hostel. I booked a week there because I wanted to see how I feel in Krakow. I’d like to give the staff at Submarine Hostel a big shout out. They were extremely friendly and very cool to hang out with.

IMG_20170910_140807-COLLAGE

I took a lot of pictures this time whilst in Krakow. So here they are:

IMG_20170903_220827-COLLAGE

Random pictures of my time in Krakow click here.

IMG_20170909_174522

For pictures of Krakow’s Mound click here.

IMG_20170909_135839

For more picture Schindler’s factory click hereIMG_20170908_160044-COLLAGE.For pictures of Krakow’s Gestopo Prison and In time Of Terror Exhibit click here.

The Gestopo prison was a bleak reminder of how far people will go to hold onto power. This combined with the terror exhibit was a 1-2 punch for me. There were some serious stuff going on in this building.

IMG_20170905_205046
It’s not your run of the mill walking tour.

.For more pictures of the Macabre Walking Tour click here.

This is one of the most unique walking tours I’ve ever been in. The tour is about Krakow’s past concerning executioners, murderers, and the way they torture their criminals. It was a lot of fun because this was the first walking tour I’ve been at that’s at night and also as you can see in the pictures there’s a show and tell part towards the end. I highly recommend this walking tour if you’ll be in Krakow.

IMG_20170907_143935-COLLAGE

For Pictures of the Rynek Underground Exhibit click here.

I’ve done so many walking tours that at this point that I became so tired of it. I’m glad to say that the walking tours that I did were top notch. I did the Macabre Walking tour as seen above and also I did the Jewish Walking tour and the World War II walking tour. Krakow has a vast history. The walking tours I did really helped make sense of it all. All the walking tours that I did were free and it was done through this company.

Now, there are two places in Krakow that most people go to when they go there. I’m talking about the salt mine and Auschwitz. I didn’t go to the salt mines because it was just expensive. I talked to people that went there and while yes, it’s beautiful it can be very crowded and rushed because there are so many people. Also, you have to pay extra to take pictures. This rule is broken all the time but that’s still a big no for me. I went online and looked at pictures and watched videos of the salt mines and decided not to go. I’ve already been to the salt mine and salt lakes in Turda, Romania and had a great time there. I took a pass on the salt mines in Krakow, maybe next time I’ll go.

Auschwitz is a place that most people will go to if they visit Krakow. I went and I must say I implore everyone that’s near the area to visit. I made a conscious decision not to take photos as I feel that it’s just distracting and disrespectful. I struggled in Auschwitz and rightfully so. To see the gas chambers, the cremation building, the murder wall, and all the other horrible places and being told what happened while going through them… it’ll hit you. I posted on FB that I’ll be emotionally unavailable for the rest of the day and I was. I didn’t feel like going out or seeing anyone. I do think that places like Auschwitz must be visited. History isn’t always pretty, there a lot of horrible things that happened. It’s up to us to learn about it so it’ll never be repeated again. Go to Auschwitz, process the place and learn from it. I do hope that when you leave from there you’re a different person.

Krakow like Budapest is another city that I clicked with. I don’t know how to describe it but there’s a definitely a vibe that it had that I connected to. The city and the people are beautiful. Who knows I might end up in Krakow to teach too.

Krakow is a place where I hung out with friends and made new friends. Krakow will always have a fond place in my heart. I had fun yes, but more importantly I learned so much. From what happened to the past and how people moved on, there was just so much and I know there’s so much more. Krakow made me appreciate my travels a lot. I was a bit burned out at this point and Krakow rejuvenated me. I’d like to thank Krakow, it was a great week there and I hope that I get to be there again.

 

Advertisements

When The Hostel Becomes More Important Than The City. My Time In Wrocław. 

Wrocław was my introduction to Poland and what an introduction!! This city is just plain fun. I had such a great time here whether it was rain or shine. Just look at all these beautiful smiles!

 

First thing first, how would you actually pronounce Wrocław I was pronouncing it as wo-ro-klaw or ru-klaw, and of course I was absolutely wrong. It’s actually pronounced vrot-swav…Polish, it’s an interesting language.

To say I had a great time time in Wrocław is an understatement. The city played a part in it. It’s beautiful there. What really made my time special in Wrocław is the people I met and the hostel that I stayed in.

Before I get into to that I’d like to take this moment and talk about gnomes. Wrocław is famous for having statues of gnomes all over the city. Some people make a game out of it, trying to find to find all of them. Depending on whom you ask the count for how many them differs. But there are definitely more 100 gnomes in Wrocław. So go ahead and try to find them all.

I landed in Wrocław and thankfully Grampa’s Hostel was only a 20 minute tram ride from the bus stop. I arrived and after a quick and painless check-in I went into my room for 10 people and the first thing I noticed was SPACE! Wonderful, beautiful SPACE! I was coming in from a very cramped week in Prague. Being able to freely move in a room was a great feeling to me. I’m finally able to move around without hitting anyone or anything else.

In a hostel being comfortable is one of the things that you want. What’s even more important to me are the people. See, there are two types of hostels. Hostels that just leave you alone and hostels that has a staff that set up events and go out of their way to hang out with the guests. Grampa’s Hostel is the latter type. I’m really gushing about the place because it really is fun. As soon as I got in the commons room people were up for chatting and staff members facilitated socialization through games, Sangria nights, and bar crawls. Even on their off times they were always up for chats and just plain old chilling. So, Carolina and Gonzo you guys were great and made my time awesome there.

Wrocław is a small place and it actually rained some of the days that I was there. This time though I didn’t mind. There were always people to hang out with and a Playstation to keep you occupied. Bottom line. I’ve had a great time here and I met a lot awesome people.

One of the best things that happened here is a lot of people in the hostel decided to meet up in Krakow. Somehow, someway the stars aligned and we were all going to be in Krakow sometime within the next few days. I met some great travel buddies there that I hung out with the rest of my time in Wrocław and my first few days in Krakow. Jason and Anna I’m glad to have met you both and the good times continued all the way to Krakow.

IMG_20170903_182828
Anna, Jason, & I in Krakow. For some reason we don’t have a picture together when we were in Wrocław.

For the rest of my pictures in Wrocław click here. There aren’t a lot of pictures because picture taking wasn’t a priority for me. I was hanging out with awesome people and I was in a beautiful place, the stars aligned in Wrocław. I was glad that the good times rolled over all the way to Krakow. So, Wrocław thanks for everything you were awesome.

One last thing a lot of time was spent in a water park when you’re there make sure you visit it.

Crypts, Mummies, Bones, and an Ossuary. Oh…it’s just Brno being Brno. 

Brno…such a surprisingly weird place. A good kind of weird. On the surface it’s just like any other European old town. It has cobbled streets, a fountain, a cathedral, a square etc. It’s business as usual, just another old town. The surprises of Brno lays underneath the town. I’m glad to say as an introduction to The Czech Republic it was a great one.

When I arrived in Brno I booked a night in an unusual place, a converted nuclear bunker. 10-Z bunker was featured in many websites and why not? I’ve never slept in a nuclear bunker before. It was warm that day but because the bunker is underground it was perpetually cool, around 15.5 C (60 F). After checking in I went straight to my bunker.

IMG_20170816_173413
Home sweet nuclear shelter.

I thought that the hostel would be full that day but that wasn’t the case. My bunker was for 10-12 people but that day there were only two of us staying. Unfortunately I forgot the name of my bunkmate (it happens…you meet so many people) the two things I do remember is that he’s French and he’s been travelling for 1.5 years and still going strong (my hero). I only had one night in the hostel and I wanted to make the most out of it.

IMG_20170816_224318
1.5 years of backpacking and still going strong…Respect!

The hostel itself houses a museum. It shows its history and how fortunately it was never used for its intended purpose. As guests we had free reign in the museum part of the hostel. I don’t know if we were suppose to roam around the museum area during the night, but hey, we did and none of us got in trouble. So that night we roamed around the halls and we found some…sights.

IMG_20170816_224117
That’ll keep you up at night.

That’s just one thing that greeted us. The place was full of these types of things. If you’re ever in Brno and want to have a different sleeping experience stay at 10-Z Bunker. After roaming the museum and shelter halls it was time to sleep. I can honestly say while cold the provided sleeping bag kept me warm. It wasn’t a bad sleep. For me one night in that bunker was enough and it was time to move on to another hostel.

For more pictures of my stay in 10-Z Bunker click here.

Brno is a student town but since I was there during the student holiday season the town was bereft of them. Fortunately there was one student in town; Tomas! So, with great joy Tomas and I had our first of many European reunions. It was a good thing that he was there and I had a local guide around the city. The first night in Brno he took me to one of the local watering holes and just we just hung out and caught up.

image-271870145.jpg
This won’t be the last time I’ll be seeing this guy.

What I find interesting about Brno are the things that they have underground. I missed out my chance to see mummies when I was in Hungary and fortunately enough Brno doesn’t have a shortage on mummies. I went to the Capuchin Crypt and was not disappointed. It was the first time I’ve seen mummies outside of pictures and these mummies were preserved very well.

IMG_20170817_161350
Look at all these mummies.

For more pictures of the Capuchin Crypt click here.

Another new experience for me was going to an ossuary. I actually had to look up what an ossuary meant. I learned a new word that day. I headed to The Ossuary Of St. James Church and I had my fill of skeletons. It was just wall to wall human bones. One of the highlights of the place was a room with an arrangement of human skulls. This place is definitely worth a visit and I’m glad to have seen it.

For more pictures of The Ossuary Of St. James Church click here.

The last thing concerning underground Brno was the Brno Labyrinth. Check it out if you have time. It shows life in Brno back in the day. To be honest this one isn’t necessary but it’s cool nonetheless.

For more pictures of Brno Labyrinth click here.

I spent four days in Brno and I had a lot of fun. When I’m not looking at mummies or skeletons I was hanging with Tomas and exploring the rest of the place. Brno was a great introduction to the Czech republic. I had a great time there, it’s definitely a town that’s worth a visit.

Sweet, Sweet Budapest and Maybe A New Home!? 

That’s Budapest y’all

I booked for six days and that’s already considered a lot of time. I ended up staying for two weeks. Bottom line, I loved it in Budapest so expect a lot of gushing in this post.

First let’s talk about coffee. Budapest has a thriving coffee scene but there are two that stands out in my eyes, Kontakt and Barako Káveház.

Kontakt

When it comes to artisinal coffee and excellent techniques for coffee making look no further. This place and the baristas working there knows what they’re doing. From espressos to cold brews, they come correct. Their beans are sourced from all over the world. When I was there their roaster of choice for the week was La Cabra, a Scandinavian roasting company. Kontakt will rotate their roasters every few weeks, even if you are a regular you’ll still get something new.

A great espresso
It was in the 30’s (Celsius) that week. This coldbrew was a life saver.

More pictures of Kontakt here.

Barako Káveház

Barako Káveház is special to me for two reasons. First, their coffee is amazing. It was another hot day when I came in and I ordered their Barako iced pour over. It was sweet, earthy, but also bright. Barako is a type of coffee from The Philippines, that’s right from my motherland. We out here in Budapest!

Barako cold pour over

The second reason this place is special is because of the people. Barako Káveház is owned by Ryan and he’s one of the friendliest people you’ll ever met. During my first visit I planned to have some coffee and that’s it. I stayed for the entire afternoon.

That’s Ryan. I have that grin because I was speaking Tagalog again.

It was hot and I mean hot that day I came in and the shop had proper AC (thanks Ryan!) I ordered my coffee and I was able to talk to Ryan. I asked about the history of the place and his history too. He actually came from a coffee family in the PI. When you visit his place ask him all about it.

Another thing that made his place great is his group of regulars that hang out there. They’re all opinionated, talkative, funny, and most importantly friendly. Here I was, a complete stranger and 20 minutes in I’m trading barbs and jokes like I’ve always been part of the group. Barako Káveház is special. I implore everyone if you’re in Budapest go there, have a cup of great coffee, and enjoy the company. If they ask how did you know about the place tell them Aj sent you, that Filipino backpacker from NYC. They’ll know who that is.

More pictures of Barako Káveház here.

These two places are my favorite. But Budapest has a thriving coffee scene. Here are the other shops that I went to.

Kelet. Pictures here.

My little Melbourne Brew Bar. Pictures here.

Espresso Embassy. Pictures here.

A city can be ruined if you stay at a horrible place. I was looking for something more intimate. So I booked at Bubble Hostel. If I can summarize my stay at Bubble in pictures it’d be with these two:

That’s Anna, Bubble’s manager.
A common site in the kitchen/common room.

Bubble is a small hostel there’s no escaping that. The great thing about it though because of it people are so social. The staff also facilitates this greatly. It’s awesome that every night there’s always an activity; from bar hopping, clubbing, to just chilling by the bridge. There’s always something going on. Jason and the others really took care of us while being there. Anna and Jason really made my stay special.

Budapest has variety and that’s something that I always look for in a city. If you want something cultural they got it, if you want to party, they REALLY got it, and if you just want to relax in a spa there are PLENTY of those. Variety, it’s the spice of life.

Two places that really struck out in terms of cultural history is the Terror Museum and Memento Park. The Terror Museum really conveyed how brutal and frightening the Communist regime was to the Hungarian people. It really brought that part of their history to life and I learned a lot. Taking pictures is prohibited but I was able to snap a few shots. 

Memento Park is another place that I found interesting. It’s the graveyard of all communist statues that was once littered all around Hungary. It’s really brought that part of their history to life for me.

A soldier of the Red Army.

There are so many places to visit and so many things to see. The two weeks I spent there barely scratched the surface. With that said here are the pictures I took while being there.

The Parliament Building. 

Bazilica Sfântul Ștefan din.

Hala Comercială Mare. 

Szimila Ruins Bar.

Random photos. 

It’s always great when reunite with people that you’ve met in your travels. I was able to do that plenty in Budapest. Fortunately, I was able to reunite with Jessica, twice! (Jess, we don’t have a Budapest picture together!?!) Next, from the Cluj-Napoca crew I was able to hang out and catch up with Simon and Jessica Ann.

That’s a good looking group of people.

Reunions are always a pleasure and it never gets old.

It’s not a secret that I’d like to work in Europe. Budapest is definitely on the top of my list now. It’s the first place that I’ve been to where I felt comfortable. I just vibed with the place. I do think because it’s a cosmopolitan place and that’s what I like. I do hope that if/when I move to Europe it’ll be in Budapest. So the next time I’m there it’ll be in a semi-permanent basis.

Budapest gave me so many great memories even though during certain days it was hot as hell I still had a great time there. Both the city and the people I’ve met really made it for me. Without hesitation I can say, favorite place in Europe so far.

Last night out in Budapest with a great group of people.

Cluj-Napoca And The Power of Youth!!! 

Cheesy anime reference check, a new place to explore in Romania also check.

To start, if you want coffee Cluj-Napoca has a lot of options. That’s fine but there’s only one place you should go to:

Narcoffee

In Cluj-Napoca Narcoffee is the best spot for a great cup of joe. They have great beans sourced from all over the world but also they’re very creative with what they do with their coffee. Needless to say their espresso and pour over are top notch. Another cool thing they do is coldbrew with coldbrew CO2 foam. The foam adds a richness to drink. It’s a great addition to it. The standout item for me though is their coldbrew elderflower popsicle. I’d go back to Cluj-Napoca just for this. I love the fact that Narcoffee has the foundations down and that allows them to experiment and create their own unique coffee drinks. So, if you’re in Cluj-Napoca and want coffee it’s a no brainer go to Narcoffee.

The goodness of coldbrew elderflower popsicle must spread around the world.

Check out more pictures of Narcoffee here.

Cluj-Napoca is a university town. When I was there though it wasn’t school season so it wasn’t full of students at it normally is. Coming in from Sibiu, Cluj-Napoca was a huge welcome. I felt recharged going in and I was ready to be in a city again. That’s what I loved about Cluj-Napoca it was a proper city. I had options galore and it was all right there in my fingertips. I knew for a while that I was a city guy. This trip just enforced it. While I appreciate going out of the city for a few days, I’ll always yearn to eventually return to it.

My first impression of Cluj-Napoca was that it was Zürich…ish. What I mean by that is there were shadows of Zürich to it. The design of the buildings, the trams going around the street, and the way the city is laid out. Sure it wasn’t as kept up as Zürich, but let’s be honest few places are. Later on I’d learn that most Eastern European cities and towns are laid out like this.

Having plenty of universities in the city is what makes Cluj-Napoca cool. There’s an energy that you feel over there that you only get in universities towns. Creativity and the weird flows freely. I got that feeling and school wasn’t even in session. I’d love to go back when school is back in full effect a.k.a The Power Of Youth!

There were plenty of things to do in Cluj. A few personal highlights for me is their botanical garden and The National Ethnographic Museum. Hands down though a must place visit is the salt mines.

Rebuilding society after a nuclear fallout.

I was able to wrangle up Colton, a hostelmate to go to the Salina Salt Mines. It’s in a smaller town about 40 minutes away from Cluj-Napoca. The next morning he and I headed to the Salina salt mines and had a very good day. When we got there we had a bit of an adventure with the local bus. We took it the wrong way and inadvertently got a tour of the town of Turda. The best part is Joe, he’s the best bus driver in Turda. We were at the bus’ last stop and he knew we were lost. So, with his limited English he helped us out immensely. We were on the right bus and just had to take it to the last stop the other way. When we got going again he went above and beyond to help us. He gave Colton and I the schedule to the bus and heading back he made sure we got to the correct bus to go back to Cluj-Napoca. Bottom line it didn’t matter that his English wasn’t perfect. Joe was such a helpful man and in my opinion the best bus driver in Turda. So, if you’re headed to the Salina Salt mines and you’re in bus 9 say hi to Joe, he’s a cool dude.

The mines were breathtaking. It was like an underground society has formed there while waiting out a nuclear winter. The pictures really can’t do the place justice. It’s well worth a visit. All I know is that the salt mines in Poland has a lot of competition.

There’s even an underground salt lake!!!

After you’re done with the mines go for a swim. Right outside is a salt lake. I spent most of the day here. Because of its high level of salinity its impossible to sink. Needless to say it was one of the weirdest swimming experience I’ve ever had. With an awesome underground mine and with the salt lakes right outside the Salina Salt Mines of Turda is a can’t miss.

Just try to sink!!!

Take a look at pictures of the Salina Salt Mines here.

I was comfortable at this point. While I always enjoying going around, at this time I was 100% back into backpacking mode. The people I met in Cluj-Napoca were wonderful. The hostel I stayed at was great. Hands down Transylvania Hostel delivered. It was spacious, it was clean, it had a backyard, but the best part is that everday they had a different activity. There’s always something to do and people to be with. If you’re a solo traveler, I highly recommend the place.

A month into my trip I found my grove and I was enjoying it immensely. I’m glad I went to Cluj-Napoca. I knew nothing about the place and leaving it I had great experiences and met many friends. Cluj-Napoca was the finish line for me in Romania and it was a great place to end it.

Sibiu, Shepherd’s Pie and That Highway Though….

The next two days I found myself west in the small town of Sibiu. Those days were rainy and honestly at this point I was getting a bit burned out by being always on the go. I just decided at this point to stay in and keep it local. One of the best things in this trip happened during those two lazy days. The primary reason why I stay in a hostel is to meet people and when that happens and everything clicks even a small activity can be a lot of fun. Leon, the resident Englishman of the hostel promised while in drunken haze that he’d make an English lunch for the hostel. The next day he actually kept his promise. The entire hostel pitched in and the result was shepherd’s pie. We all had a great time making and eating that pie. One of my highlights while being in Sibiu. 

Look at all that happiness when making that pie. 

Sibiu itself is a small fort town and the most classic European place I’ve been to when it comes to look and feel. It’s dominated by two squares where most of the activities in the town happens. I’d say if you were to visit Sibiu two days would be enough. It’s definitely a place to go to if you want to slow it down for a bit. 

Sibiu also became a reunion place ’cause this where I met up with Jessica!  We started in Bulgaria and it still went on in Romania. I love it when you meet up with people you’ve met in other countries. 

Here are some photos of Sibiu that I took while walking around. 

That highway though… 

One of the best things to do in this region is not exactly in Sibiu but just outside of it. The Transfăgărășan highway is one of the most scenic drives you can have with its winding roads and breathtaking views. Fortunately Sylvain, Alain, Christine, and I were interested in doing the drive. I have to say it’s one of the most beautiful places that I’ve been in. If you have the chance to do it, don’t even think about it. Just rent a car and go for it. 

Here are my photos of going through the Transfăgărășan highway. 

I have to say doing the drive is just one part of the equation. The people I was with made the entire trip even more fun. Moral of the story is to find cool people and you’ll have an even better time. 

My time in Romania is almost over at this point I had one more place to go. I really appreciated my time in Sibiu. It gave me rest and I savored the downtime immensely. Sometimes it’s not the big destination places that stick with you, but rather it’s when you have good times with good people and you take it easy for a bit. 

Bucharest, sweet, sweet Bucharest. 

My first night in Bucharest was filled with anxiety and a little bit of fear to be honest. That Uber driver… Now, I’m in a train heading to Brasov and all I can think of is how much I’ll miss Bucharest. Without a shadow of a doubt my stay in Bucharest has been fun, but most of all its been a productive learning experience. 

I cannot talk about Bucharest without talking about coffee. I was trying to figure out how I’ll do this post and I’ve come to the conclusion that it needs to be split into two different posts. The first post is my general sense of Bucharest and the people that I’ve met and the things I’ve seen. The second will be about the coffee. I won’t say much about it in this post but suffice it to say, I’ll always associate my time in Bucharest with coffee. 

My first full day in Bucharest was spent exploring and walking about on my own. I stayed in The Midland Hostel A fun and very social hostel with a great and helpful staff. Also, every major site in Bucharest is just a 20-30 minute walk from there. I didn’t bother taking any public transportation. I just walked everywhere. I met a lot of great people in the hostel and everyday there was always someone new to share your adventures with. I’ll always be thankful for them for the good times. 

Alexandra 

Megan 

Mona

Day 1

My first day in Bucharest I was just in a daze. I got in the city very late and all I did after waking up in the afternoon was walk around a bit on my own and then I stumbled onto Orygyn, a coffee shop. I had a great conversation with Alexandra and I was content that day. A lot wasn’t done but I was finally beginning to feel rested. That’s a good thing. 

Click on the link for the photos I took that day. 

Day 2

The second day was my first full day and something productive had to be done. With this in mind I set out to three different places. The National Museum of Natural HistoryThe Village Museum, and The National Museum of Romanian Art. I call this my museum day. One of the great exhibits in the Museum of Natural History is the butterfly exhibit. You’re in a greenhouse and butterflies are just all around you. The Village Museum is just a microcosm of how houses developed in Romania. The Romanian Art is almost like a sacred place. It was set up to be a very serious art exhibit. It was a very long day but I saw a lot and I had a great time. Click on the links above for photos. 

Day 3

One of the things I always look forward to when I visit a place is if they have an old town. Bucharest didn’t disappoint. While it’s made for tourist its architecture still retains its old world charm. Megan and I had a great time exploring Old Town

Cărturești is the major bookstore in Bucharest. To say that it’s charming and welcoming to its customers is an understatement. It’s one of those bookstores that you know you can spend your day in. Bucharest has two of them and both are worth a visit. Cărturești and Cărturești Carusel both have their own charming personalities. Even if you don’t want to buy anything from there just go and have a look. 

Day 4

I won’t write much about the fourth day because I’ll save it for the next post. I went to visit The Parliament and revisited Orygyn just to chat and say my goodbyes. I’d just like to say that the Parliament building is huge. It looks like a base of movie villain trying to take over the world. 

These were just some of the things I did in Bucharest. On my next post I’ll talk about the coffee and how it shaped my days there. Bucharest surprised me. It’s a place that has given me fond memories. 

Of Uber Rides and Bucharest

Everything was moving smoothly, there were no problems at the border and the bus ride was comfortable. For all intents and purposes everything was a greenlight and good to go. Bucharest! prepare youself for I am arriving!!!

Cue my actual arrival and just general sense of what the hell is going on?!? It was 3:30 AM the bus was on its way to another city and dropped me off at the city center. So here I am, in Bucharest with no cash and also a non working phone. I anticipated the no phone part so I downloaded images of the pertinent information that I needed. Even with pictures of maps I still didn’t know where to go, it was so late at night and I was just exhausted. Thankfully there was a hotel next to me that had that sweet, sweet wifi. Going in I asked for a room because I was just so tired,  I didn’t know where I was, and I just wanted to sleep. The room was just outside my budget so it was a no go. They were nice enough though to let me use their wifi.

With this in mind I was thinking, let me get an uber wait for the car at the lobby then problem solved. It worked…sort of. I was able to get an uber and apparently I put the pin in the wrong part of the map and George (my uber driver) was waiting outside another building for ten minutes. He finally found me and understably he was a little annoyed. George speaks English well so we started chatting. The basic script of where are you from? and what’re you doing here? ensued. I was just absentmindedly answering his questions knowing full well that this is only suppose to be a ten minute ride. I looked at his tablet and noticed that George was taking a different route when I asked why he just said “it’s ok I show you around the city.” No George, just take me to the hostel. To further add to my anxiety, at this point he shut down the uber app and said “I do this so you won’t get charged extra.” To say the very least panic mode has set in.

I kept telling George it’s alright no need for a tour just take me to the hostel. The man was adamant. He finally stopped because he got another passenger call from uber. He finally started going the correct way towards the hostel. Along the way he also got lost. The man got lost! And my anxiety was just rising. Here I am in Bucharest with no cash and no working phone in an uber car that just went rogue. I had the number of the hostel and told him to call it. We finally got there, we were only one block away… I just don’t know. He dropped me off and the hostel worker was waiting for me at the gate. At the end he gave his number and said just to call him if I need help. All that for a $3.80 uber ride.

That was my first night in Bucharest. It’s 6 AM at this point and I finally got a hostel with an AC. I crashed, and crashed hard. So, tomorrow it’s time to explore. I just hope when I use uber again I won’t get George.

Cue Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing… I took the midnight train going to Buuuurrrgggaaasss! 

Well, that title doesn’t have the same ring as the original. As the title says I’m on a train y’all! My time in Sofia is over and now I’m headed to Burgas for some fun in the sun. 

Sofia is an interesting city I had a great time with a lot of people. To me, the people is what made Sofia fun. The place is a great introduction to Eastern Europe and its shared communist history. You can definitely see that the city is developing and becoming more and more cosmopolitan. 

People have asked me again and again why Bulgaria. What was my reason to start out my trip in Bulgaria. The answer is simple, at the time of purchase it was the cheapest ticket that I could find. The truth is Bulgaria is just a short stopover for me. While that is the case, the people that I’ve met here made my first few days a whole lot of fun. I don’t have a lot of interest in Sofia or Bulgaria in general but it didn’t stop me from learning about the place as much as possible. 

Now, I’m on a train to Burgas. The one thing that I was really looking forward to during my Bulgarian leg is going to the black sea. The two most popular destination points to do that are Burgas in the south and Varnas, about two hours north of Burgas. Originally, I was just going to go to Varnas spend a few days in the beach then head to Bucharest. That didn’t turn out to be the case because unexpectedly an old friend from my South Korea days contacted me and told me that he lives in Burgas. So, here I am heading there to meet up with Dimitar. It’s always a good thing to explore a new place with a local. So this’ll be also a mini reunion of sorts. 

As I mentioned earlier it’s the people that made my stay enjoyable. I stayed in Hostel Mostel, a regular enough hostel but its staff definitely needs training when it comes to customer service. So my recommendation to anyone staying there in the future is, the place is good but be prepared to find out information for anything all by yourself. 

The days and nights in Sofia was a mix of hanging out with great roommates and going out to dinners and parks with great people you meet and connect with. That’s one of the joys of staying in a hostel, making connections instantly with like minded people. Rallying together against a common enemy. For example my roommates and I rallied against, a guy who will be referred to as Jet Engine because of his damn snoring. The first two nights I didn’t sleep ’cause JE snore’s could wake the dead. Two brave Swedes stood up to JE and had his drunk ass shook! Talking to Miguel, Yi, and Diana about deep psychological concepts then suddenly about women’s butts is just one of life’s little pleasures. 

Hanging out with Emma and Jessica and solving the mystery of who stole her towel was also a great time. Late night chats with Yi about life, and talking about life and love with Diana. Late night hangouts with Anthony, Arpit, and Ina, chats with Steve an American trying to get an esl job in Bulgaria was just plain awesome. The bottom line is that this is the reason why I travel and stay in hostels, to meet people and connect with them. 

So yeah, while Sofia is cool the people you meet there will be even cooler. Now, I’m in my second and last leg of my Bulgaria trip. Let’s see what Burgas has to offer. 

These are Jessi and Emma. Jessica has traveled the world over and is a great person to talk to. Emma (black shirt) is awesome but she got her towel stolen. So, if you see a microfiber quick dry towel let her know. #towelgate

That’s me on a train y’all!