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!