Taken from my journal, 1st June 2018.
Zen Tribe Hostel – Strada Radu de Afumati, Bucharest.
I wouldn’t spend long in the Romanian capital. Last night I stayed at a hotel not far from the Airport. A few locals offered to drop me off in their taxi free of charge. They explained to me that the North of the country was much more beautiful than where I would see and even asked me to join them in another renowned Romanian hotspot, Brasov. However I politely declined as I wanted to focus on my original plan of heading South to Bulgaria.
”For a short while I took some time to chill under a bridge. Trying to figure what the hell I was going to do.”
Yesterday I got up reasonably early and started to hitch-hike into the city centre. A bus driver picked me up fairly swiftly and took me to the outskirts of town. I took a path through a park, next to a river, but the determined heat was arduously difficult. I paused frequently on benches and even lay down on a wall at the edge of the riverbank and used my bag as an effective headrest. The day before had been enduring and left me jaded, somewhat haggard. But the excitement of this whole affair was carrying me and my bags to ceaseless glories and immutable perspicaciousness. A taut adrenaline had gripped me firmly for days leading upto now and I needed the time to gather my thoughts. Questions unravelled one after another and my thought process lost direction so I promised myself to take it one step at a time. It took me two more hours to get to where I was going. Getting lost on the local buses, dozens of eyes staring questionably at the sallow skin and red hair of the foreigner in their midst. We travelled through some local suburbs before taking a turn onto a massive road. I couldn’t believe it. There was a roundabout up ahead as we approached and in the centre an exact replica of the French Arc de Triomphe sat proudly. I didn’t know why this was here but the whole boulevard and its towering centrepiece was identical to the original classic of the city of Paris. Maybe I’m wrong and the French copied the Romanians? It was bizarre nonetheless. Unknown to me of course, it was a local holiday and the buses were crammed with people. Air conditioning was non-existent and some of the passengers were not shy in telling the driver exactly what they thought. I got off the bus while an older gentleman barked complaints with a couple of other disgruntled passengers seeming to agree. I felt sorry for the driver but for the time being I had other things to worry about.
”The man on the tram.”
I wandered through some run down streets searching for my hostel and with some luck I found my way without too much difficulty. On the way I walked past a doorway lying wide open to some sort of community hall. A group of men were sat in a circle, listening to very loud traditional music. At the corner of a street a couple of drunks tried to make conversation but I couldn’t understand a word they said. Upon arrival at the hostel I met Alexis, a young Romanian who owned the place with his cousin. He spoke of the city and his experience of previously living in Scotland, in Oban and Glen Affric. He isn’t working today. I plan to head off for Bulgaria and I won’t have a chance to say goodbye. But I have plenty of opportunities to meet other interesting people along the way so I’m not too disheartened.
In the evening I ventured out into the city to get a taste of what Bucharest is like. I planned to get into the Old Town. The public transport was shitty & filled with lonely, abject characters and the buildings accompanying the tracks of the tram where mostly run down and destroyed. It’s a country with issues so I didn’t expect more but its true what they say, you never really know what it’s like ’til you’ve seen it yourself. There was a marked contrast between the affluent areas and the surrounding ghettos, left to rot by a thoughtless society a long time ago in a country aiming to jump up the ladder of desirable destinations. I didn’t see many inhabitants of the buildings themselves to be honest, just some construction workers in amongst the rubble of this abandoned metropolis. Political graffiti condemning anyone who mattered by the forgotten representatives of a forgotten class hoping to make change from the ground. It saddens me to say this but it looks to me that the message will fall on deaf ears.
”Exuberant Romanian nightlife. (This picture doesn’t do my point any justice sadly).”
I thought the Old Town might have resembled a bazaar of the East but I was completely wrong. Instead I faced huge buildings of wealth and culture. What once was historically something completely different from the modern day Bucharest, the streets were filled with clubs, pubs, restaurants and eager revellers desperate for good times. Pretty girls stood outside establishments attempting to entice the swathes of young people into their workplace. Outdoor terraces brimmed with drinkers and cigarette smoke. Trashy dance music boomed from soundsystems and bright lights filled the night. At one point I passed a place with an outdoor stage set up and this huge light show spread boldly across a building block. Tourists like me loitered the streets taking in every inch of the Old Town’s liveliness. I had already learned about club culture in Eastern Europe. It exploded suddenly after an amicable peace was resolved in the Balkan region and the disillusioned populations found a new way to escape the horrors of what they had experienced.
”The Old Town of Bucharest.”
I’m heading to Bulgaria today. From the hostel it should take around an hour to make it to the edge of the city, to a town called Giurglui, and from there I’ll try to hitchhike across the border into Velika Tarnovo, Plovdiv or Sofia. The hostel has been great and I could’ve probably stayed for longer if I wasn’t ridiculous in my methods of scheduling. I appreciated how much effort the guys were putting in to make it their own and I hope the future brings them the success they are looking for. And as for Romania.. I haven’t afforded myself the time or experience to see much and for that I bow to return again, to see Brasov, the region of Transylvania and the Carpathian Mountains of the Northern reaches. Or to Cluj-Napoca, Timișoara and Craiova. At least I know next time I won’t be in a rush to leave.
”One Night in Bucharest.”