Saturday, March 14, 2009

Bloody Brasov and Swift Sofia

So at the moment I'm a town behind in writing down what I've done. This is mainly due to the short amount of time I spent in Sofia, about 31.5 hours. Last time I wrote I was on my way to Brasov. I was not alone on this trip. Derrick was a Canadian I met at the hostel in Bucharest and he was leaving for Brasov the same day I was so we went to Brasov together, so when I use we it's not because I've gone all hoity toity and am using the royal we.

The train from Bucharest to Brasov was very good, new rolling stock that was well appointed and even had numerous power outlets throughout the carriage, although I did not make use of them on the trip. We got to the hostel with little difficulty. On arrival we were sat down with a couple who arrived at the same time and made to fill out our booking information on paper (every other hostel has done that themselves on a computer) and received the sales pitch. First the lady who ran the hostel outlined the things to see in the area, then the tours they offered to see them all. The tours sounded ok, but a little rushed and a little pricey (40-45 Lei per person, not including entrance fees). After setting into the hostel, Derrick and I strolled around town to get a feel for the lay of the land.

The next day was the first bad weather I've encountered so far. It was raining/drizzling most of the day except when it was snowing. After it eased up around 11ish we went out walking around town to see things in the light of day and to go inside things. The Black Church was interesting and had a huge pipe organ, although not as big as the UQ one. We walked around in the drizzle for a few hours before calling it quits.

the next day was a beautiful day with barely a cloud in the sky. We caught a bus from Brasov to Bran (4 Lei) and got into Bran at 10:40 only to find the castle didn't open until midday, so we walked around for a while, but the town seemed pretty much consist of the castle, souvenir stands and pensiones. The castle was alright, but didn't live up to expectations. The attached collection of peasant houses was also underwhelming. After finishing up in Bran, we caught a bus to Rasnov (3 Lei). Here we visited Rasnov fortress, which was built by and used by the peasants of the town when attacked. It was a bit of a climb above the town though. Going up we walked up the road going up behind the fortress, as this was the only marked path. It was a pleasant walk in almost forest with some great views near the top. In fact the views from the fortress were amazing, snow capped mountains, the town, the plains, all amazing. At the highest point of the fortress you get a full 360 view which is amazing. The fortress is about 500 years old, and was neglected for a lot of the 20th century, but still intact and they are working to restore it.

To descend back to town we took the stairs from the front of the fortress, which took us down to a street we'd walked down on the way up. We looked, but there was absolutely no signs suggesting the stairs existed at the entrance of the building we walked through to get to the street.

We then caught another bus back to Brasov (2.5 Lei) where we took the cable car up the mountain right next to the town and saw there was more of Brasov on the other side of the mountain. We could also see the hostel from the top as it was close by and a bright purple in colour.

On Thursday (the 12th) we parted ways, Derrick headed to Sighisora while I made my way to Sofia via Bucharest. I had about a 7 hour wait in Bucharest so I left my bags at the station and went to an English bookstore I'd seen while walking around town. I bought a Sandman book and a book about the AK-47.

The train to Sofia was an overnighter, and I arrived at about 6:00 I walked to a hostel a few people had recommended, for the first time not booking ahead. This turned out not so great as they only had a bed for one night, whereas I had been planning to stay in Sofia for three nights before going to Istanbul.

During the day I walked around Sofia and took in a lot of the sights. During m walk I decided not to try and find another hostel in Sofia, but to go to Veliko Tornovo, a place a lot of people had recommended. I'm going to stay there two nights and catch the train to Istanbul from there Monday evening.

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