Roaming Romania, Take Two

Old Oct 17th, 2014, 08:39 AM
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Roaming Romania, Take Two

This TR is for the first leg of a longer trip. I arrived in Bucharest Sept 24, and plan to fly home from London Dec 10, but I am posting this section separately as there are so few Romania threads here, and I don't want it to get lost. I visited northern Romania back in 2006, but didn't have time for Transylvania, and then friends visited this spring and reported finding interesting Art Nouveau buildings in the west. I am a big AN fan, so I decided that this trip, which is mainly a "going back" trip, should start with going back to Romania, even if to a different area.

I had really enjoyed Romania in 2006, but it was despite bad weather, and despite a terrible tour guide (see http://wilhelmswords.com/eur2006/index.html ) and I was glad that this trip I could use public transport.

Executive Summary

Recommended destination. Recommended budget destination. Recommended for mountain scenery, interesting architecture - wooden churches, painted monasteries, fortified churches, Saxon old town centers, Hapsburg era buildings, Art Nouveau - and old customs in Maramures, where horse power still means horses.

Highlights: Maramures and Bucovina, which I visited in 2006, and on this trip Brasov, Sinaia, Targu Mures and Timisoara (although much of it is currently torn up).

Transport: Mostly trains, mostly on time. One bus, one car and driver for the villages around Sighisoara and for the transfer to Targu Mures (sheer laziness, I could have taken the bus).

Accommodation: almost all three and four star with en-suite bathrooms and included breakfasts. One disaster in Sighisoara and one place that had turned its AC off in Timisoara, otherwise all good.

Budget: Aside from the flight to Bucharest, and a massage in Oradea (which was cheaper than the one I would have been having at home) and including plenty of food, wine, coffee and tea, my average cost for 20 days in Romania was US $121.25. I mention this because nytraveler keeps claiming that a basic budget for Europe is $200/day, sharing a room. I was traveling solo, usually sleeping in "double for single use", and while I could have spent more, I could as easily have spent less. Prices are higher in Bucharest, and also go up as you go west.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 08:42 AM
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This post is all about getting there, so feel free to skip it.

Sep 23-24: Getting there is NOT fun, don't eat American's food, Heathrow hell, a little indulgence.

My recent trips to Europe have involved a stopover in either Washington or New York, but I had just visited Washington, and I am not over fond of New York, so I decided to take the direct AA flight from RDU to LHR, going straight on to Bucharest. The only good news about this routing was that it earned me miles, but I would have done better to burn a few and fly business. It is true that, despite what the seat assignment chart showed, the plane was not full, and I was able to get two seats to myself. In fact, after I moved for the second time (to avoid a recliner) I seemed to have acquired additional leg room as well. I blessed the guy who had had the aisle seat next to me, and who hadn't wanted to move away from the bags he had stowed in the overhead. Since my carry on fits under the seat in front of me for take off, and in the curve of the fuselage for flight, I had no issues with moving. Not that it helped much with sleep, I got a couple of hours of catnaps at most.

When I first started flying the Atlantic, on half empty 747s, getting no sleep was the result of partying in the back of the economy section, not because it was impossible to get comfortable, never mind horizontal. Back then, the food was edible, too. I have a blood sugar problem, which requires me to eat protein with reasonable frequency, and I have been significantly reducing my carb intake, for several reasons. The "meal" that American served consisted almost entirely of highly processed carbs, with a few pieces of indifferent chicken. Fortunately, I had remembered that my last flight on AA had featured inedible food, and boarded with a sandwich. That didn't help much with breakfast, but at least I could look forward to a full English at Heathrow.

But first I had to get into Terminal 5. I think that if I ever connect through Heathrow again I will claim infirmity (after all, I am 67) and get some assistance. First, I had to trek in from the outer reaches of Terminal 3. Then I had to stand in line for the transfer bus, and then stand ON the bus. Finally, I had to stand for over half an hour in order to go through security screening. (Fast path, or whatever it's called, wasn't necessarily fast, some of those people had to stand in line, too.) Since I had been airside ever since I was screened at RDU this seemed more than unnecessary.

I suspect that AA's food is not just inedible but actually harmful, as I had an attack of diarrhea at Heathrow. Since it was brief and not repeated I attribute it to the airline and not my sandwich. My BA flight to Bucharest took off nearly an hour late, but either made it up en route or had a very lax schedule as we did not arrive that late. I dropped off to sleep and woke to a view of an impressive, sharp-edged range of mountains, dusted with snow, as we neared Bucharest. Then they gave way to flat agricultural land, farmed, it appeared, in strips, something I thought went out with the feudal system.

I could have taken public transport in from the airport, but it had occurred to me, correctly, that I might not be in the best shape when I arrived. I had booked a hotel (the K+K Elisabeta) somewhat above my usual level, thanks to a 10% discount for booking with a Tripadvisor code, plus a further discount for staying three nights, and the hotel offered airport pickup for 20 euros. Expensive? Inexpensive? Entirely a matter of perspective. Certainly, when I emerged into the arrivals hall, towing my checked bag, the sight of a man with a sign with my name on it was indeed very welcome.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 08:57 AM
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>

I agree that there is no need to spend $200 per day. I've just returned from Germany (solo) and my average daily expenses were $166. I kept track of everything I spent although I might have missed a coffee or two. I could have done it cheaper but wanted to travel like a mature adult rather than a student.

Looking forward to lots of details including photos.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 10:01 AM
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Firstly, looking forward to this.
Secondly, agree entirely about airline food and the benefits of partying way back when we could. These days I have one of those blow-up pillows and find it helps a lot with sleeping.
This time I arrived at the new T2 which is to be recommended. The only thing was that United arrives at the far reaches of LHR and the walk seemed about as long as crossing the pond.
And yes, I too have debated claiming infirmity and asking for a wheelchair in various airports. Wonder which one of us will do it first?
Never calculated how much I spend on my trips but I would reckon about the same as you. Certainly nothing like $200 a day.
Three and four star hotels in Romania must be among the cheapest in Europe.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 10:16 AM
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Romania is creeping ever higher on my to-go list - so I am following along eagerly!
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 10:49 AM
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KW..I will be watching as you report. As someone who was introduced to Romania in the days of darkness, I delighted in my most recent post- revolution trip. Take every bit of backwardness you come across amnd multiply by a factor of ten and you'll see what I mean. Admittedly Maramuresh and Bukovina are still throwbacks to the pre-revolution decades. In those two regions you will not be able to converse in English often.

Try for a home stay in Maramuresh. Whatever you do, KW, this forum will be treated to a fresh view of today's Romania. I think I had sent you my pics of the 1983-2005 visits and even some 1970's tossed in, so I won't re-post. Thanks for sharing.
stu
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 10:56 AM
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Thursday, your trip sounds wonderful! Looking forward to reading more!
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 12:07 PM
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Tower - why so many visits ? Do you have some sort of special interest in Romania ? We were there in '65, and it was our least favorite country in the whole Eastern Bloc.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 12:52 PM
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hopping on board for the ride, thursdaysd.

nice start for us, if not for you!
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 01:13 PM
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Executive Summary - Continued

Couple of items I meant to include....

Romania is not a good destination for the mobility challenged. I'm not saying it would be impossible, but it would take a lot of planning, and some sights would simply be off limits - you couldn't make it round Bran castle, for instance, if you couldn't handle steep and narrow stairs. I did see escalators being installed at Arad station, and there were a few in the Bucharest metro, but otherwise it could take 30 steps down another 30 up to change platforms. A hotel might have an elevator, but steps to get into the hotel, or from the front desk to the elevator, and almost certainly down to the breakfast room. Even the terrace at a restaurant might require a step up.

And then there are the pavements/sidewalks. Uneven for the most part, and with traps for the unwary. I am currently limping because of an unexpected dip (instead of my usual side-to-side ankle injury, this one is front to back).

Second, if you absolutely can't stand cigarette smoke, stay away. I encountered more smoke in my first week (maybe day!) in Romania than in the last decade at home, and I live in a tobacco state. There is no smoking on public transport, although I wouldn't count on no-one smoking in that gap between train carriages, at least on a regional. But there is definitely smoking in restaurants. You can't count on a no-smoking section, and if there is one you'd better have a reservation. Nor can you count on a non-smoking room in a hotel unless you specifically reserve one, and if it's a small B&B or pension there may not be any. Smoking on the street is endemic.

adrienne: Photos will appear on my blog, mytimetotravel.wordpress.com, as and when...

stu: Nice to hear from you. No Maramures this trip. That, including a home stay, was 2006. Strictly Transylvania, Crisana and Banat this time.

Thanks for the comments, everyone. It's always nice to know someone is out there reading.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 03:00 PM
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THURSDAYSD, following along on your exciting journey. You venture much further solo than I would dare so I am enjoying your trip vicariously.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 03:57 PM
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I'm following along with you, Thursdays. Looking forward to this adventure!
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 06:00 PM
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I'm following along, too. Looking forward for the blog and pictures.
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Old Oct 17th, 2014, 06:40 PM
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What a start! I hope those first few moments will be among the worst of your journey. AND that your ankle (not again!) heals rapidly.

More, more, please!
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 12:00 PM
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Bedar: business. Interviewing selected locals for three of my books. I found Romania to hold a fascination for me, especially during the tough times. Surveillance and the ubiquitous road blocks stopped when Nic was hung!
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 05:53 PM
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tower
Who is Nic .....was he hung !

thursdaysd

Along for the ride s I was there 3 years ago but also did Translyvania.
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Old Oct 18th, 2014, 06:24 PM
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OK, Percy, the Canadian wise guy, eh?? Nic was Nicolae Ceausescu...he was unceremoniously hung in 1989. His legacy...the ugliest building on the planet.
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 10:29 AM
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Perc...you and I have "corresponded" on ths forum several times so I know you have a colorful sense of humor. Hope you're doing well solo these days..it's dam hard to get used to...being a two-time widower, I think I should know the drill. Happy travels...Sorry for the hijacking, KW (no I'm not!)
stu
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 06:01 PM
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Sorry thursdaysd but I have to answer tower.

I was not trying to be a wise guy...honest.

I was serious when I asked who Nic was .

because he was not hung but died with his wife before a firing squad. That is why I thought you were talking about a different Nic.

The TV cameras cough it late and on TV I only saw the bodies lying on the ground.

I liked everything about my visit to Romania.

I had a private tour of his Parliament Palace, security was tight as I remember it was like going through the airport security.

I rather liked the "Palace" too much money was spent on marble while the people were virtually starving.

I think that under more pleasant circumstance ,(had he been a nice guy) then the Palace would not have negative connotations.

It is the second largest government building in the world.!!

Thank you very much for remembering that I am solo.
It has been a long year to the least.
Vi died last October 28th. ( 2013)
I go for Neurosurgery October 23rd.( in 4 days)

My belated condolences to you being a two time widower.

Take Care
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Old Oct 19th, 2014, 06:03 PM
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Waiting for more thursdaysd !

Nice pictures on the blog.
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