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Saturday, 13 July 2013

Onward to the Heart of Darkness...Trannyvania-Bucharest-Moldova-Trans Nestria

 I’m going to leave a full, comprehensive guide to Brasov to a guest post from my local friend there, so from me, I’ll just tell you a bit of background from a ludrious Scottish perspective…

The first thing to consider in Romania is that the gypsies and hustlers you’ll see, especially when you’re travelling anywhere, are small timers and a bit of threatening aggression will usually see them off (swearing helps.) Just be aware of the ‘going rate’ for things – don’t accept the taxi driver at the railway station who offers ‘VIP’ for 20 Leis when the normal rate is 5 (that’s what just happened to me in Brasov station.) The gyppos, unlike in UK are generally (between rummaging in bins) are usually selling something like raspberries, i.e. they are actually earning their keep and not dangerous – just be careful what you agree and haggle, then you’re all good.

The very Tallinesque Brasov Town Square, here in Transylvania

As I begin my journey further into the heart of (socialist) darkness, it’ll be interesting to see how things change. Here in Romania, sure, the police/officials have those oversize hats which usually means you’re in a dodgy country and that they’re crooks, but so far I haven’t had any hassle at all. I’m expecting that to change as my train trundles onwards towards the Moldovan border. Will the police/guards hats be double size by the time I get to the North Korea of Europe – Trans Nestria? Maybe the hats are big to hide all the bribes, who knows. But I do know, that when a guy with a dodgy uniform and a big hat barks something at you in some bizzare language, and puts his hand out, you know it's not looking good. At least Siberia is warm in summer.

The very hidden but pretty, Peles Castle

Transylvania, despite being surprisingly beautiful, still has a long way to go with organizing its tourism industry. One of the most amazing castles in the region  (or in the world) Peleș Castle Castle in Sinaia, just south of Transylvania, kept secret by an intricate network of streets and hills, and of course a complete lack of any signposts, keeping it safe from all those vulgar tourists who may possibly have come to the town to try to find it. Well, maybe this idiotic lack of common sense has some soviet charm, and of course it could put off the more annoyingly stupid tourists, but all in all, I haven’t seen anything as daft since the Latvian Airport misdirection scam (there is a sign 10km from the airport pointing the wrong direction and saying 'airport 70km'!)

I missed out 'Draculas' castle, the alleged home of 'Vlad Draco', Bran Castle in the assumption that someone else would tell me all about it and i can write about it at a later date...

I can just imagine Bats flying out of here though (Bran 'Dracula'' Castle)

The food outside Bucharest tourist traps, is generally cheap ($3-10 for a dinner depending on where you go) and beer is especially cheap (about $1 a pint) The breaded cow brains I decided in wisdom to wolf down with potatoes and veg cost $2.50 but perhaps there was a reason for that. It was either that or pig testicles, and I’m not quite ready to go there yet…

Tonight, assuming I get to Bucharest and get a ticket ok, I’ll be on an overnight train to Chisinau, Moldova. I have an old guide book to ‘Molvania’ which is a loose piss-take of this wonderful nation, but who knows what the poorest country in Europe will look like. Perhaps my lack of bribing will land me in jail, perhaps my soviet era hotel will collapse under me. Maybe i'll like it so much i wont come back. The unknown is part of the adventure…

With Romania, I’m at least partly aclimatised to the vagaries of ex-soviet states. Moldova may well be a little bit of culture shock, but the most interesting goat trafficking adventure will my onward trip to Tirasapol (the ‘capital’ of unrecognized breakaway soviet republic of ‘Trans Nestria)

Perhaps I’ll decide to stay and never come back, or perhaps I’ll rot in a prison there. And maybe, just maybe I’ll have a great time.

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