Archive | June, 2011

The Waiting Game

30 Jun

I’m on a train heading to Brasov, Romania. Its foggy, but the mountain views are spectacular, such lovely little houses with a nearly Alpine look. Yes, the scenery was definitely spectacular…until the train stopped. We’ve been delayed for almost 45 minutes in what appears to be a town, or at least a station, called Comarnic. This delay is not surprising considering my experience with transportation today. I should start by saying that I’m not actually annoyed, it’s too early in the trip for that! I’m content to sit wide-eyed and mute, soaking my surroundings and staring at people.

So after our flight landed an hour late, I had a chance to check out Bucharest’s Banasea airport. Home to various European budget airlines, this facility is ramshackle at best, basically made up of a couple of paint-chipped hangers limply advertising Romair. For a moment, as the lady at the info office attempted to explain the incredibly complicated directions to the bus station, I thought I would never get out of that crowded miniature Flughafen. Knowing that the state of the woman’s bathroom would only deteriorate, I boldly followed her directions while every portly man I passed whispered ‘taxi,’ pimping the taxis in front of airports that every guidebook warns you against taking. Rip-off city.

The bus station was down the street and across a busy highway, in front of what appeared to be a pastry stand. Many people were devouring skinny pretzels soaked in poppy-seeds, I’ll have to remember to try one before I go. Anyway, the bus came and was packed. Completely. A man took my plastic bus pass and scanned it for me. I went with it. I guess that was his job, although I def clutched my pack and wondered how I might be about to get ripped off. Better safe than sorry, I suppose. I then completely missed the stop for the train station, thinking that it was at the end of the line. It’s difficult not speaking Romanian! In the end, the middle-aged people who were left on the bus instructed me to go to the nearby metro. Easy enough. Of course, as my line was just two stops away from the train station, a voice boomed over the speaker system repeating a word I understood ‘accidentsi’, something as such, and everyone looked annoyed as they exited. Flustered, I took a cab, finally figuring out that if I had typed the conversion rate correctly on my master plan info sheet, 10 Romanian Lei was actually just a bit over $3.00, not a bad price to pay for saving some time. The view! Crazy communist bloc buildings interspersed with decaying Parisian style high rises. I’ll be interested to check out Bucharest after a couple of days in the mountains.

Eventually, I arrived at the train station and without hassle got on a train an hour later heading to Brasov. That’s why the fact that we have been stuck at Comarnic for the last hour is no surprise. There’s a large, weathered sign next to a gutted car advertising EU funding. I’m not sure what they are referring to. And we’re off!


Itinerant Itinerary

30 Jun

Cyrillic alphabet flashcards, money belt, Genie pants, Onesie, antibacterial fast-drying towel, “Through the Embers of Chaos, The Balkan Journeys” by Dervila Murphy



  •  June 29, 30 Brasov, Romania
  • July 1, 2, 3    Bucharest and the Romanian Black Sea coast
  • July 4, 5       Veliko Tarnovo, Bulgaria
  • July 6            Plovdiv, Bulgaria
  • July 7            Sofia, Bulgaria
  • July 8, 9        Belgrade, Serbia
  • July 10, 11    Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • July 12          Mostar, Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • July 13, 14    Kotor, Montenegro
  • July 15, 16    Dubrovnik, Croatia
  • July 17           Island of Korcula, Croatia
  • July 18, 19    Island of Hvar, Croatia
  • July 20, 21    Zadar and Plitvice Lakes national park
  • July 22, 23    Bol on the Island of Brac, Croatia
  • July 24, 25    Split, Croatia then back to Berlin!

 What am I getting myself into? This is what I’m wondering as I wait to board my flight to Bucharest. Almost as importantly I ask myself: am I backpacking? I’ve never considered myself a backpacker. Backpackers always seem to be struggling under the weight of their packs, eating things like cheese sandwiches, while wearing obnoxiously colorful Genie pants and battered Birkenstocks…yet here I am with a medium-sized pack, microfiber towel, money belt, and oh yeah, black (stylish and relatively slim) Genie pants. There’s only one thing left to consider, would a ‘backpacker’ take a floral onesie in anticipation of 10 days on the Croatian coast? Opposite end of the spectrum from Genie pants, right?…..right?

The Romanian flight attendant checking me in had no idea about whether I needed a visa or not, and annoyed, I waited while she took her sweet time flipping through my wide selection of expired visas. Like some extra obnoxious know-it-all, I informed her that I was here on a tourist visa, a visa which doesn’t physically exist in my passport. All she had to do was look at the last date of European entry to make sure I hadn’t overstayed my 90 days. After a lengthy phone call, the woman smiled at me saying “its all ok” while printing my boarding card. I already knew “its all ok” but I smiled back, thinking this was a good sign that I was about to take a road less-traveled.

 Although I’d been preparing for this trip for the past three weeks, I still had a hectic last day while getting my stuff together. I managed to ‘finalize’ my 8-page travel document, which meticulously details where I’ll be going and exactly how I should get there, down to the OCD inspired description of where the ticket kiosk is located in Bucharest’s Gara de Nord train station. Nerd! Finding information has been a challenge, and the knowledge I’ve managed to gather is a piecemeal mixture of snippets compiled from friends, online travel forums,, and travel guides published two years ago. So, for all of my planning, I’m still pretty sure that I’m going to have to rely quite heavily on the locals for transportation info… But hey! I’m ready to embark on this journey with and open mind and without specific expectations. Hopefully my readers will learn a little something along the way….

Covering Ground

25 Jun

There you have it, ladies and gentlemen: the 6 countries and 18 cities (give or take a few) that I’ve proposed to explore. Can I do it? Perhaps. Will I try? You’d better believe it.

All preparations are going smoothly thus far- stay tuned for some pre-travel ponderings!