So, the trip has begun. I’m in Bucharest, capital of Romania. It’s my 92nd country and so far very interesting!
After taking an eighteen hour bus from Athens, Greece and passing through the whole of Greece, 10 hours, and all of Bulgaria, 6 hours, I finally arrived at 2 am in a cool and quiet Bucharest. A taxi driver dropped me at the Midland Youth Hostel, which is opposite the French embassy and only slightly short changed me!
I’m now using the Leu, Romanian currency, which is 1 Euro equals 4.4 Lei. You can get a good meal for 18 Lei or even cheaper from the supermarket. Romanians like raw cabbage with meatballs and other delicacies inside, they also have creative soups including Tripe – cow’s stomach!
On my first day exploring, I walked up Calea Victoriei, one of the main old streets and headed to Cișmigiu Gardens, one of the city’s main and loveliest parks. The park contains birds, including swans, and also a man-made lake to delight locals and tourists alike. My interest was the sound of the birds and the search for the Rondum Roman – a series of marble sculptures of famous Romanian poets and writers, most from the mid-late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. After climbing down several groups of steps and getting nowhere, only finding bushes and people, I met a man who was local. His name was George. I told him what I was searching for and I was from England and travelling the world. He seemed impressed and endeavoured to help me in my quest. We walked several of the paths before descending several rough steps and he showed me the first statue. They were mostly set back in the trees and bushes. I climbed up on a marble step to touch the statue, but, alas, they were too high. Then I wiped out my camera and with George’s help proceeded to take a couple of snaps. I continued walking along the path stopping when I came to another bench, this seemed to indicate the location of the next statue. George departed and I continued my exploration. Several moments later I met George again, this time accompanied by his love girlfriend, Lidia. They were intrigued by my inclination to wander the world alone and take photos! I explained it’s about meeting people and learning different cultures, I take photos for fun!
Eventually, we all departed and I went in search of one of the park’s main fountains, finally locating it with help from another local. I then proceeded to make my way out of the park. As I neared the entrance I once again encountered George and Lidia. We chatted and eventually headed to University Square together (Piata Univeritiye). We were going to walk but decided to take a tram to save time. At Universitiye they took pictures of several statues for me, including one of an equestrian Michael the Great. I took one of the National Theatre and another of an expensive clock tower. Unfortunately these photos no longer exist, but more about that in a moment. They showed me to nice café/restaurant called Art Café, where I tried local soup and meatballs in raw cabbage – interesting, the soup was delicious. The café resembled a university style refectory and you take a tray and slide it along a counter, choosing which dishes you desire.
Lidia is an English teacher, teaching school children of various ages. I was invited to one of her classes the following day. I attended and talked with about eight girls aged 16. Although a little shy, they eventually opened up asked me questions about how a blind person travels and even about kissing!! After the class Lidia took me to a bus stop and I headed to Calea Victoriei and with help, to Piata Revolutiye. The square with its strangely shaped monument is in honour of the 1989 revolution against over 30 years of communist dictatorship and oppression. I eventually located the former Royal Palace, now home of the National Art Museum. The Athenaeum, which stages classical concerts and other events is also nearby. Two members of staff helped me get an audio guide and escorted me around the museum’s exhibits on medieval Romanian art. The audio guide is fascinating and gives some insight into several famous Romanian princes and kings, such as Steven the Great, 1847-1504. He built 47 churches for each of his victories in war. He ruled modern day northern Romania, Moldavia. After the audio tour, I had a tour around a collection of 14th century Italian art, which had been purchased by a king in the 19th century. Romania had no art collections of its own as eastern orthodox religion is against painting, sculpture etc. Only icons were allowed in the monasteries. The museum is beginning a multi-media guide in order to allow disabled visitors to enjoy the art. There was a booklet with different smells created from products found in some of the Italian works. I was able to feel copies of a relief set in three pieces then put together on top of each other to display the actual relief how it looks to the eye. I also was allowed to touch gold leaf, which felt like tracing paper, so thin was it. So I’ve had gold on my fingers.
The lady who had told me about the art took me across the street to Kretzulesc church and I briefly touched the old rough walls and had a walk inside. Then I managed to cross a main road without being run over and made my way to University Square. I asked a guy how to get to Rosetti Square, named after a nineteenth century revolutionary and he took me there for a photo. I then said I was heading to Piata Unirii (Union Square). He offered to take me, so I said fine. We walked and talked mainly about football. Suddenly I realised we were walking down a small quiet street with few people. I suddenly realised the danger and stopped, however, he grabbed my camera and ran away. I then tried to retrace my steps and find help. Unfortunately, I encountered a guy who was drunk. I asked for Union Square and pointed saying, Da, da, (Yes, yes, Union Square?) He dragged me across one main street and then down a side street. I tried to pull away and then he attacked me trying to break my cane. I began shouting and he ran off. Two ladies and a guy helped me find my hearing aid which had fallen on the ground and found me a taxi. It was about seven in the evening by then.
The following day, Friday, 9 May. I took the metro after getting directions from hostel staff to Union Square and met two lovely young Romanian girls on the metro. They helped me to a shopping centre to purchase a new camera, plus sun glasses, which I lost during the fight. Next I attempted to visit Parliament Palace but discovered a marching band blocking my path. Therefore I sat in the sun and listened. I became stuck in the crowd and barriers until two lovely girls from Iasi, northern Romania helped me and we walked together to the clock tower and fountain, prominent features of Piata Unirii. They then took me to a café where I had a kebab. After escorting me to the metro they gave me their phone numbers and told me to call them if I visited Iasi, which I plan to do. My next plan was to take an evening guided walking tour, but when I went to the supposed meeting point, nobody showed. Tomorrow, I head to Timisoara, the country’s second city.
Lidia is wonderful, tonight she brought over home-made soup for me to try full of delicious veggies. She also gave me some chocolates and dried fruit for my trip They like to offer food. Very kind people in general and one or two ass holes doesn’t mean the whole city or country is bad. The Romanian are warm and kind people, willing to help if asked.