Now onto why I want to get out of Bucharest. Where to start, this city is by far the worst of the cities I have visited, if you are Romanian and reading at home or from Bucharest, I apologize in advance. The city is big, grand, huge, and not just in scale, but in the size of buildings. Back in the communist rule of Nicolae Ceausescu from 1965 to his execution christmas day, 1989 everything had to be big. The city was suppose to have been a jewel of old world design from its days on the Orient Express, all this was thrown away for the russian big grand communist style. From 1989 to now, they are still in the process of fixing alot of the things that have gone wrong, considering the dire poverty it is going to take alot more than just joining the E.U in 2007 to fix things.
From my arrival here to now, its been not necessarily tough, but definately not a fun place. As I said yesterday I met an American, Matt, who has been here 14 months in the peace corps, and he basically saved me in the beginning helping me get to town, and to the train station. Yet from there as it seems to be the case in former Iron Curtain countries, NO DAMN STREET SIGNS. And to make it worse, no street lights either here. Cross the street is like playing a game of Frogger, but you dont have 3 lives, and get extra frogs every 10,000 points. After scampering across a few streets safely it was off to walk the circle with my map trying to find the Hostel. A Map is only good, if the streets have signs, and most of these except the main ones didnt. Finally I found the Hostel, sweaty, achy back, hurting feet. The hostel is simple, but right off the bat, I was like only 2 nights and not the 3 nights I reserved online as I knew I need to get outta here as soon as possible.
Due to the size, Bucharest has lots of big huge squares, that open up to endless lanes of traffic, but unlike other cities that provide underground crossings, here its up to your speed, eyesight, hearing, and agility to get across the street during the limited green light. To make it worse the drivers here simply are crazy, they dont care about the safety of pedistrians, nor seemingly about themselves. One question I wonder, what is the purpose of sidewalks for people to walk, if cars park all along the sidewalks blocking the road forcing you to walk in the street.. Or even worse cars just driving up onto the sidewalks to either avoid massive potholes or find a parking spot. I have not seen a Parking Meter, or parking lot ANYWHERE in Bucharest.
Now from the get-go the area where my hostel is located is shady to say the least, the rest of the city from walking around goes from slum around one corner, to grand plaza and luxury around the other corner. Very strange indeed. the poverty is very very evident with people sleeping on park benches, alots of people begging for money everywhere.. Dont get me started on the some 100,000 stray dogs that are roaming the city, for a city of 2 million that is pretty bad. Some of the dogs are known to have rabies, and a few cases people have been bitten by them and bled out to death before an ambulance could nagivate thru the traffic hell and get to the person.
So last evening wandering around, I wanted to find this Amsterdam Grand Cafe that has gotten tons of nice reviews and says its a must visit place. From the map, it appears to be right off the Plata Unirii, one of the big plaza in the city that makes Times Square look tiny. With lit up billboard of every major company on the tops of buildings. Well turn down the first side street, and its a bit dodgy, turn on the second street where Amsterdam Cafe is, and its a downright Rioeque slum.. Yet there are 3 bars right in the area of amsterdam, and people are sitting outside eating and drinking so I guess its common. I managed to have a beer, Romanian Beer, Ursus, the so called King of Beer in Romania, it was very tasty and at only 4 Lei, about a buck and a half. Currently 2.8 Lei to the dollar. It was better than any buck fifty beer in the states, makes Old Milwaukee, PBR, Natty Light etc taste like the toxic waste they really are.. This other bar Myth 1476 right next door was very cool also, with a nice outdoor space, decent music and cavernous inside with cool sofas, looks like it could be a totally hopping joint on a weekend. But I would hate to get a little toasty and then have to walk thru the slum to get to the main street at midnight, and these are old cobblestone alleys so good luck getting a Cab to come down there and get you.
Of the few people I have met here, everyone seems to say the Romanian people are nice, friendly, speaks good english etc.. they rave about them. I so far can't share the same feeling. While I know to expect stares from people, being black.. in the other countries the stares were of a friendly nature, followed by a smile. Yet here the stares are like stares of "what the hell are you doing in our country" and trust me, I have wondered the same thing myself so far. The reason these stares shock me so much, is of all the countries romanian is the most dark features, from dark hair, to the 3% of the population that are gyspies, to many people looking like tanned italians, turks, etc.. Its like come on you are not too far away from looking like me, so why you acting so damn weird.
Bucharest is so called the Paris of the East, I must say of the 3 so called Paris's in the world, the real Paris, Buenos Aires the Paris of South America, and Bucharest the Paris of Eastern Europe, i'll take Buenos Aires any damn day. By far the best of the Paris's, and I know most americans who have been to Paris, simply have a love affair with it, including my mother who now being retired might get her chance to spend a full year in Paris.. I have never had this feeling, dont like the city, prefer the South of France or the small villages. Well this is a joke if u think its Paris, it needs about 100 more years of work.
Well tomorrow I am off on what should be an interesting train ride, 3hrs north of here to Transylvania, I am going to be hunting for Dracula in some of the towns he was suppose to have lived, ruled, and killed. Its suppose to be lovely up there in the mountains, and i'm sure anything will be better than Bucharest.