It's been a long time, more than 4 months, since I sent to you
an email about THAI & TURKEY. Sorry for my long absence.
Here I'll write to you on the rest of my stay in Turkey
and how I could get to so beautiful capital city of Czech
This is SHIKOU, writing
After the careless house-keeper at DREAM PENSION put my shoes
into a big trash can, I went back to Istanbul to pick up my main
BACKPACK and arrange my route to the next destination, BUDAPEST,
the capital of Hungary. However, after checking the train fares
to Bucharest and Budapest before leaving Istanbul, discovering
that the direct train to Budapest was more expensive than
a circuitous route via Bucharest, I opted for the via Bucharest
route. The ticket from Istanbul to Bucharest was about TL
Visas and other technical
There was no need for Japanese to worry about the Bulgarian VISA.
No VISA was required. I guess most Europeans, including US, don't
need any VISAs when they are going through Bulgaria. More pressing
for me was the matter of currency exchange. There was no bank
near the border crossing and less banks are working for foreign
currencies with less commissions. In ROMANIA and BULGARIA US
banknotes are the best form to carry your money in, easiest to
change and best rates. You should definitely bring some small
bills as well, for Romania, residents of some countries are required
to get VISAs before their entries. I've heard that Japanese can
normally get their visas, paying US$1 at the border from officers,
whereas, in my case, I didn't pay anything for it. However, during
my stay in Bucharest, I met one Japanese lady who had been required
to pay more that US$20 for her visa at the border. The cost varies
according to the officer. This would also probably be the case
in Slovakia, Ukraine, Mordova, Belarussi, etc. You'd better get
those visas, before entry.
Bulgaria - Romania:
By the way, I arrived in Bucharest the next evening, I could
buy some food near the border after I had exchanged my Bulgarian
LEV into Romanian LEI on the black-market. The black-market is
still alive in those countries, even now. You should be careful
exchanging, check the notes and calculate the rate. I changed
currency at the border to buy something to eat.
When I arrived at Bucharest station, I bumped into a group of
BACKPACKERs. Most of them were from Baltic countries, and, except
one from Korea, they were heading out to the north. We wandered
around the station for about one hour. We were looking for cheap
accommodation, guided by his Lonely Planet. But the cheap accommodations
near the station were all closed or occupied already, or otherwise
turned out not to be cheap. Finally, we found a good and inexpensive
hotel. It was in the opposite direction indicated in the guide.
Safety in Romania:
Living standards in Romania seems to be almost the same as in
Bulgaria. They have a lot of Turkish who run their own burger
shops and it provides us with many cheap fast foods. Try one
near the station. You'll never miss them. As in all other big
cities, take care of your belongings, especially wallets. There
could be many pick-pockets. The Gypsies and boys are known for
it, be aware of who is around you and what they are doing.
A few days after I arrived in
Bucharest, I headed off to the north-west in search of VAMPIRES.
Castle Bran(known as Dracula's Castle):
We made Brashov, the nearest big city, our base for visiting
Brashov isn't so big, though it's a former capital of this region.
Brashov, one of the oldest cities in the region, was actually
more beautiful than expected and so surprising me, as I had never
imagined its scenery before I arrived there. The city centre
though rather dirty at a first glance, still retains an old European
atmosphere. A relaxing comfortable city and compact as well.
Easily walkable from top to toe, stopping at the centre to surf
the Internet as well! For some 2 days may be enough to explore,
whilst other might think it's so pretty and worth staying for
more than 1 week.
When you arrive at the station, you will see two groups which
recommend you their accommodations. One of them is called 'Maria',
the other is 'Gabrieli'. Both arrange tourist accommodations
in private rooms, taking more than 50% of the rent as commission.
Yes, they are kind of gangs. They sometimes try to sell you expensive,
and comparatively bad, accommodation. I bumped into 'Gabrieli',
got in their car they took me to a dirty, bad-smelling room with
a sofa as a bed. After I strongly rejected their offer, they
took me to another house. 'Coz it was nice and lovely, though
expensive, I decided to stay there. I saw the landlady pay them
half of the rent I paid her. After they left, she complained
to me that both of the groups controlled catching tourists at
the station. Not letting people like my landlady get their own
guests. I spent a pleasant three days in her house, eating her
nice breakfast for free. To avoid the touts: head away from the
platform towards a small market in front of the station. Find
the bus stop and go to the city centre. Take bus #4 and get off
at PARCUL CENTRAL, bus stop name is 'Str Muresenilo'. North end
of the city centre. It's just 5 minutes walk to the central square.
It's so easy because there is a big church in the heart of the
city as in other traditional European cities. Just 50m behind
a huge expensive hotel is a small hotel, 'Aro Sport', facing
a narrow path. It will cost about US$10/person or less and could
be nicer than following 'Gablieri'.
Castle Bran is located about 100km to the north of Brashov.
It was a lovely old European castle without any horrible bats
and him, I'm afraid he isn't there. To get there take bus from
AUTO-GARA#2, second bus station, 2km to the north of Brashov.
1.5-2hours to the Castle. Be aware that there are few buses for
the return journey.
Romania - Hungary:
Being taken in by 'Gabrieli', I bought a ticket to the border
that was twice as expensive. While on the train I heard from
other international passengers and a Romanian who could speak
English. Some Japanese, said they were going to the heart of
the region, an area where the old European style had been preserved
- sorry, I forget the name. I
didn't get off there. I was on the way to Budapest in a hurry,
to a city which I was really looking forward to return to, I
was there 6 yrs ago. This is, indeed, a trip to the past. This
could be an intersection of my past and forthcoming future. So,
I was in a hurry in order to spent as long as possible there.
2 hrs later, they got off happily though feeling a little regret
in a sense that we must say good bye to each other. I had been
left in a small compartment with a Romanian. He said he was going
back to his flat in our temporary destination, Cluj Napoca. According
to his intro, the city is huge and known as a second biggest
city in Romania. I had to change trains there for getting to
ORADEA. Roughly, we have two routes to go over the border and,
before doing so, we have to drop in at the nearest big city for
our cheapest travel because the international trains going through
the border are all expensive enough to drive us mad, tenth as
expensive as domestic train tickets! The shorter a train travels,
the cheaper it cost. So, I had to reach the nearest city for
going over. Two corresponding cities are Oradea and Arad. The
latter is much popular. I don't know why. But that was one reason
why I took the route through Oradea: I love to explore just like
The route from Brashov to Oradea is not simple. Actually I had
to wait in Cluj Napoca for more than 4hrs until a train bound
for Oradea came there. Fortunately I could make friends with
that chap before getting off. Then, I could enjoy my short stay,
talking about lives, favourites of their own and hardship of
the country in a cafe and a cool music pub. It was already midnight
that I arrived in Oradea There were several mini-buses bound
for Budapest directly. Tolls were all about US$15 or less,
up to the number of their passengers. After all, I chose a train,
bought a ticket to the first Hungarian station for US$9,
then I slept for a while, taking care of my bags against, so-called,
Gypsies. I got on a 4.30am train which could have taken me to