Arriving in Budapest after a long, sleepless night on a train from Romania was quite an experience. Budapest is much more like Western Europe than other parts of the former communist bloc that we’ve visited. It’s a city of only 2 million people, but seems to have the foot traffic of a city 5 times its size. Arriving at rush hour, and being very tired, we had a tough time following the directions to our hostel. We ran into trouble because trams here don’t actually indicate what direction they’re going, so if you’re not sure about the orientation of the city relative to where you are, you don’t know which direction to get on. Also, we couldn’t figure out where to buy ticket. This problem ended up being solved by taking a taxi.
Our time in Romania has been pretty good, thus far, but there have been a few frustrations, mostly because it’s high season, and trying to do anything results in lineups.
We’ve realised that it’s impossible to know in advance what’s going to be a major tourist attraction. We visited three castles in the Brasov area. The first was API Call ErrorBran Castle, which had received the Dracula treatment from the marketing department, despite having no relation to either the book, or the historical king Vlad Tepes (the Impalor), commonly referred to in the guidebooks as the “real” Dracula. So, unsurprisingly that one was pretty busy. Despite the marketing treatment, though, the castle didn’t pretend to be anything it wasn’t, it was a museum of API Call Errorold artifacts, API Call Errorfurnishings and API Call Errorthe like.
Warning: what follows may come across as a bit whiny. Sorry. If that bothers you, stop here. The fact is, it hasn’t been the best week, so most of it’s just recounting all the various problems we had.
We’ve spent the past week or so being very frustrated. It started in API Call ErrorVeliko Tarnovo, which was a beautiful city, where the hostel we were staying in claimed to offer day tour to the surrounding area, but couldn’t take us because they “needed the car for pickups (from the bus station),” something they do most days, and we didn’t actually see the car move all day anyway. Then we went to Varna, which isn’t the most interesting town, but we’d wanted to see a bit of the Black Sea coast. (Which we didn’t actually do in the end – the beaches were waaaay too crowded). Again, day trips were advertised, this time offered by a third party, but the trouble was that only one person did them, and had a repertoire of probably 20 or so tours. He was booked until Thursday, and we’d only booked accommodation until Tuesday. Even if we’d wanted to wait, we couldn’t stay longer because everything was booked up in advance. Also, because the Black Sea coast is a very popular destination for Europeans looking to party it up on their 2 week vacations, the crowds were really not our type, indeed some of the other hostelers were quite rude. So even though we stayed in a fairly nice hostel, with a bar and community atmosphere, there wasn’t much socializing for us.
We’ve been travelling around Bulgaria for a few days now. After Plovdiv, we headed for the smallish city of API Call ErrorSamokov, which is very close to the Rila mountains. Our goal in heading there was to spend a bit of time outside and rest up a bit. We were very impressed with the city, which wasn’t very touristy at all, but still had english menus in the restaurants. Unfortunately there was limited hotel space and we could only stay 2 nights, before some outdoor group came that had everything booked up. So we spent our one full day there visiting the nearby ski resort of Borovetz, where we did some hiking. It was amazing the difference in price between Samokov and Borovetz, which are only about a 10 minute drive apart, as our lunch in Borovetz, which wasn’t very good, cost more than breakfast and API Call Errordinner combined in Samokov. Samokov itself isn’t overly remarkable, except for the historical tidbit that it was the site of Bulgaria’s first commune, founded in 1909.
We’ve now arrived in Bulgaria, where we’re currently staying in the second large city, at a pleasant 300,000 people, Plovdiv. There’s a fantastic API Call Errorold city here, though not super old, as most of it was built up in the 19th century, during what’s referred to as the Bulgarian National Revival Period, which seems to come up quite often in the list of things to see here. There’s a API Call Errordistinct style of building from this period, where the second floor juts out past the first floor, and is supported by curved beams underneath, and then the outside is painted with what look like classical architecture features (columns and the like) except that they’re just painted on.
Well, so far we’ve been having a great time in Istanbul. People are much friendlier than in Greece, and the API Call Errorsights are incredible.
I guess there’s not a whole lot to say. So far we’ve visited the API Call ErrorBlue Mosque and the Aya Sofya (Church of Divine Wisdom), which are both really spectacular, in their own way. The Blue Mosque is incredibly beautiful. The Aya Sofya seems a little dingy, but it’s incredible to think that the building is 1500 years old and would have been quite unlike any of its contemporaries. It’s API Call Errorunder restoration, so part of the interior is blocked off by scaffolding.
The most frustrating thing that’s happened here was yesterday afternoon, when, for no apparent reason, water throughout a sizable chunk of the city centre stopped running. Our hotel was included in the outage, which lasted from around noon until sometime after we’d gone to bed around midnight. It lead to the new experience of using bottled water to flush a toilet, which was necessary to keep our bathroom usable. Luckily the store across the street did have giant 10L jugs for sale which did the trick. We were happy to wake up this morning and find the water running again, since we both definitely needed showers. It’s not all that hot here – high twenties – but it’s very sticky.
So that’s about it. We had big plans for today, but unfortunately my breakfast this morning must have had peanuts or something in it, so I’m not feeling so great, and we haven’t gotten anything done yet. More later.
Well, we’ve spent the last couple of nights in Olympia. The town there was pleasant, and the API Call Errorarchaeological site was one of the best that we’ve seen in a long time, though we have some complaints about the way it’s operated that I won’t get into here. There’s enough in way of API Call Errorruins there to engage the imagination, and it’s large enough that the crowds are only a problem in a couple of API Call Errorpinch points, like the Olympic Stadium.
Well, we haven’t had much chance to blog since we’ve been in Greece. Unfortunately, affordable internet is a bit of a rarity, so usually by the time we’ve done our basic errands (check email, book hostels in next destination, etc.), we’ve already spend €12, and can’t take the time to write as well
Since the last entry, we’ve visited the islands of API Call ErrorMykonos and API Call ErrorNaxos, and have now spent 2 days in API Call ErrorAthens.
Throughout our trip to Turkey, we’ve had trouble with activities not taking place due to lack of tourists. In E?irdir, there was absolutely nothing happenning, in Göreme, pensions were close to empty, but at least all the different pensions work together so they can still offer the same activities. Similarly, in Olympos, we booked our cruise with one company, but they couldn’t get any other customer’s, so they put us on another company’s boat.
Well, we found them. They were hiding in Ephesus, unless they were Russian, in which case, they were hiding in API Call ErrorPammukale.
Well, the few days has very definitely been a holiday for us. We spent a lot of time on the water, as we were slowly making our way from Olympos to Fethiye.
We started on the API Call Errorboats on Tuesday, when we signed up for a day trip out of Olympos, so that I could go API Call Errorscuba diving. The boat was a bit crowded, as there were many day trippers on it, though only three people, including myself, going scuba diving. The diving here wasn’t as great as the Red Sea. There are certainly a few fish around, and these neat anemone things that have a beautiful flower/tendril thing sticking out, and then retract into a tube when there’s movement nearby, which are kind of neat. But there was no corral, and the more tropical fish we saw when we went diving out of Aqaba were quite missing.