If you are just tuning in, please see Part 2, where our backpacking adventure started.
When I left of in Part 3, myself, my sister Raven and Fat Face were leaving Sibui, Romania (the Transylvania region) and heading toward Bucharest, the capital. The main reason why I personally wanted to experience Eastern Europe was because I am fascinated by post Communist countries and envy Second World countries because they don’t take resources for granted, they are as baffled by capitalism as I am, and if you fall it’s your fault and you can’t sue someone because it rained and the sidewalk is wet. Those characteristics somewhat define Eastern Europe and that’s why I am so drawn to it.
With that being said, Bucharest was the only city that all three of us didn’t like. For me, it happened to also be the city that provided the most insight and was a true learning experience because I would say that we were the most out of our element there. During this backpacking adventure, the three of us discovered that our favorite thing to do was to rent bikes. We kept up the tradition and rented some in Bucharest. We were riding around for maybe thirty minutes, and I found myself in this funk! Out of nowhere I was depressed and at first, thought it was possible symptoms of PMS. But then I noticed that Fat Face and Raven were the same. Just by riding our bikes around the city we were all immediately sad for reasons that we couldn’t explain. I later did some mild musing on the subject while Raven listened to Rihanna on her headphones and Fat Face created memes. I theorized that our mood was due to the bleakness of the city. There are no colors there. At all. The buildings, the clothing, the cars… everything seems to be this monochromatic tone of grey. There was an occasional splash of color on a sign advertising an H&M or something, but that seemed even more depressing to me. It was clear evidence of the city attempting to rid themselves of their oppressive past and conform to Western culture. It felt contrived, not encouraging. I will say however, that one of the best things I’ve ever eaten was in Bucharest. It was essentially a hot pocket, but if hot pockets were good… and then add an orgasm.
*Side Note: Vegetarians, Vegans, Gluten-freers, Atkiners and actually anyone on any high maintenance First World diet, Eastern Europe may not be the place for you. It’s a lot of meat, cheese and bread. Just embrace it. Love, a former vegetarian.
If I had to sum up Bucharest in one sentence, I would say that the people and the places all look like something that was beautiful once, but isn’t anymore. The big “city center” had this giant fountain that stretched for blocks, with mosaic tiling on the floor and built in lights to illuminate the dancing water. However, the fountain was not functional anymore, the mosaic tiling was littered with dead leaves, the water had long been dried up and the lights were broken. The people were the same. Everyone we passed looked worn and bruised and broken. Mainstream cultural vibrancy was still dead though it seemed as if the city was attempting to fool you. It felt like an outcast kid in middle school, trying to fit in with the cool kids crowd. If that outcast kid were just himself, he’d be great, but he is using all of his energy on trying to convince everyone that he is something that he is not. In an attempt to conform, his true beauty and uniquely perfect identity gets lost along the way. What I’m getting at is, Eastern Europe tries very hard to rid itself of its’ oppressive past, but in Bucharest, the reminisce of oppression is very present. I think that if they stopped trying to Westernize themselves, their true beauty would shine through.
Luckily, the hostel that we stayed at in Bucharest, Doors Hostel, was the best hostel of the trip. After three hours of attempting to explore the city and then wanting to slit our wrists instead, we decided that making the most of Bucharest may mean just staying at the hostel. So we spent a lot of time there, hanging out in their tea garden and chatting it up with an employee who looked like a character from a Tim Burton movie. She had huge sunken eyes, wispy hair, porcelain skin and was heroin-chic skinny. Fat Face was feeling her because they had similar music taste. I was feeling her because she gave us shots of Palinka. Plus, she was friggen cool. If you find yourself in Bucharest, give Danielle at Doors Hostel a high five.
We did manage to have a good time at a bar called Control. It was a walk up bar which immediately made us feel more comfortable because that is the norm in the States, but almost unheard of in Europe. You don’t sit at a bar in bars in Europe. Whoa, that was a tough sentence. Anyway, we discovered that you’re expected to just grab a table and then a server will eventually come to you. Eventually being the key word. It requires a lot more time and effort to get drunk in other parts of the world. (Australia was the same way and I discuss that trip in Part 1).
As much as I bitch about America, fucking high-five to us for producing the most efficient way of consuming a lot of alcohol quickly and at low prices. In Europe and Australia, your drink could be empty for an hour and no one gives a fuck. Servers will rarely approach you to see if you would like another drink. In the States it’s kind of rude to flag down your waiter, but I learned that it is acceptable and expected in the not so touristy areas of Europe. Still, after flagging down a server, it takes a hot minute before you actually receive your drink, and by then, you’ve sobered up and are over it. Also, if you’re drinking liquor, their standard pours are only one ounce (about 28 grams for those of you who aren’t on our retarded system of measurement) but almost double the price compared to America. I would need to order a quadruple shot at a time if I had any intention of even getting a buzz… but that’s not very cost efficient and the drinks aren’t served quickly enough to cross the “fuck money” threshold. Even if I ordered a double, I would probably have to plan to chill on that for two hours because in Eastern Europe, two hours in the hospitality industry seems to be the equivalent to ten minutes in America’s hospitality service.
To get to Istanbul from Bucharest by train, we had to stop in Sofia, Bulgaria. Like I said before, the trains have absolutely no indication of what city/station they are at, and there is no PA system. On top of this, the trains will often stop en route for no reason that is evident to the passnegers, so you never know if you’re at a real stop, or a psych! stop. Everyone just silently looks around to see if anyone else is getting off. I swear to God, that’s how it works. And if you do get off at the fake-out stop, there is absolutely no workers around to tell you that your Made in China Vans are not going to hold up during your trek to the next train station which is miles away.
*See Part 3 for a little more insight on the E. Europe trains.