I’m writing from our Suceava hostel about our trip so far. It started with a brief layover in Amsterdam and then we headed to Bucharest. Writing about Suceava will be in the next post.
AMSTERDAM & LEIDEN
Monday morning: Allison and I arrived in Amsterdam on at 7am. Checked out Leiden during a six hour layover since it is only a 1o minute train ride from Schiphol airport. We walked around canals, saw an historic windmill, and ate a spinach and cheese pancake, which is much like a pastry. Delicious. Old homes lining canal are beautifully quaint, many with a rustic boat tied to backyard dock. Hundreds, if not thousands, of traditional Dutch bikes are parked in a double-decker parking garage for bikes, of which roughly half are not locked.
Monday afternoon: We flew to Bucharest at 1pm. I could not stay awake on plane, though I managed to have brief conversation with person seated next to Allison who is Dutch and does a lot of business in Bucharest as a rep for a chicken slaughter machine manufacturer. This guy cycles a lot in Germany, though not on an old-style Dutch bike. He says many of those are community bikes, which he says explains why they’re not locked. Ride in on one, ride away on another.
Monday evening: We arrive in Bucharest at 5pm in a groggy state. We’re very leery of a taxi driver seeking our business at the baggage claim, especially when he grabs my luggage and heads to an elevator, away from other taxis. We reluctantly follow. Fortunately it turns out many taxis are on a lower level, and he’s on the level. He swiftly threads the needle through Bucharest rush hour traffic, which is horrendous. I’ve never been in a car with a more reckless driver. He passed a cyclist at well over 100 km/h with no more than a honk and no more than a foot was between the poor biker and our taxi. Seat belts are non-existent, so it was with a sigh of relief that we arrived safely at Hotel Carpati at 6:30. He apologized that the meter ran up due to traffic. Good guy and a mad driver.
Our room in Bucharest is like a closet with two beds. It’s tiny and rickety, and the cool old elevator with a cage door used to get to our floor is also miniscule. The elevator lurches as it starts and hops when it stops. The view from room is good, and the weather hot, most likely in the upper 80’s.
We are very close to the center square where the 1989 revolution happened. We see building where Nicolae Ceaușescu gave his last speech before being helicoptered away from the roof and shot to death. We wander around this area and marvel at the camouflaged beauty in the architecture. It’s easy to see that the old buildings were once majestic, but now they are covered with a layer of black soot, bricks have fallen off, and facades are eroding. I feel like the city is a house with a messy owner who hasn’t the resources to put things back together again.
Tuesday: We’re awake at 5:30am and are outside by 6:15 to see the square before it’s awake with the city bustle. The aura is very quiet and peaceful. Unfortunately, Allison forgot contacts so we find optometrist which opens at 10am. Who knew such modern conveniences could be taken care of so quickly on the other side of the world?
At 7am we enjoyed a large complimentary breakfast in our hotel of meat, meat, and more meat, including hot dogs with mustard. In the 1980’s meat was very difficult to find so they appear to be making up for lost time.
Before we leave the hotel the person behind the counter advises us to take a circuitous route to the square, opposite of how we went night before. I ask why, and she replied because of the dogs. I notice dogs in a parking lot the day before and was aware of their stray dog problem. She said they frequently bite, and our guide book says rabies is a real issue, so avoided that route for rest of our stay. I am highly aware of stray dogs and they tug at the heart strings. They look so sad. While I expected them in the urban cities, I am surprised they’re in Suceava, where I am now, a small town in northern Romania, as well. I saw one today with a grotesque goiter dangling from its chest and with no hair on its tail.
We did a lot of walking today and learned how to use the Metro. We bought a 6am train ticket which got us to Suceava today. I ask if we can pay by Visa and get laughed at. Most prices here are in Lei, though they accept Euros, and often do not take credit cards. Unfortunately, we failed to understand how to use our metro tickets so had the pleasure of being escorted by a disgruntled guard through a security gate in order to ride the subway. Their metro was built in 1979, perhaps using United States money given to Romania for their resistance to USSR troops when we thought Ceaușescu was a pretty good fellow.
[as I type, thunderstorms are starting – very cool].
We visit the Village Museum with a multitude of old buildings from 14th century forward from all over the Romanian area. They are fascinating works that were relocated from their original locations for the museum.
Our next visit was the Peasant Museum with a huge inventory of artifacts from the common people. On display are textiles from Romanian peasants over the centuries, as well as windmills, a church, clothing, tiles from stoves, and many decorated eggs. It really is amazing stuff.
Uh oh – I’m now being asked to stop using the internet in our hostel because of the lighting. More later.