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Bucharest, Romania
 
May 17  continued ...

It was early evening when we arrived in Bucharest without hotel reservations. We had tried to secure some through email but all inquiries came back with the news they were full. Emerging from the subway, we went to the first hotel we saw. They told us the same, "full, no rooms". We asked if there was something special happening in town and they replied "Formula 3". We asked if they knew of another hotel which might have a room available. They said, Hotel Dalin and directed us to go down to the next set of lights. The lights were some distance away and we were unable to see the hotel from where we stood. We walked; continually striving to see the word "Hotel" on one of the many tall buildings. Standing on the corner, we could still not see any hotel; they all looked like apartment buildings. A young gentleman standing beside a blue car, which was parked on the sidewalk, was very gracious and explained that he worked for a security company who assures its clients that security personnel were within a three minute response time, therefore, they had men strategically placed through the city.

He knew of the hotel we had been directed to and told us it was very expensive then pointed a half block down the side street.

He was right about it being expensive but daylight and options for a room were running out. We felt a bit ashamed at such an attitude when our two night stay would be more than Daniís wages for a month.

After a quick wash in our room, we went downstairs passed a door marked restaurant. It was closed. We proceeded to the front desk to get a recommendation for another. "We will have one of our staff drive you," she said. When we said we could walk, she said that they would open up the restaurant. We told her that was not necessary. We just wanted a light salad and something to drink. She insisted it was no problem and asked us to sit in the lobby for a few minutes while they called in staff.

A fellow (thirtyish) came through the door. Sherrie had been looking at a poster promoting the hotel and thought she recognised the fellow as one of those sitting at a table in a photo. He came towards us. Thinking he was hotel staff, Sherrie said, "we were just looking at your picture" and pointed to the poster.

"Oh, thatís not me," he laughed, "Like you, Iím staying here. Would you like some good Macedonian water?" Without hesitating he pulled two water bottles from the pile he carried in his arm. His English was extraordinary. The phrases he used, spoke of a person who was well practiced, comfortable and was thinking in the language he spoke. After visiting for a time, we told him we were about to have a light dinner in the restaurant and asked him to join us. He said he had already eaten, but would like to join us for a beer and more conversation. We introduced ourselves; his name is Danny. Itís not a Macedonian name he explained. "They are hard to pronounce." His aunt had just returned from England when he was born and convinced the new parents his name should be Danny.

The restaurant was set up for a wedding, though we have a feeling it is permanently set this way, with long tables draped in white and gold. Chairs, placed tight together, were also draped and had big wide gold material ribbons tied around the backs. We felt uncomfortably out of place but indebted to stay. Danny soon joined us and the focus turned from the overdone room to him.

Danny is a professional driver. He drives for the president of the Macedonian Economic Chamber and on trips like these stays overnight. This hotel was chosen because he could park the car (an Audi) in the secured underground parking and be able to sleep.

Danny is most patriotic about Macedonia and was proud to talk to us about it. He also showed an interest in Canada; and again the photo album was helpful.

The salads were only fine (paled in comparison to the ones at the Dafi in Bulgaria) and the bill for the two salads and three beers was unreasonably high (although they did call in staff and open the restaurant just for us).

As much as the restaurant was over the top in decor, our room was under, and dominated by a sign which told us not to move the furniture, and if we did and something was damaged, we would have to pay. An odd thing happened while we were in the restaurant with Danny. The waiter asked for our room key saying housekeeping needed to put in a second set of towels since there was two of us. Knowing our backpacks were still packed and locked from our journey, we gave them the key. Surely they had pass keys for every room. We believe it was an excuse for management to go in and snoop around. There was another set of towels when we returned, but the next day, after the maid had been in, we were back to one set. Things which make one go "Umm?".

May 18

Bucharest.

It was a day of walking central Bucharest. Using the Lonely Planet guide, we walked from one sight to another and in-between made arrangements for an overnight train going northward.

Bucharest wasnít very impressive. Grid-locked traffic and pedestrians (few of whom pay any attention to traffic signals). Perhaps with some spit, polish and paint (all which cost money) it could return to the beautiful city we believe it once was. Stately classic buildings which were built during communist years to hide churches are now hidden themselves behind garish four-storey high ads for, among others, make-up, cell phones and Levis. Large fountains, a few spouting water, are grungy and mucky. Streets are littered; although we did see a litter lady doing her best. As many people lined up for a health clinic as did to place orders at McDonaldís.

Stephen and Angela had told us of the begging street children they had seen during their trip, and we were pleased to see none. Things have obviously improved for the citizens since their visit four years ago and while striving to meet conditions for full membership in the EU it is expected that conditions will continue to improve.

It was voting day in Romania. We came across a big (2 x 6 metres) political message board. A tv station was taking some footage and Sherrie snapped a photo which prompted a fellow in a grey suit to approach us. He spoke Romanian. We didnít. He continued in Romanian and we tried to tell him we didnít understand. "Canada," we pointed to our selves, "English"; but he was passionate about getting his political point of view across to us. We waited for him to take a breather so we could say thank you and goodbye, but he took our waiting as interest and wasnít about to let these potential converts go. Next to the grey suited man was the Romanian zero kilometre mark from which all distances in Romania are measured. We wanted to make some distance ourselves so finally had to speak over him. Even that was difficult and we had to start walking, smiling and waving goodbye.

The outside of the Dalin Hotel was being reclad in a terra-cotta coloured stucco and upon our return we took note of the progress they had made during our absence.

       

May 19

A travel day by overnight train to the Maramures region of Northern Romania.

 

 

click here to continue May 20 and the Maramures Region, Romania ...

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