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Taste-test After thinking about it for quite some time, I am finally "stepping into the void". Starting in April, I will be departing my everyday life and going into explore mode for a year. For now, I am planning to be in Eastern Europe for the summer '07, and southeast Asia for the winter of '08. But, of course, things could change. Please bookmark this site and join me in my adventure.

Catching Up

ROMANIA | Wednesday, 29 August 2007 | Views [842]

**********Update : Go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaronray/collections/72157600190609970/ to see the latest photos  *****************************

I know... it has been way too long since my last blog entry.  Partly due to unforseen circumstances and partly because I haven't been able to sit still long enough.  Basically I haven't updated my blog since the second half of Bulgaria and the first half of Romania.  Perhaps this just means you have been spared all of the tedious details because I'm sure not to remember as much now.  You will also notice there are very few photos for Bucurest because just before I left Bulgaria, my camera started going on the fritz (my old Sony camera).

So basically now I'm in Brasov Romania which is this super distinguished village up in the Carpathian mountains toward the center of Romania.  It's neat because I'm staying with my friend Laura's Aunt and Uncle, in the house that she grew up in.  Laura is my former coworker at ABAM who moved up to Washington a couple years ago.  Anyhow, I'm pretty lucky because they are feeding me everyday and letting me stay in this gigantic bedroom for free.  The language barrier is a challenge, but we are managing through gestures, my pocket dictionary, and some of my spanish vocabulary comes in handy as well. She makes me strawberry tea every morning which is REALLY addictive. 

Anyhow, before I go further about Romania, let me recap Bulgaria. I hate to be brief about my misadventures in Bulgaria, but I think I must due to the large span of coverage for this blog.  In short, the latter 2 weeks in Bulgaria turned out to be my first real challenges on my gapyear.  As I was sleeping in a hostel in Sofia the capital, a girl in the dorm room we were in was coughing all night, and I thought to myself as I was inhaling the unventilated stuffy air, I'm doomed to get her cold.  Sure enough, one day after arriving in Plovdiv and meeting my couchsurfing host Stella, the cold attacked. For a full week I was essentially bed-ridden with a sore throat and sinus.  Were it not for a very compassionate host, this could have been 10 times worse.  Stella fed me as much fruit and vegetables and tea as I could stand, and finally I started coming around and was able to move on.  She gave up her couch and living room that whole time, no charge... quite generous. As a sidenote, Stella has never had a cold in her life, so this is the girl you want to stay close to when the bird flu hits.

Something was trying to keep me in Bulgaria because as I was on my way out, I got a mild level of food poisoning from some soft cheese I had and ended up having to stay at the bordertown Ruse for 2 more days before I felt good enough to leave.  SO, finally, I was able to cross into Romania and head for Bucurest.  Check the photos for some more detail of my travels. I sort of skipped narrative of the Plovdiv I saw, and of the medieval city of Veliko Tarnovo.

I found Bucrest to be interesting, although I see why a lot of people are happy to skip it.  It has all the characteristics of a lot of the capitol cities in eastern europe in that it's not well maintained and doesn't have the more friendly environment you'd find in the smaller cities and villages.  Regardless, it still has grand architecture, and it is quite lively.  The museums and government buildings are also immaculate usually on the inside and out.  The highlight was probably seeing Ceasescu's last tribute to himself in the Palace of Parliament, the 2nd largest building on the planet next to the Pentagon.  He nearly bankrupt the country with its construction in the 1980s with almost all surfaces being either native marble, oak, gold leafing, or crystal.  It really was stunning, but it also seems to be an incredibly inefficient use of space. 

Over just under two weeks I balanced seeing sites, planning my travel in Romania, arranging my Russian and Chinese VISAs, and trying to figure out how to mail my laptop back to Portland. I'm suprised I didn't pop a blood vessel or get shot by an embassy gaurd or something, but somehow I managed to work it out.  Typically simple tasks become monumental when there is a language barrier.

Next I was off to a change of scenery in the Danube Delta on the Black Sea Coast.  Supposedly this was an ecological disaster area due to Ceasescu's efforts to convert the area to agriculture, but for the most part it seemed fairly intact.  The river and adjacent wetlands were beautiful, as well as some exotic birds such as swans and pelicans.  The neatest thing about going here was it is only accessible by a 5 hour boat, no roads whatsoever, and you feel like you're very isolated from everything... but in a good way. Sfintu Georghe is a genuine fishing village, and we actually got to have fresh fish almost every day.  Check out the pics for the boat tour.  The only bad thing was we got cooked in the sun during the day, and I slept terribly on the hard ground as this was my first attempt at camping.

I think I explained some about Brasov.  It would really be a fantastic place to live I think, nestled in the mountains.  I went mountain biking in a smaller village called Sinai with a couchsurfing friend, which, even though we couldn't do the route we wanted, we ended up seeing the palace of King Carol and running into some hungry brown bears. These bears look a little too much like grizzlies for me to get too cozy with them.  Big jaws.  Of course, we were the only ones on bikes and everyone else was in cars feeding them and taunting them.  We were pedaling quite fast needless to say.

I'll stop there and talk about where I am now in the next blog.  Just an FYI I'm going to start posting all my pictures to a different website because this one is just taking too long.  There's still a lot of new pictures here so be sure to check them out, but next time I'll give you a website for my new pics.  OK, until next time. 

Tags: Misadventures


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