BUCHAREST – SEPT. 14
Today was a travel day with almost the whole day being spent on the bus. For the parts where I was actually was awake the views were very pretty; lots of small towns along the way with a large number of churches.
We left at 8:45 I’m the morning and finally arrived in Bucharest at 6:30-ish at night. What’s interesting about this is that it turns out that at least in Eastern Europe there are pretty strict driving laws and restrictions for truck and bus drivers. They are required to stop driving for 45 minutes every four hours and we split this up to 15 minutes every two hours. Also every couple of days there needs to be a full 24 hours where they are not allowed to drive. These laws are strictly enforced and all of the trucks and buses have a card on them that records the amount of time that the car has been on for.
After getting into our hotel (which was not only really nice on the inside, its location was perfect with only a ten minute walk to get to the old town) we had just a bit of time to get ready before heading out to a prepaid group meal that will forevermore be remembered as The Soupocalypse 2016. To start the waiter tried to refuse us menus so that he could make up the drink prices. For a second there it looked like Piotr was going into battle on our behalf. Our driver, Robert, is actually from Romania so he stood nearby while Piotr and the waiters were talking to see what they were saying amongst themselves. Not unpredictably the manager was scolding the waiter for giving us menus displaying lower prices then what he had initially been quoting us. This however was hardly the tip of the iceberg!
In our group there is one vegetarian, Alicia, so she gets a special menu at the pre-chosen places we go to eat. At this point it is important to mention that this apparently the first Topdeck tour to come to Bucharest and that my tour in particular is brand new this year. So unlike some of the other places we have had food so far, this place was new to Topdeck.
Anyway, in Romania it is traditional to start off every meal with a soup course, so our first dish here was a soup. Immediately we all noticed that Alicia seemed to have the same soup that we did, and a quick stir showed that there was definitely meat in the soup. Piotr kindly reminded the waiter that she required a vegetarian dish. Maybe five minutes later the waiter came back with another soup, however it looked the exact same, but at this point we were just thinking that it was similar but without meat. After having a few bites, all of a sudden we heard Alicia make a choking/laughing sound and she says that she’s pretty sure that she just had a bite of meat.
Maybe I was being too nice, but I was still trying to be optimistic about this restaurant so we were talking about how maybe it was a mushroom she had and not meat. So Alicia decides to keep stirring her soup to see if she can find anymore pieces of meat. She finds this one chunk and our table starts a debate on whether it is a chunk of meat or mushroom. I went all in on mushroom, I mean it really truly 100% looked like a mushroom. Alicia is a brave soul and she decided to try it…turns out it was neither meat nor mushroom, it was a bone!!! Turns out the waiters just took back the soup and tried to pick out all of the pieces of meat, needless to say we were not generous tippers at this place.
This ended up being soup two of four for poor Alicia because after this disaster they gave her a different vegetable noodle soup, and while the rest of us had meat stuffed cabbage rolls, she was given another soup for her main course. It was a lot of hot soup and it definitely made her overheated.
While the rest of us had a drastically easier time at the restaurant than she did, it was still pretty awful. The soup course was okay, but the stuffed cabbage was vile. It also came with a polenta blob on the plate that I swear reminded me of the mac and cheese consistency of elementary school cafeteria food. It also didn’t help that the restaurant had the most obnoxious musicians. There was a singer, an accordion, and a clarinet and it sounded like they were all miked. It wasn’t necessarily bad music per se, but so horribly loud that it not only hurt but also made conversation impossible.
Once the dinner from hell was finally finished we started walking around the historical old town. This area is almost exclusively restaurants and bars and ‘massage’ parlors. Turns out old town is also the red light district…yay. My personal favorite adverts were the ones for ‘hot touch massages’ and ‘kinky girls.’ That being said we found a super cool outdoor bar where we were able to just relax and people watch.
Our last stop for the day was the Pura Vida Hostel Sky Bar. I don’t know how many flights of stairs it actually was, but the building had to be at least five floors. Either way it felt like forever and the steps had silly little motivational sayings like ‘almost there!’ and ‘you can do it!’ These sayings did not even remotely make me feel better. About halfway up I was cursing Dale whose dumb idea this was. The whole time I kept pushing myself saying the view would be worth it…it wasn’t. The roof was not even remotely high enough to see any of the city. I ended up taking a free postcard from the hostel because it at least showed something.
While on the surface not much happened today due to being on a bus, it was actually a lot of fun.