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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

YOU MUST EAT THE SOUP

TRAVELER'S TIPS

There are trains and buses everywhere. Germans seem to run the railways everywhere in Europe. For trying to find out anything about trains in Europe, this site is your new friend.

On exchanging BAM (Bosnian money) - get it switched into Euros or Dollars before leaving the country. Most other countries absolutely will not accept it. Counting both currency exchanges and banks, I tried about 25 places in Romania to change it who acted as though I offered them a turd. Even the supposedly international bank which I had bought them from (a different branch in a different country) had the branch manager of the bank absolutely refuse to exchange them - or even pretend to try. [Note: I am still going to be trying other things to get this money exchanged. It ain't over!]

All of the locals bring the same things onto the train: food, drinks (alcoholic or not) and toilet paper. Bring these things when you are traveling by rail for even a couple hours.

For small trains that go in between cities in Romania, they have assigned seating but if the train is partially empty you can sit where you want.

Unlike Bosnia and Serbia which have train cars marked non-smoking but smoking is permitted, in Romania they really mean it.

Have a bike lock on your pack. Yes, you pack can still be cut through but it may stop the very casual thief or at least one who didn't have the foresight to bring a knife. I recommend an inexpensive and lightweight bike lock.



BORAT

Sam had also mentioned to me that 'Borat' had been filmed in Romania somewhere. Good times... [Note on the article - I heard the judge threw it out of court but that the village got money due to the tourists that came in to see it. Everyone wins... Kind of.] Hey TJ! Sexy Time dance!



TRAVEL

When you travel with a group, your conversations tend to be insular. You only speak with the group itself usually. Well, unless you're Logan who tends to dart off to try to talk to locals despite the restraining harness. Don't get me wrong - I very much enjoyed traveling with the group. Especially when we had Jana separated from all other Czechs so we got her to talk and think in just English. But I must say that when you travel alone you talk to the locals a lot. Often despite the language barrier.



BOOK DEAL

For the people that keep mentioning to me about getting a book deal going - I am waiting for a publishing house to contact me with an editor and some cash. Otherwise, there just isn't a lot of money in travel books. I am too busy actually doing the adventure part of it to work on tracking down someone who will publish my unfinished book. Plus, there just isn't a lot of money in it.



TRAIN RIDE TO TARGU MURES, ROMANIA

While I was on the first of two trains to Targu Mures, I was sitting with an older couple (Ewan and Maria - age 76 and 72) and a younger (Suzanna - age 59) lady. They discovered that I couldn't speak Romanian and set about trying to teach me a good deal of the language during the two hour train ride. Please note that they spoke absolutely no English or German. It was a long, long lesson. I took a couple of pictures of them -
and they seemed very surprised that I couldn't mail them copies. I have no way of getting hard copy on this and they denied having any access (through libraries, other people) to the internet. Sigh.

They seemed very surprised that I was on 'pension' as I was considerably younger than them.

I've found that when a significant language barrier exists, avoiding questions like "Exactly how much do you make?" and "How much money do you have?" is very easy.

Since I've been in this country, I've seen a lot of shepherds. They dress very differently. Also, some have sticks and others don't. They all have one thing in common - they look bored out of their minds. I've also seen a farmer using a horse and plow. Some people want the simple life - but it is a hard life. Still, the simplicity might appeal mentally. I think what most people really want is the illusion of simplicity. In other words, a truly simple life would involve using your muscles to scrub clothing with a washboard. Washboards are really cheap to use, require no electricity and rarely if ever break. People instead actually want a washing machine but maybe just have a screen in front of it so that it is not obvious you are cheating. Hence, again people often seem to make themselves unhappy by wanting things that are simply not possible. Well, I suppose if you had plenty of money and could merely have the maid gather up your clothing, wash and return it that would be simple. But if you had the money to do so (or ever would) you'd have done it by now.

For my next leg of the journey, I sat on a train with a Hungarian couple. They knew only Hungarian and Romanian but gave up trying to teach me a bizarre combination of both languages within a few minutes. There are a lot of Hungarians within the country - possibly due to the 'Austro-Hungarian Empire' that existed in the past.

There was no where up on the luggage rack for my pack on this train, so I chained it to a post behind me. I'm glad I brought the bike lock on the pack - it comes in very handy.

Due largely to the lack of little old women trying to make extra money for tea by smuggling cigarettes, the train made it on time to Targu Mures, Romania.



ARRIVAL IN TIRGU MURES, ROMANIA

From the train station, I needed to head to a casino to meet up with Diana. Rather than trying to wade through horrible English, I went down the huge line of cabbies asking them all the same question: "What color is the sky?". If you say "Do you speak English?" you will always get a 'yes'. Always. Despite the truth of the matter. By asking this unusual question I can actually test their English speaking ability. One guy eventually did answer (I went through nine others to get to him) "Uh? What? Blue?" and he got to be my cab driver. [Note that the answer at that time was actually 'gray' but it was close enough for my purposes.] Cost from the train station to the casino, 10 ROM.

My new hosts are named Surene and Diana. I have renamed Surene to Sauron. I met up with Diana at a casino that is actually a landmark near her home.

Sauron and Diana were busy watching a movie on her computer when I arrived. Rather than intrude, I dropped my pack and went looking for something to eat.

I went to "Leo Restaurant" which had a cafiteria like set up. I thought you got to choose the foods you wanted and they would charge you by the weight of them like many other similar set ups I've run into. This was not the case. They had a set lunch special.

Server: "What kind of soup would you like?"
Logan: "I don't really need any soup."
Server: "If you want to eat here, you must eat the soup."
Logan: "Why?"
Server: "It is the rule."

I suspect this is another communism holdover. What a mind job they did on the locals.

I then went wandering around after eating (yes, I caved and had their soup but I didn't eat much of it because I am a rebel) I went wandering around and found this in a shop:
It looks exactly like (and tastes somewhat similar) to a desert my mother makes she calls 'chocolate roll'. Here it is called 'Rulada'. I haven't seen it anywhere else. Cost, 4 ROM plus 4 ROM for the cappuccino. For another 2 ROM (total of 10) that is what my lackluster meal with the mandatory soup cost.

The town itself seems to be two lane roads set up on either side of a median with trees, bushes and flowers growing on it. Whereas in Sarajevo, the entire town is set up 'race track style', here just the city center is. There are a lot of men with cowboy hats and women dressed as gypsies wandering around. Since this is Romania, I assume they are gypsies. The girls here seem to be as attractive as the Czechs though many of them suffer from lack of the 'Czech Stairmaster'.

After wandering around on my own for three hours or so, I returned to see what was going on at my new temporary residence. It turned out that Diana had already completed her work for the day. Due to her father owning the company, her hours are best described as 'flexible' and 'brief'. I was deeply concerned that they would need to be gone for eight hours a day due to work - since I came here to hang out with locals that really didn't work so well for me. Especially since during my three hours I've seen most of the town. It is a small 'urban sprawl' with a couple of neat looking buildings. Pretty much whenever my current hosts no longer have time or inclination to hang out with me, I'll move on to the next town - this one isn't really holding my interest.

It turns out that Surene (AKA Sauron) and Diana are very open, nice people. Diana has traveled extensively and is making plans to return to Malawi, Africa in one year. She talked a lot about how open and friendly the people are there. It sounded good enough that I am going to do some research and maybe head out there.

We also got to meet several of their friends including Attila, Bela, Yullia and Tudor. More on this later as I am off with Sauron to go run 'dark wizard' errands.



DO YOU KNOW WHAT NEMESIS MEANS?

I do. Note, it's rough to find in this town - haven't yet...



MTFU

Oh, this looks like it would be useful in so many cases. Thanks to Travis G. on my facebook for posting it.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois |

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