Pritam Rohila Travels

Reports of my travels along with some pictures

Oct 24, 2007

2007 Bucharest, Romania
September 27-October 14, 2007

Pritam K. Rohila

From September 27 through October 14, we traveled in Southeastern Europe. We visited Albania, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Slovenia, and Turkey. We returned home early on the morning of October 15. I plan to write to you about our experiences, in installments. Here is the first installment.

September 27 & 28

We left Portland by a United/Polish Airlines flight at 8:33 a.m., on September 27. After traveling for 16-1/2 hours involving two flight changes, we arrived at our first stop, at Bucharest, Romania, at 1:45 p.m., on September 28, safely, but without on of the three bags, we had checked in.

The lady at the baggage counter was quite pleasant. It took her only a few minutes to record our report, along with information about our next couple of stops. She assured us that, our bag would be sent to us at our hotel, as soon as it was located and retrieved.

We were here on our own. But, we did not look forward to dealing with taxi drivers, especially after a travel book had warned us, “Money exchange and taxi scams (in Romania) abound,” and “Taxi drivers (in Bucharest) will cheerfully rip off foreigners. Drivers rarely speak English.”

The woman at the information counter was not much help. The taxi driver who approached us demanded 80 Euros for a 16 kilometer drive to our hotel. But after a little negotiation, he agreed to charge us $30. After we got to his car, we noted that it was not a regular taxi, and had no meter. Apparently, some enterprising individuals there use their personal cars as taxis to fleece unsuspecting foreigners. Also they avoid paying license fees and government taxes.

The closer we reached to our hotel, the slower was our drive. The roads were quite congested. Apparently, it was the local rush hour.

Soon after our arrival at the hotel, we contacted the travel agent at the hotel for a city tour, the next day. He informed us of difficulty arranging a city tour at such a short notice. The best thing he could do was to get us a car and driver, but without a guide, for 80 Euros per person. He warned us that we had to make up our mind in the next 30 minutes. Not being used that kind of attitude, we decided to make our own arrangements.

We went to the taxi stand at the train/metro station nearby. After failing to communicate with a couple of taxi drivers, I found one who agreed to take us to all the places we wanted, at the going rate of 1.4 Leu ($0.59) per kilometer.

At the station we found a place where we could get a vegetarian pizza (personal size) for dinner for about $3.50. A glass of beer was free. We had pizza the next day also for lunch as well as dinner.

At night, we felt very hot in our room. We called the front desk to complain. The clerk sent someone to our room with extra blankets! Apparently, because of the language difficulty, she thought we had been too cold. Anyhow, when finally we got through to the gentleman at our door, he explained that, due to the winter season, the AC had been turned off throughout the hotel. The hotel did not have any table fan. He advised us to open our windows, and promised to change our room the next day.

September 29, 2007
The next day we started sightseeing 9 a.m. The first place we visited was the Palace of Parliament. The huge structure is said to be the second largest building in the world after Pentagon. Over 20,000 workers constructed this 1,000-room building with Romanian wood, crystal and marble.

It was built by the former dictator Ceausescu, who got five square kilometers of Bucharest’s historical center destroyed to make room for it. During the rest of our travels, we met a woman, who lived in Brooklyn, NY, but had grown up in Bucharest and had seen the beautiful 19th century buildings which had been destroyed by Ceausescu.

Our next stop was at the Old Court Church. Founded in the 16th century, this ochre color building with an unusual dome was built near the Princely Court.

Then we visited the Arch of Triumph. Resembling its namesake in Paris, the Arch is Bucharest commemorates those who died in the 1877 War for Independence and in the World War II.

We concluded our sightseeing around 12:30 p.m. after visiting the Museum of the Romanian Peasant. It displays old churches, homes, mills, icons, and a large number of traditional costumes and artifacts

The museum has a small anti-Communist display in the basement.

Bucharest has a number of communist style apartment houses. But we were impressed by its wide tree-lined avenues, large green spaces.

With its McDonald’s, fast food restaurants, and markets it is comparable to any modern city.


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