So I arrive to Bucharest early in the morning to what appears to be a monsoon. Its pouring rain and winds are gusting from one direction to another. I step off the train to Bucharest's very bustling Gara de Nord Train Station. The guide book says that taxis are massive scam and should be avoided. I find a table at a hole in the wall cafe and sit down to look at my mediocre map. I don't think there is a way to get to the hostel without a taxi, especially in this weather. I walk out the main doors and I am bombarded by taxi drivers coming at me from all directions. This is nothing new to me. For some cities, its the only way some people can make a living. It does strike me as odd that in all of the land that I've covered over the years, I've never encountered a female taxi driver. I ask one what it would cost me to take me to the address that I have. He says 35 leu (about $10 CAD). Whether its steep or not for a city like Bucharest doesn't matter to me. The rain doesn't look like its going to let up any time soon. I agree and hop in.
I he drives me several blocks to the address. Its just an unmarked door on a building, nothing saying its a hostel, but its the address I have. I knock several times and no answer. I see a buzzer and see if I'll get an answer. I hear a voice and I yell into the mic "HOSTEL?!?!". When travelling overseas where people don't speak much english, you learn to keep things simple. She says to go down the street and around the corner. I do what she says and navigate around the confusing streets. I see a small sign that looks like it says "Hostel" and try my luck. The gate to the small courtyard infront is locked. I ring the buzzer and no answer. How could that be?? Its just the start of business hours, someone should let me in! At this point, both Sapphire and I are drenched from head to toe and I'm shivering. I start screaming as loud as I can. No one is coming. I kick and shake the gate in frustration. A young woman suddenly comes out the door and down the stairs. She lets me in. I'm actually too mad to yell at her. I walk in and check in. I only have enough leu for one night. I have to get more, oh dear. I walk up the spiral staircase 2 floors to the room she assigns me. The top floor and no elevator, yay! I walk into the bedroom and everyone is still sleeping.
I take sapphire into the adjacent bathroom to see if I have any dry clothes left. Just the yoga pants that I put in a plastic bag because I intended to wash them. Not like I've never worn dirty laundry before! I change and go back into the bedroom. The linens they leave me folded on the bed includes a towel. I wrap my wet hair as I quietly hang my abundance of wet clothes where ever I can find a spare bed railing. Still very cold, I crawl into the bed and wrap myself in the blanket. Think about what polarizing weather I'm experiencing. For the last several days since I've landed, it has barely been below 30 and I spend most of my time trying to get into shade. Now I'd give anything to get warm. I put in my earbuds and pull out 50 Shades. I probably should have brought a more compelling book. People start to stir as I try to get comfortable.
I close my eyes and decide to take a nap and hopefully the rain will clear and my hair will dry. I wake up about an hour later, a bit warmer but still colder then I'd like to be. Most of the people are either gone or getting ready for the day. I get up and head to the bathroom. My hair is a bit drier. I tie it up and get ready so see what the day has in store for me. I haven't eaten since just before leaving Moldova, about 18 hours ago. I should get out and see it there is a coffee shop or restaurant around.
I look in the Loney Planet and there isn't anything close by. Dammit. Well, I have to search for a functional ATM again, might as well face the weather and get that out of the way. The rain has slowed a bit. I put on my sweatshirt and get my slightly damp day sack ready. I head out the quiet, but confusing streets of urban Bucharest. I should find an ATM first. I noted a few in my guide book and decide to give them a try. I try the first one about a block from my hostel. No dice. At this point, it doesn't really disappoint me anymore when this happens. I just suck it up and try again. I look at my map and try another one several blocks away. Nothing. There is another one closer to the city centre. I make my way to that one when the rain picks up again. I put my hood on and pretend it doesn't bother me. I keep going when I see a hotel off in the distance. Maybe they have an ATM in their lobby. They don't but I ask for a map and the one the concierge give me is much more detailed then the one I have. I ask if there is a mall or shopping centre nearby. I don't usually want to stay inside when travelling, but today is an exception. He says yes and points to it on the map. It can be easily reached by the subway. I say thanks and head out.
I have to get money still. Shit. The ATM I'm looking for is at the next intersection. I suck it up and keep going. I try this one, completely burnt out at the situation. SUCCESS! It works. I decide to take out more, enough for the next several days. I make my to the subway station. Not knowing how much a ride costs or how much leu is really worth, I hand the teller one of the largest bills I have. He gives me several tickets. I slide a ticket into the turnstile and pass through. I look at the map from the hotel and determine what station I have to go to. I go to the platform and wait a while. Atleast I'm inside this time.
The subway arrives and I get on board and take a seat. The mall is only a couple of stops away. I get off and look for the entrance to the mall. I need to consume food, NOW! I look at the mall map and try to decipher the language completely foreign to me. There is a McDonalds logo on it. I normally hate McDonalds. Aside from the odd McFlurry, I never really eat there. I try it out. I arrive at the busy 'restaurant' and they already stopped serving breakfast a while ago, which sucks because I had my heart set on some pancakes. But it does have a McCafe. That's not too bad. I get a muffin, yogurt and coffee and sit at a table near a window. I look outside and its still raining. It reminds me of my first trip to Europe where it rained almost everyday for 3 months straight, no matter where I was. That rain cloud had it in for me and was going to follow me every step of the way until I went back home. I finish my breakfast and head to the exit to leave the mall. The steps look very slippery, so I take very careful steps down. BAMM!!! My efforts are futile as I slip and fall back, landing on my elbows. Great. And still bruised from shooting the AK-47 to boot.
I head back to the subway. With the luck I'm having today, I decide to just throw in the towel and head back to the hostel for the rest of the day. I get on the subway and take short ride and get off at a station near the hostel. I walk up the stairs and I can't believe my eyes. In a matter of 20 minutes, the clouds have cleared and the rain has completely stopped. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME????? I'm baffled at this. I head back to my hostel anyway. Maybe some of my clothes have dried by now. I walk in the court yard and head back to my room. Most of them are dry enough to wear. I change into one of my dresses. I head to the front desk and ask if there is laundry mat close by. She informs me that the hostel has BOTH A WASHER AND A DRYER!!! Hostels almost never have a dryer. I got back to my room and put all my clothes into a garbage bag (I keep several with me while travelling, they're actually quite handy) to bring to the laundry room. Its policy to wash everything first before it goes in the dryer. Doesn't bother me too much. In typical backpacker style, I only hand washed a few things with shampoo a few days earlier in Odessa.
I put everything I'm not wearing into the washer and put on the shortest cycle. I stay nearby the washer and I'm stunned when water starts to pour out the front. REALLY??? MORE WATER???? I start to wish I was back in the Australian Outback where it was dry as a bone. Why me? I find a bucket and it fills quickly. I pour out the door next to the machine and immediately put back. I do this several times before the cycle finishes. I put in the dryer and head back upstairs. I look at a few sights and activities in the common room as my clothes dry. There is a tour of Transylvania that looks interesting. I sign up for the next day. Go online and see whats going on on facebook. Not much. I go back to dryer and set the timer back another hour. I head outside and enjoy the mild, but still present sunshine. One thing that I notice about the city is the contrast of the architecture. In my city of Toronto, most of the buildings are really new. Once one reaches a certain age, its torn down and they put up a new one. Half or the buildings of Bucharest look like they'll crumble under a strong wind (make a mental note to keep my distance from them in case that does, indeed happen). While the other half look brand spanking new.
An old building
A new building
Not much a middle ground. After a while, I head back to the hostel. Surely my clothes are done by now. I empty the clothes into the same garbage bag. I head back to the bedroom and fold my clothes. Sapphire is still wet. I'll have to keep them in the garbage bag, on the bed.
I head back out and walk around. I head to a few shops to see if there are any souvenirs that I'd like to bring home. Not really.
Its getting late and I head back to the hostel. I meet one of my room mates. A young woman in her mid-twenties from Finland. We talk a bit about our day. She hasn't had the greatest day either. She didn't have a reservation at the hostel and had to show up in the rain, crossing her fingers that they had room. Fortunately, they did. We decide to go out for beers the next night after my Transylvania tour.
Hopefully I'll still have all of my blood after that.