Three and a half weeks of fresh fruit, amazing hospitality and at least 10 cups of tea a day. Yes, welcome to Turkey!
For the first time so far during this trip, we have spent enough time in the same country to pick up a tiny bit of the language and to get almost addicted to both the food and the culture. Maybe it has to do with that the tourist season is more or less over, but Turkey wasn’t what we expected. It was much better!
People have given us so many presents that we barely know what to do with it all!
Also, we finally caught up with the warm season. No more freezing nights for a while! Asia is entered.
It was a long walk over the bridge.
For each step we got covered in a newly spun spider web. Our faces were more or less white at the end of the 3 km long bridge. At the end we could see through the thick mist into the harbor of Ruse, Bulgaria. We had entered!
Being a hitchhiker in nature stunning Romania is fantastic, though there is competition! We’ve sometimes been ten people or more at the same spot, from young teenagers to 80 year old ladies looking for a ride. And we have to admit, we’ve not always been as quick as our elders!
Music sample between Lugoj and Deva (perfect soundtrack to the text):
One of our drivers, Mr Daniel from Jehova’s Witnesses, confirmed the reasons why hitchhiking is so common in Romania. Since the petrol prices have gone up dramatically, it’s really expensive to drive here and hitchhikers sometimes shares the cost by paying the driver for the ride. We are very impressed by the hitchhiking system!
The first two nights we spent in the second largest city Timisoara, near the Serbian border. Here we begun with a funny experience showing a bit of Romanian corruption, as we came across a bus conductor after being told by the driver that we could pass without buying tickets. Hallelujah, the bargain has begun! :)
We recharged ourselves a bit in this beautiful city full of Romanian character and nice cafés with good opening hours.
Then, it was time for Transylvania! We had plenty of interesting conversations along our way since we could rarely speak English to our drivers. Luckily the Romanian language is Latin related and similar to Italian and Spanish which made it easier for us to pick up.
Passing a village on our way to Brasov.
Present on it’s way to one of our donators!
Our three night in the amazing city of Brasov was happily spent in a great hostel – camping would have been a disaster since we woke up with SNOW outside the window! This was surprising to us even though it was freezing. We kind of thought going south would make it warmer…!
Brasov feels very dramatic, located between the high mountain peaks of the Charpatians. No wonder the city has a reputation of being the home of Dracula! The old castles in the area is the most popular tourist attraction, and during winter you can go skiing here.
We happened to find as much as 5 friends from Sweden staying in the city at the same time and had a nice hang out with them.
Lots of credits to the Chicken Dancers who broke a new record though is was freezing in the rain! You guys are strong!
To Bucharest we got driven by Sega, a former director in advertisement who had spent a year in India and the countries around. He is currently working on a novel about this journey and inspired us a lot!
We felt very welcome in Bucharest with our CouchSurfing hosts Andra and Razvan.Andra taught us some pottery, something that she’d been doing since the age of 10. It was amazing and really great fun. She also made us Polenta with a Romanian twist: plenty of eggs, cheese and cream! Mmm! Razvan took time from work though he was very busy at the moment to come see us both nights and also coached us a bit in photography. They are also working on something that we believe will turn out to become a great resource for tourists visiting Romania: AboutRo.com – An online travel guide to Romania!
Thank you so much for a lovely time in your home, friends!
When arriving in the capital city we didn’t really expect much since we’d heard it wasn’t suppose to be very nice, though we found it calm and beautiful with wide open spaces and big boulevards. Eating and drinking is more expensive than elsewhere in Romania, but there are many nice spots for this.
The Romanian streets are full of small bakeries. Almost everyone in Bucharest was eating on a kringle and the smell of freshly baked bread was surrounding us everywhere. The queue to this particular bakery (Cafetaria Georgi) never seemed to end!
We met a broker (a person who deals with stocks) who claimed that the Philippines is very dangerous for white people. He had spent his vacation there, even though he’d heard that “they kill people for 10 bucks”. He had not faced any situations personally but he warned us about it. Anywhere we go, people seem to be afraid of something that is ahead of us.
Romania hasn’t been any more dangerous than any of the previous countries, even though almost every Polish person warned us about this “very poor and desperate” country. Interesting!
Just like somebody said to us: “Romania is something in between Europe and Asia. The young generation has a European way of thinking while they are still in the old world.”
Mulţumiri foarte mult / Thank you very much
Nico and Cata, who drove us from the border to Timisoara
Alex and Isabela, who got us hooked on Romanian music!
Nico, who filled his car with hitchhikers, including us!
Mr Daniel and Ramona, who taught us more about their lives as members of Jehova’s witnesses
Cici, who drove us a fair bit closer to Brasov!
Pop Florin, who drove us to Brasov, and thanks to his wife who joined us over the phone
Sega, who had spent a year in India and around and really inspired us
Andra and Razvan, who were the greatest host one could hope for, taught us pottery, photography and opened up their home!
Bogdan, who picked us up before we even started looking for a ride and drove us from Bucharest to Giurgiu
Endless cornfields, apricot trees, and probably more tractors than cars. The Serbian agriculture is still settled in little villages. As a visitor, this looks very much like an older world, and we finally got an idea about where all the apples in our supermarkets might come from!
Serbia is not a part of the European Union like most of it’s neighbors, and there are many other things that makes the Serbian history unique and interesting. It is not more than 10 years since the war was on in this region, and by talking to people we understand that there are still partly some disagreement between people from the former Yugoslavia.
We arrived in Belgrade with a Bulgarian wrestling trainer. We stayed in a hostel and spent 2 days in the city. We found ourselves most interested in the Nicola Tesla museum (above) built up in Belgrade as the great inventor was born in Serbia. This is the right place to understand the modern ideas of Nicola Tesla, who didn’t get to actually experience it all in reality as he died in 1943. Unfortunately we couldn’t get in to the National museum because of reconstructions (apparently since 4 years, there is no knowledge about any opening within foreseeable time).
The air pollution is quite bad in the city, something that makes it a bit uncomfortable to discover. But walking to the great fortress Kalemegdan 125 meters above sea level, or strolling around the market in the Bohemian Quarter is very nice! The amount of fresh fruit and vegetables is impressive and there is fresh running water everywhere in town to wash of your delicious grapes before eating them. A good idea is to bring a local map, as all the road signs are written in the Serbian Cyrillic alphabet!
One mystery that we will never understand though is the huge Easter Europe flower shops that are always open 24 hours. We are still searching for the answer. Ideas about why, anybody?
It took a while to get out of the city and we were only 20 kilometers away, in Pancevo, when it started to get dark. This time, it was very hard to find a place that felt safe enough to camp for the night. When we got tired and hungry, we decided to walk into a local restaurant and ask for advice.
There was a private party going on in there, and we spoke to a waiter in a separate room. He told us we could camp on the backyard, so we did. Everybody working at the restaurant were very friendly and helpful.
As we didn’t want to disturb the private party, we went out in town for food. When we came back to brush our teeth before going to sleep, a girl from the party came up to us.
“Hello, I’m Aleksandra. We are celebrating my brother’s 18:th birthday. Would you like something to eat and drink?”
And for the second time that evening we ate, Aleksandra and her family served us wine and amazing local dishes, everything organic and it tasted lovely. Aleksandra was 19 years old, and just about to start her college for English and German studies. Later on we joined the rest of the party where we learned how to dance traditional dances, and we went on for hours. We were over 100 people, and we had a great time dancing on the chairs!
Thank you dear friends!
The day after, we got invited for espresso at the restaurant where the staff had done a hard job cleaning up after the amazing party. Then it was time for us to head towards Romania. We met quite a lot of people with some sort of relation to Sweden, probably since there are many Serbs living in Sweden. Before we left the country, we met Milan Filipovic, a Swedish-speaking thai boxer working as a school guard (apparently very common in Serbia). Milan, who had a girlfriend in Helsingborg, told us that the children show him big respect and that it is important to have a guard in the school.
Even our very last driver to the border had a brother in Sweden, who he immediately called when he understood where we came from.
Serbia has certainly given us a fantastic time! Something different has started – it is more and more obvious that we are not at home. We have seen the importance for people to tell us about their country in a different way. For good reasons – the modern history during and after the war was never heard in our classrooms. The good thing is that you can to go to Serbia to teach yourself. You won’t get disappointed!
Kencho, for transporting us to Belgrade much earlier than we could ever hope to
Archive Restaurant, for your hospitality, great food and coffee. You helped us a lot!
Aleksandra with family and friends, for invinting us to your celebration. You showed us a great part of Serbia. Keep dancing!
Mila the truck driver, for a safe ride and the best possible communication over the language barriers
Milan the thai boxer, for inviting us to the school, buying us drinks and speeking to us in our own language
The friendly man with a brother in Sweden for driving us to the border
Hungary was for us what a Kinder Egg is for little children. A great surprise!
Who would have thought Hungary had the most romantic capital, the best cheese, 24 hours open milk bars with WiFi, and half German musical artists who gladly picks up hitchhikers? Well, we had no idea!
We went straight to Budapest from the border as we got picked up by a lovely Spanish couple in their rented car. It was a joy for us as we felt quite polluted after a few hours with big trucks passing by. We are considering buying some sort of masks…
After a nice ride through the country, we could see Budapest looming ahead of us. What a beauty! The buildings are all well decorated with different frames around each window and gate. And such a parliament we haven’t seen any where else. Easily competing with Notre Dame. Hungary must have had the best stonecutters through all times. The oldest parts of the roman city was found as early as in the second century!
We stayed with a Swedish host this time, Joacim, who’s been living and working in the city for over a year. He took us around to see plenty of architecture and bars. We especially fell in love with Szimpla, a HUGE building taken over by restaurant owners when it was about to get demolished.
Except for arranging the Chicken Dance with the now leading group of people, we visited Europe’s largest bathhouse built around the natural terminal water of Budapest. Excellent relaxation worth spending at least half a day at!
From Budapest we started hitchhiking south. We had just got out of the city and gotten started when somebody walked up to us and said “Hi, I saw you from the bus. Are you really going to India?”
This was Zoli, a 22 year old guy from the outskirts of Budapest, who now invited us to his house for lunch! Zoli had a big passion for traveling as well as for music, and he had the coolest thing ever: A home-made guitar! We got a private tribute and we loved it.
The day went on, serving us more miracles. When we just thought we would have to pinch the tent for the night somewhere behind TESCO, we got picked up. The driver was Merán Bálint, an actor and musical artist who was in a hurry to see his girlfriend perform in an operetta in the city of Szeged. Since we are a bit of stage-drunk musical lovers, we were happy to follow Bálint to the theater to watch the Hungarian operetta from the balcony! Afterwards we had dinner at a local milk bar with Bálint and his girlfriend who was tired after doing very well on stage! The free WiFi and the delicious pancakes made us late, and it was 4 am. when we had finally put up the tent outside the city. Totally worth it though – we stayed for one more day.
Hungary felt modern, accessible, and friendly. The capital is well worth a visit for anyone interested in culture, city life, hot baths or nice bars. If you go immediately, you’ll still get a comfortable temperature, day and night.
Köszönöm / Thank you
Rafael and Gemma, who brought us in the car on their holidays in Easter Europe
Joacim, who hosted us and showed us around town
Zoli, who invited us to his home and shared his thoughts and his creative music with us
Bálint, who gave us our first Hungarian theater experience so far
Roymund, who drove us over the border to Serbia and gave us perspectives from both sides.