The weekend before school ended, I finally visited Bucharest, Romania. Bucharest is a short flight from Istanbul. Upon arrival Friday night, I took a taxi downtown to meet my friends who had already arrived.
Inside the airport, you can request a taxi on a machine. This lets you select the rate that you’re willing to pay (you want 1.39 lei) and gives you a ticket with the driver and car information so that you know which one is yours outside of arrivals. Your driver might ask for the ticket. Keep it in case you have any trouble and need to report them.
My driver had a floppy meter, which bothered me. I really hate dealing with taxi drivers, if you haven’t been able to tell throughout my blog posts. When I got downtown, I didn’t ask to see the total. My friends just greeted me and paid the driver. I believe it was 40 lei, but on our return journey, it was only 26 lei (about 5 euros). Either way, for roughly a 30-40 minute ride, that’s a cheap rate.
On Friday night, we went to Old Town and ate some delicious food while watching the Romanians go crazy at the bars over their football match in the Euro Cup against France.
On Saturday, we made our way up to Bran to see Dracula’s castle. Romania is a great place to research before you arrive because there are not a lot of people that speak English, which I thought was unusual for a capital city. That said, we happened upon this sweet lady on the train that tried her absolute best!
My friend had wanted to catch an early train, but I was a bit of a slug. When we got to the train station, there wasn’t another train towards Brasov for another 1.5 hours. A taxi driver tried to sell us his services. The driver smoked and seemed feisty. I just didn’t want to deal with him. We waited for the next train instead, which was a lot cheaper. Not nearly as convenient, but cheaper and plenty comfortable. I think it was about 40 lei each way, about three hours.
After getting off the train, I asked what bus we should get on. I was told bus 23, for 4 lei. I was under the impression that bus 23 would take us all the way to Bran. There was a young couple heading there as well and they told us that this bus would only be a short ride towards to the main bus station where we would catch the long distance bus (about 45 minutes, 7 lei) to Bran. We had plenty of time, so we just followed them since they had obviously done their homework better than us.
Well, we got off 23 at the wrong time, wandered around lost in the rain, got aggravated, and ended up running towards the departing bus. On the return journey, we took a taxi from the bus station to the train station. It cost less than 10 lei, so just get a taxi. It’s not worth the drama.
The long distance bus leaves every hour. If we had missed that bus, we would have wasted our entire day. At this point, we were arriving in Bran at about 4:45 with the last entrance to the castle at 6:00. The return bus was at about 7:15 and the last train back to Bucharest was at 8:40, so it was a tight schedule.
Definitely go early in the morning. If you go on a tour or leave early enough in the morning, you’ll have time to visit both Bran and Peles. We heard several times that Peles is better.
I enjoyed Bran because of the wood trim, floors, and furniture. It’s an interesting design that I had not seen in German castles. For more pictures of the interior, check out this blog.
It is flooded with tourists. I felt rushed and a bit claustrophobic. There isn’t much about the castle that feels like the stories because the man that Dracula is based off of was only a prisoner there for two weeks.
I didn’t have time to explore Bran or Brasov, so I can’t say I experienced Transylvania. It would be nice to go back to the area with more time.
On Sunday, we took a walk around the city to check out the Parliament building. We also stumbled upon the area near Old Town that looks a lot like a mini Paris. Bucharest is small, walkable, and affordable. There are buses, trains, a developing metro system, beautiful fountains and large parks. As with any city, there are also less attractive areas.
Since it is so close to Istanbul, I see myself escaping to Bucharest again in the future.