Sunday, 31 July 2011

Day 5 in Romania: Botanical Gardens in Bucharest

Day 4 in Romania

I went to the Botanical Gardens and got lost on the bus. I then arrived at the correct bus stop and didn't see any sign of the gardens or any signs pointing to them. So I asked two policemen and they had no idea where it was. Not very helpful. I finally asked a flower vendor and she pointed me in the right direction.

The gardens were nice, but not what I expected them to be, which is what seems to be the norm here in Romania. There were also no toilets. Actually, I take that back. There were toilets, but they were locked.

The greenhouses were pretty nice though. There were lots of kids and old people at the garden. They also had a nice rose garden.

I went back to the hostel and then met my mom's aunt and her husband and they showed me where my mom used to live. It was a duplex in a nice, old part of town. Lots of the houses were built to house the factory workers. There also was some type of parachute jump tower. It had a hoop on it. They couldn't really explain what it was for other than practicing parachuting.

I asked where we were exactly and they said that park's name had changed so many times and now it was called September 23rd, but I checked a map and couldn't find it. It's near an old stadium and new church and is an old part of Bucharest, but other than that, I don't really know much about it.

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Saturday, 30 July 2011

Day 4 in Romania: Peles Castle in Sinaia

Day 3 in Romania

I decided to get out of Bucharest today and went to Sinaia to see Peles Castle, which is supposed to be better than Bram's Castle, which is good, since I have no intention of going to the latter. The train ride there was nice, but the one on the way back wasn't. I don't like sitting on a bench facing someone else. I know that some people like it since they can have a conversation, but I'd rather all the seats faced the same way like an airplane.

At Bucharest station I had a hot chocolate which wasn't very nice, but the waiter was. He told me I should visit Sighisoara. I'd like to, but my lawyer told me to spend most of my time in Bucharest to take care of paperwork. Plus, the trains are so slow.

There were no signs saying how to get to the castle. There was a monastery on the way, so I went there too.

Peles Castle was great, again my ISIC card saved me a lot of money. There were tours in Spanish, Italian, French, and English. But when people asked about the, they were told that only English was available. Very typical of Romania. They offer lots of options, but don't have them. It's high season, you'd think they'd offer more. The person at the door kept saying 10 minutes, but we had to wait about 30 to go in.

The castle is fantastic and despite only taking 40 years to build is very ornate and intricate. After the tour I still had a couple hours, so I walked around the touristy area, which is a street and sat in the park, where they had cars for little kids to ride.

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Friday, 29 July 2011

Day 3 in Romania: Guided Bucharest walking tour

Day 2 in Romania

I went on a free walking tour, called Guided-Bucharest. They also have one in Brasov called Guided-Brasov. I think it's a fantastic idea. Although it's free, they appreciate donations so most people gave about 10 lei, so our guide made about $30 for 2 hours of work. Not bad. Maybe I'll end up doing that if we go back to Peru. They have tours during the high season: May to September. Our guide was young, about university age, but spoke English very well. There were about a dozen people on the tour, everyone was young and most people were from Europe.

We walked all over. We started at Piatia Unireii and found out that Bulevard Unirii is 1 metre wider than Camps Elysees in Paris. Ceausescu wanted to out-do everyone. We also saw the People's House, which supposedly has lots of underground tunnels and is still not completely finished. Ceausescu basically used the people's money and tore down neighbourhoods to build it, trying to show that Romania was rich. Some of the churches were literally hauled away to other parts of the city so that they weren't destroyed. Churches are often hidden and hard to get to thanks to him.

Nearby we went to an old inn called Hanul Iui Manac which is now a resturant. Locals still like to meet there.

We walked around Lipscani District, which is a famous tourist attraction and has lots of little overpriced bars and restaurants. The Old Princely Court and Church is there. For being so touristy, it's very decrepit and delapitated. There is lots of construction and our guide told us that it has basically been going on since he was a child. Open manholes and electricity lines are everywhere, it's amazing people don't sue.

The stray dogs are there too, but people seem to like them. They look clean. A couple years ago the government wanted to put them down, but the people protested. So the government said they had to adopt them. So they did, then released them. I don't see the point. Some of them have ear tags and that means that they've been fixed. Others have tattoos, and that means that they're part of a gang. I haven't seen any of the tattooed ones. I haven't seen many beggars either. I thought there would be more.

In Lipscani District we saw The Beer Car Restaurant, which is one of the oldest in Bucharest. They have a rooster and a cat on either side of the door, which symbolises that they're open from the time the rooster crows to the time the cats come out.

We walked a bit more and came upon the National Bank of Romania which has ironically never ever been robbed because it doesn't have any money in it. We saw a part of a building that had been burnt. There was a fire and businessmen threatened that if the fire department wouldn't help them, the whole city would be destroyed because of money. So they helped them and the city was still destroyed. You can stand on the street level and look through the glass below.

We saw Pasajul Maeca Vilacrosse which is a small horseshoe shaped passages famous for its hookah places. The roof is green and there are lots of pigeons. If they poop on you it's good luck.

Once again I saw Kretzulescu Church at Piata Revoluntiei and the Revolution Monument that some people say looks like an olive on a stick and others say looks like a potato on a stick. The artist says it's modern art. There is a wooden path that leads to it which symbolises that people united and there is also a plaque with all the names of the people who died that day.

The Romanian Athenaeum is close by and has paintings of famous people up near the top. Next door is the Athenee Palace Hotel and the Statue of King Carol 1. That's where we ended our tour.

I went to La Mama to eat, It was nice, but smokey like every place else in Romania. Food and prices were good and I think the majority of the people there were Romanian.

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Thursday, 28 July 2011

Day 2 in Romania: how to buy a cell phone in Bucharest

Day 1 in Romania

I finally found a cell phone shop. When I told the woman that I wanted to buy a cell phone, she condescendingly said it would only work in Romania. That's the whole idea of buying a cell phone in Romania. If I wanted it to work somewhere else, I would have bought it somewhere else. I bought the cheapest one, it was about 40 euro.

Once I got my cell phone, I sent texts to the 3 friends that I had (one in Bucharest, Sibiu, and Cluj), to my mom's aunt who is the only family we have left in Romania, and my lawyer's wife.

I met up with my mom's aunt. Both she and her husband spoke English well. They're retired now. Her family left in the 70s, but she decided to stay because of her husband. I found out that my grandfather and his family were born up near Iasi, one of the cities that I plan on going to.

Transport is cheap in Bucharest though. It costs about 0.30 euro for a bus ride, so it's comparable to Peru. Though lots of people don't pay. There are 3 doors on the bus and people just get in without paying. My mom's aunt says that she thinks transport is expensive. They can ride for free since they're pensioners. The bus stops aren't nice at all. There are often just little plaques that say the bus numbers, no routes, timetables, nothing. And when there are little bus stations, they have glass roofs that don't keep off the sun and don't have seats. I've been told that there are lots of pickpockets on the bus, but I haven't seen any.

I spent the day walking along Calea Victoriei, which didn't really have much to look at. I guess because it's summer a lot of places are closed. I ended up going to the National Art Museum, which used to be a palace and saw the Japanese exhibition and then the European and Romanian exhibitions. My ISIC card was worth it as I can pay the student rate. The museums were ok, no places to sit and no AC and therefore not many people. I walked by the Military Club then went to Cimigiu Gardens to relax and saw Kretzulescu Church, which had graffit nearby. It's sad that people don't seem to take care of anything here.

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Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Day 1: First impressions of Romania

Going to Romania tomorrow

The flight was really long and felt longer because I'm pregnant. I took the airport bus to the hostel and then had to walk about 20 minutes. The hotel is ok, but pretty basic and loud. I can't find any tourist info anywhere. People told me that used phone shops are easy to find, but I haven't found anything. In fact, lots of shops are closed and have graffiti and posters on the wall. My small 35 litre backpack weighed 8.5 kilos. I have no idea what's in it that weighs so much. I don't even have a guide book. I have some gifts and brought old clothes, so I'm hoping to go back home with less.

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Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Going to Romania tomorrow



My flight is tomorrow, with a layover in Doha, Qatar. It'll be the first time in over 50 years that someone in my immediate family has been to Romania. I'm not sure what to expect.

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Saturday, 23 July 2011

Good news!

My lawyer and his wife are fantastic!  My mom was feeling very bad about not getting her birth cert to me.  I'm wary about it having sent through the mail.  We were told you only get one and that's it. No more.  You lose it, you're in trouble.

Well, seems like they were wrong.  Or things changed.  My lawyer and his wife have gotten it re-issued in Bucharest.  So they have it there, just waiting for me to come.  I'll be bringing my Romanian birth cert (sans the ID number that they left off).

So with my mom's birth cert and my birth cert, both from Romania, we should get somewhere.  I don't think I could get my passport, since we have to have Romania re-issue all the non-Romanian documents, like
1. My husband's birth cert from Peru
2. Our marriage cert from Peru
3. My grandfather's death cert from the US
4. My parent's marriage cert from the US

That's ok if I don't get my passport.  I'll be happy if I can get a document from the Ministry of Internal Affairs saying that I'm a citizen, like they gave my mom.

I don't know why.  They've been apostillised and translated, but we have been told that they have to be re-issued in Romania.  Maybe that means registered.  Not sure.  Either way, I'll be there soon and it'll be great to visit a country I've been wanting to visit for years!

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Friday, 22 July 2011

More problems

My mom just sent off her birth cert to be apostillised.  It should take 2 to 3 weeks for that, plus it has to be sent to Romania.  Looks like it won't be done on time.

I emailed the Chicago consulate and asked about apostillisation and they never got back to me.  My mom called a couple of times and they didn't answer.  Seems like things are similar to when we went back in 2006.  Luckily, the Romanian embassy here in Seoul answered the phone.  They told my that apostillisation takes 3 months.  So that's out.  They're very nice and speak English very well at the embassy in Seoul.  Courteous and helpful.  I like this embassy.

Anyways, looks like we won't have my mom's birth cert, though my lawyer doesn't think it'll be a problem since he can get another one. Plus, my mom doesn't matter anymore, since in theory, my Romanian birth certificate should be enough.

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