Sibiu, Romania (21st of January 2006)

Saturday 21st of January 2006

I was up early in my empty hostel. No travellers, no staff. The place was empty. I just left my backpack where it was and walked to where the old city fortifications were.





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. Multiple rings were built around the city, most of them out of clay bricks. The south-eastern fortifications are the best kept, and all three parallel lines are still visible. The first is an exterior earth mound, the second is a 10-meter-tall red brick wall, and the third line comprises towers linked by another 10-meter-tall wall. All structures are connected via a labyrinth of tunnels and passageways, designed to ensure transport between the city and lines of defense.

In the 16th century more modern elements were added to the fortifications, mainly leaf-shaped bastions. One of these survived to this day, as the Haller Bastion {all the way down Coposu Boulevard).

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. Multiple rings were built around the city, most of them out of clay bricks. The south-eastern fortifications are the best kept, and all three parallel lines are still visible.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. Multiple rings were built around the city, most of them out of clay bricks. The south-eastern fortifications are the best kept, and all three parallel lines are still visible.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

I had a nice walk around town and I also on the net for an hour (15,000 lei). I went to the train station yesterday to change my ticket to Sighisoara to today and found that I lost it so I had to buy a new one, but luckily it was only 60,000 lei or so. I planned to go to Sighisoara (via Medias) for 65,000 Lei. It left at 1.03pm and arrived in Medias at 14.32. The train to Sighisoara was due to leave Medias at 15.49 and arrive in Sighisoara at 16.25pm. That was the plan anyway.

I walked the city some more. It did look quite beautiful with the snow and blue skies. It was cold but not bitterly so. I went and paid 5,000 to climb the church in the main square in order to get a better view of the city (Turnul Sfatului)..





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. Its also very, very pretty! a deserted street early moening. The snow is starting to get mushed up and brown.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. You can see the Lutheran church in the background.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. You can see the Lutheran church in the background.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. You can see the Lutheran church in the background.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. You can see the Lutheran church in the background.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. An overview shot of the main square.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. Shot of the main square.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe. You can see the Lutheran church in the background.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 21st of January 2006

The city of Sibiu was one of the most important fortified cities in Southeastern Europe.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

I headed back to the hostel around 12.20am and got my bag. I just left the keys there. The train I was taking was Personal and it was packed full. Hundreds of people all stuffed in. The thing with these “Personal Trains” is that thry stop every five minutes at small vilalges. You get the scenario, the train stops and you look out on the snow covered landscape and there nothings – just 50/60 people heading off down a road and you may see a vilalge or church spire in the distance. Pretty weird but some of these small towns (old Saxon forts) look beautiful. Wish I had more time.

Sibiu, Romania (20th of January 2006)

Friday 20th of January 2006
I had a wakeup call at 7.30am. I had a shower and a shave (including a self cut haircut). Anyway, buffet breakfast was included in the price and I got my moneys worth. Bread, yogurts, salami, tea, juice etc.

The journey was good. I think the train was empthy but I think they shove people in certain compartments to save on heating. Eight people can fit in a compartment and there are about 10 compartments per carriage. There were 5 people in ours. All individual travellers. It was unbearbly hot in the compartment. So much so, I had to leave and sit in one of the cold empthy compartmetns every 40 minutes or so. We also left the door open for long periods.

They got into a heated discussion about politics (from what I could make out) and they were including me in that (eye contact). I just used body language, nodding and it wsnt until I was asked some direct questions, that they found I could not speak Romanian. Much hilarity. Anyway, except for the heat (better than the cold), it was a fine journey.

There were only about a 4 stops in total. I arrived at 2.10pm, just as detailed. If they are ahead of schedule, they will stop at a town a little bit longer. When I arrived, it wasnt pretty. But you can never tell a town from its bus-train stations. Anyway I did not know whether I would even bother go into town. I purchased a ticket to Sighisoara for 15.51pm. I had an hour to kill so I said I would go in have a look around and come back to catch the train. There were number five buses with centrum on it. I paid 20,000 lei (for a two trip ticket. The bus was packed with young students. It only took 5-6 minutes to get into town. From a stop, I got a bit lost and just started to head towards spires in the sky outline.

What a great buzzing town. People were on the streets, animated, walking a buzz and smiles that wasnt in Timisoara. People were smiling and having fun. Well I fell in love with this town and felt it was worth travelling to here itself.

Lots of information on the town on the Internet. Wikipedia was excellent. Also, don’t forget to visit this great website: www.sibiu2007.ro, which give a great overview (and more) about the city of Sibiu, including a perfect city map to guide you around.

I see there is a cold snap across Europe. There wassnow on the ground, but it wasnt that cold.

There was a tourist office in the main square. They were very, very helpful pointing out the only hostel (brand new – July 2005) in town, various pensions and a small guide to the town.

I had a little trouble finding the hostel in the next square as it was so non descript. It was a 12 font little hostel sign. They are renovating the whole square as Subiu is the joint europoean Capital of Culture in 2007. The hostel was called “The Old Town Hostel” and it was 10 euro.

In that small square (just off the main one), there are a couple of 24 hour bars and a chill out club there that goes 24/7. Beers were about 20,000 lei for local beers to 36,000 Lei for Becks. I went to a decent restaurant and paid 260,000 for a great meal. It was vegetable soup, 3 big pieces of pork, bread, mashed potatoe, cabbage and two beers. There were a few drunk guys I had to clink glasses with every few minutes.

I had a very nice evening walking around the city.
Sibiu (name in German: Hermannstadt, Hungarian: Nagyszeben) is a city in Transylvania, Romania with a population of about 170,000. It straddles the river Cibin, a tributary of the river Olt.

The city was founded in 1190 by Saxon colonists settled in the area. It was probably built near a Roman settlement, one that would have come to be known during early medieval age as Caedonia, which might have been deserted at the time of the Saxons’ arrival.

In the 14th century, it was already an important trade center. In 1376 the craftsmen were divided in 19 guilds. Sibiu became the most important ethnic German city among the seven cities that gave Transylvania its German language name of Siebenbürgen, and it was home to the Universitas Saxorum, the Assembly of Germans in Transylvania. Common opinion in the 17th century ascribed Sibiu the quality of being the easternmost city to be part of the European sphere; it was also the eastern terminus of postal routes.

During the 18th and 19th centuries the city also became one of the most important centers for ethnic Romanians in the region. The first Romanian-owned bank had its headquarters here (The Albina Bank), as did the ASTRA (Transylvanian Association for Romanian Literature and Romanian’s People Culture). After the Romanian Orthodox Church was granted status in the Habsburg Empire from the 1860s onwards, Sibiu became the Metropolitan seat, and the city preserved its title as the third most important center for the Church in modern Romania. Between the 1848 Hungarian Revolution and 1867 (the year of the Ausgleich), Sibiu was the meeting-place of the Transylvanian Diet, which had taken its most representative form after the Empire agreed to extend voting rights in the region.

After World War I, when Austria-Hungary was dissolved, Sibiu became part of Romania; still, the majority of its population was ethnic German and Hungarian. After 1990 most of the city’s ethnic Germans immigrated to Germany. Among the roughly 2000 who remained was Klaus Johannis, who is currently mayor of Sibiu.





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

Arriving by train. It was cold and I was tired. I wasnt planning to stay and the area arounf the bus and rain stations were not nice but luckily I got a bus into town and got to see this great town.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

The Large Square (Romanian: Piata Mare, German: Grosser Ring or Grosser Platz) is, as its name suggests, the largest square of the city, and has been the center of the city since the 16th century. 142 m long and 93 m wide, it is one of the largest ones in Transylvania.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

The steep Stairs’ Passage leads down to the lower section of Sibiu. It descends along some fortifications under the support arches. It is the most picturesque of the several passages linking the two sides of the city.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

The steep Stairs’ Passage leads down to the lower section of Sibiu. It descends along some fortifications under the support arches. It is the most picturesque of the several passages linking the two sides of the city. Very colorful and very slippy in this weather.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

The Small Square: As its name says, the Piata Mica is smaller in size, being rather longer than wide. Its north-west side has a curved shape, unlike the Large Square, which has an approximately rectangular shape. Accordingly, Piata Mica plays a smaller part in the city’s present-day life. The square is conected to the other two squares and to other streets by small, narrow passages. The main access from the Lower City is through Ocnei Street, which divides the square in two. The street passes under the Liar’s Bridge – the first bridge in Romania to have been cast in iron (1859).

To the right of the bridge is another symbol of the city, The House of the Arts, an arched building formerly belonging to the Butchers’ Guild. On the left side of the bridge is the Luxemburg House, a Baroque four-storey building, former seat of the Goldsmiths’ Guild.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

This is Luxemburg House, a Baroque four-storey building, former seat of the Goldsmiths’ Guild located in the Small Square where my hostel was.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

The steep Stairs’ Passage leads down to the lower section of Sibiu. It descends along some fortifications under the support arches. It is the most picturesque of the several passages linking the two sides of the city.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

The 18th/19th century houses were very colorful especially with snow on top.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

On the south and east sides are two- or three-storey houses, having tall attics with small windows known as the city’s eyes. Most of these houses are dated 17th to 19th centuries, and most of them are Baroque in style.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

Brukenthal Palace, one of the most important Baroque monuments in Romania, lies on the north-western corner of the square. It was erected between 1777 and 1787 as the main residence for the Governor of Trasylvania Samuel von Brukenthal. It houses the main part of the National Brukenthal Museum, opened in 1817. Next to the palace is the Blue House, an 18th century Baroque house bearing the old coat of arms of Sibiu on its façade.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

Brukenthal Palace, one of the most important Baroque monuments in Romania, lies on the north-western corner of the square. It was erected between 1777 and 1787 as the main residence for the Governor of Trasylvania Samuel von Brukenthal. It houses the main part of the National Brukenthal Museum, opened in 1817. Next to the palace is the Blue House, an 18th century Baroque house bearing the old coat of arms of Sibiu on its façade.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

The large squae is, as its name suggests, the largest square of the city, and has been the center of the city since the 16th century. 142 m long and 93 m wide, it is one of the largest ones in

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

Romania may be joining the European Union in 2007 and you will see alot of EU flags around town.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

I am not sure what this church is called. Can anyone help?

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

A narrow passage way leading one street o the next. Very dark.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

Some very colorful 17th/18th century buildings here.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Sibiu, Romania

Taken on the 20th of January 2006

I believe this is the Evangelical (Lutheran) Cathedral. It is the area where the earliest fortifications have been built. The buildings around this square are mainly Gothic.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Timisoara, Romania (19th of January 2006)

Thursday 19th of January 2006
Anyway, the hostel never woke me up but luckily I was up anyway. I left quite early and took the metro to the main train station. The information board was out of action and nobody knew what line the train was leaving on until about 5 mninutes before departure. Yes, I sweated that i would miss the train. It was due to to leave at 9.35am from budapest (Keleti) and arrive in Timisoara Nord at 15.34 (duration 4.59). You can check out train time tables at www.elvira.hu

I took my seat and off we headed. I was in a eight person comparment and it empty. It was uneventful. Romanian imigration officials asked me my business, was it my first time and stamped me in. No hassles. Very tidy. The landscape was quite rural, althought a big ugly gas pipeline ran along us the whole trip. Its unusual to see vast expanses of land, covered in snow and ice with no tress, bushes or hedgerows. Quite bleak, really.

EU, US and Canadian citizens can enter Romania without a visa and may stay in the country for 90 days. EU citizens do not even need a passport, as an ID card will suffice.

We arrived in timisoara exactly on time and following the Lets fo eastern Europe guidebooks advice, took a tram, but it went way out the wrong day. It was 22,000 lei for 2 trip ticket. The problem was I did not realise that in July 2005, the country swapped its currency. It was a pain in the ass, as both currencies are in circulation until Dec 06 and the notes look very alike. The central bank even says: “their designs and background colours are similar to the old notes”.

The denomination composition features a new value, RON 500, which is the equivalent of ROL 5,000,000.

As of July 1, 2005, Romania has dropped four zeros from its national currency. Yesterday’s 30,000 (old) Romanian lei (ROL) per U.S. dollar now equal 3.00 (new) lei (RON) to one dollar – three lei (lay) and 0 bani (bah-nee).

Both old and new coins and banknotes will be in circulation until December 31, 2006, when the old currency will be withdrawn. As a result, I took too much out of the ATM machine. Damn. Details and pictures of the old and new currency can be found from the National Tourism Site and the Central Bank site (which has the pictures).

Anyway, as I wanted to take some snaps before dusk, I walked around with my backpack checking out prices with various hotels as I went. There are no hostels in town – althought there is one 5km outide of town – some sort of youth federation. As its so close to Hungary and a popular business destiantion, its quite expensive. Anyway, at the end I stayed in the timisoara Nord hotel, about a two minute walk from the tain station. It was 70,000 Lei (or nealy 20 Euro) for a quite crappy room. Smalll TV, single bed and shower but shared hallway WC. I was tired and ate close by. I walked into town, took another wring tram, got back into town and headed to the old square which was wuite nice. I checked out the Irish Bar and spend 30 minutes in an Internet cafe (10,000 lei). The one thing that really helped me so far is the online presence of Romania Railways. I can check the times of trains in English from town to town. its top class and I would be lost without it. i can print of a page and show the person selling tickets in the tain station exactly when and where I want to go.

The official Romania tourism page for the town is here. A population of 330,000, I was somwhat diapointed at the lack of buzz or atmosphere in the town. maybe its the sulky hungarian character. fine, you know you are in romanian, the clothes, alot of Roma, old cars and alot of tacky shopfronts, but I was unimpressed by its visual character. It is interesting to note that Gustave Eiffel, the creator of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, built Timi?oara’s foot bridge over the Bega. It was also captured by the Turks in the late Middle Ages, and remained under Turkish control until it was regained by Hungary during the 18th Century. More information and links can be found on Wikipedia.





Timisoara, Romania

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

The main attraction is the Orthodox metropolitan cathedral (1936-1946) founded by King Michael of Romania; Byzantine style with seven bells made of rare metals imported from Borneo and Sumatra, which weigh some 8 tons. Underground – a collection of icons on wood and on glass.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Timisoara, Romania

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

The main attraction is the Orthodox metropolitan cathedral (1936-1946) founded by King Michael of Romania; Byzantine style with seven bells made of rare metals imported from Borneo and Sumatra, which weigh some 8 tons. Underground – a collection of icons on wood and on glass.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Timisoara, Romania

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

The main attraction is the Orthodox metropolitan cathedral (1936-1946) founded by King Michael of Romania; Byzantine style with seven bells made of rare metals imported from Borneo and Sumatra, which weigh some 8 tons. Underground – a collection of icons on wood and on glass.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Timisoara, Romania

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

The main attraction is the Orthodox metropolitan cathedral (1936-1946) founded by King Michael of Romania; Byzantine style with seven bells made of rare metals imported from Borneo and Sumatra, which weigh some 8 tons. Underground – a collection of icons on wood and on glass.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

I also visited Piata Unirii is number one attraction in Timisoara. Its main attraction is the Roman-Catholic Dome (1736-1774) designed and build in a baroque style.

The things that jump out about Romania so far is:

– Where ever you go and when you drink somethink (pubs) you need to ask for your glass beacose all of them drink from bottle. fine by me. i rather drink my beer than way. I had a beer in a decent pub for 17,000 Lei.
– The amount of big vicious stray dogs knocking about the place. Somebody should be putting these mutts down.
– The great public transport (from buses, trolley buses to trams). They criss-cross the city.

I purchased my ticket late in the evening. it was easy with my print out. I was taking the 8.17am train from timisoara nord to Sibiu (arriving there at 14.11). In second class, the price was 300,300 Lei (30.30 RON).





Timisoara, Romania

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

The main attraction is the Orthodox metropolitan cathedral (1936-1946) founded by King Michael of Romania; Byzantine style with seven bells made of rare metals imported from Borneo and Sumatra, which weigh some 8 tons. Underground – a collection of icons on wood and on glass.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size

Anyway, I had a relatively early night. Tomorrow was another long journey to Sibiu. i was still get my head around the different and conflicting coins and notes currently in use. Lots of room for confusion. I was woried my inexpereince with the notes (old/new) would lead to misunderstandings or fraud.

THE TRAINS
from http://www.elvisvilla.ro/trains.html
Find here the main types of trains in Romania:
PERSONAL (P) stands for a local train, which stops basically in all (or most) stations and halts there are. The trains usually have open, Romanian wagons, without compartments, and the bathrooms are bad. Sometimes there are double-decker wagons, in which situation one should avoid the upper floor in summer, as it gets pretty hot up there. Expect the wagons to be poorly maintained and take a warm jacket if you travel in wintertime. This is the cheapest way of travelling by train in Romania, yet it also is the less comfortable. It is recommended though, together with the Accelerat train, for those interested in some sociological insight, as most regular people, especially in the countryside, as well as most workers use such trains because of the cheap rate. A 100 km. ride in a 2nd class wagon (“vagon de clasa a doua”) costs the equivalent of USD 1,5. No seat reservation is required, just head for the first seat available you notice. The wagons are usually blue, marked in white with the CFR logo. Rarely there are some green wagons, on routes such as Buzãu – Nehoiasu or Vatra Dornei – Dornisoara.

PERSONAL MOTOR (PM or rarely marked with AM) stands for a local train (see above), which is made of only one (rarely two) automotive wagon, which is used more and more rarely on routes such as Arad – Vascãu or Brasov – Zãrnesti. The wagons were built somewhere in the beginning of the 20th century and are a very picturesque way of “enjoying” a trip. No seat reservation is required and the price of the ride is the same like a regular Personal one.

ACCELERAT (A) stands for a train, which is also quite badly maintained. The wagons have 11 compartments of 8 seats each (2nd class seats wagons) or 9 compartments of 6 seats each (1st class seats wagons). This kind of trains usually stops only in bigger towns and cities, running faster than the Personal. We are dealing here with aging Romanian wagons, which are restricted to the minimum of comfort and the cheapest materials the people working in ASTRA Arad Plant could find. The bathrooms are just as bad as in regular local trains. This is the way regular people travel at long distance, as this is the cheapest of the fast trains in Romania. A 100 km. ride in a 2nd class seats wagon costs about USD 3,0. A seat reservation is required for this type of train (USD 0,3), except for very few routes (usually alongside Prahova Valley on the way back from long runs, simply because the train is generally packed and no seats are available). The wagons are most times blue marked in white with the CFR logo. Some trains have a dining car and some night trains have sleeping wagons.
RAPID (R) stands for a train, which is subject to your luck. Why? Simple: you could have the bad luck of having the same conditions, wagons and all like in an Accelerat train (see above), or you could end up in a red refurbished ASTRA wagon. The wagons have 9-11 compartments (just like the Accelerat trains). Otherwise this kind of train is only lightly faster than the Accelerat one, but it is usually less crowded, due to the higher price of the ride. The bathrooms vary widely from the same old bad ones, to neat ecological ones on the German wagons some trains have (especially some international trains). A seat reservation is required for this type of train (USD 0,3). A 100 km. ride in a 2nd class seats wagon costs around USD 5,0. Some trains have a dining car and most night trains have sleeping wagons.
INTER CITY (IC) stands for a close-to-modern train with air-conditioned wagons. The train has most times red, open Western wagons and all trains have a dining car, running only at daytime. The routes, which are served by such trains, are Bucharest – Timisoara, Bucharest – Cluj Napoca, Bucharest – Constanta and Bucharest – Iasi. The bathrooms are usually proper and the service – better than on other trains, yet the rates are just as high: USD 6 for a 100 km. ride in a 2nd class seats wagons. Most IC trains only run on weekdays. A seat reservation is compulsory on these trains (USD 0,3).

INTER CITY EXPRESS trains have been introduced with this fluffy name only for Marketing purposes, as they only run from Bucharest to Constanta, to the coast. They are just as nice as the regular IC and the conditions are the same.

EURO CITY and EURO NIGHT trains have a catch. There is only one EC and one EN running, to and from Budapest to Bucharest. They share the same rates with the regular Rapid trains on domestic routes though and the fact that less people know that results in the situation where rarely they are fully booked. They need a seat reservation both (USD 0,3) and the rate is similar to the one on a Rapid train: USD 5 for a 2nd class seats wagon. The EN has regular German red wagons (only 8 seats 2nd class wagons and sleepers), while the EC has white/blue open wagons belonging to the Hungarian Railways (MÁV).

Budapest (17th & 18th of January 2006)

Tuesday 17th of January 2006
This was a last minute trip. Very last minute. So last minute, I only booked a one way flight with Easyjet for £14.00 (Sterling). I was hesitating about going as I had a lot on with work etc, it was just after Christmas, it was going to very cold over there etc. Even the day before travel, I was undecided about going, as losing £14 on a missed fliht was not a big deal.

Even at the airport, I was having second thoughts. I was going to South America in July for research – did I really did this now! Anyway, I decided to head off to check in with my hand luggage.

I was at Gatwick around 10.55am and so had an hour before check-in closed at 11:45am. The airport was pratically empty. Checked out the weather in Budapest and founf it hovered around -4 to -8 oc. Damn cold and I was travelling hand luggage light, but lots of layers (T-Shirts) with one fake Chinese made “North Face” jacket. A couple of pairs of socks, jocks and just the pants and boots that I was wearing. Maybe 5kg in total. I was also carring a pretty next to useless “Lets go: Eastern Europe 2004”. While it covered the capital cities in each country, I would be visiting (Hungary, Romania, ukraine, Poland), not much else. It is very USA visitor orientated.

London Gatwick (South Terminal) To Budapest (Terminal 1)
flight 5485; dep. Tue 17 Jan 12:15
arr. Tue 17 Jan 15:40. Hungary is one hour ahead of London.

We were actually twenty minutes early to Budapest. It was -4 oc and sleet was falling. Alot of budget airlines fly to Budapest (Wizzair, Germanwings, Ryanair, Easyjet) and I could not see any national flag carrier airline. It is pretty small airport and we had to wait 20 minutes while immigration interviewd some poor Romanian guy in front of us in the queue.

I had sent an email yesterday to make a booking at a hostel but didnt get a reply. When I was here in 1998 (I think), there were only 4/5 hostels and most of them were not in the city centre. We stayed in Diaksport, at the end of a metro line. Still it had a 24 hour bar and was OK at the time. Now there are 20/30 hostels in town.

I typed 24 hour bar hostel budapest into google and Mellow Mood Central Hostel ,came up. Its a cheap hostel on the center of Budapest. Well cheap during a discount January.

Mellow Mood Central Hostel, a cheap hostel on the center of Budapest. Bar and … 24 -hour bar-selling alcohol, soft drinks and snacks around the clock …

Anyway, when we stayed in Budapest before we were miles out in another hostel with a 24 hour bar. All the hostels seem to have that facility here. Anyway, they had a special winter (10 jan – 28 Feb) rate of 2,500 forints per night for a 4 bed dorm.

Anyway, I only had hand luggage so I looked to find a cheap way into town. I took the public bus from outside the terminal (180 F) for a ticket to the last stop on the blue metro line which was 20 minutes away. I took the metro (185 f) aboout 10 stops to Deák Ferenc tér. From there it was less than a 3 minute walk to the hostel (which is a 1 minutes’ walk away from the famous pedestrian street: Váci utca and 2 minutes’ walk from the Danube promenade). If you want tourist information check out hungary.hu

They had my name so I booked in. Its a pretty nice hostel. Its big but clean. It was dark and the forcast expected temperatures to drop to minus eight. At about 6.30pm I headed to the 5th floor bar for a drink. Beers costs were 250-300 for a pint 5000ml bottle. Anyway i got talking to two Australinas. One guy worked in London and took numerous short trips to Europe on budget airlines. The second guy was divorced and was traveling around for 6 months or so. Anyway good chat. We were joined by a fellow Irish guy from Roscommon, working in Dublin. He had been scammed the night before. He was chatting to two girls in the street who calimed were Italian Backpackers. He went to a bar and purchasded three coctails. The bill was 350 EURO. he was gutted. Anyway beware. Its happening all the time over hear. The internet is full of warnings and the stories. See this site. It explains the full scam. The Irish guy was scammed in the same bar (the one with the elevator) as in thwe story.

Hookers are easy to spot in a street. It is the way they approach, their purpose is clear. These girls were scam artists, working a set up, so on approach to me, they were initiating a well thought scenario that had the finesse of a ballet with the execution of a talented method actor. You may think that I must be really stupid, and to a certain degree I refused to let some obvious signs interrupt my desire to be with these girls, but their scam takes all of that into account, every bit of it. Your doubts are caressed by several off hand comments dropped in at the appropriate moment, just like a good screenwriter who has reversals, conflicts and objectives. It is subtle and brilliant, they are reworking and adapting moment by moment and know where to place the right pause, know what distance to maintain and know how much or how little to smile. My dick is now in solitary confinement for the month, but punishing my private parts doesn’t take away the humiliation and never the 250 euro. Take care in Budapest.

Another Scare story here.

Technically, it is not illegal to charge $100 for a beer, and scam victims might neglect to check the menu first. Furthermore, few tourists would go to the effort — not to mention embarrassment — of pressing charges. The scam places are listed by Bostom.com and the american Embassy in Hungary.

Anyway the two Aussies left. We were joined by two Americans, two other Australians, so we sat and drank (alot, alot, alot) until 2am. The americans were rather boorish. Their parents had purchased their trip to europe. Anyway, a good night indoors, at the hostel. It sounds boring but it was mid week and Budapest’s nightlife is so spread out and quick moving, that it may have taken some time and effort to find a busy spot. Anyway, with pairs of very attractive but mafia sponsored consumption girls prowling outside, in a beered up state (and our brains in limited working order), may have left us with massive bar bills and broken bones. While the last time we were here, we were stopped by pimps tryingo to get us to go to Sexy clubs, the current scams are far more sophisticated.





St. Stephen’s Basilica (Bazilika), Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 17th of January 2006

This church, the city’s largest, was built on the site of the unholy ‘Prank Theatre,’ an animal-cruelty extravaganza in which bears, wolves and hyenas tore each other to shreds while bloodthirsty crowds egged them on. Construction of the Basilica began in 1851 but was not completed until 1905, because the dome caved in. If you’re reading this inside the church and are now casting a wary eye upward, concentrate instead on the fact that the dome is exactly as tall as that of Parliament – 96m. The church contains the mummified right hand of King St. Stephen, founder of the Hungarian state. To see this relic, head to the chapel to the left of the main altar. Drop 100 Ft in the slot, and the glass case lights up to reveal this celebrated extremity in all its gnarled brown glory. The price is the same whether you’ve come to venerate a holy relic or merely to indulge your morbid curiosity. To get to the viewing platform above the cupola, take the elevator up, then scale 146 more steps – great views of Budapest.

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Danube embankment
(Duna korzó), Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 17th of January 2006

This pedestrian walk stretches along the Danube in Pest from Március 15. tér to Roosevelt tér. Outdoor cafes and benches sprawl out next to hotel fronts – all with ample breathing room around them (usually a rarity in this part of town). The motor traffic has been cleverly tucked away on the other side of the tram line. There are great views of Castle Hill, looming over the other side of the Danube.

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Wednesday 18th of January 2006
I woke up (around 10.00am) tired but no great hangover. I left the hostel and headed to the train station to inquire about train tickets to Timisoara, Romania. I took the metro directly to the station and there is an international ticket office upstairs near track nine. Its actually cheaper buying a return ticket than a single. You may be better off getting a bus there or to the border and continue your journey from there. It was 8,200 F.





Keleti Train Station, Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

Budapest has three major train stations, and each has connections to the metro system as well as to other public transport.To get to the metro station (red line), go down the stairs and through the underpass to the outdoor plaza. The metro entrance is on the far side of the plaza. Bus N°7, which runs every few minutes, will also take you to centrally located Ferenciek tere – to find the bus stop, follow the signs in the underpass.

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Anyway, after buying a ticket, I took a metro to the national parliament area and took a few pictures. I then walked to Margarets Island to get a better view of the National partliment building (from Margit hid Bridge). I then walked from there across the Danube to the casle District. I spend some there and it was quite empty.





Parliament
(Országház), Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

In 1902, after a mere 17 years of construction, Hungary presented itself with what was then the largest parliament building in the world. An architectural echo of the Houses of Parliament of London, this neo-Gothic edifice expressed the country’s robust self-confidence at the beginning of the 20th century. Since WWII, when Hungary’s House of Lords was abolished, members of Parliament have convened only in the southern wing of the building. During the communist era, they convened hardly at all – only eight days a year, in fact, to rubber-stamp the laws drawn up by the Party. Parliament is fronted by several monuments to the nation’s lost struggles: the wars for independence in 1703, 1848 and again in 1956. The cars in front of parliament mark the lost struggle for parking space in Budapest. Parliament also contains the crown jewels of Hungary – the Holy Crown and the Coronation Insignia, which were worn by Hungarian kings since the Middle Ages. At the end of WWII, these regalia were spirited out of the country and ended up in the United States, not to be returned until 1978. For the guided tours show up a few minutes early at Gate X, just right of the main stairs. The parliament building is chained off here, but a guard or tour guide should let you in to buy a ticket. Tickets are not sold in advance, and no tours are given when ceremonial events or sessions of parliament are taking place.

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I walked from the bridge all the way to the Royal Palce, the Fishermans bastion, and Gellert Hill.





Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

Just an old abandoned house on the way up to Castle Hill. Liked the colours.

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Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

A church on Castle Hill

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Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

A statue on Castle Hill

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Matthias Church (Mátyás templom, Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

The 13th century Matthias Church was renamed for the king who rebuilt it in 1470. It has witnessed significant events, including the marriage of King Matthias and the crownings of Franz Josef I and Charles IV. King Béla III and his wife are buried in the Holy Trinity Chapel here. The Turks whitewashed the Christian frescoes on the church’s walls and turned the building into a mosque. The church was severely damaged when the Turks were driven out in 1686. It was again ravaged in WWII and not fully restored until 1968. The church’s distinctive Gothic tower soars 80m high. Between the church and Fishermen’s Bastion stands a statue of St. Stephen, founder of the Hungarian state. Admission: 300 HUF.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Matthias Church (Mátyás templom, Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

The 13th century Matthias Church was renamed for the king who rebuilt it in 1470.

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Halászbástya (Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

The neo-Romanesque Fisherman’s Bastion, perched on the edge of Buda’s Castle District, near Matthias Church and the Hilton Hotel, affords a marvelous panorama of Pest. Built in 1905, it was intended mainly for decorative purposes, despite its military appearance. Looking out over the Danube to Pest, you can see (from left to right): Margaret Island and the Margaret Bridge, Parliament, St. Stephen’s Basilica, the Chain Bridge with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Gresham Palace behind it, the Vigadó Concert Hall, the Inner City Parish Church, the Erzsébet Bridge, and the Szabadság Bridge. To get to the Halászbástya, take the Várbusz from Moszkva tér or bus no. 16 from Deák tér, or funicular from Clark Ádám tér to Castle Hill.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Fisherman Bastion (Halaszbastya): Fishermen’s Bastion, Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

The Fishermen’s Bastion was designed by Frigyes Schulek and was built in 1905. The “building” is made up of seven towers – each one symbolising the seven Magyar tribes that came to Hungary in 896. The towers are a bit fairytale like, but still, they somehow fit together with the Mathias Church behind them. The area directly behind the church housed a fish market during medieval times – the name of the Bastion comes from here. During the 18th century, the Guild of Fisherman are also said to have been defending this part of the Castle wall. The Bastion offers great view of the Parliament and of the northern Pest side of the city.

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Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

A shot taken from the Fisherman Bastion.

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Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

A shot taken from the Fisherman Bastion of Budapest and the Chain Bridge. The Budapesters take pride in their bridges: each bridge has its own personality, and together they add immeasurably to the city`s panorama. The granddaddy of them all is the Chain Bridge (Lánchíd), which just celebrated its 150th birthday. Initiated by Count István Széchenyi, it was the first permanent bridge across the river. This proud structure boasts pillars in the shape of twin triumphal arches, and approaches guarded by stone lions. At night, thousands of light bulbs illuminate the bridge.

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It was about 2.00pm and I was tired from last night. I planned to walked to rudas baths to relax. it was 2,000 F in to use the baths, sunas etc and I paid another 2,000 F for a 20 minute water massage (about 16 Euro in total).

Near the Erzsébet Bridge, on the Buda side of the city, is another of Budapest’s classic Turkish baths. These baths are for men only, though both sexes are admitted to the swimming pool. During early mornings the crowd is predominantly composed of older men, and according to local lore, the place becomes something of a pickup spot after 9am.

The first baths were built on this site in the 14th century, although the Rudas Bathhouse itself dates to the late 16th century. It boasts an octagonal pool and domed roof; some of the small window holes in the cupola have stained glass, while others are open to the sky, allowing diffuse light to stream in. You’ll find most of the same services and facilities here that you would at Király: a thermal bath, a sauna, and a steam bath.

Its was renovated last year and isnt long opened. I was here before, years ago. There was no english and security was poor. Now you get a receipt, a special swipe card for your locker and a key that you keep on your person. Thats can be difficult as all you get is a piece of loin cloth to cover your genitals (barely) but nothing for your backside. Most guys wear nada. Still, its a very straight (hetro) place with no hanky panky. Its men only in ruad and they come in all ages, shapes and sizes.

Anyway I had my massage. You are placed (I placed myself) naked on a slab and a bare chested russian bear of a man came over and sprayed slighly scented, slightly soapy water on me. He went to work on my front first. Its a deep tissue/mussle type of massage and its really just brute force as he massages your legs and arms, stomach and soles of your feet. He then turns you over and does the same. Twisting and forcing his fingures into my shoulder blades and under my arms which really hurt. He also spent a long time dragging his knuckles down my back and spine. hurt a lot.

After about 20 minutes, he slapped me on the arse and then washed me down with water. I felt light headed and was happy to head to the main pool.

I stayed in Rudas until 5.30pm. They even have a sleeping room. You go in and relax, dream, fall aslepp on these couches. cool. Anyway, it was dark and I walked across the chain bridge. I then walked to Saint Stephens Basillica and to a Chinese place for a chicken curry.

It was 8.00pm at this stage and I headed back to the hostel. I had a 4 bed dorm to my self. Anyway, I headed back to the bar and met the Irish Guy who was scammed and the two australians. We settled back into cards and drinking. We had drunk so much last night, they ran out of beer by midnight. Anyway, I left at 1.30am and I was catching a train the next day. I asked the hostel guys for a 8.00am wake up call.





Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

A few shots of various monuments and things that caught my eye.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

A few shots of various monuments and things that caught my eye.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

A few shots of various monuments and things that caught my eye. A nice statue of youths trying to land a big fish.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size





Budapest, Hungary

Taken on the 18th of January 2006

A few shots of various monuments and things that caught my eye. Taken on castle Hill.

Click on the picture to see it in its original size