Day trip to Bran; Bran Castle; Vampire kitsch and souvenirs; In which I feel completely at home; Moving to a second bad hostel

The hostel was exactly as expected - a noisy party place. I hid out for most of the evening in the dorm room, after being driven out of the terrace and then the kitchen by the noise and obnoxious stupidity. Sheryl’s experience was similiar, so we decided to decamp to the other hostel down the street, reasoning that it would at least suck in different ways. The new place was less stupidly decorated, but we got stuck in the attic room, which had something like sixteen beds in it. Whatever - we only wanted a place to sleep.

Getting to Braşov’s bus station was difficult. Braşov has two bus stations, and the one we needed was nowhere close. We’d have had to take two or three city buses to get there, so we decided to walk to the transfer point and then take the second bus - cheaper and less annoying, but it took us easily an hour to get there.

Bus transportation in Romania is confusing. It’s not centralized like the trains - there are at least a thousand bus operators around the country, each with its own prices, schedules, destinations and standards. Some of them run big modern coaches, and some of them run tiny rusted-out minibuses that look ready to fall apart any second. Our bus to the town of Bran fell somewhere in the middle, and for a fare of 4RON (about CAD$1.60) I had no complaints to make. It got us to Bran around noon, I seem to recall.

Bran is a silly, kitschy, fun place. I grew up in Niagara Falls, which is probably the tourist kitsch capital of the world, and so I felt instantly at home in Bran, with its vampire t-shirt stands, Skeleton Bar, Haunted House and all. It felt a bit odd to experience it from the other side, though - as one of the tourists that we all loathed and despised when we were kids working in the tourist trade. I resolved to make a special conscious effort to avoid exhibiting any of the set of annoying tourist behaviours that caused me so much pain when I was obliged to deal with them myself.

Our first stop after taking in the ambience was the Skeleton Bar, where we each had a glass of Ciuc, a cheap Romanian beer, while seated on coffins and resting our drinks on tables painted with jolly dancing skeletons. That accomplished, we seriously debated a trip through the Haunted House, but the admission price of 30RON (about CAD$12) each was a bit too steep for us. After we’d visited Bran Castle, though, we both wished we’d saved the money for the Haunted House instead. Bran Castle was boring. Just a big building, fully finished and furnished inside, that reminded me of Casa Loma in Toronto. It didn’t really seem like a real castle at all. We’d been warned about that, but had decided to go anyway. Wish we hadn’t, but the rest of Bran was fun. For some reason while we were there it was full of farm workers heading home from the fields, each with his own scythe, its blade detached and tied to the shaft and carried over the shoulder.

We caught the bus back to Braşov and walked all the way back from the bus station to the new hostel, stopping at a bookshop to pick up a map and guidebook for the Făgăraş Mountains, in preparation for doing some hiking - about which much more later. The new hostel turned out to be just as much of an obnoxious party place as the last one - I had to leave the kitchen when the group of American kids got halfway through their binge-drinking contest. Hostel suck. Our room was nice and quiet, though, being a couple of floors away from the noise.


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Chris Liberty - Dispatches from a Gentleman Adventurer
Being the internal dialog of a vagabond who chased his own tail across five continents for 4 years and 2 days from May 2008 to May 2012, in search of something that never really became clear.
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