martes, 13 de noviembre de 2012

With my stake and crucifix in hand, next stop: Transylvania!

Bratislava Zoo
After the sunset the full moon became brighter and bigger than ever. Bratislava was enveloped in a cold and thick fog that was almost impossible to see through. The gloomy howling of wolves reached my ears, and my heart was filled with terror. The night was just beginning. It was 9:30 p.m. when I returned from Vienna. It was bitterly cold and due to the thick fog it was difficult to know where I was​​. I left the bus terminal, and unfortunately, I could not go unnoticed, since my suitcase (which had only one wheel by the way) produced a terrible noise when touching the floor
The few people who were in the terminal stared at me. I ignored them and tried to remember the way to Eurovea Mall, where Lenka, a Vlado’s friend, worked. I would spend that night in the college where she studies. I looked everywhere, but the dense fog didn’t let me see anything. Auuuuuuu! I heard the wolves howling in the distance. I started to walkr through what I thought was the right road. Thank goodness I took the right way. A long cloud partially covered the moon and the night became even darker. I started to walk faster. There was not a single person in the streets. I knew I was not going to be robbed, but it's impossible to lose my Venezuelan paranoia.
15 minutes later, in the distance, I saw the mall. I found no one on my way there. It seemed that everyone was at home hiding from some strange creature. Maybe Dracula! When I arrived in the mall I was breathing and
sweating and now the sound of the suitcase on the pavement got softer on contact with the floor of the mall. The store where Lenka worked was right next to the entrance. I arrived five minutes before so I waited outside. 5 minutes later she finished and then we began our way to her college.
We waited for the bus outside of the mall. It took us 20 minutes to get to where she lives. I had to pay 5 euros for the night. Unlike Nitra, here I had no problem at all to enter, and Lenka was very hospitable. Next day at 6:00 p.m. I would travel to Romania. I would go back to Budapest and would make a stop for an hour and there I’d take my bus connection to Odorheiu Secuiesc, name of the place where I would go. Yes, I know it sounds kind of weird!
My last day in Bratislava was good. I slept like a baby. I woke up at 9:00 a.m. and went out with Lenka to the Bratislava Zoo.
It is an ordinary zoo. It has animals like any other. The interesting thing about this place is a section called "Dino Park". It is a park with real-size plastic dinosaurs. I'm a huge fan of dinosaurs and I forgot I was almost 24 years and I started to run and take pictures with all of the dinosaurs. Actually I think I always act like a little boy. Later Vlado called Lenka and told us he was on his way to Bratislava. We returned to the faculty for my bags and then we met Dovlado at the mall. We did nothing special that evening, we just sat in one of the restaurants next the Danube River and ordered coffee and biscuits. Vlado and Lenka spoke in Slovak all the time. I played with my Tablet and watched the boats go by on the river. A sense of calm came to me and I felt completely happy. Nevertheless, Vlado gave me a bottle of Tokaj wine that Miroslav sent me. Excelent wine!
Tokaj wine
My departure was near. Lenka said goodbye to us and Vlado and I went to buy some stuff for my long journey to Transylvania. We walked into a supermarket inside the mall and bought 3 sandwiches, juice, biscuits and chocolates. Then we went for my damn suitcases. Thanks God I didn’t have any restriction with my luggage on the bus, so I didn’t have to pay for overweigh. Later, we headed back to the bus terminal in Bratislava and there Vlado took his bus to Nitra.
We said good bye with a hug and I said to him- "See you in New York-" Next summer, he would return to work in the same camp we met three years ago. 20 minutes later I was boarding my bus which would take me to Budapest. This busline is called OrangeWays and it is the cheapest busline in Eastern Europe. My trip Bratislava - Budapest - Odorheiu Secuies (Transylvania) cost me only $22. These buses even have bus attendants! I left Bratislava on March 17 and arrived in Romania on 18 at 11:00 a.m.
My two suitcases went in the lower compartment and I had to pay 1 euro each. I boarded the bus, I forgot what seat number I was assigned. I slept for a few hours before we reached the capital of starving country, there I did a connection at 11:00 p.m. I had a break of an hour while the other bus arrived. Exactly there, where the bus dropped me, I had to wait for the other bus to Transylvania. There were only a few people waiting for the same bus.
It was very cold and very cloudy. The closer I got to Transylvania, the most I felt Dracula's magic. I heard dogs howling all around, the fog was chasing me and everything seemed to conspire to form the perfect atmosphere. I saw some homeless and they even seemed possessed by spirits (Yes, I know I am being exaggerated hahahahahaha) With each passing minute the cold was intensifying. I did not want to walk to warm up, since I did not want to be away from my luggage. I can’t imagine myself being robbed and now I would be telling you guys this unpleasant story.
Among those waiting for the same bus to Romania, was a Brazilian and a German. I knew it because they were speaking so loud that everyone could listen to what they said. Finally the time went by and the bus arrived five minutes later. A young lady got off the bus and tried to light a cigarette. People began to crowd into the entrance of the bus, and the young lady said something, I do not know what language was she speaking, but people went straight to the luggage compartment side. Then I realized that was where I should put my luggage. I took a short pink blanket out of one of my suitcases and carried it on the bus with me. Yes, I know, It’s not really “masculine” at all, but this is a blanket given by Shania my last day in New York, before going to Germany. It was an act of love for a girl of 8 years whom I adore. At first I thought I would not use it at all, but this blanket saved my life many times. I would’ve prefered to be seated on a window seat; however, I was seated on the aisle and I was uncomfortable. We were finally ready to departure and my travel mate was a stunning girl, but who apparently had a nervous breakdown all night long. At any slight movement from me, she would turn around and star at me! I, definitely, believe, it was Dracula’s influence.
Romanian landscape
On the website of the bus company they offered free Wi-Fi on all of their buses. “Internet will make this 13 hours of trip better” I thought. However, the fact was that the Internet was not working. How naive I was! I asked the buss attendant about this issue and she told me that accidentally it was damaged the day before. Of course I did not believe her!
I was in shock! A 13-hours trip on a bus and I had no Wi-Fi? How horrible! I was so angry and started to scream: “I will never use this company again!”, “I don’t know why you offer something you don’t have” The poor lady only answered me “Sorry”. I calmed down; the lights shot down and the bus left. Wow 13 hours! I tried to sleep, but I was unable to do so. I slightly moved and my crazy seatmate turned and starred at me. I ignored her. I took my Tablet out of my bag and continued with a reading that I had recently begun, “Dracula” by Bram Stoker.

“Lucy felt a slight pain in the neck on waking up in the morning and remembered having a horrible nightmare ...”

I tried to change my body weight from side to side. Once again my crazy bus mate jumped up and turned to me this time. I pretended to be reading in my Tablet and I completely ignored her. An hour later I fell asleep.
I wanted to be more comfortable so I decided to recline my seat. When I was trying to do so, a woman seating behind me, apparently, did not like what I was doing and screamed something, in a weird language I did not understand, of course. I guessed she was trying to say I was bothering her. In consequence, I returned to my initial position and I had to “sleep” like this the whole night.
Two hours later we reached the border between Hungary and Romania. The bus stopped at a checkpoint. The lights in the bus turned on and the bus attendant said we were going to be checked to enter Romania. This is not what I expected, I thought while within the European Union I wouldn’t need to do any passport control again. But three long-face guards got on the bus and asked for my passport.
They spoke in Romanian and I did not understand anything. I looked for my passport and handed it to one of them. They got off the bus with my passport and lasted about 10 minutes. People began to murmur. I began to worry, what was happening? I had not done anything wrong. “I have nothing to worry about” I said to myself and tried to calm down. But I could not.
Maybe it's because they have barely seen a Venezuelan passport, or maybe they think I am trafficking drugs? What the hell are they doing with my passport? I began to imagine thousand of things while they were still checking my passport.
After more than 20 minutes one of the guards got on the bus and said something in Romanian! “This guy is insulting me and I do not understand anything” “What the hell are you talking about?” “Sorry, I do not speak Romanian” the bus attendant offered to serve as interpreter and told me there was a problem with my passport. What? What problem? I began to sweat. Now I was screwed. I was imaging myself put in jail and crying loud. The guard said something in Romanian and the girl translated me: “your passport is expired, with an expired passport you are not allowed to enter to Romania” Expired? What? Now it all made sense. I had given him the wrong passport!
The thing is, I carry two passports, the new one and the old one. The latter is expired but I have the American visa on it, so I need to travel with that one too. I was confused between so many papers and I gave him the wrong one. I immediately gave him the right passport and apologized for my mistake! People on the bus were staring at me and murmuring. The guard got off the bus and returned with my passport and I had gotten a new stamp!
We were on our way again. The lights turned off and I started to look through the window. As in a movie, the moon was huge and radiant. It seemed I was in science fiction film. The moon was so bright and so clear that I could see the mountains in the distance. They were full of snow and the reflection of the moon on the snowed mountains got my attention for a long time. Later, I got sleepy and tried to sleep again.
My seatmate did not stop moving the whole night. I managed to sleep for a few hours, but suddenly I felt someone leaning on my right shoulder. I woke up surprised and I realized it was my dear seatmate. She was nodding and with bus movement she ended up almost breathing on my neck. I slightly laughed, but she woke up, looked at me again and turned away. At this point she seemed crazier than ever, and the first expression that came out of my mouth was “What the fuck?” I think she actually heard me, but she didn't turn again. I ignored her and tried to sleep again. About 5:00 a.m. the bus made ​​its first stop. We were already in Romania.
About half of the passengers got off on that stop and now the bus seemed to be empty. I decided to change seats so I moved to the other side of the bus and for sure, I won’t bother my “sweet” seatmate. I changed and finally I was able to recline my seat and could sleep better.  I woke up when the bus made ​​another stop. We  were in Cluj Napoca, Transylvania County’s capital. It was around 8:00 a.m. and more people got off the bus and the rest had 10 minutes to buy something or use the restrooms in the bus terminal. I was busting so I went immediately to restroom. At the door there was this lady who charged for using the toilet. I asked her: "How much?" but the lady began to speak in Romanian.
This time there was no one to translate me. I tried to say her I did not speak her language, but she kept on talking like crazy and showed me a ticket. I took a two-euro coin and handed it to her.
The lady returned it and shook her head. I insisted, but she refused. She did not let me go into the restroom. I had to go back to the bus and hold my pee. Later I learned that two euros were about 10 Romans Leu. Thanks God she did not receive it, so I would have paid ten times more.
Next stop was Odorheiu Secuies, a small village in Transylvania. Here is where Csilla’s parents live. Csilla and I got to know each other three years ago, while we both were working in Wall Street Institute in Caracas. We were good friends, but some months later she returned to Europe after living 8 months in Venezuela. We kept in touch on Facebook and I never forget one day I told her one of my deepest dreams was visiting Transylvania, and she said: "Moisés, go to visit me and make it during winter so you can see how beautiful snow is". And so it was! I never imagined those simple words would become a fact as real as my trip to Transylvania.
After Cluj Napoca, went through Targu Mures, one of the main cities of Transylvania. Now we were only two hours away from my destination.
Everything seemed to be good, no more drama! Finally! 
Csilla wouldn’t wait for me because she was in London and she would arrive one day later. So Agnes would wait for me instead.
Time went by and I started to look through window. I was completely in love. The scenery was something unlike anything else I had seen in Europe. Mountains were beautifully covered with snow. We drove through several villages and I had the feeling of traveling back in time. There were people in carriages, old houses and people dressed in old-fashion clothes. I was thrilled.  I was sure this experience was going to be unique, and indeed it was.
Carpathian Mountains
The bus attendant spoke through the speaker and said we had already arrived to Odorheiu Secuiesc. A big smile showed on my face and I got off the bus quickly. But I saw no one waiting for me. I took my two suitcases and waited right there. It was very cold because two days before it had snowed and the streets were still partially covered with snow.
My seatmate got off there too, and was waiting for someone, but 20 minutes later someone came for her. I was alone now. I waited 15 minutes and I was still alone. 10 minutes more went by and no one came for me. I walked into the sun to try to warm me up a bit. I saw my watch and time was passing by and I could not get to see Agnes.
One hour! I was still waiting. I incessantly looked everywhere and tried to guess who Agnes was. Agnes and I had never seen each other. Csilla introduced us on Facebook and I had only seen her profile picture. I thought that would be enough, but it wasn’t. I had the feeling of seeing her everywhere now, I was so confused.
One more hour. A total of two hours. I lost my sanity and was about to cry. For one moment I thought the bus had dropped me in the wrong town. Nevertheless, it was a small village. There were few cars and people did not seen to be nice. My paranoia was on more than ever. A gypsy woman who was passing by, stopped at my side and was looking at me a lot. OMG! I am gonna be robbed! I thought. I cannot believe this. I come from Caracas, one of the most dangerous cities in the world, and now I was going to be robbed in the innermost place of all.
I started to sweat and was almost shaking. I was told Romania was a dangerous country, but I'd said, “Dude, I’m from Caracas. There is no place more dangerous than that, so I’m already trained” I was so naive. Thank God, the gipsy woman went away 10 minutes later. It was very strange, because she was not expecting anyone and did nothing to me. Maybe it was the long-face I had pretending not to be scared. Or maybe my guardian angel, once again, helped me.
I desperately looked everywhere and could not see anyone coming for me. Across the street, sitting on the floor, there was this girl reading a book. But she didn’t seem to be waiting for someone. I needed to ask where the hell I was, so if I was in the wring town, I will need to find the way there.
I saw a couple with a baby in arms and I asked them: “Hi, sorry ... Do you speak English?” They shook their heads and kept on their way faster than before. I stopped someone else, but I failed again. Nothing! Fuck! I saw another person and this time I tried to speak in German! Nothing, it was even worst. I was about to cry and I am not exaggerating. A block away I saw a Money Exchange Office. They must speak English, I thought. I grabbed my two bags and walked towards this office. I knocked on the window and an old lady came out.
She was very kind. I tried to speak in English: “Do you speak English?” She shook her head. I tried in German: “Sprechen Sie Deutsch?” I noticed she was lost. Maybe she knows Spanish! “¿Usted habla español?” She denied again. I also tried in French: “Est-ce que vous parlez français?” She did not say anything. I was so fucked up! Do you speak any language, pleeeeeeeease? Or at least do you speak?
I loved this
I know I needed to go back to Budapest: that might be a solution for me right now. I needed Wi-Fi, so I took my tablet out of my bag and tried, with no succeed, to search for an available Wi-Fi. I leaned back against the wall and I fell to the ground. I started to pray and cry. Once again I tried to ask the lady, with gestures, mimics, and a copy of bus ticket, if indeed I was where I was supposed to be.
Finally she understood something and I said yes. I was in the right place! But then what happened? Why Agnes was not there? God help meeeeeeeeee! I’ll go to mass every Sunday, I promised! I left the Money Exchange Office and started to walk up the street. I went up 4, 5, 6 blocks and saw nothing.
I decided to return to the same place I was at first. You can imagine the noise of my small suitcase, the weight of the bigger and my lost face. I think everyone turned around to see me, but I did not care. Now I needed to return to Budapest, call Adrienn and find out what to do with my life. When I went back to where the bus dropped me. I ran into the old lady again, but I had no time to waste it, so I ignored her.
I could not waste my time anymore. As I approached the bus stop I saw this girl again, the one reading the book on the other side of the street. I walked closer, she looked at me, I looked at her, we looked each other. Then she said “Moisés?” I replied “Agnes?” It was her! Halleluiah! All my fears were taken away and I had my smile back. “I was so worried for you. I called Csilla to London”- “The bus dropped me an hour before” - I replied. Actually it was not, the thing is that between Budapest and Transylvania there is a time difference.
What really happened was that she came after the bus left, so she was waiting for the bus. Nevertheless, she was on the wrong side of the street and she was so entertained on her reading that time went by. I still do not understand why I did not cross the street and talked to her when I saw her reading.
Agnes called Csilla and said everything was fine. My fears were gone and now I laugh about it, but on that moment I was really scared.
We walked down several blocks until we reached a coffee shop where a friend of her works. Csilla and Agnes had rented a car for the days we would be in Romania. The car was not ready and we had to wait almost an hour more. But it was ok. I was drinking coffee, the best in a long time: it was strong, dark, non-transparent and tasteless as the coffee in the U.S. 
Agnes was called, the car was ready. We walked to a gas station, where the car was waiting for us.
After my crisis I could finally appreciate the place I was in, and I realized how great it was. In the background I saw the Carpathian Mountains covered with snow and everything around me was like in a film.
Csilla and Agnes
The best was when we arrive to Harguitha, where Agnes and Csilla’s parents live. It was a first-class journey to the past. But it was really nice!
We got in the car and started our journey. I was ready for one of the most amazing experiences I've had so far. My suitcases were full of garlic, crucifixes, stakes and more (I lie, but it makes everything sound better). Next week would be full of adventures. Agnes and Csilla’s parents were expecting me. They are two people very friendly and hospitable. I don’t want to be too arrogant or make feel bad those who were hosting me while I was traveling, but Csilla's family is in the top of my list.
I was treated like a king, I was fed with delicious food, and they made my stay in Transylvania an unforgettable experience.

I was close to meeting one of the biggest dreams of my life: meeting my good friend Dracula. In addition, I learned to ski, we visited an underground salt mine, I was amazed to see sparkling water coming out of the ground, and I thanked God for being alive and for all the things I have and for those I don’t have.

Romania is and will always be a great adventure....

See you in my next post. 

Remember to bring a garlic necklace and a crucifix, because we are going to visit Dracula….

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Bienvenido a Tripping a la venezolana

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