Thessaloniki…Sofia…Bucharest!

When I left off on my last update, I had just left Corfu in search of my next destination. Initially, I was hoping to take a ferry from Igoumenitsa to Petra, and from there head northward into eastern Europe. As per usual, though, nothing ever goes quite according to plan! For some reason, the only direction I could take the ferries (while using my Eurail pass, that is) was back to Italy. As much as I loved Italy, I had a plan of action set in my mind: I really wanted to see eastern Europe before working my way back into western Europe – no backtracking allowed! Thus, I ended up taking a bus from Igoumenitsa to Thessaloniki, since there were literally no other travel options available (apparently train travel across mainland Greece is a foreign concept).

Upon my arrival to Thessaloniki, I was ready to make my next destination – where ever that may be – as I had no desire to spend much time visiting the city and I certainly did not want to book accommodations for the night. I had two options before me: I could take a night train south to Athens and spend the day, taking the night train back before heading into Bulgaria by bus OR I could take the bus into Bulgaria that evening. After finding my way from bus station to train station to check the availability of the train heading out that evening, I discovered that all of the trains were cancelled for the next 24 hours due to strikes. With my decision made for me, I took my time getting back to the bus station, since the next bus to Sofia wasn’t scheduled to leave until well after midnight.

After playing the waiting game for the bus, I spent the next miserable eight hours heading north, getting woken up at every bump and brake…and I can’t forget to mention the ever-delightful border patrol officer that woke me up in the rudest manner possible! Needless to say, when I woke at the bus station in Sofia I was grumpy, without access to local currency (not an ATM in sight) or WiFi to potentially book a hostel for the evening had I the desire to explore the area. However, my desire to see any of Sofia was extremely lacking (I had done my research and there was nothing to see in the city that would interest me), and as soon as the international ticket office was open I booked the first train to Bucharest I could manage.

One long, non-airconditioned train ride later, and I arrived to Bucharest exhausted, dirty, and ready to relax in a comfortable setting after a hot shower – I had been traveling for well over 24 straight hours, who could blame me? Sadly, Bucharest ended up being one of those cities that I didn’t spend time playing tourist in, since I was plagued with a killer blister on the bottom of my foot (I’ve never had so many in my life before this trip, especially from a pair well-worn boots!). What I did see of the city wasn’t much to write home about…not particularly beautiful, rather dirty, and the people were distasteful to boot (for example, I had a priest sneer at me and a man make a lewd gesture at me with his mouth and tongue within minutes of one another). So, after having some problems with catching my first train out of Bucharest (they had apparently cancelled all of the outbound evening trains to Budapest, so I had to stay an extra night), I managed to catch the train to Budapest the following morning.

Alas, I can’t forget to mention my very last taste of Romania (story time, anyone?)! I was sitting on the train, alone in one of the compartments, when a young gypsy of a man opens the door trying to sell me raspberries. I shake my head no and return to my book, but apparently this is enough of an invitation for him to let himself in and shut the door behind him. He takes a seat next to me, and offers me a raspberry to try (“gratis, gratis”). Again, I tell him no, and he pops it into his mouth before  sliding his hand down my arm, just barely grazing my breast, and leaning in to try and give me a kiss. Yech! At this point, I am getting angry and tell him to leave, and he walks off to bother other people. Thinking I’m in the clear, I go back to my book. Of course, he comes back not two minutes later and let’s himself in, making kissing sounds and trying to come on to me again! This time, I’m pissed off and I get out of my seat, yelling at him to leave and ushering him out the door as close to physically as I am willing to manage. Fucker. I was polite the first time – my mistake? Unfortunately you have to be an asshole to some people, because they can’t take “no” for an answer.

During the train ride leaving Romania, I couldn’t help but want to explore the countryside at some point in my life, perhaps taking a tour of the Transylvania area. I would also give Bulgaria a second chance if I were less exhausted and actually had a plan of action set upon my arrival so that I could properly experience the country. Perhaps my future holds an eastern European adventure somewhere down the line!

xo –

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