6.13.2007

Quick trip update, with pics.

How is everyone? I'm feeling much better. After taking it easy for a couple of days, my stomach finally settled down.

As some of you might know, we returned from a trip across Bulgaria and Romania. Now, I'm no stranger to long rides, and in this case we clocked in over 3000 kilometres in this one trip, but I'm thankful we have over a week before we go on another epic trek.

Rather than boring you with all the details, I'd much rather write my impressions.

Bulgaria was fantastic. We stayed in Sofia and explored the city. Very busy at times, with people and cars clogging the streets and always moving, and sometimes not paying attention to each other. But, really, it's a quiet city at night. As I've said, the city has some strong Western influences. Fast-food restaurants, chic shopping malls and cineplexes abound. But mix that with Orthodox churches and communist-era architecture and the result is surreal as it is fascinating.

The Rila Monastary, nestled in the Rila mountains.

We did stay in Bucharest but we spent most of our time in northern and central Romania. Whereas Sofia was subdued, Bucharest was the polar opposite. A huge city (compared to Ljubljana) that was bustling and crowded, the air filled with diesel fumes. Like Sofia, stray dogs roamed freely in packs. We stayed in the Maramures region (as told by Lisa), which practices one of the last peasant cultures in Europe. We also visited Cluj-Napoca, a college town, which was surprisingly vibrant with expensive caf├ęs and boutiques. After spending some time in such a rural community, being in a metropolis like Cluj was a jolt to the system.

Oh, and I did fulfill my dream and visited Sighisoara, Transylvania - the birthplace of Dracula! We did indeed see the house he was born (now a touristy restaurant) but avoid the supposed Torture Museum, which was just a room no larger than our bathroom with photocopied pages from a history book tacked on the wall. However, the town is genuinely lovely, with the old town enclosed in a citadel on a hill, connected by cobbled streets and old houses painted in bright colours.

The National Library in Bucharest.

The birthplace of Vlad Tepes.

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