Train to Braila
Swimming carnivals during school holidays
Bus to Tulcea
Walk to Pension
Bloody expensive hotel
Finding a tour
Well the 6th is kind of a pointless day. It got us between two points and even then, not to where we wanted!
We left our pension that we probably should not have stayed in and went back to Buzau. That was not too bad, and funnily enough, Breakfast was not too bad either. Omelette, half a tomato, a bit of cheese and a few slices of cucumber. To top it off we had a local tea that, although very sweet, was pretty good.
The bus left from around the corner, and even had a bus stop, so we did not get wet waiting for it. The rain tried to hold off, but was pretty heavy in patches. At Buzau, we had to wait for the rain to stop, and change bus stations. There is no point in having only one bus station in a town!
While we were waiting we went shopping. At least we tried to. I have needed new shoes for a while now, and thought this was a prime opportunity to get some. We were right next to a couple of malls, so went for a look. They did have some good shoes there. If you wanted to pay over 300Lei! ($100) I have never spent that much on shoes, and don’t plan on starting soon. My holey shoes can last a bit longer if I can find that masking tape!
We caught a bus out to the Railway station, as the bus station was supposed to be near by. We checked the trains first, and found one that would be fine. It left in a few hours, so we basically hung around the station. On going to our platform, we were struck by the difference. The first platform was the main train to Bucharest, and was in perfect condition. Shelter from the sun or rain, perfect concrete floors, electronic signs letting you know what the next train is and when it is coming. Our platform however, had nothing. The sun was out now, and the annoying thing was that it was HOT! There is no in between, it is cold and wet, or scorching hot! I know, we have been complaining about the rain, and when it is out, we complain about the sun. But seriously. Today I had my jumper on and off more times than I could count! There is no in between, and no gradual getting used to the temperature. It is hot or cold.
Back to the station. The only shade is from the shadow of the underpass exit. The floor could be a study in seismic activity. Finding out what the train was? Well, your guess, wherever you are reading from would be as good as ours!
Still, we made it onto the train. This was a regional train, and stops at every stop along the way. This is no problem in Romania, as it left 10 minutes before the express and cost 10 times less. The arrival time was also 10 minutes before the express. The difference however is when the train gets up a little speed, and rocks violently from side to side. The seats were just as comfortable though, and from our last trip, a lot less crowded.
On arriving in Braila, we asked about a cheap pension or cazare (usually half the price of a hotel) and were directed to a hotel. Catching the bus out, we found that it was one of the most expensive in town. It was also a fair way from the centre. A taxi to a cheap place faired us little better. So we decided to walk around town to see what we could find. There were a few in our price range, but these were all full. Apparently there is a school swimming carnival on in town. It is supposed to be school holidays, and the school kids are still everywhere! This is making things a little hard for us today. We ended up back at the hotel the taxi took us to, and then were told that they had no more rooms either. Asking about how to get a bus to Tulcea (where we originally wanted to be today anyway), they said there were no buses until tomorrow. That was the last straw. I did not completely loose my temper, but expressed the belief that I would have to sleep on the steps of the hotel. She mentioned another place, and we said it was full, before rattling off a number of other hotels that were full. This impressed her (as I think there were hotels mentioned that she did not know about) and suddenly a room was available at a price we could afford. (?!?) The only condition was that we did not get a remote control for the TV! Like we cared.
With accommodation sorted out, we went for a walk around town and dinner. Tulcea is on the Danube, and was a very important trading post. It was also a casualty of the Russo/Ottoman wars. The town was quite rich at times due to shipping, but has been destroyed a few times. The last in the mid 1800’s. Now the city radiates out in semi-circles from a point on the river. There are a lot of buildings from the 1880’s onwards, but a lot of these need work, and with a shrinking population there is not much incentive to do anything without EU money. The town had tried in the past to create a tourism point, as evidenced by the expensive hotels and restaurants (most of which have since gone out of business). As far as we could tell there is no reason for a tourist to visit here at all. Although we could be wrong, and most of the people seem nice.
The next morning we were on a bus back to the Station. Apparently the bus station is close by. It was. If only we had known that yesterday, we would have continued straight on. Still, this morning we found a bus to Tulcea easily. Baulking a bit at the price, as it is about 90km away, and one of the most expensive tickets we have bought at 54Lei. After the bus started, we found out why. There is no bridge over the Danube here, and you have to take a ferry over the river. Also it is impossible to get a direct bus in this country, and the path we took wound around a few hills, stopping by obscure little towns, and backtracking to the few roads in the region. The 90km turned into an easy 150+km, and you pay by the kilometre. It was a nice scenic route, past the crops of sunflowers almost ready for harvest, and the wheat that was being harvested.
Eventually we made it to Tulcea, and now we had to find accommodation again. We had a pension in mind, and looked it up on google maps. Walking along the waterfront, past all the restaurants and boats for hire, we found the road we needed.
Walking up this road, we gave up. It was long, with massive apartment blocks, and the pension was numbered something along the lines of 294. Each block was 2 numbers. Still, we made it a long way before giving up. We walked back to a 3 star hotel and checked in. It was a bit of luxury, and they offered us a tour. We did not accept just yet, for a number of reasons. A) We know nothing about the delta yet, B) We know nothing about the tours on offer and C) We hate tours. They are always a disappointment.
Wandering back the the river, we started along all the different boats docked on the side. The first one we came to did the same sort of tour, but without the lunch that we were offered. However they offered the price for the boat and not per person. This would be good if there were more people. They also offer a room on the boat. It was just a pity that we had not talked to them before our long walk. They were nice (if cramped) rooms and a lot cheaper than the hotel we are in tonight.
We checked out a few places, and just annoyed that Tourist info was (again) not open. Have I asked what is the point of a closed tourist info? Especially on a weekend…
So the tours all seemed to be the same section of the delta. Deciding on the one from the hotel, we haggled a bit and got a better price of 100Lei each for 4 hours on the delta and lunch. Other tours offered the same thing, but could not guarantee a boat tomorrow. The second one would have been good, but again, if we were the only people on it…
So, day done, we knew what we were doing tomorrow, and where we were staying. Time for a wine. Where else to have it, but on a boat overlooking the Danube. OK so the river line here is not the best, but still, nice cold wine on the Danube Delta!