bran, rasnov, bucharest, and getting to istanbul
First of all, I promise to fill in the gaps and be more detailed when I get home and have a real keyboard to type on. On Wednesday we ventured out to see some castles.
First we went to Bran, which is rumored to be Dracula's castle, but it is not. Bram Stoker used it as inspiration, but Dracula never lived there. As far as castles go, it was mediocre. It was built sometime in the 1300s I think, but it has been updated many times since then and has a rather modern feel inside. Today it is owned by the Hapsburgs, and functions as a museum. Getting to Bran was very similar as getting to Turda (or as I later found out, anywhere you want to go by bus). We got on the city bus to "Autogara 2" (a bus station) and then got another large tour-type bus to Bran.
The thing that was stressful for me about getting around this way, was knowing when to get off the bus. Most of the people who were on these busses were from the area, so they knew where they were going and which random street corner to get off at. John and I...not so much. It was a fine balance of determining what city you were currently in, and when you got to the city center. I was always anxious to jump off the minute we arrived in whatever city we were going to, but John kept saying, "not yet, we're still in the suburbs." He made me wait until we were obviously at the center of town (which always happened). It was never obvious that there was going to be a center of town because most of these towns had windy roads with buildings right up against the street so you couldn't see anything but your immediate surroundings. It always seemed to work out fine though. One of the most amusing things inside is a candlestick from the move "Dracula" with a Certificate of Authenticity (stating that it really did come from the movie set). I find it ironic that the candlestick from "Dracula" need a Certificate of Authenticity to be in Dracula's Castle (even though it isn't really Dracula's Castle).An interesting tidbit I found on Wikipedia: "On June 1st , the Habsburgs opened the refurbished castle to the public as the first private museum of the country and disclosed with Bran Village a joint strategic concept to maintain their domination in the Romanian tourist circuit and to safeguard the economic base in the region." It was terribly obvious that this area was meant for tourists. Unfortunately, it was the beginning of the off season when we were there and all the restaurants were closed (except for one). We decided we would eat there (because we were hungry and had few other choices), but when we ordered (both of us ordered something with chicken) the waitress said, "the chicken is closed." We were then informed that they had "toast sandwiches" which consisted of two pieces of toast, a slice of tomato, and ham. Even more unfortunate was the fact that we were charged the same amount for the tiny "toast sandwich" as we would have been for what I would presume would have been a much bigger sandwich if the chicken had been open.
Next we headed back toward Brasov, stopping in Rasnov to see a more ruined, older, and better castle. Getting to Rasnov involved getting on the same bus we were going to get on to go back to Brasov, and getting dropped off on a random street corner (it turns out, if you look hard enough, the "random" street corners were all actually bus stops). It was kind of a hike up the hill (because any decent castle is built on a hill), but it was much cooler than the castle at Bran. It was unfortunate that it was cloudy and rainy because apparently the view is spectacular.
On Thursday we took the train from Brasov to Bucharest. We had an amazing lunch that afternoon at a little bistro that was ornately decorated and the extensive menu was on a chalkboard that the waitress carried from table to table. She offered to translate the entire thing for us, but we told her just to tell us about what was good. I had lamb that was cooked in some delicious sauce and John had equally delicious chicken. After lunch, we went to the Natural History Museum, which was small, but well done.
Friday we got onto the train around noon for our 20 hour overnight trip to Istanbul. It was not the most pleasant experience, but we survived. Now we are in Istanbul. Today we went to pick up my race packet and we went up the Galata Tower. We ate a simple, but amazing dinner of lamb, beef, bread, and salad. Then we had dessert...twice. Tomorrow I'm running the 15k at the Istanbul Marathon. I haven't run in two weeks, so it should be interesting!