Saturday, March 25, 2017

[BUCHAREST] Kinda Like Paris, Kinda Like Slavic

I had no problem with immigration at Schoenefeld. The airport staff at the boarding gate was a different story. Reading from their computer screen, it clearly specified that one needs a Schengen D or a residence permit to be allowed entry to Romania. What I’ve read online is that you only need a valid multiple entry Schengen C visa. I had to step aside and wait for 5 minutes or so before the woman who took my passport came back and finally let me in. I guess we’re going to Bucharest after all. Hooray?

The Romanian immigration guy took his time checking my passport and questioning me. I think it lasted for about ten minutes, and it’s always embarrassing because the people behind you are obviously speculating on what the fuck is going on and then they eventually hate on you for holding the line. I had to show my Airbnb booking and boarding pass for the return trip to convince him that I’m not staying illegally. Like, doh. If I wanted to be an illegal alien in Europe, Romania wouldn’t be my target country. WTF.

Henri Coanda airport has functioning WiFi, fast enough to announce to the world that you are in Romania. The best way to go to the city center is by bus 783. You’ll see a booth to the far right after exiting the arrival terminal. A return trip costs RON8.60 (~PHP100). You receive a card you can beep in with once you board the bus. The return trip need not be on the same day. Just keep the card with you. Bus 780 goes to Gara de Nord. From there, you can transfer to the city’s Metro lines.

The card for the 783 and 780 buses is not valid on Bucharest’s tram and metro lines. You have to buy another ticket, and the norm is via two-trip cards that cost RON5 (~PHP60). They don’t seem like one-day passes. I used mine for my second trip the next day and it still worked. The city’s combo of trams, buses, and metro will get you to almost all points of interest if you are a tourist. In fact, I just had to rely on the metro alone and I found it rather convenient. You can also just walk.

The terminus of the 783 bus is Piata Unirii. At the center of the busy avenues is a big park which was announcing the arrival of spring when I was there. Spring in Bucharest is said to be short and sweet, mostly confined within the month of April. A big mall can be seen on the other side, while the southern portion is adorned with a fountain and some pools with mosaic tiles. Too bad they don’t seem to work anymore. From the southern edge of the park, head all the way west for the Parliament building.

That part of my trip happened on a rainy Sunday, marking the end of my weekend. My photo of the parliament building isn’t even that impressive because it was all foggy and shit. The building looks rather plain from afar, but majestic nonetheless thanks to its size. It is said to be the biggest in the world. I don’t know if tours of the grounds are available, although I saw barriers separating it from the main avenue. Even so, there’s still a spot on the island between the two lanes where a good selfie can be taken. Too bad I wasn't able to upload a picture before I deleted everything.

I cannot check in at my Airbnb place before 2 PM, so I decided that I should take advantage of the down time by commencing my sightseeing adventure. The good thing about this city is that most of the main attractions are within walking distance from one another. Starting from Piata Unirii, you can head north and stop at Universitate, Piata Romana, and Piata Victoriei. These also happen to be the corresponding stops of metro blue line M2. You can totally just walk. Sightseeing mode, bruh.

A trio of street urchins greeted me as I entered a church compound. The oldest, a girl of about 9 or 10, kept asking, “KINA? KINA?” I had no idea what she meant until the boy of 5 or 6 followed it up with, “JAPAN?” Damn it, I’m Chinese once again. He then added, “English?” with a rising intonation. When I replied affirmatively, he responded, “Suck my dick.” And then the girl behind him, roughly of the same age, also came forward and said the same thing, “Suck my dick.” Whoa, kids, let’s keep this blog rated PG.

I don’t think they even know what that phrase meant, but it was a funny exchange that I simply didn’t expect. I felt like I was in an episode of South Park. They buggered off after I told them that I had no money, and I was left in peace to capture the ceiling art the church boasted. That’s when I realized that they are Orthodox Catholic here, meaning they prefer icons over sculptures and statues. The ceiling art here is really colorful and much more vivid than the statues we have in our churches.

Next stop was the University of Bucharest. The façade of the university seems to share the same style prevalent in buildings in Paris. In fact, it’s not just the university but many of the buildings I’ve seen in the city. I guess this is why they call it Mini Paris? They even have their own arc of triumph somewhere up north. I did see it on my way to the airport the next day but no longer hopped off the bus to take a photo. I guess this is why I’m a bit underwhelmed. It kinda felt like déjà vu.

Anyway, the square across the university has three or four monuments, one of which is a guy on a horse. There’s ALWAYS a guy on a horse. I bet the campus itself is lovely, but I wasn’t sure if outsiders are allowed inside so I just went ahead and walked farther north. Before that, though, you’ll see Bucharest’s National Theater. The building itself is not that visually appealing, but the statues of a theater troupe in front is worth checking out. Piata Romana was my pitstop for lunch, where I opted for the familiar. KFC!

Piata Victoriei has a park and a museum, but there was a rally going on and a lot of police officers so I just backed out. One more metro station north is Aviatorilor which has a huge ass park called Herastrau. I would’ve gone but the weather was not cooperating so I just decided to finally check in at my Airbnb place back at Piata Unirii. I checked out late the next day and headed to Dristor to see Beauty and the Beast at Park Lake, which also boasts a huge green park. But then again, the weather was really bad.

Overall I am satisfied with my weekend trip. Ryanair to and from Berlin is hella cheap, you know. I am definitely coming back to Bucharest to learn Romanian for two weeks or so, which is why I wasn’t really in a hurry to get to know the city. This trip was more like a plan to get an overall feel of the place, see if I'll like it. I’m neither raving nor ranting. I’ll probably get bored when I move here, but Romanian is the only major Romance language left for me to study so it’s really non-negotiable. See you again soon, Bucharest!

[BUCHAREST] Kinda Like Paris, Kinda Like Slavic

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