Ok - so not written that much the last few weeks. I've been writing loads in my diary along the way but difficult to distill each one into something punchy. I'm also trying to keep up with my background reading for Uni which should be starting in just over a week.
Lost a bit of motivation over the last couple of days. Lots of train travel and in 2 days which takes it out of you + I went to the Torture Museum in Budapest, where first the Nazis and then the Russians/Communists committed horrific acts of barbary in the Party Headquarters for both over a period of over 30 years. I then took a night train from Budapest last night to Krakow, arriving just in time to make the coach to Auschwitz & Berkenau this morning. As any of you will know if you've visited these 2 concentration camps, it leaves you cold at the senseless killing on a mass scale that occurred here. Very glad that I went and I think we owe it to the dead to remember them and the atrocities committed. By far the best presentation and explanation of any museum I've visited on this trip.
On a more cheery note, I also went to the outdoor baths for a 4 hour luxurious soak when I arrived in Budapest yesterday and had a very comfy bed on the night train to Krakow.
So intended to write about Bucharest and Rumania. I stayed with new friends John and Raluca at their apartment in the middle of the city. Rumania is on the up but is a definite old European city compared to places like Prague for instance. Got some hilarious pictures of exposed electricity wires dangling from streetlamps and just on the pavement and its not a picture perfect place. But its all the more charming for it. Rumanian service in museums and some restaurants is brusque to say the least, but on the plus side, the beer is great, the parks are beautiful, the restaurants serve great food cheaply, and theres loads to see and do.
I went hiking in Transylvania one day at Siniaia at 2000 metres, having held my nerve on one of the more steep cable car rides you can take in Europe. The views at the top being more than worth it.
I made it to Mikosvar in rural Transylvania to stay at the guest houses ran by a returning real life Count in the village where he and his family were from before Communism forced them into exile and democracy returned their hunting lodge into their posession. Gentle rolling countryside, dotted with apple orchards, corn, pepper and pumpkin fields of subsistence farmers who still ride horse and cart to work the land featured on the lanes that I cycled along from village to village.
The guest houses are all old out buildings converted by the Counts family since their return into beautiful rural cottage style rooms. Wooden floors, fixtures, big beds with comfy duvets, bathrobes, the works all feature. It was a step up for an oik like me!
Best bit - Just before heading out on the bike, I ask the Manager where I can get some food in one of the villages. He says not to bother and leads me to a kitchen where local women are employed to cook the nights dinner and breakfasts for guests. Hearty traditional country food bubbles away on the stove, and he speaks to them in Hungarian (the local language there even though we're in central Rumania) and they knock up a brilliant sandwich for me to take on my travels, which I eat overlooking a river and a field of horses grazing in glorious sunshine.
I ride back and stop in the next village for a pint at the local pub. I park up my bike next to all the local farmworkers horse and carts (no kidding!) as its about 6 o'clock and therefore knocking off time. They all resemble the 2 country bumpkins from the 2 Ronnies replete with handlebar moustaches and lamb chop sideburns. My 2 week goatee is nothing on these boys! One group leave. The most pi**ed members of the group lolling about in the cart with big grins on their faces!
At 50p a pint, the local brew is also the cheapest beer I find on the trip so far and I cycle back for a lush dinner at the guest house. Got to go. Will write more if i get time before my return.