Central Europe - Bulgaria and Romania

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  • We had to reach southern Hungary on a set date, so that determined how much time we had to travel from Istanbul to Budapest. We had decided to spend a night in Istanbul, giving us time to find the Otogar (bus station, about the size of a small country) and arrange tickets on to Varna, a Bulgarian resort town on the Black Sea.

    Essentially, our time was spent on buses and sleeping. We did stop in Varna, but didn't even get down to the Black Sea - the bus station was too far away from the coast, and we had another bus to catch early the next morning. We had an example of petty corruption on the bus from Varna to Romania. The tickets were only sold on the bus, but the driver wouldn't sell them to us - kept saying 'Later'. Eventually he took our money, but it was less than we thought it should be, and he issued no ticket and pocketed the money. There was no-one to protest to, and the total lack of any language in common made it impossible to do anything about it, short of calling the police when we got to Romania, something we didn't even contemplate doing.

    Romania was even less satisfactory then Bulgaria for us as tourists. Before leaving Australia I'd done my homework on the net, finding a train journey that would take us up to Sighisoara in Transylvania, then on the next night to Budapest. Unfortunately, no-one told the Bucharest railway staff about it. We could only go out and back to Sighisoara from Bucharest, and we just didn't have enough time to re-trace our steps back to the capital before heading off to Budapest. Reluctantly, we decided to cut our losses and go straight to Hungary on the overnight train, so we didn't even stop in Romania for a night. I guess technically we did - we slept on the train in Romania.

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