Well, not exactly… Budapest (take two (this time Buda fckn BEST)) to Sibiu (Romania) …but that doesn’t quite have the same ring to it. Not only experiencing two very different countries and cultures, I went from polar opposites in terms of hostel. In Budapest it was my first stay at the hostel chain Wombat’s – think multiple floors of bunk bed filled dorms, key card locker access, ‘computer says no’ type staff. And in Sibiu it was the home of a Romanian man – Padre – in which I stayed along with a handful of other (just as bemused) fellow travellers (as well as Padre himself).
I arrived at Hostel La Padre to be greeted at the door by the main man, a dozen fresh apricots scattered across the floor (being clumsily collected by said hostelier), and a German father (retired) and daughter (at high school) duo who peered down at me from their bed (yes this startled me a little too) which sat on a mezzanine above the main entrance room, which turned out to be my bedroom. I had a whole bloody double bed to myself, so I overlooked the fact that my mattress was practically the reception desk. The grand tour with Padre began with the locking-of-the-front-door lesson, practical exam included (I passed first time with no minors), before he led me into his cave, asked for my money and took a photocopy of my passport (exactly as in all hostels, just much more suspect in this bizarre situation). After enquiring whether I smoked (I don’t) he assured me that smoking would be confined to his patio, which lasted all of fifteen minutes before he, and any smoking lodgers, proceeded to chain smoke throughout the property, with a full ashtray to keep the kitchen infused when there was any inhalation downtime. Lovely.
But it wasn’t all bad. Sibiu was a beautiful little city full of pastel coloured buildings and jaunty cobbled streets, and my first evening’s dinner of salmon fillet, roasted vegetable gratin and a lovely (much needed) glass of Sauvy-B set a better tone. And Padre wasn’t all that bad either. Despite his favourite (of limited vocabulary) English phrase being “fuck you, stupid”, he was actually a rather charming old man who had a heart of gold (even if he did have dirty mouth and lungs in desperate need of Kim & Aggie). On learning that I didn’t eat meat (not a recognised diet in Romanian culture) he offered to take me food shopping at the vegetable market and help me cook a veggie barbecue on his makeshift outdoor wood burning oven. (Think old school dirty dishes trolley with wooden rulers used as firelighters and an old hairdryer plugged into a long extension cable to provide air. Seriously.) So off to the food market we went, in his van, where we bought about a million aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, mushrooms, etc, etc. After completing some other shopping chores (DIY stuff for him, sun cream for me) we headed back to the ranch where he had to check some new guests in (Slovakian and highly annoying) and then begin firing up the barbie. I contemplated we would eat around 8.30 / 9.00 pm… oh how wrong I was. In amongst cleaning charred aubergine, frying onions and slicing courgettes – to cut an excruciating long story short – the police were called by an angry neighbour around 10.30 pm, and at this point we were yet to eat for what turned out to be AN HOUR AND A HALF. And the stuffed mushrooms? They didn’t make an appearance until 1 am !!! The only reason I held out was because that was the only dish that involved something other that a vegetable – a small slice of mozzarella placed inside. Clearly Padre’s understanding of vegetarianism was a little too literal. So I was tired and hangry (possibly the worst combination?) but I couldn’t blame poor Padre with his smoke infused charred aubergine salad, which he went on to top with individual heart shaped slices of tomatoes for all the single ladies. Bless.
I would like to say I was sad to leave Padre’s pad(re), but I wasn’t. I was tired of feeling sick from all the cigarette smoke and unsure whether each time he spoke to me (or anyone for that matter) in English he was being highly offensive or highly inappropriate (either way no one was winning). So I booked myself onto the earliest train after my third and final night à la Padre, and set off to Romanian stop numero duo: Cluj Napoca.
Rather than boring you, I will just say that Cluj didn’t involve much to write home about. I didn’t feel great while I was there (I don’t think the lethally strong Tokyo Ice Tea helped the headache situation) so I spent a lot of time napping and eating Nutella. (Sometimes you just need Nutella.) Luckily for me the hostel staff (all male) were mostly on the 7+ end of the good looking scale, which helped my decision to stay indoors and get myself better. And my Jewish / American / Berlin-based accelerator tycoon who was highly annoying, highly talkative, highly self-righteous and highly cringe worthy did cheer me up by going for a run in a bee costume (it was serious active wear for him (tight bright yellow top, even tighter black shorts) but I for sure was entertained), and buying me said jar of hazelnut chocolatey goodness.
I had an early start on my last morning in Transylvania with a taxi for the airport booked for 5.45 am (yikes). After frantically booking extra baggage weight the night before the flight, for fear I would go over the 23 kg limit, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that my backpack weighs just – just! – 18.5 kg (which I’m not sure if is average / above / below, but at least if I start performing luggage-laden lunges I’ll know exactly what weight I’m lifting). I made it to the airport, had a good (albeit delayed) flight, and am now en Italia, beginning my five-week exploration travelling South to North, looking forward to some of my best British babes coming to join me as I work my way up the country. But for now, folks, ciao!