Our first encounter was scary, tense and confusing. I found myself on the dark deserted streets of Bucharest at 2 am in what seemed to be an industrial area of town. The only cars passing by were street sweepers and big trailer trucks. I definitely don’t want to be here till 8 am when my hostel opens its doors. Less than 12 hours earlier I was swimming and sunbathing on the Black Sea. The bus from Varna, Bulgaria was supposed to drop me off at 3 am in Bucharest, Romania, but as my luck would have it, it was 1 hour early. I had expected the main bus station in the Romanian capital city to be open 24 hours with people and services, like in most European capitals. I was shocked to be dropped off at an unmarked spot on the street, everything around was closed with no soul in sight. At least there was a bench. “The station will open soon”, the driver said, but didn’t say how soon. I tried to pass time on my phone, but the area was too eerie and I felt cold and uncomfortable. Having no Romanian cash and not knowing how safe Bucharest is, I didn’t want to use an ATM at that time. I searched for hotels within walking distance. The closest had bad reviews. Next best thing, any open food establishment. Luckily a 24 hours Subway restaurant was within walking distance. I started heading there. Halfway, I found a gas station with an open restaurant and opted for that. They had clean bathrooms, WiFi, comfortable clean seats and food. What more could I hope for at 3 am? After a nice cup of hot mint tea, I started to calm down. I wasn’t sleepy at all. Not sure if my night owl instincts kicked in or I was too pumped with adrenaline to relax. I passed the time writing. Day light finally cracked through the darkness and the hustle and bustle of the young day commenced. First order of business: Romanian cash. Found an ATM then a grocery store where I got fruit and croissant for breakfast. Every time my foot stepped off the sidewalk and onto the street, cars stopped to let me cross. Very civilized and empowering! Bus to the hostel. Should get there shortly after 8 when they open. Carrying and dragging my luggage, I arrived at the hostel at 8:05 am only to find a sign on the door saying “Reception 10am-….” NOOOO”! I rang the doorbell anyways and waited, rang again and waited. I was about to give up and go find another restaurant when a groggy man opened the door while rubbing his eyes and saying “check in is at 2 pm”. “I know. I’m sorry to wake you up. May I leave my stuff here?”, I said. “Sure. Come in” he gestured me in. I was very happy to notice a nice long empty couch in the reception area. After dumping my luggage and using the bathroom, I lied down on the couch and the 3-D reality disappeared.
I must have looked pathetic because when I woke up, 5 hours later, someone had covered me with a blanket. It was, finally, time to check in! When I did get a real, flat, clean and comfy bed, I wasn’t sleepy anymore. Time to go discover the city.
Despite our rough first introduction and bumpy start, Bucharest and Romania did not disappoint! It only got better from there…
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