Well, have arrived in Bucharest, finally... it took stops in Bangkok and Vienna to get here, but I'm here now. What a shock and difference from elsewhere! I feel like I've jumped back in time. I think the biggest contrast was because I came from the orderly Vienna. Romania has so far to go in order to catch up to the rest of Europe. I wonder how much further along the new EU members are in comparison!
What's different... here things are still obviously recovering from communism. Things have a shabby appearance, and signs for shops still look as if they were erected yesterday. Things are dirty and run down. I love all the cobblestone streets that are left, but they are obviously left, and not deliberately. Trams and busses are rickety, people's fashion is just not up with the trends (still tight, boob showingly scandalous at times), and women's makeup is still very overdone and way too 80s and pink! I'm very surprised at the amount of English that's spoken in random places (why am I so arrogant as to expect it, require it, need it, seek it?). I went to the main square, where, elsewhere in Europe there would be souvenir shops and street cafes. Here, there were certainly people, but it was disorganized and more of a place of passing through, than hanging out and enjoying being social. To be fair, there was a huge festival (with lots of beer and meat on sticks), and many were heading down to that.
Get nothing wrong, I don't disagree with the statement that Bucharest is just awaiting a mass exodus of travellers from across Europe, but it's still not really ready for them. My own archaeology leader advises us not to pass through the "awful" Bucharest airport (I was pleasantly surprised at how nice it was---these people need to go to Baku or Yangon!!), and the busses and trams were positively alien in terms of how difficult they were.
Let me give you an example: I spent half an hour standing in the puddle of water that was dripping off my trousers (which it had soaked up from the splashes of water of passing cars, not to mention getting rained on with no jacket, umbrella or convenient tram-stop shelter), waiting for the tram that took forever, only to be unable to pay for it (silly clicking machines don't work), and then told that it didn't work (I'm assuming) by random Romanian guys laughing at me for even trying. I got out at what I assumed was my stop (only the observant who had walked the route before would have had any idea that it was the right place as there were no a) signs, b) street lights, c)indications of it being a tram stop, even!) only to try and cross the road (remember, no street lights, so cars are very likely to run me over!) and get hooked up on ginormous puddles and almost run over, while slimly escaping being turned into a drowned rat by the cars speeding and the said ginormous puddles. Then I turn around and seconds after the very-long-in-coming-tram, the tram-I-waited-forever-for-in-the-rain-tram that had dropped me off, another tram passes by. Talk about annoying timing!
Okay, time to sign off... I'm getting evil looks from the other hostelites... that hermaphrodite (random!) sitting over there seems to want on this gloriously fast connected (and free) machine.