Wednesday 31 July 2013

Bar, Montenegro

We took the train from Belgrade, Serbia to Bar, Montenegro. The train took roughly 13 hours to get there and it was late on arrival, just like the past 2 weeks of trains. The view was great from the train as it went through the mountains between Podgorica, Montenegro's capital, and the coastal town of Bar. There are a few beaches but the ones we saw were rocky and pretty crowded. We also visited the old town. We walked from the apartment we were renting to the old city, a good 14 km round-trip. The old town is still being worked on, and not developed for tourism quite yet, so we could walk everywhere in the ruins without restrictions for a small entrance fee. It was very interesting and we had a nice view over the city and the mountains. We had a great few days in Bar and relaxed a lot.


Saturday 27 July 2013

Belgrade, Serbia

When we got in Belgrade, we were a little lost. The directions we had were from the main train station. Apparently, trains from Romania get to a different train station than the main one. It was a 2 km walk to downtown and we managed to find our way. After checking in and dropping our bags at the Goodnight Grooves hostel, we went for a walk around the pedestrian area and to the gypsy street. We ended up having supper in an English restaurant, the Little Bay, which was a lot fancier than what we are used to these days. We had great food for a reasonable price. We spent the rest of the evening talking with fellow travelers and the great staff at the hostel, tasting some rakija, the traditional Balkan drink. Rakija is a homemade alcohol from various fruits. The next day, we visited the citadel, walked to the buildings bombed by NATO in 1999 and all the way to the big orthodox church, which looks great from the outside, but is not finished inside. We also had an afternoon lunch at the ? pub. And yes, that is the pub's name. We enjoyed our stay in Belgrade, on our way to Montenegro.

Belgrade Fortress Entrance
Belgrade Military Museum
Military Museum
Confluence of River Sava and Danube
View from Belgrade Fortress to Novi Belgrade
Ruins in the Citadel
Fortress Tower
One of the Fortress entrance
Main pedestrian street, Belgrade
Moscow Hotel
Bombed government buildings downtown Belgrade
Bombed government buildings downtown Belgrade
Cathedral of Saint Sava 
Street Art

Wednesday 24 July 2013

Timisoara, Romania

We were supposed to arrive in Timisoara at 7:07am and catch the connection at 7:25am but as it is in Romania, we assumed the train would be late and... it was! Good thing we had planned this ahead and had booked a hostel for the night.  In the afternoon we went for a walk in Timisoara, through the squares, Roses Park and Kids Park. The Kids Park was actually amazing with lots of different games for all ages, and hammock type chairs for parents. Back at the hostel we had a few beers with local architecture students in training in Timisoara. We had a good time.

View from the night train to Timisoara
Piaţa Victoriei
Piaţa Victoriei
Piaţa Victoriei
Canal surrounding old town
Piata Unirii
Piata Unirii

Tuesday 23 July 2013

Bucharest, Romania

Today, we visited Bucharest. It was way easier to get around in Romania than Moldova as they don't use Cyrillic alphabet and Romanian is a Latin language close to French. Between two night trains, we had 15 hours to spend in this huge city. We walked a lot to see all the sights we found interesting in one day. There are quite a few areas with really old and interesting architecture. The walk from Gara de Nord to the Palace of the Parliament is over 4 kilometers via the Calea Victoriei. After the Palace of Parliament, we walked slowly toward the Kiseleff Park, where we  tried to read for a while but ended up having a nap as we were really tired. Sometimes sleeping in night trains isn't enough and it was also really hot outside so a break in the shade of the trees was well deserved. When we woke up from our "reading break" we decided to go see the Arcul de Triumf. We didn't know but they have one here too, just like the one in Paris, but half the size. It was rebuilt as a better version a couple times since it's original wooden version built in 1878. The walk back to the station was long and under a very hot sun again and we got there around 7 PM, 12 hours after our arrival. We then sat down in an air conditioned Mc Donald to have a coffee and use their free Wifi until our departure time to Timisoara.

Random Old Building
University Library Carol
Dambovita River
Playground / Castle in Izvor Park
The corner of Boulevard Natiunile Unite / Libertatii
Palace of the Parliment
Coltea Hospital
Arcul de Triumf

Friday 19 July 2013

Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic or Приднестрóвская Молдáвская Респýблика

Today we visited a country that doesn't exist. It is not recognized by most countries in the world as an independent country, even though it has been 20 years since they fought about it. Transnistria has it's own capital,  border control, money, government, etc. We got to meet with a local that showed us around and gave us a real insight on Transnistrian life. We also bought a bottle of their own cognac made in the only Kvint factory in the world for 27 Transnistrian Rouble (about 3 CAD). We visited the main sights of the city in a few hours and came back with the minibus to Chisinau. 

The minibuses to go and back were really crowded, and the drivers don't seem to care about the lines on the road. They will drive on it, pass when they feel like it, but surprisingly, we didn't see any accidents on the way. We read about Transnistria before deciding to go, and we weren't too sure on what to expect, especially at the border. For example, Wikitravel gives a number to call in case of corrupt officers, so we were a bit worried on the way there. Turns out, it was really easy. We filed out the little piece of paper, handed it to the Moldovan officer with our passports. She then looked at it for a few minutes while entering our info on the computer and gave us back the paper with our passports. We were now officially outside Moldova. We walked to the next building, and gave our paper to the Transnistrian officer who looked at it along with our passports and gave us the second half of the stamped paper back. On the way out, same process, but even easier as the officer actually spoke English.  He looked at our documents and we moved on to the Moldovan border where the officer left with our passports for a few minutes in order to add some info on the computer. 

It was an interresting day where we learned about the Soviet time and about life in Transnistria. It is actually a pretty quiet place, where even crossing the roads seemed safer than Chisinau.

Kvint Factory 
Tiraspol City Hall
Disney store with fake castle on the bottom floor of a Soviet looking apartment building
KBAC, or Kvass is a traditional Russian drink made of fermented black or regular rye bread
Transdniestria, Founded to Live! 
Suvorov Monument
Soldier statue in memory of the war of 1990-1992