Descending from the mountains of Transylvania we arrived at the Romanian capital of Bucharest in the middle of the afternoon. Following some dodgy directions provided by the hostel and due to some major tram-building works taking up a whole main street that threw us off track it took us over an hour carrying our rucksacks around the city until we eventually found our hostel. We then had a well needed shower as temperatures were still in the mid-thirties and we were pretty hot to say the least!
We headed into the centre of the city to explore the old town on a tour at 6pm. It provided a real insight into the city, particularly the lasting impacts of Nicolae Ceausescu, the previous Communist Dictator, whose regime redefined the city and had a massive destructive influence. His oppressive reign was plain to see, particularly with the enormous Palace of the Parliament, the second biggest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon, towering over the city. We also learnt how many Romanians had tried to save the old, historical parts of the city. They even moved a whole church by digging it up and rolling it on wooden logs down the city streets! A truly fascinating city we were glad to have stopped there as opposed to just pushing through it, the Communist influence on Eastern Europe cannot be more clear in any other city.
We left Bucharest bound for the Black Sea, taking a train to Constanta where we changed onto one for Mangalia. From there we got on a bus and eventually reached our destination, Vama Veche. This old customs point appeared to have only recently discovered tourism but had a great appeal to it. Rumoured to be a home of hippies and rock and roll the place had a great chilled out feel. We spent a lazy day on the beach before moving on again. We would be leaving Romania for Bulgaria.
From Vama Veche we got on a bus to take us to the Bulgarian border and then got off and walked across. From what we had gathered from the Internet we thought a bus would be waiting for us on the other side of the border to take us on to Varna. There wasn’t.
For about 5 minutes we were thinking about what we should do. We thought about hitching or finding a taxi to take us to the nearest town where we’d hopefully be able to catch a bus to take us on. Then Dad suddenly spotted a car with British number-plates. Hoping to find someone that could help us out he approached and knocked on the window. A surprised Romanian wound it down, though he spoke very good English. It turned out he was a Romanian who worked as caretaker in England and had returned to Romania for the holidays. He was driving into Bulgaria with his Bulgarian wife who had a 20-year high school reunion in Veliko Tărnovo. We explained our situation and that we needed to get to Varna. He said that Varna was on their way and told us to hop in the back. They then drove us the entire 120km to Varna which was extremely kind, and dropped us off at the main cathedral in the city centre from which our hostel for the night was only a street away. As the Lonely Planet guidebook states, something to look out for in Bulgaria really is the kindness of strangers.