And then it was Saturday. Seven friends of mine were coming into Budapest today, after which we would travel on to Oradea, where we would be picked up and driven to Beius for building 'our' house.
Of course it had to happen. Some hours before the group was to arrive, I got a call from Joost, saying that one of the other guys, Marco, was traveling on an expired passport. He wasn't allowed to enter Hungary. Ironically, he was also the only guy who actually had gotten a visa for Romania upfront. Paying a lot of money for it at the Romanian embassy in The Hague. Yes, it was pretty stupid of him to travel on an expired passport. It was, however, equally stupid that the Romanian embassy didn't mention that they issued a visa on a passport that wasn't allowed to travel in to Romania in the first place. Marco his passport was already expired when entering!
The whole procedure for getting Marco to Romania was going to be a hard one. I called the Dutch embassy in Hungary (on a Saturday) and after being forwarded a number of times, I was told Marco could just as well return to Holland. According to the person I spoke to, at most, he would be able to get a temporary passport that could take him back to the Netherlands, where he then would need to get a new passport. This turned out not to be the case. On Monday Marco was issued a valid passport at the Dutch embassy in Vienna, after which he and Joost were able to finally travel to Beius.
Meanwhile, the other five were about to arrive at the Western Train Station in Budapest. I had taken up position there to watch them arrive. And indeed, right on time, 5 youngsters, all wearing blue coveralls and carrying a large round poker table were coming out of the train station. Them, having played poker all night on the trains from Rotterdam to Budapest, were in need for some good food to compensate for the alcohol they had consumed the previous night. We had a couple of palacsinta's (pancakes), some beers and picked up our train tickets onwards. Ready to go.
The Romanian phrasebook I got to make myself heard in Romanian isn't very good. I expected a little bit more from this Berlitz guide, but it doesn't deliver.
The book was printed in 1998. In 1994, the Romanian spelling rules changed significantly. During the communist regime, a lot of the spelling was changed, to make Romanian, which is a Romance language, like Italian or French, look more like a Slavic language. In 1994, these changes were changed back, but 4 years after these changes, the Berlitz guide still didn't reflect these changes. Knowing this, its not surprising that the background information in the guide is also totally outdated.
The train ride to Oradea was uneventful. The border control being the only interesting part. We were checked some 5 times, were we also had to hand over our passports. When one of the later patrols asked for our passports, which we already had handed over, we started to worry. One of the border patrols recognized our Habitat-arranged visa papers and even knew some of the contacts we had been talking with. We had an easy passing and arrived in Oradea at around 11pm.
Can you fit this?
We arrived in Oradea about an hour later as planned. The train station is located quite a bit out of town and we had to be at the hotel before 11:30 to not be locked out so we had no choice but to take a cab. Remember we were carrying this poker table. A bit of haggling got us two cabs at $1 per person, including the table. Not bad at all and we arrived in time.
More of a problem was that paying anything in Romania in anything but Romanian Lei is forbidden and we only had dollars. And we had to pay the hotel before we were allowed to leave for a night on the town. After an extensive discussion, we were allowed to pay in dollars. "But please, don't tell anyone else."
The rooms were huge, HUGE. Really. Like, three beds in a 4 by 15 meter room, with a bathroom the size of a small living room. A pity, though that everything in the city closed at 1am, even on a Saturday. Data, Lance and I waited in the courtyard, 'inside' the hotel, were there was a terrace, Hogo, Kees and Art felt it necessary to take a shower first. Only really big smiles and friendliness helped to convince our waitress to keep on serving until some time after 1am.
After a cash machine almost ate my bank card, we did find a late night bar were beer was served. True, the neon lights inside the bar weren't particularly making the place very cozy, but at least we could complain about that while drinking! And we did have something to talk about:
After we were finally kicked out of the courtyard, in search of another place to get a drink, we walked into some sort of hall, next to an all night Internet cafe (were they sold no coffee), and literally got beaten out of the place. This thin but VERY angry bodyguard started shouting at us, hitting some of us in the face, before pushing us out. I received one blow and very much considered hitting the guy back. I don't really like getting punched, but I looked at his face, at his shouting mouth, into his eyes and figured that if I would hit him back, I could probably expect a knife between my ribs. I accepted being pushed out of the place. Later, we learned that, in fact, national television had just been airing the national lottery from there. Indeed, a very large truck, stuffed with electronics, very thick wires coming out all over the place, was standing outside.
Then, 4am, it seemed like the right time for a nap. Stumbling back to the hotel, we were happy to sleep. Tomorrow was going to be a nice day, Romania was suffering from a heat wave. Coming from icy Holland, we were looking forward to the heat.