Day 119: Carlos The Jackal
After all the excitement of yesterday, I slept like a baby. By that, I mean that I woke up every two hours and started screaming. Although my laptop and camcorder were safely by my side on the train to Budapest, the charger for my camcorder and my spare battery were not. And I had about 20 minutes left of power. This would not last until next Sunday.
It would not last until the end of today.
I arrived in Bucharest around lunchtime and headed to the coach station. A political rally was taking place in the park between – I gave it a wide berth. I’ve never been one for mob mentality; I prefer to operate under the radar, subverting people’s opinions by means of stealth, cunning and outright ridicule. The bus took me to the town of Galati on the border of Moldova and Ukraine. If my timing was right, I could hop across (no visa required!) in about an hour and then head back to Bucharest in time for the 20:03 to Sofia in Bulgaria.
Eastern Europeans man, they are a breed apart. First up, I couldn’t cross the border unless I was in a car, so I had to get in a car. To be fair, the border guards were quite helpful in this matter and put in me a car. Whether the driver wanted me in the car or not was another matter.
Then I had to get out of Romania. There was NOBODY else at the border. It took over an hour. Quite what they were doing with my poor old passport, I’ll never know. I just had to sit on the concrete and wait it out.
Then I had to get in to Moldova. Again, it took about an hour. They scanned my passport with UV, IR, REM and OMD – seemingly convinced it was a fake (seemingly convinced they wanted a ‘hurry-the-hell-up’ bribe, more like) even though it’s been stamped on more times than a western journalist in a Turkish prison.
Maybe the cunning Moldovans would spot something that the Americans and the Chinese missed…
THE FACT THAT I’M CARLOS THE JACKAL!
Anyway, there’s about two kilometres of Moldova before you hit the Ukraine, so I walked over to border number two. They liked to keep me waiting half an hour as well. Maybe they were just bored. Once into the territory of the Ukraine, I tried to get a stamp, just to make things extra official. Got shouted at by a grumpy Ukrainian border guard as though I was wasting his time. The fact that there was NOBODY else at the border didn’t seem to phase him. Perhaps he was in the middle of particularly tricky Sudoku.
Oh well, no stamp, but at least I got my GPS reading. That’s Ukraine off the list. By the time I got back to Galati, it was dark. I had spent a whopping FOUR hours getting over the borders. I had missed the last train back to Bucharest, so I settled down for the night in a big old concrete hotel, built in the 1970s. I was the only one there.
The girl on reception was nice though. She made me sandwiches.
I’ll tell you what was funny – on the bus up to Galati, there was a guy who crossed himself three times every time we passed a church. As there are a LOT of churches in Romania, he was doing it pretty much constantly – although what cracked me up was after each time he had done his little routine, he would sniff his fingers.
I guess you had to be there…
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