Small but a good vibe. And a good set off hostel guests to have fun with! Simon, Robin, Zoe and Emma are a friendly bunch, maybe the excessive amounts of gluhwein that we
needed to keep our fingers defrosted also helped…
Anyway, the whole city was …. to be continued!

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Quite a culture shock again, Budapest is so much more touristy and modern than Bucharest that I’m sure i’ll never mix the two of them up in my head. Budapest is living, partying, shopping…  and they know it. Not as adventurous though.
The hostel is really nice, The Loft Hostel, complete with christmas tree, gluhwein and a good selection of DVD’s for the cold nights. The town is pretty, both the Buda and the Pest side are attractive in their own ways. I’ll have to come back here for the railway museum sometime in summer since half the attractions were closed for winter.
I managed to squeeze in a short visit to both a Picasso, Klee and Kandinsky and a Hundertwasser exhibition in the museum of fine arts.

Nice surprise: Bratislava is only 2 hours by train from Budapest. Definitely better dan 22!


22 hours is a bit long for a train journey, even for the ipod owning traveller. The sights during the daytime while crossing Bulgaria where good though. Fresh snow, sunshine and a horse and cart every now and then on the deserted country roads.

Bucharest felt almost like going back to the Ukraine in how strong the poverty is visible, but then everybody speaks some English and actually Romanian is pretty intelligible in itself. I’m told 90% of its vocabulary can be traced to Latin, either directly or via French or Italian. The grammar is a simplified form of Latin which should be familiar. Maybe a nice challenge for Tim to master this language as well, shouldn’t take him more than a few weeks I’d say.

The palace of the people can be summarized as: Big. and rather tasteless. A shame the tours don’t really go into the historic perspective and impact of the building, instead they focus on facts about the amount of marble used, the number of chandeliers and the size of the thing. Our 1 hour tour covered almost 4 % of the building apparently.

Other then this building most of Bucharest is in a severe state of disrepair and the few western malls are not really helping much. It reminds me of a SImCity 2000 town where the road funding has been cut to 0 and the taxes to maximum.
The local food is pretty nice, I had some that I would describe as rolls of rice and minced meat mix in cabbage leafs, together with a dough thingy that reminded me of Semolina (NL: griesmeel) pudding that has been left in the fridge too long. Interesting…

I spend my second day mainly wandering through the town, and then decided it was time to move on.

Getting a train ticket involved a 30 minute wait for a bus, 15 min trip to the train station, 30 min wait in line, 15 minute wait for ticket lady to do her business, and then again 15 min wait and 15 min bus back to the center.

It does make you appreciate the dutch railways.
The train was good, modern and complete with 220v socket for charging iPods. Very nice indeed. Too bad it was too dark for photos since it was beautiful going in and out of little towns. I even spotted a steam engine somewhere on a side track.

So now i’m in Budapest, uploading my photos in the warm and cozy smell of gluhwein that is being prepared by the hostel staff. A friendly bunch and a very well equipped hostel with big screen TV and a Christmas tree!

The photos from Bucharest are here!


What a culture shock to arrive in Istanbul after the Ukraine. Suddenly there is commerce everywhere, merchants screaming for attention in all languages and the spicy smell of the east is in the air…


I have found a very nice hostel in the Sultanahmet area, Istanbul Hostel. Very nice big beds, friendly personnel, a bar downstairs… very nice indeed.


CisternDay 1 – Sultan Ahmed Area
The most touristy area where all main attractions are located, and next door to my hostel. I visited the Aya Sofia, the Blue Mosque, the Basilica Cistern, the Hippodrome and spent a few hours in the Bazar. Plenty to see, plenty of impressions.

I think my photos explain better than words

I happened to run into Jonathan in the street somewhere, we had some traditional Turkish tea and exchanged our travel experiences. Nice to see him again.
I also had a kebab here, and I must say it’s nowhere near as good as the kebab back home at Leeman’s.

Day 2 – Topkapi Palace

The traditional palace of the sultans, including the harem. Today, the whole area is a cluster of museums dedicated to different aspects of the history of Istanbul, lots of interesting bits there and some beautiful treasures.

Again, the fotos are the place to be…

I almost got ripped off by some weird turk, but no harm done, he ended up paying for my kofte 😀

Day 3 – Museum of Archeology, Asian side of Istanbul and leaving for Bucharest

I really enjoyed my visit to the archaeological museum, I spend most the the morning and the beginning of the afternoon wandering through the different exhibitions. Aside from the usual Greek and Roman bits and pieces they had some very interesting expositions on the excavations in Troy and in the old harbours of Istanbul.

I felt my visit would not be complete without taking a ferry to cross the Bosporus, so thats what I did this afternoon. A nice excursion, even the ferry itself makes it worthwhile.

Ferry Odessa – Istanbul

It was painfull saying goodbye to my sowjet style room in hotel Passage, you get attached to the 60’s decoration and smokey smells. But I packed up and left since a ferry to Istanbul was waiting for me! The ferry is a nice adventure in itself, so I’ll provide a few highlights:

-The Ukrainian Border police is very unfriendly. Expect to wait a few hours while they fix the door and the luggage scanner before letting you out of their country. Do not expect an announcement about this delay.

-Be prepared to have rather ridiculous conversation in half-english half-ukrainain about the amount of cash you are carrying and wether you are bringing any historical artifacts. I can understand them being concerned about loosing the few artifacts they posses but it seems like overkill.

-The cabin was a pleasant surprise, nice, clean, shower and toilet ensuite. And the dinners were decent. For entertainment we were provided with a bar, casino, music room, disco and tax free shopping. All slightly boring since everythin is in ukrainian and only 50 people were on board.

-The experience of going through the Bosporus is defenitely recommended. Several old fortresses, small towns and then Istanbul in the evening sun

-The weather is so much nicer here! Almost 10 degrees warmer defenitely makes a difference…

-The ferry is a great place for reading and listening to audiobooks. I have fiished the last book i brought and have listened to both Robinson Crusoe and The Invisible Man.

Photos  from the ferry are here


I’m now in Odesa, checking out the famous steps from Battleship Potemkin and the rest of the city offcourse.
One of the top hits when googling for Odesa is this one, so to get  an impression have a look here
Within a few day’s I’ll post my own photos to compare. Although, I’m seeing Odesa more as a short break from busy city life between Kiev and Istanbul. I’ve managed to  book a cabin on the ferry to Istanbul on monday.

My photos from Odesa are online here


Sofia churchSleeper trains could be a very good way of travel, but somehow it annoys me that a 600 km trip should take 12 hours, and the the lack of any ventilation combined with a heater on full blast makes sleeping nearly impossible.

It does save a night in a hostel and you arrive early in the morning so that the whole day is available for exploring.

At about the same time I checked in to Kiev Backpackers, Ian also checked in. This friendly aussie was traveling eastern europe while his wife was teaching in Ghana, we had breakfast together at the restaurant downstairs and decided to explore Kiev together.

Starting from the hostel, we walked along the main roads to the center of town, about a 45 minute walk. The frenzy of a city with 2.5 million inhabitants is quite a shock after relatively quit Lviv. The center of Kiev has all the feel of a large Sowjet city, complete with larger then live Lenin statue…

Kiev is situated on the steep banks of the Dnipro river, giving plenty of points were you overlook the city. An improbable amount of golden domed church towers is hard to overlook, while the left bank is covered in flats for as far as the eye can see. We visited the most well known of the churches, the Sofia church and were impressed by the 11th century fresco’s and iron flooring.

Having walked across most of the “old” center, mainly the single winding cobble stone road that survived the war in Kiev, we had gotten pretty cold and as it started to snow we went to the Chernobyl museum.

This could have been very impressive had the exposition been translated into English. As it is, the only english words there are “please close the door”.

Very welcoming indeed. The photos and countless memorabilia were impressive even with russian / cyrillic explanations and at least we were warm.


Thursday we visited the mummies of dead monks. Seriously. Apparently these mummies, placed in two caves, are very important and they attract pilgrims from all over the Ukraine. It is kind of disturbing to see people really get into it and snog the coffin of a mummy.

The immense complex of churches built on to of these caves reminded me of the “Efteling” in the Netherlands somehow.

A 10 minute walk south of this monastry complex is were a 60 meter high titanium statue of Mother Russia guards the city and the “Museum of the Great Patriottic War” at her feet.

Again, no explanations in English in this museum, but a intercontinental ballistic missile launcher and similar exhibits don’t really need much explanation. Come to think of it, I would like to know what their role in WOII was…

Also memorable are the statue groups besides the road leading to the museum. With patriotic music in the background this must have been very impressive to the brave sowjet people who visited this place.

It would have been interesting to be able to read what the Russian take on their role in WO2 was, I cannot imagine they will discuss things such as what happend in Katyn in Poland.

The metro system in Kiev was build during the 60’s in the most ornate Sovjet style one can imagine. CCCP logos, the best Lenin quotes and celebrations of the cummunist system abound. Many of the stations are so deep under the ground (we estimate 80 meters deep) that the 2 escalator rides take 2 minutes each.

The fotos from Kiev are online
So far for Kiew, I’m boarding the night train to Odesa!