Friday, June 15, 2007

Change in mints

I'm heading off to Bulgaria hopefully today, on an overnight train from Bucharest. There may or may not be a direct train depending on who you talk to - I've met backpackers who have taken this train, but the train station people in Brasov insist that it's not possible to take it. I'll see when I get to Bucharest.

I'm going to Varna, on the Black Sea coast. I wanted to go to the Black Sea, and was planning to do so in Romania, but travellers and Romanians have been recommending to me that I go to the coast in another country than Romanian as it's nicer (less built up, better accomodation, etc.). I've gotten a recommendation on a really good hostel so I'm headed there.

I've been in Brasov 8 nights now, and honestly I could just keep staying here. The hostel I'm at is great. It feels like a home and there's great people around. I've met lots of other travellers and local young people. It's been interesting hearing the perspective of Romanian people around my age on their country and it's future and past.

I have never felt so popular as when sitting in a bar the other night with some fellow travellers and some Romanians we've met. All the locals just seem to love everyone. People who could hardly speak English sat down and tried to talk to me, and if they couldn't say much at all they'd still managed to say "I like you" at some point. People were affectionately patting me on the head as they went by. All this and many couldn't understand a word that I said (maybe that helps in liking me!).

The currency here is the leu (lei plural), and $1CAD=2.2 lei, and 1pound=4.7 lei. Now, that's not as bad as Hungary where you're getting into the hundreds of forints before you equal the dollar, but even so they don't really like to divide the lei up here, perhaps because it's not really worth so much divided up (a Coke will cost you about 2 lei). So the bani, of which there are 100 to a leu, doesn't get used much in actuality. If your total comes to 3.20 lei, shopkeepers will often just take 3 lei from you if you don't have 20 bani because they don't have the coins to make change with (or they don't want to bother, perhaps). If the total comes to 3.80 lei and you give them 4 lei, you will generally be given "change" in the form of a mint or a toffee or something like that. An odd little system - change in mints.

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