A Travellerspoint blog

How To Smuggle Cigarettes Across the Romania/Ukraine Border

1. Be an innocent looking old lady, in traditional Romanian dress, complete with scarf over your hair (although it is quite possible that the border guards are on to this disguise, don't let that stop you)

2. Get on train in Sighet, Romania. Do not bother buying a ticket.

3. When ticket collector comes by, give him half the regular fare. Do not bother being inconspicuous about this.

4. Wait on train for Romanian immigration officials to take their sweet time to stamp exit stamps on passports.

5. When train arrives in Ukraine, make your way to the door in order to be the first one out.

6. As soon as door opens, jump off train and sprint towards the small open gate (step 1 of this list should not stop you from doing this).

7. Crowd and push around the gate in order to get to the front where the Ukranian border guard in randomly handing out immigration cards to be filled out. Grab one, get back away from the gate, and fill it out as fast as possible.

8. Go back towards the gate, where guard will let you in a few at a time. (be sure to push and shove, it will get you through faster)

9. Wait in line again, show passport to the official, get stamp, and proceed to searhing room. Guards may ask to look into your bags, or ask how much money you are carrying (at this point, if possible, it would help to be a confused looking Canadian. It may lead to some laughs and smiles, and a pat on the back from the guards).

10. Arrive in Teresva, Ukraine, where the large market is right next to the border.

11. Find your local connection at the market, who will gladly sell you very cheap cigarettes at greatly reduced rates. Buy as many as you can.

12. Make sure to buy other things as well, this will make you not look as suspicious when coming back into Romania. All household goods are available, as well as groceries, clothes, and anything else you can think of. I recommend the raw meat sitting on tables in the sun (the flies seem to like it, so it must be good), particularly the pig heads (go for one that's smiling).

13. When the time comes to head back, proceed to train station.

14. Again, proceed through Ukrainian immigration. Do not worry about this one, they don't care what you have.

15. Get back on train. As it is at the station, and as it crosses the river back into Romania, be sure to start hiding your cigarettes. There are strict limits on how many you are allowed to bring back, so hide the throughout all the things you have bought during the day. Then proceed to shove them down your pants, shirt, and anywhere else you can think of. Tip: elastic clothes will make sure that stay where you want them to. Your bra strap is good for that. Just be sure to wear baggy clothes over top of that layer.

16. When Romanian officials come on board, give your passport to be stamped. Do not worry yet, these ones aren't looking for your cigarettes.

17. Wait around nervously as other carriages begin to be searched. If possible, get a little kid to wander around to see which border guard is on duty today.

18. Switch seats with a couple of Canadians. (we are not sure why, but give it a try, even if it's just bfor fun)

19. Have a border guard come and start going through your bags. She may yell at you to go open things up for her, but you can yell back.

20. Once train starts to go again, look out the window, and smile and wave at all the poor people who got caught. Be glad that your not one of them.

21. Sell cigarettes on the streets in Romania.

22. PROFIT!!!

23. Rinse. Repeat.

24. Wipe hands on pants.

Posted by moutallica 05:36 Archived in Romania Comments (2)

Getting Lei'ed in Romania

It's been a very busy past few days of travelling. We've seen a lot, but we're quite tired now. It all started with a day trip to a small town, Bugac, to see some traditional Hungarian cowboys. While walking to the stable, we hitched a ride with a horse and cart (which other tourists paid extra for), and then watched a cool horse show. The highlight had to be the way one of the cowboys would gallop 5 horses at full speed. 3 in front, while he was standing on the 2 in the back, I really have no idea how he didn't fall off.

That same day, we came back to where we spent the night before, and took another bus to a really small town, Abony. The town was really nothing special (although it had a great restaurant with amazing goulash), but it's where Jocelyn's step-grandpa is from. We even saw the house where he lived.

It was then off to Eger, famous for it's wine. It's too bad that my stomach was not feeling very well while there, but we still managed to drink some good wine. There's a little road, in what is called the "Valley of the beautiful women" (or as one translation put it, "nice women valley"), that is just lined with wine cellars. Pick whichever one looks good, and go ask for a glass of wine (starting at about $0.25 per glass). You can also bring an empty plastic bottle, and have it filled for really cheap (about $4 per litre). Good times.

Our next stop was really interesting fo me. It was where my grandma (on my mom's side) grew up, a town called Nyiregyhaza. The town has pretty much no tourists at all, so it was quite hard to find a place to stay. But it was really cool to see it, even visiting the street where my grandma lived (sadly, the address where her house was is a new building).

At this point, we are now in Romania, the land of the gypsies. Getting here was tough though. ALthough the place we wanted to get to was very close on the map, busses and trains don't go where you want, and it takes forever. It even involved spending a night in what is considered the ugliest city in Romania, simply because it was getting late, and we needed to sleep.

But we are now in a great little town called Sighet, in the northern part of the country, the Maramures. It almost feels like we've gone back in time in this country. Certainly not as developped, but full of charm. We found a great little hostel, run by a british guy and his romanian wife. The mattresses are even full of hay, as i guess other matresses would be hard to come by around here (although it's not too good for my allergies).

One thing that's great about Romania, is the language. Since it's a romance language, it is quite similar to french ans spanish, which means picking up a few key words is fairly easy. The confusing part is the money though. The Lei has recently (6 months ago) been changed. Because it was worth so little, they decided to take off 4 zeros. However, people are not yet used to it, and when prices are quoted, it can get a little confusing. Also, since the old bills are still in circulation, you have to think about it for a second. a 10,000 lei bill, is actually 1, and 100,000, is 10, etc. I think I'm getting the hang of it, and since we're liking Romania so much, we may be staying a little longer than we thought.

Posted by moutallica 01:53 Archived in Romania Comments (2)

Freaky Storm

First of all, let me apolgise in advance for any spelling mistakes in this entry. Im using a hungarian keyboard, and some of the keys are mixed up. Crazy, eh?

So weve had a few exiting days here, the craziest being our last day in Budapest. We were really lucky to be in town just as a big event was about to take place. The Red Bull Air Race was on sunday, and it was great. Imagine planes flying a few meters above the river, while manuvering through some big inflatable slalom gates, while the start and finish line was underneath a bridge. Very impressive, and even better because it was free. The banks of the river were completelz jam packed, but we managed to get earlz to get a great view, including the cool airshow before the race.

After that, we were able to go to a very fancy restaurant. We dont normally get the chance, but this was courtesy of mz verz lovely grandma. With her being hungarian, when she heard that we were headed here, she wanted to treat us to a nice dinner, so she put some money into my account. Isnt she great? and my roast goose dinner was fantastic too.

After dinner, we were to be treated to a special treat. Because it was the national holiday, the was to be fireworks launched from a couple bridges. So it was back to the river bank (and to the massive crowd of people) for the show to begin. When we got there, there was what I thought was a pre show to the fireworks. The sky behind the castle was getting lit up in a spectacular way. It looked like lightning, but the bolt was not visible, and there was no thunder. I later learned that this was actually the start of the craziness, as i heard that this is a rare kind of lightning (I think its called sheet lightning). Anyways, the show started, and all was well and good for the first 10 minutes. Then the wind started... suddenly it was so windy that things were flying everywhere. I thought it was all pretty cool at that point, even as the rain started. But a couple minutes later it all changed. The clouds suddenly just opened up, and the water just poured down. This is the hardest rain Ive ever experienced... we were drenched in a few seconds. This caused the crowd to suddenly turn to sheer panic. It was then a stampede to try to find some cover. You can just imagine the thousands of people that had been watching trying to run away through some narrow streets... it just doesnt work. Jocelyn and I just held on to each other in order to not get separated. We did manage to find some cover where we could wait it out. The crazy part about all this was that even during all the panic, the fireworks continued to go, which made it a sureal experience that wont be forgotten.

The aftermath of the storm was pretty intense. Our walk back to the hostel was full of debris all over. There were even some bricks on a street that had been ripped off of a building... scary stuff. I later heard that many boats had collided on the river too with all the wind and zero visibility.

In other news, my jeans were stolen. The night of the storm, my all my clothes were hanging in a laundry room at the hostel. Obviously, some guy had been soaked that night, so he wanted some dry clothes, and helped himself to my jeans and one of my shirts. Bastard!

P.S.: read Jocelyns blog for other that have happened if interested. http://jocelynpreece.travellerspoint.com

Posted by moutallica 10:40 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

I'm So Hungary

It's been a while since I've updated.... I guess I've been too busy to waste my time with the internet. I'll just give a quick recap.

We went to Prague and spent a few days there. What can I say? Great city with one major problem. Hoards and hoards of tourists. Sure, there was some amazing sights, and it really is a beatiful city, but take the tourist away and it would really be a magical place. Instead I just got sick of it quickly.

It was then off to the fountainhead of one of the best beers in the world. Plzen (Pilsen in german) is where the first ever lager was brewed, and Pilsner Urquell remains the king of beers. Even Jocelyn, who can't really tell one beer from the next, could tell right away that this was a special brew. We took a tour of the brewery, and then enjoyed a few glasses right next door.

Our next stop was Cesky Krumlov, and it involved a change of busses in the town of Ceske Budejovice (Budweiss in german). This is where the original Budweisser is brewed, and while it may not be as good as Pilsner Urquell, it is nothing like the budweisser at home. This one is actually good.

Cesky Krumlov was also really nice, but again overrun by tourists. It's a nice little town, with a river going around it like a horseshoe. The highlight of that town for me was renting some inner tubes and floating with the current down the river. It was a little cold (the rental guy didn't even want to give them to us, he said we better rent a boat instead), but well worth it.

After a night in the quite town of Telc, it was back to Slovakia, to Bratislava. This was a refreshing break. Although it's a big city, it is almost devoid of any tourist activity (maybe not quite, but nothing compared to the Czech Republic). Nothing too special about the city, but i liked it.

Now, as you can tell by the title, we've arrived in Hungary, in Budapest. I love this city, it's really great. Even though there are quite a few tourists, it doesnt feel so bad. This is probably just because all the sights are fairly spread out around the city.

After a day of sightseeing yesterday, today was really a magnificent day. It started with a lazy morning around the hostel, followed by a walk to a park where a picnic lunch was had (mmmmmmm....... hungarian salami is sooooooo good). It was then off to the baths. These are simply awesome. It's a great old building with a few outdoor pools, and then a whole bunch of indoor baths. It's great to go exploring all the way through. Different rooms have baths of different temperatures, steam rooms, or saunas. After a few hours of that, my muscles are feeling really relaxed. I love Hungary.

Posted by moutallica 11:02 Archived in Hungary Comments (0)

Czech It Out!

First of all, let me apologise for the stupid pun... but I feel it needed to be done. But I guess that you can tell that we are now in the Czech Republic. We've spent the last two days in Brno (no, that is not a spelling mistake, it is spelt like that. It seems like it's missing a letter somewhere).

Anyways, this has been a decent city. It's nice to be in a city that's not completely overloaded with tourists. In fact, the streets were completely empty yesterday morning. We then went to what must be one of the most morbid and creepy tourist attractions in all of Europe. It was a crypt below a church (the name escapes me), and it was just full of dead bodies on display. It went on to explain that because of the ventilation system down there, that caused the air to keep fresh and dry, bodies here were naturally mumified. Nothing was done to the bodies at all except leave them down there. Some still had teeth and nails....... gross. So we walk in and along different rooms are coffins where the original lids had been removed and glass ones had been put in place. You could get a really close look, and see all the shrivelled skin and bones. The creepiest part of this whole crypt, was one room where a whole bunch of friars were laid to rest. The thing about this is that they were not in any coffins. Just resting on the ground, with a couple of bricks as pillows. There must have been over 20 of them lined up on both sides and the creepiest ones were still wearing some sort of hood over their heads. The room looked like it was right out of horror movie. I can just imagine the main character waking up in the middle of this room and starting to panic (I would too) as the all came alive. Very scary.

Before that we were in Slovakia. We spent a few days around some towns, seeing some cool castles along the way. We also spent some time in a national park, where I got us lost. We were trying to get to a trail that goes up along a stream with waterfalls, but I took a wrong turn, and we had no idea where we were anymore. It took hours of trying to find another way there, before we just decided to retrace our steps and head back. We did eventually get to do that trail (and it was awesome) but it meant almost 10 hours of walking around that day. Our legs were tired after that.

What I loved about Slovakia is just the scenery. We took a train between two towns, and it was simply beautiful. Hills full of trees, cliffs, and castles the whole way. I love it!

Posted by moutallica 23:52 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (0)

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