We arrived in Yalta after a long day’s travel. From Sudak we got a mini-bus taxi to Alushta, then another to Yalta. We just went into the Yalta Cat Show, as one does. It’s always the first thing I check out in a strange town.
Simferopol tomorrow.

On our way to Yalta

No wonder it’s felt so hot, it’s going to be 46C in Yalta today.
The fortress was amazing. There happens to be a folk festival going on at the moment so there were lots of musical performances as well as a re-enactment, which involved lots of fighting and explosions as well as some hot princess-on-princess action. The Dance of the Gothic Polyesther Princess is going to be the new hit of the summer.

Sudak, and it’s hot

Getting out of Transdniestr was a whole other story, but we arrived in Odessa safely.
We had a night that could probably only be described as ‘if Carlsberg made hostels’ – we were greeted by a stunning Ukrainian woman all dressed up in a very short skirt and vest top, who showed us around and explained that the hostel was having a party, with free beer and champagne, and that it was her birthday. Lots of her gorgeous friends came over, also all dressed up in very short skirts and one in an amazing pair of hotpants.
We had a beer, admired the locals, then went out for dinner at a lovely Lesbianese restaurant down the road, where we could watch more locals promenading in their Thursday night best. Back to the hostel where the drinks were still flowing and the party games in full swing.
It’s a tough life, but someone has to live it.
Overnight train from Odessa to Simferopol last night (first class, cos we’re classy), mini-bus to Sudak (ok, mini-bus is not so classy). Our hotel is amusing, but we’re really here for the fort. We’re hiding from the heat for another hour then heading up to explore.

Tiraspol, Transdniestr

To use the snappier title, Tiraspol in Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica.
I’m in an internet cafe full of kids playing computer games, to be precise.
There’s no left luggage at the train or bus station, so we’re taking turns to mind the bags and see the sights.
Last night we met up with some Moldovan lesbians (I hope the kids next to me can’t read this) Min found through a GLBT rights organisation. They were really lovely (and quite hot) and we had a really good night.
We were up early today to get to the bus station. No big buses so we got a maxi-taxi to Tiraspol. The border crossing into Transdniestr was interesting – they took me into a back room, shut the doors and tried to get me to pay $US30 for a entry permit, but I knew that it should only be about 50c so I refused. We’d hidden any extra cash so we wouldn’t be taken for everything we had – the internet is full of stories about people paying huge fines/visa fees. It took some discussion, but we were eventually ushered back into the front office to pay the local entry fee. The story kept changing but at one point one of the guys was trying to tell us we needed to have $US150 each to show that we could support ourselves while in Transdniester. Considering we’d said we were in transit to Odessa, this seemed like quite a huge amount. We showed that we had cards (Mastercard and Visa), and eventually that we had Ukrainian hrivnia to pay for the next bus to Odessa from Tiraspol. I guess they eventually decided we either didn’t have any extra money or weren’t going to budge, so they gave up.
It was a little scary but it was just a matter of getting through it.
It’s really hot – probably mid to high 30s. We’ve already walked most of the main street but with our backpacks so we weren’t stopping to appreciate the sights. We’ll probably be back at the bus station by 5pm to get another maxi-taxi (mini-bus) to Odessa. One more border crossing into Ukraine then staying at a proper backpackers tonight, I’m kinda looking forward to it – mostly because I want to relax with a beer with the most difficult border crossings out of the way.
Moldova was really lovely – you could probably see the sights of Chisinau in half a day, but the parks are nice places to relax and watch people, and nearly everyone I met was really friendly and open. I’d been dreading Moldova a little because the Moldovans I’d encountered en masse in Antalya airport were horrible, rude and pushy, with really awful dress sense. I guess the kind of people who go on a package holiday to Antalya tend to be different to the general population. I’d love to go back to Moldova and see more of the country on something like a tour of the wineries.

We’re just been on a big drive on the Transfagarasan Road. We head back to Bucharest from Sinaia tomorrow, then overnight train from Bucharest to Chisinau. We have a day in Chisinau, then leave for Tiraspol the next morning. If we are going to encounter any hassle, it’s going to be at the Moldovan border with Transdniestr (the country that doesn’t exist), which should be on the 17th, so fingers crossed it all goes ok.
Update: In Your Pocket have an article on the Transfagarasan Road. They’re right about the weather conditions – it was so foggy we couldn’t see the lake, and freezing cold on one side of the summit, then brilliant sunshine on the other side of the tunnel.

We arrived in Sighisoara, Transylvia, today. It’s really pretty, the old town is tiny and very cute. We’re going on a walking tour in half an hour. Tonight we’re going to cook in the hostel, which is actually pretty exciting – we can eat whatever we want, without being limited to what’s on the menu.
The food has generally been pretty good, though I’ve had salad cravings. I haven’t had to eat fried cheese and bread once (so far).
If you’re ever travelling around Europe by train, this German railways site is fantastic for timetables, routes, etc – you can’t book tickets in Eastern Europe but the times are always right and it tells you how long and how many changes each option has.

We’re in Brasov, Transylvania

Min and I arrived in Brasov yesterday. The name of this place lends itself to bad puns – bras off, brush off (the two may be related), apparently the town also has something to do with Dracula. However the locals appear not to appreciate bad Sesame Street Count-style laughing.
We managed to get Moldovan visas (transit, but we might have been able to get tourist visas too) and today we bought train tickets from Bucharest to Chisinau, so we’re actually going there! We’ll travel overnight on the 15th and be in Odessa, Ukraine, by the 17th, so it’ll be a really quick visit to Moldova/Transdniestr.
There’s not much on the internet about the visas, so if you’re looking for information on Moldovan visas in Bucharest, Romania, you can get one in a day at the Moldovan Consulate, 8 B-dul Eroilor (very near the corner of B-dul Eroilor and B-dul Mihail Kogalniceanu (Kogaliniceanu?), take the metro to Eroilor or bus 123 from Gara de Nord. There’s a pub on the corner where you can celebrate when you get your visa.
You’ll need a photocopy of your passport to show the bank when you pay for the visa, or they’ll yell at you. They might yell at you anyway, they seem to like doing it.

More Istanbul

It turns out that I’m staying right around the corner from the first place I stayed in Istanbul. No wonder it all looked so familiar.
I’ve done nothing so far today but chill out in my room, have a shower, watch stupid TV and relax. I’m going to have a coffee now and figure out what I want to see and do – perhaps pay a visit to the Blue Mosque, one of my favourite buildings in the world. There’s a little kid behind me which is hampering my search for ‘lesbian bars istanbul’.