Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Pick up Bikes, Bucharest, RO

Pick up of Bikes, Bucharest, RO

We called BMW in Bucharest (Otopeni) and made arrangements to pick up our bikes the day after we were in Snagov. We were close to Bucharest and so we were at the BMW dealership early. We took the wrong turn onto the A-3 highway and were going North in error. It took us 37 KM until we could get to the next exit. Is that a way to design a highway, just outside of Bucharest, the Capital of Romania?  To make exits 37 KM apart? All of this in hindsight did not matter, really, because at 11.00 AM at the BMW dealership, we learned that Carol’s bike is not ready for pick up, maybe tomorrow. 

No need to get upset. I told you, it’s a different clock in RO and I kind of anticipated this kind of customer service from this BMW dealer by now. We, again, booked into Hostel Taxi, and spent the time getting my bike out of storage, getting our suits lined up for tomorrow, etc. When I picked up my stored bike, the bike-cover was ripped to shreds. I can only guess a cat used my bike as shelter and when the cover moved in the wind it used its paws. The cover is a total loss, U.S. $80.-!

We just floated along, ate pizza in our room, did nothing because we had originally planned to be in Bulgaria today.
The following day started off great; our pick up taxi at the Hostel came on time and picked us up at 9.30 AM. We arrived at the BMW dealer as prearranged at 10.00 AM. The bike was not ready! They forgot a few things on the checklist, like the oil change we wanted. It took them 45 minutes to change the oil on Carol’s bike. While we waited we packed our luggage into the saddlebags (we had taken them off and had them in the waiting room). Finally, at about 11.00 AM, the bill came and Carol paid it. We were all set to leave when Romeo, the BMW service representative came running and told Carol he forgot to add the price for the new battery to the invoice. With all the back and forth, it was noon before we left the BMW dealer. 

By now, the ‘Ring’ road around Bucharest was totally jammed up. For the next 2 hours it was 1st gear only. We moved along very, very slowly with lots of stop and go. The whole trip distance is just about 100 KM long for the day, but it took us close to 5 hours to make the distance and the Bulgarian border in Ruse, BG. The Ring road around Bucharest is the pits!

The border crossing was uneventful; just show your passport, the paper work for the bike and that was it. We needed to exchange our Romanian money (Leu) into Bulgarian money (Lev) and we did this immediately after the border crossing. I always take all the money of the country I am leaving and turn it into the money of the new county at the border. At each border crossing there is a whole lot of stuff to remember or to plan. Wherever the gasoline is the cheapest, get it on the correct side of the border. Try not to have ‘coins’ when crossing a border, the new country will never exchange coins; they will only exchange paper money. (I just give the coins away to anybody who stands around on either side of the border). Make sure you stow the paper work away properly, after you cross the border. Find out at the border if you need vignettes (toll stickers) for your vehicle. Write down the speed limits for highways, rural roads, and town or city streets. A lot of times those speed limits are not posted often enough for you to remember but they sure are reinforced, especially near the border areas. Each border crossing, no matter how ‘harmless’ the 2 countries are, always give me a new set of ‘rules’ to live by. Now we have Bulgarian rules and language which means I cannot read a thing. Everything is written in Cyrillic. 

To acclimatize myself to the new ‘rules’ and to see how Bulgaria is in a way I ask and find a Hotel near the border and just quit for the day. No, nothing special, just hanging out, watching traffic, watching how people interact, just watching. I do this a lot actually; just watch how people do things in a country I have never been to. It is different when I have been to a country before and I get back to it, but in Bulgaria, this is my first time in Bulgaria and I just hang back and watch for all kinds of things. Do the people smile?  Are they friendly enough? Do the obey traffic rules? Stop at a stop sign, make a right on red? Things I take for granted, things I am used to and take as a given are not always the norm in another country.
Teodora Palace, Our First Hotel in Bulgaria
Here is an example:
We found this hotel, like I said, very close to the border and it turned out to be a very nice hotel. The price was 38 Euro per night for 2 people. They had a restaurant, but the restaurant was not very busy at all. When we checked in for dinner, at about 6.30 PM we were the only guests in the place. Yes, they were open, the lights were on and the service personnel were ready for anybody who would eat there. We started off with a beer each and ordered from their menu card by pointing at each item we wanted for dinner. I pointed to what I liked (a pork dish), and then Carol pointed what she wanted (a chicken dish). All of this is very simple, right?
My dinner came and I waited a few minutes, thinking Carol’s would come, too. But then, Carol said: “Go ahead and eat, my food will be here shortly, there is no need for you to let your food get cold”. OK, so I ate. I was nearly finished when Carol had a chance to call the server again and ask for her order. But how do you ask politely in Bulgarian what happened to my food?  With a lot of sign language and shoulder shrugging we think a mistake was made. Carol’s order was never put in. Now, was that intentional? Do I, as a man, have to order for both? What is the right way to order food in a restaurant in Bulgaria? It could not have been that the waitress forgot, there were no other customers in the place, and she picked up orders at our table and then forgot half the order?  NO! Somehow there was a misunderstanding. Such small details can ruin your day. I was finished with dessert already when finally Carol’s chicken dish was served. Now we are guessing, does it only count when a ‘male’ orders? I have no clue, but we found out a few more times that I was served and then Carol had to wait or we had to ask for Carol’s dish. Those idiosyncrasies, those different ways is why I stop and try to get a handle on local customs. These local customs need to be observed before I dash through or into a new country.

Well, we are now in Bulgaria; let us see what this country has to show me.

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