Europe Diary: Strapped for CA$H!


What a city!
A CAPITAL city on top of that.
All the excitement must have left me exhausted as I write this in the airport lounge trying to combat the gravity tugging eyelid battle I have at the moment.
It can’t be the Tequila shots the night before; taken to at best kill my stomach bug… but I’ll settle for a bunch of drunkard bugs that allows me some peaceful winks. I had ‘diluted’ the alcohol in my blood with 3 mugs of hot tea – Hilton only gave me three bags; Oriental Green Mint Tea (whatever that’s suppose to mean, more so when it has traces of clove and cinnamon in it), Fruit Infusion Tea and Citron Tea, in addition to 2.0L of mineral water.
© Penelope Haque

La Bonne Bouche, Bucharest, Romania – total ‘damage’ done LEI 1,300+ !
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +
But it was not the alcohol ‘wash-down’ that had done the trick but rather I had felt human again after the 40-plus minutes of gym workout at 8 a.m., some 4-1/2 hours after my head had hit the pillow and I slipped into the abysses of the night.
After the gym and shower, I had headed out in search of a nearby Banka Automat to withdraw some RON/LEI to convert to either Turkish Lira (at best – though seriously this is one of Penelope’s disillusioned wishful thinking here) or EURO.
This is the first Hilton I have stayed in that doesn’t do foreign exchanges. This is the first capital city I have been to which I am not able to find an ATM within the 250m radius of the hotel which brings me to believe that the Hilton we are in is either fake, or is in the wrong neighborhood! 
So needless to say I can forget finding a currency exchange agent, and even if I did, void of any hard cash, what good will it make?
Convinced that my minor ‘problem’ will be easily settled at the airport – after all it is an important and international hub … I mean, this is a capital city for crying out loud with the WORLD’S LARGEST PARLIAMENTARY BUILDING and we are not even talking about my beloved Boleh-lah Land here! … I went back to my heavenly pleasures of diving under the soft down in my lingerie (a luxury afforded only when I am alone), flicked on the TV and toggle between CNN and BBC while sipping the not-so-amazing all-in-one instant Cappuccino with Rum flavor. With a big sigh of relief and a smug twitch in my cheeks muscles, I acknowledge without a trace of shame as to how spoilt I am!
© Penelope Haque

Double Tree Hilton, Bucharest, Romania – plush bathrobes! It’s the small details that matters…
+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

Few hours later I am at the ‘home’ of the TAROM ‘birds’. 
It is here that I parted ways with fellow travelers who were off to Prague while I had a separate (almost spiritual) mission of traveling for the first time ever solo and to conquer Mt. Ararat and visit what shall be lasting impressions and remains left by a megalomaniac king who places himself at par with the Gods centuries ago! This naturally seems like a far fetched dream and it will be purely by God’s grace if I ever made it to the 1st base camp at 3,200 metres for the former and the peak at 2,150 for the latter, with the persistent army of stomach bugs determined to bring me down.
Resuming with the pressing errand of finding either an exchange office that took credit cards, or an ATM followed by the exchange office … I walked the entire Otopeni Airport Departure halls twice resulting in the following findings:
  • no ATMs are available
  • both the exchange offices would not take credit card
  • there are many stupid redundant duty free shops with wine, hard liquor, cigarette, cigar, perfume, costume jewelry, bags, tacky souvenirs, chocolates with more packaging that edibles, scarves?, umbrellas?!?!??? and books in gibberish
  • overpriced but slightly better than airplane food type joints
  • smoking rooms
  • Bank Translavinia (just a counter actually) that tallies the cash takings for the day in the open, guarded by 5 saucy women ‘armed’ with brightly painted talon like nails, which if by now you haven’t guessed does not accept foreign bank cards withdrawals, credit card foreign exchanges, or exchange hard cash for other foreign currencies!
  • a Citibank kiosk for card enrollment – definitely in need of a new marketeer and corporate strategist
  • usual sprinkling of toilets

© Penelope Haque
Otopeni – Henri Conda Airport, Bucharest, Romania
Speaking of toilets, I was reduced to slipping my desperate fingers into every crack of my bag in search of hard currency of any kind which could be converted to EURO in the toilet; emptying my entire bag out for the second time in this very airport – airports in the Balkans it appears seems to have a vengeance for my cameras and lenses, scanning them at least twice. Normally I would have been annoyed as I do not fancy displaying the assortment of goodies in my Domke for the world to see, I was mindful that it is the 10th Anniversary of 9-11 and decided to be super sweet and cooperative.
Managing to scrap together some leftover pounds and dollars (now seashells), I said 3 silent prayers (covering all religion I know) that it will be enough until I get to London … so that’s a whole 7 days … plus hoping that the hot air balloon operator will accept credit card payments despite being in the middle of no where. Bb…b…but it is a hot air balloon operator and hot air balloon rides do cost a lot of seashells, considering that all it takes is to be straddled into a basket suspended in mid-air and steered by the wind.
I was also hoping that the trekking rental supply store would accept credit card (as well as the rented gears do not stink high heavens! and fits me).

But more importantly I was hoping that the tour company shows up at the arrival halls, else I am so totally screwed up.
(some 40 winks later despite the baby’s wailing during take off)
I have to say I am extremely impressed with TAROM. The flight. Not it’s ‘home’.
Firstly, I paid only USD 72.60 all in for my Bucharest-Istanbul leg and the check-in had let my combined bag weight of 23.1 kg through.
The clincher was: I got my vegetarian with dairy product ‘special’ meal order in a lovely snack bag to go, given that I had slept through the meal cart rounds. With the stomach bugs re-grouping themselves for yet another attack, I am eternally grateful for the snack bag containing bland (but somehow tasty – contradiction is my middle name!) bread with cheese, water, two plums and a fruit juice pack. I figured I should not instigate the little buggers in my belly with humus, kebabs and what not!
For dessert, I shall have Hilton’s welcome chocolate chip cookie with a packaging that says:
STRESSED is backwards for DESSERTS 

11 thoughts on “Europe Diary: Strapped for CA$H!

  1. Interestingă_International_AirportCareer choice for any discerning person should be politician not pilot.

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