December 7, 2015
I spent my first day in Bucharest near the airport so I could sleep off the long flight from New York. The next day I was up before the sun was up (but that wasn’t hard with a 7:30am sunrise) and waited until I could see enough to go for a run.
I wasn’t actually in Bucharest, but in Otopeni, the highway town outside of Bucharest by about 10 miles. I couldn’t tell it from the heavy fog outside (or Google Maps), but there’s not much 500 feet off of the highway. I saw a short loop behind the hotel so I set out for that.
Behind the buildings you can see from the highway are open fields. I couldn’t tell this at the time for the fog, but there’s nothing out there. When I was deciding which way I wanted to go. I couldn’t see what was down the road. At the intersection I decided to follow the road to the right.
This road went behind several airport service companies, mostly vehicle fleets. There were some curious security guards, some of whom yelled to me in Romanian. I noticed the same thing walking from the airport to the hotel, about half a mile. Someone walking (or running) seems to be an odd thing. Or maybe there were trying to tell me that there were monsters ahead.
Because there were monsters ahead. A herd of sheep emrged from the fog, but they aren’t the monsters. I’ve been in this situation before. Where you find a bunch of sheep you’re likely to find sheep dogs. When I think there are dogs I want to know where they are. I want to know where all of them are. These dogs work together. I might see three in front of me but miss the fourth sneaking up to bite me on the butt. They do that, too (soem strays were herding the runners at the Petra Marathon.
Many dogs aren’t really a problem. They are curious or wary and they want to know what you’re all about. If I stand still and pose no threat, they might look at me for a bit then move on. But, I had to do that anyway to let the sheep pass. It was either that or swim in the ditch.
At this point the road was parallel to the highway. Farther on it turned back toward the highway and things got a bit more rural and dicey. I couldn’t see that far down the road, but I came across more livestock and small farms. I know that these places have dogs too. On one side of me was a steep hill for the railroad tracks with the farms on the other. I could be the victim in a perfect dog ambush.
And, I think I almost was. I passed two dogs, both of whom I saw early, just hanging out on the top of the hill. Once I passed them and had them behind me I thought I’d be okay. I didn’t see any other dogs.
But then, a big pile of rags and trash stood up and rushed me. One of the mop-looking dogs was coming at me looking mean and determined. I did what I normally do in these cases (and it happens a lot running in weird places): I put my arms out and moved aggressively toward the dog. This often stops them. I think I first saw this in The Gods Must Be Crazy where the small boy fended off a hyena by holding a bottle over his head. The narrator noted that hyenas wouldn’t bother things larger than them. Of course, that’s total bullshit. I’ve seen a hyena harass a leopard to get it to drop the antepole the large cat had pulled up a tree. Now I’m thinking it’s not such a great tactic, but it’s worked for me so far.
This mop-headed dog stayed within 10 feet until I was out of his territory, which seemed to be much longer that it should have been. It was all the way to an underpass beneath the train tracks. Thug life indeed.
After that it was along the highway back to the hotel. The sidewalks are narrow and the sort made from paving stones. When they aren’t narrow, they have cars parked on them. This isn’t a huge problem most places I go, but I quickly learned that the local drivers don’t bother to stop. Even the ones who make eye contact with you at the stop signs don’t bother to give way. Be extra careful in this part of the world!
The Angelo hotel is decent. It’s a great location; you can see its large name across the façade from the arrivals area. It’s a short walk, which I don’t mind, that I wasn’t able to get across the highway without using the pedestrian bridge. That’s annoying with luggage. I could have taken a taxi, but time I tried that I had to fight with the guy over the meter price versus what he wanted to shake out of me. I’m no stranger to that either; I put my arms up and move aggressively toward the dog (or, in the US, relax in the notion that I just got a free cab ride since a complaint to the taxi commission almost always produces a refund—your government at work).
And, the hotel is right on the 873 bus line that’s “express” into Bucharest. That means it makes all the stops. For 8.50 lei (about 2 USD, and I think I got ripped off) I bought a round trip ticket into the city center. I had to buy the ticket at the airport though; they don’t sell them on the bus.