I've been in Bucharest now for about 24 hours. I don't see why it gets such a bad reputation. I'm leaving in the morning, and I haven't had many problems. As long as you stick to the streets (not alleys) and get in before dark unless you have at least one other person, I see no reason why it is a terrible place in the eyes of so many.
I started in Cluj, where my flight left around 7 pm. We landed in Bucharest around 8 and I found the express bus (783) to take me to the hostel. I stayed for two nights at the Midland Youth Hostel on Strada Biserica Amzei. It is directly off the bus stop Piata Romana. It is a very laid back place, mostly young adults here, although there are some older folk. Free internet, check out is at noon, and there are a number of small cafes nearby. One of the managers was fantastic and very helpful, and I didn't have any problems, but one of the other managers turned his music on his computer to the complete max, and then turning the speakers up all the way (on a porn video, by the way). I met some really awesome people from all over the world. There is a Metro (Piata Romana) and there are bus stops on the main road where I got off the express bus from the airport.
My plan for today was to see Snagov Monastery, where Vlad the Impaler was allegedly buried, Curtea Veche, the Old Court of Bucharest, and the Vlad the Impaler room at the National Museum of History. I was successful in only one of those, unfortunately. My first "stop" was Snagov. That alone is a story. Before I arrived in Romania, I looked online for the easiest and cheapest way to get to the Monastery, which is 30 kilometers north of Bucharest. I found a review written by other travellers who listed a route, landmarks, prices, and everything. They were as follows: get on the M2 Metro line and go to Aviarotilor; exit the station and head toward Piata Presei Libere (they recommended going through the park, which is about a 30 minute walk, and you'll see a small carnival and Hard Rock Cafe at the exit of the park). At Piata Presei Libere, you should see some mini buses, and you should find the one marked 444, which will take you to Snagov. The directions also stated to have the driver stop at the train tracks so you could get off and go left and follow the road to the lake to Complex Astoria and ask for a boat.
Well, here is what I did. I went to Aviarotilor, walked through the park, and found the Hard Rock Cafe and Piata Presei Libere. I did not find the minibuses. I went to a couple different taxi drivers before I finally found one who knew Snagov. There were several questions, attempts at Romanian, and asking people on the street before we got to Snagov and found Strada Monasterea Vlad Tepes. We went to the end of the road and the taxi driver asked for that fraction of the payment. You should never do that, but he was there when I got back, but still...don't do it. I walked across the bridge and got into the Monastery (15 lei, plus a 20 euro photo tax). It's small, but it's gorgeous inside. Murals cover the place. There are tombs around the walls and some posters with pictures and information about Vlad and his connections with Snagov. The priest gave a history of the Monastery in Romanian so I didn't know what he was saying, but I could pick out names so I knew what he was talking about. I paid the photo tax and took pictures, walked around the outside, and went back to the taxi. I'm ashamed at this, but I paid about 140 lei, round trip, for the trip to Snagov. Next time, I will try to find the minibuses and check with tourist agencies because that's sad. Ugh. Oh well. Honestly, though, even though I paid that much, I think it was worth it. I'm really glad I got to see Snagov, even if the other two were unsuccessful.
I walked around trying to find Curtea Veche based on the directions I had, and obviously that was a failure. I did find the museum, and I couldn't pass up relicas of Trajan's Column at my eye level. Gigantic panels, exact replicas, explanations in English...I couldn't just leave it. :D I saw the National Treasure room, which has artifacts from the aristocracy and royalty of the people living in Romania from the Bronze Age to the present day. The Vlad the Impaler room was closed, and will be closed for several months, so that was disappointing. However, all of this means that I have to come back.
Tomorrow morning I'll leave for Targoviste to see Vlad the Impaler's main palace. I know that palace and museum will be open. If it's not, I may just have to jump some fences.