Bucharest, Sibiu, Bran, Brasov, and Sighisoara
Well, chalk up another interesting ride in Romania. I was crashing on a couch with a friend of a friend, Dan Postelnicu. Dan had come over to the states the previous December and had stayed at my house as he was visiting one of the guys living with me at the time. Dan is in the Romanian military and they had met in Iraq. Upon arrival we hopped into his car and tore through town at NYC cab driver speeds while he showed me some of the highlights of Bucharest. The city had the air of a newly emerging nation. The architecture of some of the buildings was stunning. Many Romanians had fled the city for Paris during the war and the French influence was apparent everywhere. One of the main boulevards was constructed to look like the Champs de Elysees. Another monument was a replica of the Arc de Triumph. I even heard several Romanians say “Merci” instead of whatever thank you in Romanian is. It was also interesting to see the thousands of stray dogs (PC named ‘community dogs’ by the locals) roam the streets.
Romanian Champs de Elysees as seen from Parliament
Arc de Triumph
The Economic Building
I gave myself a walking tour of the major parts of the city. The Parliament building was by far the most impressive. It’s the second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon. Nicolae Ceauscu, the former Romanian leader, was the one responsible for building it. The public had led protest against Ceauscu in 1989 and they quickly decided to overthrow and killed him via firing squad after only a couple days. Romanians seem to change their minds quickly.
The roof Caeuscu was evacuated from via helicopter as crowds stormed, he was executed a couple days after
I also met up with a fellow LBS admit, Andreea. Andreea worked in the financial markets but could have easily earned a good living as a tour guide of Budapest. She took me through Universidad, the city center, the parks, and the Village Museum. She even bought me a bottle of Romanian wine to share with Lauren probably never stopped talking about how excited I was to see her in Hungary next week.
The Village Museum was a collection of Romanian houses brought in from the countryside to show the different types of architecture. They were all outfitted with typical furnishings.
Interior of one of the houses
Transylvanian Church at the Village Museum
Romanian ferris wheel, you going to ride it?
Dan and I took a side trip out to Transylvania. The first stop on the agenda was the Palas Castle in Sinai. The line was too long to go inside so we toured the exterior, the gardens, and the courtyard. From Sinai, we headed to Bran Castle. Bran Castle was owned by Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration for Dracula. The castle is a mix of a country house and where you’d expect Dracula to be lurking about. The courtyard was inviting and colorful. However, inside there were rooms that looked like coffins, hidden stairwells, and secret passageways. After a tour of the castle we got back on the highway at warp speed and headed to Rasnov, a hilltop city surrounded by a fort. There we toured the ruins and tried out luck at archery before heading to Brasov, a small city with picturesque squares and homes.
Dan and I near the courtyard at Palas
The small castle next to Palas
Entrance to Dracula's place
His homely courtyard
The room where they kept Vlad's body for a while
Creepy furniture, I set off an alarm by getting too close
Some poor little girl who we scared half to death asking if I could take a picture with her, she's wearing typical Transylvanian clothing
View from Rasnov
I wasn't nearly as good as Robin Hood
There were even stray dogs on top of mountains in forts
Brasov's main square
Looking out of the gardens in Brasov
Shepard and his sheep dog in the coutryside (See the bar dangling from the dog's neck? It's to protect them from getting bit fatally when they have to fight off wolves to protect the sheep.)
One of the monasteries we visited on the way home
The next day is when things got interesting. I had introduced Dan to Andreea and he had developed a bit of a crush on her. He attempted to score some extra face time with her by trying to get all three of us to go out to Sibiu and Sighisoara instead of the previous plan of me going solo on a train. She declined but Dan had already committed to the idea. I was happy to have him but was less than enthusiastic about paying all this expenses (he had told me upon arrival that I was expected to pay for everything of his while I was there). I most likely would have paid for the majority of things even without being asked but thought it was inconsiderate to put it so bluntly. I had chalked it up to cultural differences and didn’t think about it. I had an idea what it would cost as I had filled up his car, bought breakfast and dinner, and payed for all his admissions to the castles, churches, and other attractions on the previous excursion. I even managed to keep quiet while he told me about how his other friends had come to visit Romania and they split gas, hotels, and meals.
On the way out of town we stopped at the gas station. I was trying to find a snack when Dan came over and said “Will, pay for number 2.” I headed over to the desk only to find the bill was $80, four times what a train ticket would have cost. I rolled my eyes, bit my tongue and plunked down the Visa. When I got back in the car I made an offhand comment “Damn, gas is expensive here.” Dan didn’t really acknowledge it and we sped off at break neck speed again, flashing and honking at cars that didn’t get out of our way. If they didn’t move in time he slammed on the brakes (throwing my luggage all over the car) then cussed and made gestures as we passed the old woman or man. We joked around for a couple more hours before arriving at Sibiu.
View from the tower in Sibiu
Sibiu at night
Sibiu was hosting a European cultural event and there were all sorts of art shows and concerts going on. We toured one of the exhibits in the clock tower and laughed at some of the absurdity of some of them (there were dualing farting machines as one exhibit). I needed to find an internet café to call Lauren and firm up flights to Greece and so we went in search of one. Dan said he was going to walk around while I logged on and would be back in an hour. I got the tickets booked and he returned right on time. As we walked out he blindsided me with “I’m not enjoying your company anymore.” I was totally caught off guard as I hadn’t detected a hint of distaste from him (having been in sales the last 5 years, I’m usually at least descent at this). I asked him why and he said my comment about the gas had really pissed him off. It was the quickest 180 of a personality I’d ever seen. I guess I’m just glad I’m not Nicolae Ceauscu.
I spent about fifteen minutes trying to handle the situation diplomatically, apologizing profusely and thanking him for everything he’d done. It was useless; he’d already made up his mind. He said he was going to drop me off at a hostel he’d found. I told him not to worry about it, I could fend for myself. At this point I gave up diplomatic relations and told him I thought he had been inconsiderate to so bluntly tell me I had to pay for everything of his. I was, after all, an unemployed, soon to be student in the world’s second most expensive city. It was still useless. I grabbed my bags and walked away.
To get me to Sighisoara the hostel called a bus company and the owner picked me up and drove me to the station. The ride was very pleasant. The driver didn’t flick people off and I wasn’t constantly closing my eyes hoping to make it out alive. In town, the citadel sat atop a hill overlooking the rest of the town. Churches, old shops, and the main square were all housed inside. It was definitely the prettiest of the Transylvanian towns. In spite of all the drama, I had a great time in Romania, especially the countryside.
The citadel from the foot bridge coming from the train station
Some of the houses looking back towards the main tower
Flowers from Romania, I don't know why I just thought they were nice
More Romanian flowers
Yes, more Romanian flowers
The next stop is to meet Lauren in Hungary!