Vampires And Donuts – Travelers Tegan and Ingrid’s – Travels in Romania

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Romania – What an amazing country. We really didn’t know what to expect when we arrived in Romania and other than a small knowledge of “Transylvania” from the Dracula stories we had no idea where we wanted to visit. So our 12 days in Romania, unexpectedly turned out to be some of the best days we have had so far on our trip.

Because we were in Romania for so long I thought rather than writing an entirely long essay on everything we did there I would share some of the highlights during our stay. But first just so you have an idea – our basic itinerary was this – We flew into Bucharest from Valencia and stayed there a couple of nights, from Bucharest we stayed in the three Transylvanian towns of Brasov, Sighisoara and Sibiu and then finished up in the Western Romanian town of Timisoara.

PEOPLE

Romanian people, what can we say except that we have decided that so far on our trip we have found the Thais and Romanians to be the most helpful. Perhaps the Romanian’s even more so because they never expected anything in return for any assistance they provided. After a horror arrival at the airport with the vicious taxi drivers not leaving us alone, every single person we approached for assistance in finding our hostel (and there were quite a few as we got hopelessly lost) went out of their way to help us. We had one woman who called her friend to try and find it for us, a man who got his GPS out of this car and looked it up on a map for us and another patron in a pub who let us use his mobile phone to call the hostel when we eventually realised that the directions we received and the address of the place on the map were completely contradictory and hence why we were never going to find the place on our own.

So that was the start of our realisation of the friendliness of the Romanian people and it didn’t stop there. The owner of our accommodation in Bucharest not only helped us plan our time in Bucharest but he also helped give us ideas to plan our entire Romanian itinerary.

This kindness continued throughout our trip both at hostels, in restaurants, tourist attractions and just on the street. Whenever you needed to ask a question everyone was willing to help you or at least point you in the direction of someone who could.

We also got taken out for lunch in Bucharest by two amazing girls Cornelia and Elissa. They introduced us to some pretty awesome Virgin Mojitos and gave us our first real taste of Romania food…

FOOD

Those that know us well will know that we love our food. Tegan loves cooking and I love baking. We love to eat out and enjoy trying different cuisines. Actually rather than calling our trip just any “Round the world trip” you could almost say it was a “foodie tour of the world.” Where we can afford it anyway J. So the fact that Romanian food is so cheap only further fuelled our desires as foodies. Romanian food is wholesome and delicious. Lots of meaty sausages, meats and stews served with different styles of potatoes or quite often polenta. I think it’s safe to say that we both really loved the Romanian grilled sausages called “Mititei.” Deliciously cooked and served with a yummy mustard and potatoes those things are heavenly together with a $1 pint of local Romanian brew. Yes that is right, pints cost around $1 and the beer tastes great! Actually probably some of our favourite Mititei was from the Timisoareana Brewery, in, you guessed it, Timisoara. One of the staff members from our hostel suggested it on our first night there and we loved it so much we headed back for our 2nd nights dinner as well.

Another definite highlight of Romanian food was the desserts! Oh boy, they definitely know how to cook desserts. In one word, SCRUMPTIOUS! We tried quite a few during our time there, Pancakes with a honey & nut filling, A very delicious Romanian take on Tiramisu, Some pastry balls that had plums inside and were also very delicious and definitely my favourite – Romanian donuts called Papanasi. They are actually made with cottage cheese and fried and then covered in jam and sour cream. You know what that really doesn’t make them sound that appertising. But when you taste them you may just never stop craving them. For any sweet tooth they are definitely a must try when in Romania. Plus I now plan on finding a recipe and cooking them once back in Australia. So if you ask nicely perhaps we will invite you over to help us eat them.

TRANSPORT

Ahh trains, how I love them….most of the time. Perhaps not a good highlight but something that does stand out in the mind as a Romanian experience was our train trip from Brasov to Sighisoara. We walked up to the platform expecting a reasonably comfortable, clean air-conditioned train, similar to the one we had enjoyed coming from Bucharest but we were quickly brought to our senses on what the other end of the Romanian scale could look like. A lovely stinking hot train with old bench style seating. To make matters worse the train was full when we got on so we thought that we were going to have to stand up for the 3 hour journey. However we were once again taken aback by how amazing lovely Romanian people are when three different groups of people moved around and swapped seats to ensure that there was two seats together for us to sit down. So we were kept amused on the hot trip by a very loud group of old Romanian men playing cards next to us.

Another trip that won’t be readily forgotten was the bus ride from Deva to Timisoara. A 3 hour bus trip with a driver who spent the majority of the trip with one hand on the wheel and the other either holding a cigarette (it was a non-smoking bus) or on his mobile phone. And he wondered why all these cars kept overtaking him and honking their horns loudly as they went past….He was drifting constantly across the lines in the middle of the road. A little scary and I must admit I couldn’t watch a lot of it and figured it was best to just go to sleep and pray you would still wake up alive and well at the end of it J

SIGHTS

With 12 days in the country we saw plenty. But a few highlights have to be mentioned.

Firstly – Bucharest. I would have to say out of all the places we have visited so far on our trip this one surprised me the most. It is an amazing city. Perhaps not so beautiful in some areas but the old town itself and the surrounding areas are just wonderful and we really loved our couple of days there. We could have easily stayed longer but we prefer to be in smaller areas rather than big cities if we can so we were looking forward to heading into Transylvania.

We of course had to visit the castle known as Draculas, Bran Castle. In fact, Vlad ‘the Impaler’ Dracul, whom Bram Stoker based the Dracula character on never actually lived in the castle at all. It was just a good place for Bram Stoker to based his story. Vlad visited the castle only once during his lifetime. So other than the souvenir shops you won’t find any real information about “Dracula” at Bran castle. But still the castle itself is beautiful, perched atop a cliff in a lovely little town close to Brasov.

We did actually go out of our way to make a day trip to another castle which is rarely visited by foreign tourists in the industrial town of Hunedoara in Western Romania. This was truly amazing. A amazingly medieval looking castle which was also helped by the fact that there was some filming going on there at the time so there were people walking around dressed in full costume to help add to the atmosphere.

Something we never expected to see on our round world trip was Jousting. Yes the real kind with knights on horses and long pointy sticks. There was some kind of Jousting tournament happening in Brasov when we were there and we happened to hear about it through someone at the hostel. So thought we’d go along and investigate. It turned out to be some great entertainment watching the “Knights” battle it out with different disciplines in the arena.

Another one of our favourite things we did in Romania was again kind of by accident. Our hostel owner in Sibiu had suggested we visit this town nearby and to get there we had to take a bus to a tramcar. She said that if we wanted to waste a bit of time if we had to wait for the next tramcar we should visit this “little open air museum,” close by. So when we arrived on the bus we thought ok lets go and see this little museum. Turns out it was not little in the slightest and we ended up not visiting the other town at all and just spent the whole day in the museum. It was in fact an entire village which had been created by moving different building and structures from across Romania over the years and rebuilding them to create a kind of old traditional town. We really enjoyed just wandering through the hectares of property and seeing all of the old buildings, they had everything from traditional water mills, to icehouses for fisherman, horse and carts moving things around the village, traditional Romanian wooden churches and even an old Ferris wheel, completely made out of wood. What we found even more amazing was the fact that it appeared people were actually living there as well. Whilst you were allowed to go into some of the house and they were just decked out with traditional artefacts like a museum in other areas there were gates at the back that lead to other houses which were private and were actually where people were living. We assume they were people who maintained the museum. But it was great as it made it seem more like a real working town.

So as you can tell we loved every minute in Romania. We would love to go back and spend some time visiting some other areas of the country.

But for now it was time to jump back on a long train ride back to Croatia.

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