Europe. Romania. Brasov: Searching for Dracula

Fri, October, 20th, 2006 - Sat, October, 21st, 2006

We had such high hopes for Romania, especially since we expected a lot of Dracula folklore. Unfortunately our visit to Romania was disappointing but there was still some excitement. We arrived around 6am which was too early to check in to a hostel because they don't let anyone in until 10am. We were desperate for a shower and sleepy so that is our excuse for what happened next. A man named Nick approached us and used his "practical/utilitarian" grasp of English to inform us that he had a private room in his house that we could stay in. He was a sketchy character with missing teeth but his happy attitude and use of English convinced us in our vulnerable state to go with him (plus he was going to drive us there, how convenient is that!). The room was very nice and actually in the home of this nice Romanian couple who spoke no English but did speak French so that helped a little.

Nick also offered to drive us to the castles at Bran and Rasnov for 15 euros(both look like castles that Dracula could have lived in but didn't). So we trusted him and agreed. Nick told us that he just had to make a quick stop at the train station and then he disappeared for 20 minutes. When he came back he had a stranger with him and told us that he had stuff to do today so this new man (who was sketchy as well and spoke no English) would drive us for the agreed price. The new guy is smiley so we go along with it.

The castles turn out to be big tourist traps (who would have guessed???) but they are pretty cool. Bran was the nicer castle (Rasnov was under construction) and it had spooky pictures of gypsy queens which Tyler enjoyed. It had a spooky feeling when you were inside the castle and just felt more like Dracula could have lived there. Very pretty view of the city as well. There were lots of stalls around the castles that sold daggers, an item I wasn't expecting to see so abundantly available but cool to look at.

The end of the trip signalled the beginning of the cabby haggling. We were unprepared for this since we agreed on a flat price and he understood that. Tyler ending up giving 2 extra euros but it was very awkward and unpleasant to haggle with someone who is already ripping you off and is unable to (or at least pretending not to) understand you. I would not recommend the experience to anyone.

We also encountered the greatest language barrier in Romania. We got spoiled in the other countries that we visited by most of the people having a little knowledge of English and most restaurants had English translations for their dishes or at least someone that could explain what it was to you. Romania was different. We were starving at 3pm and found a fast food place while walking around but discovered that we couldn't read anything that was listed so we ended up just picking random combos. I totally mispronounced everything while ordering (and Tyler saved us a table), the girl smiled at me and my brutal attempt at Romanian so at least she was nice about me butchering her language. Tyler's meal was perfectly acceptable, he got chicken drumsticks.... I on the other hand ended up with fried cheese on a bun. It was so gross! And amazingly enough it was a very popular item in the restaurant, I saw many other people around who intentionally ordered it. Craziness! The other excitement of the day was when Tyler ever so slightly electrocuted himself while trying to figure out why the washing machine was covering the floor in water.

The next day we went to Sighisora in the hopes of attending a Dracula theme park which Tyler had read about in our outdated travel guidebook. We learned that the theme park was never actually made because Prince Charles believed it would taint the beauty of Romania... so sad! After mapless wandering that revealed most of the places were closed at noon we had lunch at Vlad Tepes (Dracula)'s birthplace. Very tasty food although it is kinda sad that Dracula's old house is now a restaurant for tourists... but I bet they make good money.

-Jenny and Tyler, Dracula groupies

Europe. Hungary. Budapest: Fun with an exciteable Romanian

Thurs, October, 19th, 2006

We got lost trying to find the Statue Park in Budapest since it was in an area not covered by our map. While lost we discovered a cheap internet place and decided to spend some time there to make ourselves feel better. Tyler goes crazy without internet for a few days so it is better to appease him than have a grumpy, computer-depraved geek on my hands. :) When you haven't been on the internet for a while and are stressed and lost in an unfamiliar city you have no idea how fast time flies by. We spent 3 hours at the internet cafe and it felt like 10 minutes... crazy! But it was a nice way to kill time before our overnight train.

We shared our compartment on the overnight train to Brasov, Romania with an exciteable Romanian named Michael. He reminded me of Robin Williams, same peppiness and jumping around enthusiasm and he also looked like him (and I'm not the only one to notice the similarity, he mentioned that people tell him that all the time). He started a conversation with us by asking us what our zodiac signs were, he and Tyler are both Sagittarius's and he said that meant that they were both "soft" whereas since I'm a Cancer I'm "hard & tough". I bet a lot of you are laughing when you read that, but he was convinced that I was very tough. Perhaps I am around strangers. I was amused with his interpretation of me. He provided us with travel advice since he's been all over the place and also gave us diet advice. He was a nutritionist at some point and knows a lot about botany and was convinced that you should eat fruit 20 minutes before a meal because once you eat your carbs and heavy food after the fruit your body is tricked into thinking that the heavy food is a fruit and you'll digest it in 20 minutes instead of 20 hours. It was an interesting theory and he was very enthusiastic about it. He shared his food with us and even if we said no he would say "Come on!" until we agreed. Good thing we're push-overs or there could have been a brawl! :)

-Jenny the Hard and Tyler the Soft