Images conjured up when the word România is mentioned: traditional farming, gypsies, children suckling a mother dog.
We saw this statue in no fewer than three cities.
Welcome to România.
The Capitoline Wolf is a sculpture of a she-wolf suckling twin infants, inspired by the legend of the founding of Rome. The statue is of the Capitoline Wolf and is used in România and Moldova as a symbol of the Latin origin of its inhabitants.
Rome has all the good legends.
Now that you know that Românians are of latin origin you may guess that Românian is a Latin language and wonder why they are not soccer mad. The language a sibling of Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese. With about 20% Slavic influence, it’s similar to Latin in the sense that English is a Germanic language with about 30% Latin influence.
When I listen to Românians speak it sounds like, at varying times, Italian, Spanish and French. At other times it sounds unintelligible. A Românian woman claimed that she was able to understand Spanish, Italian and French speakers, to a degree, but it didn’t work the other way because of how the Slavic influence has altered her language.
I did my best to speak Românian and everyone was very patient with me. Most Românians we encountered spoke English and spoke it well.
Hearing the way people spoke amongst the European architecture this didn’t feel how I though Eastern Europe would feel. It felt Western European. I mean there is the same love of coffee here as there is in the West the problem is that it’s from street side vending machines. There are thousands of these machines in every city.
Those that are from București have a curious habit of checking out your shoes when you walk past. According to a woman not from București claimed it’s done to determine what class you are. So as you walk along people come the other way will look at you, then your shoes and then back at you. When you stop at a pedestrian crossing then they can afford a much slower appraisal of you.
So București feels and sounds like Western Europe. The certainly smoked like Europeans. It was intolerable. Jess had a chest infection and people sitting in restaurants smoking constantly made it incredibly difficult for her. The inclement weather also meant that we couldn’t take a table outside either. We had to go deep into the hazy stench and soak up the flavours with every bite of our food.
We came at the right time of year to witness the Junii Festival in Brașov. Fifty or sixty Românian men in traditional garb of the seven regions of Brașov. They ride horses dressed in traditional horse-garb that they rented the day before. The horses were rented the day before. The horses didn’t rent the traditional horse-garb the day before. That’s just silly, they rented the horse-garb weeks in advance as they had to go through multiple fittings.
The horses, because they’re not trained for their task vary wildly their ability to handle crowds. One mare rears up a few times trying to shake off her rider. She is unsuccessful each time. Another stamps the ground with her front hoof. Most of the horses are ok and most men seem to be semi-competent riders. They spend their time reassuring their mounts that’s all ok.
We visited Bran Castle, the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. It was so full of tourists it was near claustrophobic. We celebrated our cheesy tourism by watching the movie. It was equally cheesy. Anthony Hopkins is by far the stand out delivering a quality dutch accent carried only by the word ‘ja’.
Finally, we visited the bear sanctuary. While we were there a British man can be heard talking to his family. “That was the sound we heard in the forest the other day”. It was two bears fighting!
Brașov but smaller. It was here that we discovered our favourite Românian food: the gogoși. A dinner plate-sized pastry folded in half and filled with chocolate. There are other flavours like cheese or mushrooms. But seriously, chocolate filled pastry defeats them every time.
Sighisoara is a tiny town. We are here to look at the medieval town that has been continually habited since it was created. Medieval towns seem quite small and feel like a lot of construction work for such a small population. The outer town when we passed through it is devoid of people. The original, medieval part was teeming with tourists and overpriced restaurants.
We’d like to eat somewhere and Jess has a hankering for pasta. The only trouble is the coming thunderstorm. We can’t sit outside and there is no room inside. We eventually settle on a takeaway tuna and cheese pizza which is basically just a tuna and cheese toasty. We don’t take it away though and eat it sitting on the waiting chairs in the pizzeria. Outside the run comes down in an endless wave.
We give up waiting for it to stop. Tearing the box in two we make makeshift rain shields and run. We dash through cobbled streets of the medieval town, down the steps that run along the castle wall, across the street and then across a river, past a church and all the way back to the hostel. We arrive wet and smelling of tuna.
In Cluj we went looking for a supermarket. We spot a street sign indicating where a BILLI supermarket might be. We follow this sign for a few hundreds metres until we find another, and then another, and we keep following. We walk for close to an hour. We’ve basically done a shitty tour of the city. We end up back where we started. The signs form a loop and when we find the BILLI supermarket, closed, the next morning it is nowhere near any of the signs.
Out the front of the closed supermarket was a coffee shop attached to bicycle. It’s very hipster and the guy serves up a half-decent cup of coffee.
Suceava is where some of the painted monasteries are. We arrived in this town late on a rainy day. The hostel we selected (and thankfully didn’t pay for) no longer existed. Without internet to find another we walked into the nearest exorbitant hotel.
We wanted to do a tour of the painted monasteries but it was a Sunday in the off season of a quiet year. The town was devoid of people. The hotel found someone willing to come out and drive us around for an generous fee. We managed to see three of the monasteries before jumping on our train back to București and then onto Bulgaria. The woman who drove us around said that the reason tourism is so quiet in the country is the because of the European economic downturn.