I have a map where the destinations I am interested in are marked, basically separated into two categories: places where I want to go and places I would go to if I pass nearby, subdivided into those that my wife is interested and those I am. I do not say “countries” to visit but “destinations”, as we try to find places that attract our attention regardless of where they belong to, because the best of one country can be much worse than something acceptable of another.
Romania was on our list as “to go if nearby”; we only had marked two castles in Transylvania. Then it happens that the cheapest ticket to return from Greece to Spain is by far going through Bucharest, being able to stop as many days as we want. If that is not an opportunity to visit it by the way… After a few days, there are places that have surprised us for good, and others that indeed, were not worth much.
My friend Tom, whose wife is Romanian, told me in 2008: “Romania is changing fast, in 10 years it will be the same as any other country in the European Union.” Although it is true that the general impression is more favorable than you can imagine, it would have to improve very quickly in a year to fulfill the forecast of my Belgian friend: new roads, new vehicles, globalization… don’t expect to see the Renault 12 from 1978 circulating, and even less pulled by a donkey, that is a thing of the past, but let’s not fool ourselves, Romania looks like the disadvantaged communist sister of Austria:
- Buildings in Bucharest are of three types: monumental in excellent condition, monumental in a pitiable state and vestiges communist each one less attractive than the next, most of them full of daubs (because they can not be called graffiti) in the lower part, which worsens the image of the city. And let’s not talk about its monstrous Parliament, one of the largest government buildings in the world, you do not know if it’s ugly or beautiful, but you can not stop looking at it, just what was intended to be when built. On the other hand, the historical center of other cities, like Brasov, is totally restored and clean, is interesting and pleasant to see, which makes the country win points. Orthodox churches and monasteries spring like mushrooms anywhere in any city, and although most are not very remarkable, those who decide to go to the north of the country will see their efforts rewarded.
- Its nature, although not spectacular, is also more attractive than people imagine: the Carpathians, and especially the region of Transylvania, with its mountains plagued by castles, among which are known for their fame Peles and of course, Bran, also known as Dracula’s Castle. And the Transfagarasa is probably one of the funniest and most scenic roads in Europe. There is also a good stretch of coastline on the Black Sea.
- Other aspects are also not very remarkable:
- Gastronomy is basically a mixture of typical dishes of the neighboring countries, although with some interesting contributions, especially in relation to cabbage.
- Romanians are not especially smiling or pleasant, not even many whose jobs depend directly on tourism; we were already warned against how bad it is said service is in restaurants, but we have not been able to refute that: bad manners, long faces, bad replies are not usual, but rather the norm in this country. It is true that our contact with locals is limited to people from Bucharest and Brasov, I am sure that in rural areas people should be much friendlier, or at least I hope…
- A cheap country within the European Union, but less than you would expect. You have to search very well if you want to get prices for non-tourists in food, restaurants and shops. It is easy to organize any trip and move around, as long as you avoid taxis as much as possible.
- There is one aspect to highlight favorably, and is that contrary to what is believed Romania is not an insecure country. In fact, the crime rates of its main cities are almost half that of European cities such as Marseille, Naples, Rome, Paris or Athens. Yes, sadly you see in the street many people who look like criminals, vagabonds and poor people but they do not approach, nor beg, nor annoy anyone.
And with all this and the following posts, anyone can make their decision. Me, I plan to return to Romania… if it happens I’m nearby.
- BRAN OR DRACULA’S CASTLE
- PELES CASTLE