Saturday, July 23, 2005

Europe 2005 - Romania

We decided to try traveling at night for the first time to get into Romania faster. This ended up with us crossing the bridge into Romania at exactly midnight. Since we came to Romania to see the Transylvania region we started trying to think of other similarities. We saw there was a full moon and Leslie had just drank the last of the blood orange juice that we had. As you can tell we were bored waiting our turn since in reality the only thing sucking blood was the swarm of mosquitos attacking anyone who dared get out of their car from the river we just crossed.
So Dracula is supposed to be based on stories about Vlad Tepes. You impale a few of your enemies on long stakes and the name sticks I guess. (Vlad the Impaler) When we were in Dublin where Bram Stroker lived the guide said the Dracula was Gaelic for blood (“dragule”) here they say its because he was son of the dragon. Either way they are not sure if this was his castle even though they know where he was born. (there are 2 castles vying for the tourists and they are only about 5 miles apart and with the exchange rate its under $3 for each so we visited both.) Since we can't go into Russia with the car Romania is as close as we will get to the Russian culture for L.'s interests. Both castles are a good example for this area of architecture.
Bran castle- this is the more popular of the two, and it has the vendors outside to prove it. I am glad that all the stalls weren't dedicated to dracula. Since the ones that were just sold halloween toys. Most had interesting local folk arts and crafts. L. was able to by a set of nesting dolls "Babushka dolls",that she has been wanting for awhile. The castle itself is situated up on a cliff but it feels more like a comfortable medieval cottage then somewhere Dracula would live. It is similar to tudor style of architecture, with lime washed walls and intricately painted and carved furniture. If dracula did live here, he would be very short,as a lot of the doors topped out at 5 ft.
Rasnov castle- this castle is more of a city type enclosed castle. It seemed like they were so proud of a skeleton that was discovered in the basement that was on display visible through plexi-glass. They were also happy to show pictures depicting many torture methods used on people. This display was in stark contrast to the festival and photo display that was happening in the center courtyard the day that we visited. There was a ring of children dressed in traditional white costumes and vests with fur hats folk dancing. You could even have your picture taken with a Transylvania knight for 10,000 lei (about $0.30).

Nuclear plants-We passed a few of these, some up real close. As we drove by the miles of venting tubes they looked pretty old and rusted and had pieces falling off. Romania is pretty poor and it seems like they have not kept these things up but steam was still coming out the cooling towers so that is pretty scary.

Driving- We were charged $20 at the border instead of paying tolls. There really are not any freeways in the country and all the roads are in pretty bad shape. When we left we were so used to being jarred around by potholes that it felt weird to be on flat roads again.

People Watching- I really should say people watching us. There were more people on the streets here then anywhere else even when I was driving on the road at 2AM. Compared to Turkey the bus would stop anywhere along the main road that people were waiting but there were a lot of roads where groups of men would just be standing there looking at cars driving by, busses can't be on all the roads. Everywhere we drove people would stare at the car. Any time we spoke English people would stare at us. I don't know if it is a culture thing or if there are really that few tourists but where we went a few people spoke English so there must be other tourists there too. As we drove out of the country there were a lot of people getting on the busses. The busses were soon full that we could see and people started trying to hitch from every car that went by. There is no way that anyone over the age of 3 could fit in our back seats or else I would have liked to get a local conversation for a while.

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