Published: June 7th 2012May 21st 2012
A very picturesque little street in the citadel
A typical Sighisoara citadel street. It wasn't the first thing we saw, but I put it first because it's beautiful and should be the opening of the blog :) And look, no cars!
On my last day with the Singaporean boys, we decided to head out of Brasov to the town of Sighisoara. We got a driver from the hostel, and on our way out of town we had to drop off our hostel host at the local hospital (I guess he was undergoing some tests). He told us some very interesting facts about the health care system in Romania. He was carrying his own plates, utensils, towels and food, which I had first thought that maybe the driver had left them at his place and he was returning them. That was not the case. In the Romanian public health system, you have to bring all your own stuff with you to the hospital. Even though some people pay a little every month to the government for health care (for many many years) this doesn't go very far. They still have to pay for their treatment and additionally, they have to tip the doctor (unless you have enough money or a job that pays for private healthcare, then you don't have to pay or tip). For a bypass, for example, you'd have to tip your doctor 1000 euros on top of the cost of
the procedure if you go to a hospital in Brasov or 4000 if you go to a hospital in Bucharest. I can only imagine the shotty job they might do if you didn't tip enough! The host and the driver were complaining about how scary these hospitals can be and the fact that they're not really clean. Boy did we not see the irony in this conversation until later in the day.
The drive to Sighisoara was only about 2 hours through the rolling hills and countryside. We didn't like this driver as much as Niko from the day before, but he wasn't as crazy of a driver.
When we got to Sighisoara, the sun was shining and it was getting really warm out. We only had a few hours to spend before we had to drive back to Brasov to drop me off and then the driver was going on to drop the boys at the airport in Bucharest because they were going to Venice early the next morning.
As you drive into the city of Sighisoara, it looks beautiful. As we approached the centre, we could see the colorful old citadel (a UNESCO site) sitting
atop a rocky hill overlooking newer areas of the city. When we were let off, we immediately walked up the hill through the steep cobblestone streets to get to the top.
The claim to "fame" of Sighisoara is that it was the birthplace of "Dracula" (aka Vlad Tepes, the Impaler). We found the birthplace site as soon as we reached the top. It's not so over commercialized (I'm sure you can imagine), so all that was there was a plaque.
The citadel was a fort first built by the Saxons, which grew rich off of trade. We spent lots of time wandering the cobblestone streets and marveling at the beautifully old and colorful homes which can be dated back to the 1400s. We tried to walk right to the top and found an old church (actually called church on the hill) as well as a Romanian school and the children had just been let out for lunch.
After exploring we went back down into the town and had lunch at a place the guidebook recommended, called Rustic. Don't go there, it was dark, smoky and the food wasn't so good.
The real craziness of the day
started when we got back to the driver for our return trip. He immediately informed us that he was going to drive himself to the hospital because his heart rate was too high (he had earlier told us that he had some illness and the government considers him disabled). I wasn't keen on him driving if he wasnt feeling so well, but he insisted he was fine. We couldnt really do much because the guys cant drive on the right (Singapore drives on the wrong side of the street), and i cant drive a stick shift. So we sucked it up; it wasnt too far away. The three of us thought we were in for a really long day....
When we got to the hospital, he needed help to get inside. Since I'm going to be going to medical school in the fall, I figured I should help him. In the least I'd get to see the healthcare system for myself. I have to admit I was a bit scared. He could barely walk and was really holding on to me for support, and wouldn't tell me what was going on. I figured he was going to pass out
The clock tower
From the fourteenth century, but rebuilt in the sixteenth century due to fire
on me at any second, and I didn't know how to say help in Romanian!
The hospital was surrounded by a large iron fence and we had to walk through what seemed to be a security desk, although there was no security. We very obviously needed help, but no one helped. He held on tight and hobbled as we made our way to the random side door to the emergency area. Again, no one helped. Inside, the halls looked like a mental institution from the 1920s that you might see in movie. Very white, unfriendly, long and boring corridors, and unfriendly staff. There was no waiting area but they were quick to take him into the less urgent care room with 3 other people sitting on beds. He didn't know if the woman who took him in was a nurse or not.
The driver was quick to point out to me the dirtiness of the room. The bed linen was not clean and there was a puddle of unknown substance on the floor that was eventually cleaned. No wonder this guy was scared to be there. The nurse and doctor seemed to be in a bad mood, but
that was the general attitude it seemed.
After an hour of waiting with the guy (he was telling me what the doctors were saying but his medical terminology in bad English didn't make too much sense to me), I headed back to the car where the guys were waiting. We were fortunate that their plane didn't leave until the morning. In the car we brainstormed ways to get out of this situation, and we gave him an hour until we were going to leave and walk to the train station to take it back. Also, i was feeling super uncomfortable with him driving now after having been dizzy and weak. Unfortunately, their bags were in the trunk and we couldn't seem to find the button to pop the trunk, so I had to go back and get the keys. On the way back though, he was coming back out. They had apparently released him because he was feeling better (they said something about the heat on his neck making him ill, but he was relieved it wasn't his heart). I questioned him about his ability to drive and I thought he was okay enough to drive, but I watched
him the entire way and was ready to jump in if he had any problems. I think he was annoyed, but hey it's my life!
Luckily he was only in the hospital for 2 hours, so we were on our way again. In Canada that would have been a lot longer of a wait, especially since it was not urgent. Well at least I got to be enlightened about a totally different health care system.
The driver brought us all back to Brasov safely, and handed the boys over to another driver who took them to Bucharest. I was then on my own, and exhausted. If it wasnt enough that i had to bring him to emergency and wait for this stranger, Before bringing me back to the hostel the guy dragged me to the market so he could buy veggies for dinner. At least the trip in the end cost slightly less than we were quoted.. so I guess in a sense that made up for it....
Here's the cost break down for some things to show you just how cheap it is here:
Cost of hotels:
1 night in the Ibis hotel
in Bucharest 59 Euro
2 nights in the hostel apartment in Brasov = 57 lei per night (10 pounds or $16 CAD per night per person)
1 night in the hostel apartment for me by myself= 120 Lei (22 pounds, or $34 CAD)
average meal = 15-20 lei a big plate (2.70-3.6 Pounds or $4.30-$5.70 CAD)
*note that the CAD values are an overestimate!
There are more photos below