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June 2nd 2015
Published: July 29th 2015
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Seven English teachers from three countries pile into a van and drive to Romania. Sounds like a bad joke. In reality, an amazing weekend. It was a cold, drizzly Saturday in May in Budapest when took the airport bus to a stop before the airport and got lost on the way to the car rental place. We had to be there at 5. I got there at 4:55. I was the first one there. John showed up at 5 and we paid 10 euros extra per day to upgrade to the minibus. Such a good decision. Niamh showed up shortly after that, and we drove across the street to put gas in the bus. On the way, when we were turning around because we thought we were driving the wrong way down a one-way road (we've lived there for two years, I swear), a man came and tapped on the window. We thought he was yelling at us for driving. John rolled down the window, and the man tried to sell him a phone for 250 euros. Which dropped rapidly as John refused. The man continued to tap on the window as John pulled away. Awesome start.

The rest of the crew arrived: Kathleen, Justin, Patch, Sam. Plus me, John, and Niamh already in the car.

As per usual, Kathleen and Niamh and I had brought a ton of snacks. We made sandwiches on our laps and ate food the whole way down. We were short on time because our AirBnb host wasn't there, so we were getting the keys from a neighbor who spoke no English and who we did not have the phone number of.

We got to border control and were told to pull the car over while they checked our passports. Patch and Niamh got theirs back quickly (English and Irish) and proceeded to complain about how we Americans were holding them up. While we waited, John pulled out his Romanian phrases sheets. We all practiced, and the only phrase we retained for the whole trip was (phonetically) “Mia fwahmay,” which means “I'm hungry.”

After what seemed like 2 hours, we got our passports back with cool new stamps, and drove the rest of the way. Romania is poor and their roads suck. We got to the correct street, but no one had a working phone, so we only had a print-out map to go on. It took a while to find the house, but we finally found it and were greeted by the neighbor with a key. We learned about the house through gestures and smiles. It was late when we got there, so we explored for a bit, chose our beds, and went to sleep.

Niamh and I woke up in the morning to a lake attached to the Danube that also serves as the border between Romania and Serbia. The beach in front of the house was filled with trash. But the view was gorgeous. We started off towards the supermarket to get food for breakfast when we saw Sam coming back with a bag full of food. We had an awesome breakfast all together, packed snacks, piled in the van, and drove off for our first adventure.

We had no wifi in the house, so everything was based on either research John had done or “Hey, that looks cool! Let's go there!” On Saturday we went for a hike. We drove up a mountain road until we found a hiking path. Then we turned around, found a spot to park in, and started hiking. The main conversation was “Pine trees. Yay or nay?” It got heated. It was hilarious. We finally found a look-out and stopped to rest for a while. There was a cross because this is Europe and there are crosses on top of all mountains (even though this wasn't the top). Some people came up the path, and they spoke English! It was a woman from California and a couple of girls who were all missionaries. We were asking them about the trail and how long to the top (“Oh, it's about another hour. It's really strenuous. Only for serious hikers”), and then they told us about a cave (“but it's really hard to find”). She was the most pretentious missionary ever. But, so it goes. We decided against going to the top because we were pretty tired. Justin stayed at the look-out while Kathleen, Niamh, Patch, and I went to find the cave. John and Sam decided they were going to find a better way to the cave. Patch found the entrance, and we went in. It was way bigger than we expected and dark and cold and awesome. We went back down to meet Justin and the boys. We found Justin. We waited for John and Sam for 45 minutes. Finally we went back down to the car. They caught up with us at the bottom. They had sprinted to the top and sprinted back down.

On our way back to the house, we stopped at the grocery store to get food for dinner. It was a beautiful day, turning into a beautiful night, and we had a grill at our AirBnb. We got a ton of meat, fruit, veggies, and about 10 liters of beer. We had an awesome cook-out with an epic sunset. We stayed up for a while finishing the beer. The boys went out to find a bar, and Kathleen, Niamh, and I went to bed.

Sunday: So, the reason we went to this particular place in Romania is because one day I was browsing Reddit, and saw this moss waterfall that was in Romania. I sent the picture to the group and said “let's go here!” If you google “moss waterfall,” it's pretty easy to find. To my surprise, everyone said “ok!” and that's how we ended up in Orsovo. Sunday was the day to find the waterfall. We sort of had directions. Still no wifi. We drove in the right direction. Finally we had to stop for gas. I went inside the station to ask for directions, luckily found a woman who speaks a little bit of English, and waited 10 minutes for a map to load on the really slow internet in the office. We had gone about 40 km past the turn. Oops. We turned around and drove until we found the very clear sign that all of us had missed saying “Cascada Bigar 65km -->” We turned and took the road. We were talking about how we'd at least get a good hike because hopefully it wasn't just on the side of the road. How could it be? We drove through so many tiny poor villages full of old people, men pulling their wives on carts, and stray dogs. We started playing a game where in each town we had to count 2 women on benches, 3 people on the side of the road, 2 cats, and 5 dogs. We won in almost every town. At one point we pulled into this driveway because we thought it might be for the park. This old man came to the window and was so incredibly nice and pointed us in the right direction.

The Bigar waterfall was very clearly marked. Because it was right off the side of the road. It was beautiful. But disappointing. A mediocre waterfall for such a huge day. We hiked around a bit, but there wasn't much hiking to be done. We scrambled down the ravine to hang out at the level of the waterfall, and it was much cooler from down there. We were probably there for a total of 45 minutes before we got back in the car.

On the way home, Patch noticed that a lot of dogs were walking in the middle of the road, but staying in the right lanes. So we started referring to all of the dogs as cars. We listened to some ridiculous radio, drove through a rainstorm, and went back to the grocery store. We bought all the fixings for tacos and had taco night at home. We bought even more beer than the night before because we had run out and Romania being poor=cheap.

On Saturday morning while snooping around the house, Patch had found 2 things.

A dusty mink that exploded with fur and disgusting old mink smell when he took it out of the drawer.

An Alaska coaster with 7 animals on it that we immediately attributed to each other and decided we had to recreate.

After dinner on Sunday, we propped up my camera, and in 5 shots got the perfect picture to recreate the coaster. It was amazing. Since it never stopped raining, we played kings cup inside, stayed up late, and hung out.

Monday morning came, and it was cold and rainy and time to drive home. First we had to make a stop. The Mount Rushmore of Romania is a face in a mountain, and John kept going on about it. We were sort of afraid it would be like the waterfall. We drove through more poor villages and more dogs who thought they were cars until we got there. We parked the car on a road that had a giant boulder sitting in the middle of it (apparently those falling rock signs mean something). THE FACE WAS SO COOL. It was huge and in the middle of nowhere, and it was way cooler than the waterfall.

Driving back to Hungary, we had to stop at the border again for more passport checking. They directed us to a parking lot, so we got out and kicked a football around. Sam kept kicking it really hard, and at one point almost kicked the ball back into Romania. He wasn't allowed to play anymore. I slept on the way home, and for those of you who know me, I am not a pretty sleeper. My mount hangs open, and I drool. I kept waking up to John taking pictures of me. I have awesome friends.

All in all, it was an awesome hysterical weekend, and the perfect last big trip in Europe.

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