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Published: September 11th 2009
So many it appears I was blinded by them!
Way back in the 80's, Steph (as a little girl in love with gymnastics) watched a movie called Nadia about the famous Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci. So when we first moved to Europe and made our hit list of 'must-see' countries, Steph put Romania on (out of a Dracula curiosity I seconded it). I've been to Bucharest a bunch of times for work, and since this time I was going on a Thursday/Friday it was perfect for the girls to meet me for the weekend. Steph was extremely brave attempting her first flight alone with Dahlia but totally survived with the help of clucky air hostesses, and when I met her at Bucharest airport we introduced Dahlia to 'real' heat. It was 42.5 degrees - easily the hottest she had ever felt in her short life. Thank God the rental car had AC!
From there it was about 3.5 hour drive to Brasov at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains. The road was much better than we had feared, despite being clogged with roadworks and people escaping Bucharest for the weekend. I saw a bunch of sites I had become used to in my Romanian travels: goats and cows by
the roads; overloaded hay trucks blocking the road; fields with haystacks and pitchforks (which always tickle my fancy); fields of sunflowers; and private houses with big Coke merchandising all over them!. But this time we were also struck by the sheer volume of roadside watermelon stands... dozens of watermelon stands, each with hundreds of watermelons! We didn't stop for one, but I wish we had!
Brasov is a classically cute Eastern European old town, except for the massive Hollywood style BRASOV sign sitting in the hills high above it. Apparently residents just woke up one day to find it there unannounced! Because it had been such a hot day, the town was still a flurry of activity when we went out for a walk that night. We walked through the parks, but inevitably 'we' were drawn to the little markets along the road - full of flowers and traditional dresses (Dahlia scored one!).
Saturday we headed to the infamous Bran castle, home of Dracula. In reality, Dracula was not actually a vampire (surprise, surprise). The fictional character was based on Vlad the Impaler ('Son of Drac' - which in Romanian translates 'Dracula') who reigned from Bran Castle in
The Courtyard of Bran Castle.
the 1400s. And although not a vampire, he really wasn't that nice a guy judging by some of the stories we read about him in the castle museum! Let's just say his torture techniques could fill the pages of hundreds of horror novels! At the bottom of the castle we ended up in another cute Transylvanian market, and Dahlia ended up with another cute Transylvanian outfit. 😊
From there we spent most of the weekend seeing Brasov's old town and also riding the cable car to the top of the Brasov sign. It was a cool view, but standing behind the sign and seeing how massive it actually is, was the best bit. The drive back to Bucharest wasn't without dramas. We had borrowed a Romanian friend's GPS, but it seemed intent on keeping us in Brasov. After doing about 10 loops of Brasov under it's guidance we eventually took a 'wrong' turn and found ourselves on the highway to Bucharest. (Mind you, we should have learnt to ignore it after also doing 10 laps trying to find our hotel Friday night.) The clear highlight of the trip back was finally stopping for our watermelon. We picked the best
looking stand we could find, and I examined quite a few melons to pick the best one. It was with much excitement that our watermelon weighed in at a little over 8kg (costing about 1 Euro!). 😊
The only thing we stopped to see in Bucharest was the People's Palace - the life obsession of Romania's former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. It's not just massive, it's monstrous. According to Guinness Book of Records it's the most expensive building ever built and the heaviest! It's actually obscene how big it is - I've spoken to several Romanian colleagues when we had a conference there last year and they said for the Romanian people it's a building of great sadness. Ceausescu paid for his megalomaniac building plans from the money gained from exporting almost all the food produced in the country, creating a famine that killed countless Romanians. It's hard to see beauty in a building like this...
We arrived at our Sunday night hotel with our large watermelon for dessert (much to the displeasure of the guy checking us in), and prepared for an early morning flight back to Prague, and work.
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