Exploring Brasov

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September 12th 2011
Published: September 15th 2011
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I slept very well; woke up a few times, but only enough to check the time then right back to sleep. I got up at 7:00 and did some yoga in my room; room is a bit cramped for the yoga mat, but workable. Leslie went to the supermarket, I wrote for a bit (yesterday's journal entry), and Linda and Carrie followed their usual morning travel routine; now that it is 9am, it is time to head out for another Brasov day!

We walked to the old town, about a ½ hour walk --- it was already getting very warm even though it was still so early. None of us expected it to be so warm on this trip; beginning to realize I won't need those long-sleeve shirts and sweatshirts. The sun is strong; the temperature difference between shade and sun is remarkable. Leslie observed many school-aged children with flowers during her morning walk to the supermarket, and we have seen several kids being photographed by their mothers, so we decided that perhaps it is the first day of school. We walked to Strada Muresinelor instead of
the pedestrian walk this time. We stopped at a German bakery for cappuccino and croissants, and ate outside. A few stores down the block we found the librarie – a bookstore we were hoping to come across. We picked up some maps, Carrie got a picture book of Brasov, and I got a deck of cards for Kimberly & an english-romania dictionary. I also, on impulse, bought Eat Pray Love in Romanian. It intrigued me that I could read so much more of this than any other Romanian I have tried to decipher ... because I have already read the book in English. 😊

We stopped at the rather unfriendly Tourist Office, where each request was met with a sigh and a very small amount of information. Oh well ... everyone else has been very friendly .. why should we expect as much from the tourist office ...?

We continued on to the Black Church. There was quite a crowd at the entrance, seemed to be all locals not tourists. I tried to read a flyer that was posted, but it did not seem Romanian, looked to me like German. The doors opened, and so many people began to stream out -- predominantly children, grouped by age. We decided it must be some sort of school ceremony; many were carrying flowers; others were greeted by parents and grandparents bearing flowers. After a quite long recessional, the entrance cleared out and we entered the church. We glomed (see LDTG glossary) onto a group of Australian tourists, and paid our entrance fee. Inside the church we looked about for a bit, then Leslie sat in a pew with the tour group and the rest of us joined in. The tour guide was speaking English (yay) to the Australian group.

The tour guide had spoken to the person collecting money, and was able to explain the service. This church is still an active church, and Brasov still has a vibrant German (Saxon) community. On the first and last day of school there is a special service for the children and teachers, and the parents meet the children outside.

We also learned a lot about the church from the tour guide. It was originally a Gothic chuch built by the Saxons in the late 1300s. Started as a Roman Catholic church then became Lutheran. Was burned by the Austrian army in 1689; the exterior survived and the interior was rebuilt in the Baroque style.

We then walked to a different area of the square, which is very picturesque. I especially loved a building painted a lovely shade of blue. We sat for a bit to make a plan, then headed to the cable car station. Carrie and I bought tickets for down only. At the ticket window, we met our 2nd disagreeable person of the trip --- who was quite frustrated with Carrie who kept (accidentally) trying to pay in Euro. Leslie and Linda boarded the cable car right away, we waved as they passed. Carrie and I then sought out the trailhead for the red triangle trail, and headed UP.

The hiking trail was narrow and steep, leading us through a peaceful quiet forest. After walking in silence for 10 minutes or so, a sudden noise and flurry of activity along side the trail startled us both --- bear?!? Nope; just a bird!

There were many switchbacks, and eventually we began to "cheat" ... cutting up vertically where others had clearly cheated before us. Our last "cheat" was a bit more challenging than we had planned for!

We were both out of breath at first, but settled into the rhythm of the climb. We talked about what we get from hiking. The exchange of physical energy exerted for spiritual energy regained. A sense of peace from the mountain, the trees, the rocks, the sky. A sense of challenge and accomplishment. A gradual lifting away of daily concerns, a sense of renewed focus.

The trail passed beneath the cable car a few times, with benches built into the mountainside and fabulous views of Brasov. This was a very well-marked trail – much better than the streets or train stations!

Once we reached the top, we easily found Leslie and Linda at the mountaintop cafe (aptly named Restaurantul Panoramic.) We ordered o sticlă de apă şi o sticlă de bere, which both felt well-deserved.

We were (as usual) very chatty and not very quiet. Two women came up to our table and asked, with enthusiasm, "Are you American?" They then exclaimed that our conversation was the first North American English they had heard in three weeks. Their names were Catherine and Mico, a mother and daughter visiting Romania from Vancouver Canada. They had been here for a few weeks and are traveling by train tomorrow back to Bucharest to head to Greece for a few more weeks. Part of the reason for their travel to Eastern Europe was to go to Ukraine to find old family; Catherine's grandmother had been Ukrainian. They were successful but had a quite an adventure at the border.

We boarded the cablecar to go back down, and Leslie called Alan, who provided a very American update for us --- the Giants lost the first game of the season to the Redskins.

At the base, we split ... Linda and Carrie went to Strada Sforii (a.k.a. Rope Street, only 44 inches wide.) Leslie and I went to a place purported to have free internet, met a somewhat unfriendly security guard instead. We discussed that we need to email Lonely Planet to correct the misinformation, which led to us comparing Lonely Planet travel guides to the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. We then went inside Friend's Cafe (instead of the outdoor seating where we had stopped the night before) -- jackpot: they had wifi access for free inside, yay! Outside they have saucer shaped chairs; inside is all neon and futuristic curved furniture – we decided we were in the Restaurant at the end of the Universe. I checked in with the kids and facebook, and most importantly was able to complete the email coordination with Florin about tomorrow's tour.

We then headed to meet the other two of the Core of Four at the restaurant recommended by Mico and Catherine - Ceasu Rău. En route we passed a mosaic of St Gheorge, among other interesting small sites. This was our first traditional Romanian dinner. It is not a vegetarian-friendly cuisine; even the meateaters were a bit confused about what meat they were eating. However I was able to enjoy some grilled vegetables ... and some pickled vegetables.

We headed home, stopped at Mic.ro 279 (these are like 7-11 stores, except that each one has it's own number) bought several bottles of wine, ice cream, and cookies. We hung out in the kitchen drinking and rehashing our day and eventually our lives ... Carrie begged off early, later on Linda. Leslie and I polished off the wine and then two beers, went to bed close to 1am.

It was a very full and fun day.


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