Travel Journal

In the land of Dracula

(Wednesday 19 November 2014) by Mariken
In my coach at Eger Castle
In my coach at Eger Castle
Blood, sweat and tears, but my book has finally arrived! Two days ago I saw that the status on the Brill website had changed from 'forthcoming' to 'available' and a few hours later I received an email from one of my doctor fathers telling me that he had received my book and that it looked beautiful. Yes! So finally, two years after I defended my dissertation, my book has been published and I guess it will hit the stores within a few days. I can assure you, this is a huge burden finally falling away. And that is very fortunate, because frankly, more sweat, tears and especially blood would have become dangerous, because we have arrived in the land of Dracula!

And despite all prejudices many Dutch people have about Romania, I absolutely love it. The landscape is infinitely more interesting than Hungary, people are very friendly and best of all: we can communicate again! Not only is Romanian far easier to understand than e.g. Czech or Polish (don't even get me started about Hungarian), many people - and certainly not only the ones employed in the high-end tourist business - speak at least a basic form of English, which is perfectly acceptable for us, not being native speakers either. I think one of the reasons so many Romanians have at least a basic understanding of English is because television shows and movies are not dubbed but subtitled. Hooray for that! Do you read this, France, Germany, Spain and Italy? Romania is way ahead of you! Of course, Romania is a nation of stark contrasts. Flashy, brand new BMWs are parked next to battered old Dacias and while Romania is fastly improving its infrastructure by patching up existing roads and building shiny new motorways, horse drawn carriages are still a very common sight. There is still an ongoing struggle with the Roma population of which some are filthy, filthy rich and leading a very ostentatious lifestyle (you should see some of the houses we pass when on the road!), whilst a substantial part of that minority group lives in extreme poverty and is still treated as second-class citizens. Of course, the average Romanian isn't exactly prosperous either, 200-250 euro being the average monthly income. Being the second poorest EU country, Romania has the name of being very corrupt, yet last Sunday against all odds Romanians elected a new president who promised a crackdown on corruption instead of the other candidate who promised lower taxes and higher pensions. To all sceptics out there I would say: step out of your ivory tower, bury you prejudices and come and see for yourself what Romania has to offer!

Heading towards wintertime...
Heading towards wintertime...
Wow, I sound like a tourist brochure trying to sell Romania to the West. :-D But then again, we are having a marvellous time. We started our Romanian adventure in Medias, a provincial town near Sibiu, where we visited Romanian friends and enjoyed true Romanian hospitality. We were treated on home made Romanian wine, tuica - strong enough to bring tears into your eyes - and papanasi, sweet dumplings, and it was wonderful to be among friends again. From Medias we made day trips to Sibiu, the heart of Transylvania, fairytale like Sighisoara (birthplace of Vlad Tepes, Bram Stoker's main inspiration for Dracula) and we even showed our sporty side and borrowed our hosts' mountain bikes to cycle to Mosna, to visit the fortified church. My butt still hurts. After a couple of days we packed the Niva again, kissed our friends goodbye and headed to the university town of Cluj-Napoca (or simply Cluj for intimi), where there isn't anything special to see really, but where we simply relaxed and and soaked up the Cluj atmosphere, which is supposed to be special. I was surprised to come across the same statue of Romulus and Remus, being fed by a she-wolf, which I had seen in Sighisoara (and which is a copy of the original, which is in Rome), but by now I have discovered that every Romanian town that considers itself worthwhile, has this statue somewhere (although I have yet to spot it in Brasov). Beats me why, but there you have it. Two days ago, we left Cluj to head south again, as the weather in the north was truly dreadful, only to end up in Sighisoara again, where we found a beautiful pension, with the best bed ever. Apart from the bed, the room was beautiful, the place felt like a castle and the owners were really friendly. It felt like a huge splurge, except for the fact that it wasn't a splurge at all, but the cheapest hotel in Romania so far. A real gem and we slept like roses.

And now, well-rested and energetic again, we are in Brasov, Transylvania's most lively town, with beautiful churches, towers, city walls and plenty of castles in the vicinity, including 'Dracula's' castle in nearby Bran. We'll cover our necks, have our stakes ready and will keep you posted!

  • Congratulations! No need to sell us Romania ;-) by Marije
    • You were fast! by Mariken
  • Chapeau! by Jac
    • Zadelpijn en ander damesleed by Mariken
  • Gefeliciteerd by Aafke
    • Romulus en Remus by Mariken
  • your book by mum
    • Boek by Mariken
  • gefeliciteerd by ilse
    • Italië by Mariken

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