Trees of Green

Trip Start Jun 01, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Romania  ,
Wednesday, July 5, 2006

"I see trees of green, red roses too, I see them bloom, for me and you. And I think to myself.... what a wonderful world" - Louis Armstrong

I want to make this point, but before I do, I want to make it clear that neither myself or my companion Vinny subscribe to Backpacker Pretention. It's not something we rate highly - any pretension that is, but particularly Backpacker pretension

We have met, for example, those that say things like "Oh, God, you're staying in a place listed in Lonely Planet? That's, like, so, I don't know..."

"What Lonely Planet's for?" We would ask at this point.

And don't get us started on the "Oh, sure, yah, that's a nice place... but you really had to be there ten years ago, you know? Before it got too... you know".

It's the stupidity of it we can't stand. The self-fulfilling don't-go-to-nice-places-or-they'll-become-tourist-destinations twattery of the whole thing.

"Oh!", they would remark, looking up from their laptop, "you're staying at a hostel? What, with running water? I'm staying with a native tribe of wild field mice, we only eat things that die of natural causes... or, you know, cheese and stuff".

To really be in with these people you have to roll up to places at the beginning of time and barter a good price for a mug of primordial soup that at some stage in millions of years will evolve into a small stall selling chess sets and tea towels.


Anyway, that's out of the way. The point I wanted to make is that so far, particularly in Eastern Europe, we have found the smaller towns so much better than the capitals (see now why I wanted to put in that pretension Disclaimer?). It's not about the road less travelled, it's just simply that they are much nicer places.

Dubrovnik, for example, is a hundred times nicer than Zagreb. Mostar puts Sarejevo to shame, although it's the latter that has been rebuilt after the war. And here in Romania, Brasov and Sinia are fantastic compared to the rather seen-one-eastern-european-city-seen-them-all Bucharest.

So if you have the mind to go, then you would do well to consider these places as they are gems..... Plus, there's nothing surer to piss off Pretentious Backpackers than beating them in a name-dropping game, so it's a win-win situation.

So we've been staying in Brasov, and yesterday we had a day trip to Sinia with some guys from the hostel. It's an hour on the train, and was reported to be much prettier than Bran Castle, where Vlad the Impaler lived and Stoker based Dracula. Although he had never been there.... and wrote the book in Whitby... and Dracula wasn't published in Romania until 1989.... but that's another story.

Stoker, that was, not Vlad. Vlad was rubbish too, but for different, impaling type reasons.

We hiked up a hill in Sinia to see a couple of castles that the Romanian King is taking back in a couple of weeks. It's a bit of a bone of contention with the Romanians - they invite their King back from exile, and he says "OK, but get those commoners off my land". So these lovely houses that were open to the public and a massive tourism boost to the region are being closed and guarded by scary men with guns.

We took a cable car up 1400 feet and then climbed a little higher (as there was a bar up there) to sit and look back out over the valley of Sinia. A ski resort in the winter, it's a beautiful thing to behold. The pictures don't really do it justice, but, well, what are you gonna do?

As we sipped our beverages and cooled down from the climb, and shared a silent moment looking over the rolling virgin forests and avalanche scarred mountainsides, Louis Armstrong's What a Wonderful World came on the radio.

The six of us sighed contentedly.

Then they played the Romanian entry from the Eurovision Song Contest.

Rough with the smooth.... rough with the smooth.

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