Trip Start Aug 29, 2005
Trip End Aug 01, 2006

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Romania - home of Vlad Țepeș and so much more

10 March - off to Sighișoara, Romania - doesn't the name have a great sound? This is the birthplace of the so-called Dracula - better known as Vlad Țepeș who was the ruling prince of Wallachia (one of the states that became Romania) in 1456-62 and 1476-77 - also called the Impaler as this was his favourite way to punish his enemies, with a wooden stake through the spinal column leaving them to suffer consciously for
'~48 hours' before death! Vlad's father was Vlad Dracul (meaning son of dragon) and the inspiration for the Count Dracula character in Bram Stoker's novel.
As we entered Romania by train it was not long before we got to the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains. And in the end, we really did not encounter too many difficulties at the border. We only had to wait for two hours while our passports were taken and carefully examined. We had been warned about border guards and train officials taking kickbacks from travelers in every Eastern European country. Fortunately this did not happen to us and the officials we encountered were friendly and Aidan made sure that they left with a least a little smile on their faces. Again another benefit of traveling with kids, not too many people are interested in hassling or scamming families with kids.
Once in Romania there was not much snow initially - just grey and leafless valleys. Loads of hens, sheep roaming free, bell shaped haystacks, kids with old pram frames collecting firewood, an Eastern orthodox church in every village, many abandoned factories dating from the pre 1989 days. The train route led us through the less salubrious areas of villages/towns in northeastern Romania- many houses in states of disrepair - houses that we would never consider livable. Roofs on some houses are barely more than tarps with some insulation beneath. (with a satellite dish attached, however!) We definitely passed through some shanty towns. And above ground pipes running for miles - looked like the utilidors found in Inuvik, NWT, housing the water and sewage pipes, but they are actually carrying natural gas. It doesn't look like it would take much to damage these metal containers.... People were busy buying things from Lőkősháza - last Hungarian town before the border - in order to take back to Bucharest to sell. Fancy chocolates, certain alcohols were prime products - some products are still not available in abundance in Romania.
Sighișoara has an absolute charm about it - old old buildings, a tower clock that was built in the 1600's and still functions today. Gave us a real taste of small town life - evidence of western influences, but still rural enough to have the pastoral charm. The language has a Romance history - ie from Latin and so some of the words we could actually understand - especially in writing. Food shopping (where we seemed to learn so much about each country!) is easier than in Hungary - no big grocery stores here; all the foodstuff was behind the counter and the shopkeeper serves you each item. Once again, lots of pointing and nodding - all received with the greatest patience.
We explored Sighișoara quite extensively and toured the local orthodox church. We saw a car being blessed outside the church by the local priest after our tour. Based on the way Romanians drive, we would say the extra insurance is worth it!
Next page is next entry - too many words to be accepted!
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