Thursday, 9 December 2010

Bucharest Romania

The Black Sea (black and white photo taken in Constanta)

"Dracula's Castle" If you have ever read Bram Stoker's Dracula you can picture the Count crawling down this wall.

The Orchestra House.

So with just six months left overseas we are starting to look at places you wouldn't normally plan a trip to from the US. Romania came to mind.
With as modern as they have become in the past 20 years they still have a ways to go in some areas.
We ended up going with another family, my boss really. I told him about the great price I found for a direct flight over Thanksgiving and he asked if I cared if he and his family came. The boys played baseball together and went to Poland together so we all knew each other and we all get along so there was no issue. Someone in his family works for Marriott so he hooked us up with a room for $80/ night at the JW in Bucharest. So for less than $800 I've got airfare and lodging for four. Going to Bucharest for Thanksgiving!
We left on Wednesday afternoon. No problem with the flight. The airport is SMALL although I didn't realize how small until we flew out. You go through customs and get your luggage. The dollar rental car was a small stand, really like a podium, next to the Thrifty podium. Who needs computers? All the paperwork was filled out by hand. I think he fished the keys out of a box. We walk out to the curb and he says, "Wait here. I'll bring the car up." It really wasn't that the service was that great, there is no parking garage. He had to run over to the tiny parking lot a couple hundred yards away. He pulls up in a tiny Chevy Spark. It was full of scrapes and chipped paint but I wasn't to worried at that point. It was cheap and temporary. The back tire was a little low. The response was, "Yeah, that's how the last guy brought it back." Fair enough. Welcome to Romania.
The TomTom (ours) has limited mapping of Romania. It kinda knows roads are in place but unless it is a MAJOR road there are no names. We bought a map to get to the hotel...
Thursday. I went out to check to see if the back tire was holding the air we put in the night before. It was holding. Good you may say. Now in the day light though I can see the tires better. The back tires were obviously front tires at one point and the car must have needed an alignment. The outside edges of both back tires were almost, you could see little dents that used to be trend, smooth. No big deal, I remember Carey driving around on bald tires for quite some time went we were teens in Florida. Its when you start to see threads that there is a problem. We were headed out towards to airport anyway.
First sight. An outdoor village museum. They went all around Romania and piece by piece took apart and reassembled traditional old (some hundreds of years old) homes. Actually very interesting. All very simple. Small. Fun to walk around though. We saw a squirrel wit really big ears.
The kids spotted a Hard Rock the night before. It was right around the corner so we all agreed we'd go. The exchange rate is about 3 Leis to one dollar so it really wasn't that bad.
To the airport. The night before the guy gave my boss his cell phone number so that on Sunday we could call ahead and he would meet us out front to return the cars. I didn't think much about it but once we got to the airport it became very clear. He only works when there is an appointment. No one around to care about my bald tires let alone swap out cars (I really don't know if they would have had anything else anyway). Back to the memories of Carey's first car... It’s only a long weekend.
That night Carey, the kids and I went to see an orchestra. Very pretty building. 50+ people in the orchestra. It was a piece used in Fantasia.
Friday. Constanta. A 2600 year old city right on the Black Sea. It is now the forth largest shipping port in Europe. We spent the afternoon just strolling through the small old town. We went down to the water so everyone could say they were IN the Black Sea.
That night we got back kinda late so we had dinner at the Lebanese restaurant in the hotel. Really good.
Saturday. Brasov and Bran. Bram Stoker got the inspiration from and used the castle in Bran as the starting point in Dracula. I got most of the way through the book before we went to it so it was really neat to see the castle as he had described it. The castle itself was great. It was something you could really live in. No over the top rooms or hallways. Normal size rooms, with normal transitions, and normal stairways (and one kinda secret staircase). On the top floor there was a pretty good history of Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) and the myths. Long story short, Vlad really believed in impaling people as punishment for crimes. This lead to comments such as "his taste for blood." That was then carried out further. His father was part of the Order of the Dragon. Dracula is "little Dracul." It was funny to see the light go on in Brianna's head that Twilight wasn't he beginning of Vampire movies... I think she knew that but didn't really know it went back that far and I'm not sure if she had heard of Dracula.
Brasov is another nice old town. Beautiful area on the edge of the Carpathian Mountains. We finally had a traditional Romanian meal there. I had tripe soup. Cow stomach. Delicious.

Driving around Bucharest was interesting. All the old communist apartments are still in place. You never had to worry about people wanting more than their neighbors. Very dreary. Much more of an overwhelming sense of the communist life style than we saw in Berlin or Warsaw.

Oh yeah. The tires held up just fine. When I turned the car in the response was, "Yeah we were waiting because we're going to have to put on winter tires soon."
The major international airport in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, has 4 gates. All in one small area. Sitting there looking around was like something out of a movie. Flights were on time though and our luggage came with us...

Good trip. Glad we went.

Next stop, Istanbul, Turkey! The week between Christmas and New Years.

As a side note. I just got back from a week long underway on a surface ship. We pulled into Split, Croatia. Extremely beautiful area. More small towns to explore. National parks (I took an excursion to see some incredible water falls). It was enough to put Croatia back on the short list of places to go soon.

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