Monday, September 20, 2010

Five Fast Days

Romania... a country I have always wanted to visit but never would have... because well... it just isn’t France or England or Italy. After all, what is there to see in Romania other than Count Dracula? Lots.

On Wednesday we landed in Bucharest and picked up a car at the airport. Then we bravely set out with a high-level road map provided by Avis. We missed our first turn and found ourselves well on our way to somewhere other than our destination of Targoviste. Lucky for us there are only a few roads in that area of Romania, so we could readjust a few towns up.

In Targoviste we visited a monastery, had a delicious pizza lunch, and then wandered around the original castle of the Vlads built in the late 1300’s. Vlad Dracul and his son Vlad Tepes (the impaler) used the castle during the mid 1400’s. The castle was abandoned in the late 1600’s and fell into ruin. The tower is still in tact but the rest of the castle is in the process of being restored.

castle_t

uptop

From Targoviste we headed West to Cutea de Arges to visit the monastery it is known for... the drive should have taken about an hour... ha ha. I think we drove the worst roads in that country with not a town in sight, though there were plenty of sheep, cows, shrines, and potholes in the road. In some places the road was missing and we had to inch along wishing we had a big ole 4-wheel drive. One hour turned into about four and the sun started to set...

shrine

Finally we got to Cutea de Arges... in the dark... with no detailed map or translator... and no Romanian SIM card. Frustrated, we stopped at a grocery store hoping to find anyone who could speak some English. A very nice couple read the address of our bed and breakfast and told us to follow them, which we did, though not without wondering if we had entered into some bad horror movie... two naive Americans blindly following a couple of Romanians after dark...

We checked in at our b&b and went across the street for dinner, where we found fried brains and offal soup on the menu, and no I did not order them. I know you are thinking that after that hotdog in Vorzel, I would eat most anything but even I have limits. Dinner was ok and after a drink we were ready for bed.

monastery

The next morning our hostess, Ruxi, made us a delicious country breakfast of omelettes, bread with jam, fresh vegies, feta cheese, and tea. Um yum yum. We asked her for directions to our next stop and she advised us to take a less travelled road so that we would be able to visit the ruins of Vlad Tepes’ fortress, 1480 steps up the side of a mountain. From there she said we could continue up through the Carpathian mountains on “the most beautiful” road in Romania that is “only passable two or three months of the year.” I have to admit, after our drive to her place from Targoviste, we were very hesitant to take a mountain road that is only usable a couple months a year. But Ruxi’s father convinced us that it was safer than the road we had come in on, so we went for it.

Going up there...

going_up_there

1480 steps is a lot of steps just in case you were wondering about that. After about the first four hundred or so, I was thinking that the zoom lens on the video camera would have been sufficient for visiting this site... At about 950 steps up, I understood why it was called a fortress and was thinking that nobody in their right minds could ever storm it. At the top I was thankful to God that I was able to make it there and take in the spectacular views, and I was also thankful that I am not afraid of heights.

The view of where we parked our car

resting

The fortress

fortress

My very own Vlad

my_vlad

Hubby and I sat up there for a while (catching our breath) and we noticed a bridge across the way, and far above that, a road that disappeared into the mountain. A truck drove out of it and I got that wriggly feeling in my stomach... and then it occurred to me that maybe, just maybe we would be driving up into that mountain.

tunnel

tunnel_close

Oh yeah, that bridge was nothing compared to the rest of the trip up into and over the mountains. Twisting, turning, climbing, twisting, climbing... higher and higher until we were in the clouds. That road is not for the faint of heart but it is one of the most amazing drives I have ever been on. When we finally landed back on Earth, we were still a ways from Bran and of course the sun was on its way down.

Halfway down the other side (the easy side)

halfwaydown

With all this to go

halfwaydown2

Have you seen the movie Dracula? You know the scene where he is racing to get to the castle before the sun sets? That was us. Really, who wants to be stuck on some lonely road in Transylvania at dusk? We stayed at the Hotel Bran and had a direct view of the Bran castle off our balcony.

balcony_view

Just like the night before, we headed across the street for dinner. This time we found “Dracula’s Manhood” on the menu and I said to my husband, “No way are we eating here.” (Really I insisted we leave because the menu had nothing great on it and the salon was empty... a sure sign it is not the best restaurant in town.) A few places up the street we found a wonderful spot called Christi’s that served the most scrumptious peasant potatoes ever.

In the morning we visited the castle. It has a lot of history and it was old, not sumptuous and ornate like a modern palace, but very realistic of an ancient castle with a wolf-skin rug, a secret staircase, and turrets with cross walks in between. Out side the castle there are plenty of street vendors to keep the shop-happy tourists busy. One of the vendors was making and selling funnel cakes... a sort of rotisserie cake. The dough is wrapped around a metal tube and then spun over hot coals. It cooks very quickly and is then covered in melted sugar. I bought one... um yum yum some more.

cake

wolfskin

bran_front

From Bran we went to Brasov, a 775 year old city first founded by the Saxons. We stayed in the old city center where all the buildings are from the 15th century... though we did venture across to the modern part of the city for a wonderful Italian dinner at Trattoria Del Chianti. In Brasov we visited the Black church, a stunning structure that was built and rebuilt from the 14th century through the present. We also visited the Brasov museum of history... that took a while, lol.

black_church

From there we headed back to Bucharest via the town of Sinaia where the castle Peles is located. This is a modern castle, layered in richness and luxurious details. You could spend a whole afternoon wandering its halls in awe... though we stayed only about an hour because we wanted to get to Bucharest before dark.

peles

By now we had purchased a more detailed map of Romania and were fairly confident we would be able to find our hotel that was somewhere in the middle of the capitol city. Nope... there are huge 6-lane traffic circles, streets change names across intersections, lots of one-way streets, and enough crazy drivers to make a New York cabbie nervous.

Finally we pulled over and I managed to get a person to tell me which of the numbers to dial on our cell phone (that by now had a Romanian SIM card in it) to actually get the hotel on the line rather than the annoying “you have dialed a wrong number” message that I kept getting no matter which combination of numbers I dialed. (Think country code, long distance code, area code, and phone number... where did one number set start and another end?)

My knight in shining armor (who drove 730K of crazy roads)

my_knight

We were right around the block, so within minutes we were in the comfort of our lovely hotel that came equipped with Craftmatic beds, his and hers sundries, and an espresso maker. After dinner and drinks at Sangria’s (the best dinner I have had since leaving home in August) we crashed until it was time to eat brunch and drive back to the airport.

Before we went to Romania I wasn’t sure we should do it. After all, we are here in Kyiv on important business, but now I am so glad we did it. It made the waiting period fly by and being away from all of our children helped to ease the pain of missing my sweeties back home. Now we are knee deep in paperwork again and moving ahead to our next milestones.

12 comments:

The Sanchez Family said...

WOW WOW WOW!!! Awesome!

Leah said...

That's it! You guys are certifiably insane! And I'm so glad you are too. Can you imagine any other time in your life that you would have had the chance to make that trip? Probably not until you're in your 60's and the kids are all adults and stuff, right? And then who knows if you'll have the energy to do all that run'in around? I'm glad you did it, now I don't have to!

Lisa said...

We LOVED this! Your very own amazing race experience! It is a good thing we've already returned home, or Chris would want to take a similar excursion :). Thank you for taking the time to post pics and details of your trip...you took us all along with you! Awesome.

DownTownDan said...

That's a great little story you just collected. Looks like it was a blast.

"Violet" said...

Amazing! What a memorable adventure : )

Rochelle said...

So glad you were able to see all those spectacular sites. As you say would you ever get to Romania again?
Glad it helped pass the time.
Counting the days until you guys can be finished with paperwork, have 2 beautiful daughters in hand and are heading home.
What a fantastic homecoming it will be.
Continuing to pray for you guys as well as your family at home.

Melissa M said...

What an awesome trip!! Those pictures of the twisted roads through the mountains remind me of our trip through Switzerland. We would look up and see houses perched on the hill sides with no (visible) way to get to them.

Looking Up said...

Wow. Sounds like an amazing trip! Your little girls are so blessed to have such adventurous parents. You will take them from the orphanage & show them a whole new world. So exciting! :) P.S. Given the choice, I'd opt for a funnel cake over "Dracula's Manhood" any day.... LOL

Sandie Flannery said...

Sounds as awesome as the pics!!! Loved the one of Marshall standing and gazing out! Hope you found the little ones well!!

Shelly said...

What a great trip!! Loved the pictures and details. WOW!!!

Lacey said...

What a fantastic way to pass the time. We'll have to think about that when we are there. Are you in Kiev, we will be there Sunday, and we'll be in Kiev until at least the 29th or 30th.

RissaRoo said...

Oh, wow...thanks for the virtual tour of vampire-ville! I have to admit, my imagination went kind of wild looking at the picture of winding roads. It does look a little creepy! And I have to ask...the photo of your hubby in the armor. Are those his eyes or a reflection of yours that I am seeing in the visor? This is one of the most interesting pictures I've seen in a while, because my brain is telling me you shouldn't be able to see his upper face through the metal and my eyes are seeing it there anyway. Cool!

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