Monday, May 21, 2018

Romania Days 11 and 12

Thursday May 17 and Friday May 18

We took a road trip (and it was a long road trip!) to Brasov and then back and forth to Bran from Brasov on Thursday-Saturday. We left at 10:00AM (in two cars--Dan's and Sam's) for the 161 mile drive from Craiovo to Brasov. It took us 8 hours. I slept most of the way thanks to my Dramamine. We stopped every two hours or so for us to stretch our legs. We also enjoyed a picnic lunch prepared by Tami along the way.

***Let me take a moment to describe the restroom situation here in Romania. First of all, there is no normal toilet tissue to be found! In most public restrooms IF they provide toilet tissue (and yes, some do not provide toilet tissue, so I learned from Julie and Tami to always carry a little packet of wet wipes in my bag so I will be prepared!), the toilet tissue is often the same texture and size of crepe paper that we use in the U.S. to decorate for a party. It is either bright pink or just that colorless color of hand towels you typically find in public restrooms in the U.S. The other toilet tissue is just so different from what we Americans are accustomed to. I'm not complaining! I am so thankful that Romanians have toilet tissue---it's just another difference I've noticed between the two countries. Also, you cannot just easily find a public restroom when you need one. Not that many are available. In most places you must be an actual customer before you can use their restrooms. In fact, in Starbucks in Brasov, our receipt from our order had a four digit code that we had to enter in order to use the restroom. In other places, you simply pay 1 leu (about $.25) for the privilege of using the facility. That was fine with me, because the restrooms you paid for were usually clean and had better toilet paper! One of the most interesting restrooms we used was one underground the market area around Bran Castle. It cost 1 leu, and the bathroom attendant sat on a stool smoking and playing Candy Crush on her phone (with the volume turned way up) while she supervise the "toaleta".
Another weird many places the men's and women's potty areas include a shared area where you wash your hands. You enter the restroom in the shared space, and then you must read the doors to know which is the men's (barbati) and which is the women's (femei). I almost went into the men's room at a public bathroom in the city park in Craiova, but a frantically talking attendant finally made me understand what I was doing (well, actually Julie or someone else translated for me!)

Ok, back to the road trip!
The reason it took so long to get to Brasov was because Romanian roads are quite different from U.S. roads. There are no 6 lane (or even 4 lane) interstates connecting major cities. The roads are mostly 2 lanes, and very, very curvy as you enter the mountain areas. We traveled through many towns and villages which included numerous round abouts as well as crosswalks for pedestrians. We even saw some sheep almost in the road.

***Quick observation--as we traveled through the countryside I noticed that every single dwelling place in the rural areas, no matter how crumbling or falling in the home seemed to be, every single one had a dish that I assume is for internet access. (Do any of you remember the difficulties I have encountered trying to get affordable, reliable, or really just ANY internet access at my house?) And here in Romania, it seems everyone has access. Crazy!

Thankfully, we made it safely to Brasov, where we checked into our Airbnb house. This was my first experience using Airbnb, and it was an experience! Sweet Julie researched and found this delightful house that would accommodate all nine of us. Our owner, who spoke English well, met us there, and she was as sweet as could be.

Since my pictures below are in all kinds of order, and I cannot seem to successfully move them where I want them, I am just going to recount the two days the best I can, and comment on the pictures when necessary to explain.

After checking out our interesting accommodations, we ventured out for the short walk to the city center (much like areas we have seen in Craiova and Severin). We found a place to eat supper, and after that we walked back to our house to settle in for the night.

This is a walkway that connects two city streets. It's one way to cross, and it's a fun way too!

In the Brasov city center

It is open in the middle with the shops and restaurants on the perimeter as well as extending down adjoining streets.

This fountain is the center focal point.

Most of the buildings here, no matter how pretty, seem to have some sort of crumbling or decay somewhere on them.

another view of the center

Sam and I are trying to read the menu to see if this is where we want to eat. 
Some restaurants have English subtitles on their menus, and some don't.

a street in Brasov

This is the Black Church. We toured this on Friday morning. 
It was built over 600 hundred years ago as a Catholic church. After the Reformation, it changed to a Protestant church. In 1689, part of the structure was destroyed by a fire, and afterward it became known as Black Church. As we completed the self-guided tour, I learned many fascinating facts about  this time era including how one secured a seat in the worship area (the higher standing you had in the community, the better seat you had).

We passed this track and field arena on our way to and from the center. Most of the time it was occupied by children, runners, walkers, etc. The running track is made of dirt.

inside the kitchen of our Airbnb home

***Another side note--the house was a little bit cold when we arrived, so Tami asked the owner how to turn on the heat. She responded, "Oh, there's no heat. The city cuts off the heat to the houses in April." Alright then. We will just bundle up! I am not sure I understand how the "heat to the houses works". I think there is some city-wide boiler system that pipes the heat to the homes? Anyway, we were not actually that cold. The coldest I was happened when I stepped out into the cold bathroom after my lukewarm shower. 

another view of the cool track

the back yard or our Airbnb home

This is the "living area". 
It actually was great that we had so much space.

Our bedroom--seven of us slept in this room (Jimmy, Me, Julie, Big Sam, Clay, Leah, and Sam).
Our rental included two bedrooms, both with multiple beds. We gave one room to Dan and Tami, and the rest of us slept in this room. We were warm and cozy!

Another view of our bedroom. The second night, after sleeping together in a twin bunk bed with a mattress so squeaky we awoke everyone in the room every time we turned over, Jimmy and I found a double mattress to put on the floor and made our bed there. Much better!

Ok. The dining room. 
Really no words. Just pictures. The kids loved it! And I will say that I have never dined in such a place. :)

an overview of the room

a woodpile in the corner

some sort of area in the back of the room
The homeowner apparently likes to decorate with eclectic items from nature. Everywhere we looked there were sticks, branches, leaves, rocks, etc. on display. 

This is the kitchen. Thankfully, there was a coffee pot. There was also a collection of dishes and pots and pans, and Tami was able to reheat and prepare a delicious lunch for us the second day we were there.
(Click on the picture and try to read the sign to the left and above the sink.)

This is the back patio area. 

Leah and Dan enjoying the nice weather outside the house

This is my French friend, "Matt". I could not understand nor pronounce his name, so I just called him Matt. The beginning of his name sounded like Matt to me. Matt was also boarding in this house. He was there for a two week stay to visit his girlfriend. I enjoyed talking to him in the gazebo one morning. He spoke English very well, so we had a fun time getting to know one another. 

This is in front of our Airbnb home. 
The homes or apartments, which people can rent or own, inside the cities here are mostly gated like this. Inside the gate is usually a small green space and then an entrance to the home itself.
Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our Airbnb home experience! 

Julie and Big Sam walking down the street in Brasov.

Sam in front of the Black Church

Sam in front of the fountain

dining in the dungeon dining room

This is Sam's Tiko car. It has taken him and Julie all over this country!

riding in the Tiko!

The first night in Brasov we went to Starbucks for dessert. Inside the Starbucks you could almost imagine that you were in the U.S.


Enjoy reading the House "Ruls" for our Airbnb home!

Friday after lunch, we drove to Bran (about 20 miles--45 minutes away) for the runners to pick up their race packets. The race was called the Transylvania 100. Several distances to run were available, but Big Sam chose the 50K, and Jimmy, Dan, and Clay chose the 20K. This was a mountain trail race, and involved some specific preparation of race day gear. The race official sent the runners an email with a detailed, lengthy list of required items to be carried by each runner. The list included items like a whistle to scare off bears, raincoat, long sleeved shirt, waterproof pants, a compass, a refillable drinking cup (no cups provided on the race course), a 1 L water bottle, hat, gloves, first aid kit (with specific contents), waterproof cover for the backpacks, emergency blanket, fully charged cell phone, map or the racecourse, food, and some other things I cannot remember!

When the runners got their numbers and race shirts, and after their backpacks and contents passed inspection, they discovered that their race shirts were tiny! Europeans apparently wear their shirts tighter than Americans! Even though I ordered the same sizes I would have for a U.S. race, Jimmy and Clay's shirts did not fit. (Julie forgot to tell me to order bigger than normal--she had Big Sam had already learned this from previous European races.)

So we met Jane. (Pictured below). Sweet Jane. She was a race volunteer from England, and she came to our rescue. She was so friendly and nice, and after we explained our shirt situation, she thought a moment, and then went back and found Jimmy and Clay a larger shirt. She let them swap! Even after two other people had told us that was not possible.  She was great! We enjoyed talking with her so much, and we also saw her before, during, and after the race the next day. We are friends!
Also, on race day, she sold Jimmy another (even larger) shirt, and two more race tubes--basically a head/neck warmer with the Transylvania 100 logo on it.

Our friend Jane, from England

Next, we toured Bran Castle (aka Dracula's Castle). It was old, and massive, and fun to explore.

Sam, walking up one of the many stairways within the castle.

Here we are on one the balconies of the castle.

the view from one of the balconies

Dan and Big Sam

Looking down from the castle at the start/finish line of the race. The race began and ended on the Bran Castle grounds.

posing with some armor inside Bran Castle


another balcony

in the courtyard of Bran Castle

We drove back to Brasov, ate supper at another restaurant in the center, and enjoyed some delicious ice cream on the walk back to our Airbnb home. The runners spent an hour or so laying out, packing, and preparing their race day gear and clothes. 
And then we all went to bed!

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