Thursday, January 13, 2011

Winter Vacation in Brasov, Romania

On December 28th, I took an overnight bus from Chisinau to Brasov. The bus left at 7:00 pm, and got to Brasov at 5 in the morning. I tried sleeping on the bus, but it was difficult since we had to stop at the Moldova/Ukraine border for an hour and a half. At each border, we had to get off the bus, and one by one we had our bags inspected and passports stamped. Luckily there were only 17 of us on the bus, so this process went rather quickly. However as if noticing our good luck, our bus broke down at 2 in the morning. We all had to pile onto a rutiera (mini-bus type thing) where the driver turned the lights on and blasted his discotech music. This made sleeping rather difficult. 

Arriving in Brasov at 5 in the morning was not really all that awesome. I hadn't yet exchanged my money, and we were dropped off at a bus station on the outside of town where everything was still closed. I ended up befriending a nice guy from Moldova who was now living in a city outside of Brasov. He let me share a taxi with him to another bus station, then he bought me a coffee, and helped me find an ATM. 

I hung out at the second bus station for several hours reading and drinking coffee. I decided to leave at 8:45 when a creeper came over to me and insisted on buying me coffee and beer. I ran away while he was buying beer for us and discovered that literally across the road was a huge shopping mall. Unfortunately, the mall didn't open until 10:00, so I hung out at the entrance like a weirdo with my big backpack and read. I ended up making friends with an old security guard who wanted to know what I was doing. When the mall finally opened, he directed me towards the best coffee shop. I shopped for a while, bought some awesome silver tennis shoes, and ate lunch. 

After that, I made my way to the old city center. It was absolutely beautiful and there were people selling boiled wine everywhere. (I have discovered I am in love with boiled wine, and I will most definitely make it when I get back home!)

Old Town Square
At about 3 in the afternoon, my fellow traveling buddy Zack called me up. He was on a train from Budapest and would be arriving later that night around 10. We were originally going to stay at someone's house via Couchsurfing , but that didn't work out so I called a hostel which was located right next to the center. I was really exhausted from the traveling and walking around, so I went to the hostel and took a nap for a while. After that I went to a delicious pizza place which served free pretzels and waited for Zack to come.

Hostel Mara Brasov
The next day we went to the top of this big mountain/hill  which has the name Brasov written across it in Hollywood style. We took a cable car to the top and then explored for a while seeing different views of the city. After a while we walked down the hill/mountain.

Me at the top of the mountain/hill with a view of Brasov in the background
On the night of the 31st, our friends and fellow volunteers Amanda and Sinh joined us in Brasov. They had been in Nice, France, and decided to spend the New Year in Brasov. We hung out at our hostel and played cards for a while because it was way too cold to stand outside for hours. At 11:00 we went to the City Center where a concert was taking place. We hung out there and made our way into the crowd while drinking boiled wine. At midnight there were fireworks and a laser show. 

Celebrating the New Year in the Old City Center
Amanda and Sinh left on the 2nd, and two more volunteers came. On the 3rd, we went to Sinaia, which is a gorgeous mountain town an hour away from Brasov. We took a train there, which was super exciting because I'd never been on a train before!

First time on a train ever! Woo exciting!
On the 4th, everyone went skiing, but since I suck at skiing, I decided to site see around Sinaia instead. There is a famous castle there, called Peles Castle. Unfortunately it was closed on the day I went there, so I couldn't go inside or even get close to take pictures. I did make friends with another security guard who gave me a number "of a guy" to call the next day to get in at a reduced rate. (I didn't go back the next day...)

Peles Castle, Sinaia
I also discovered the Sinaia Monastery. 
Sinaia Monastery
On the 5th, we took a train back to Brasov in order to catch our overnight bus back to Moldova. However, one cannot go to Brasov AKA Transylvania without visiting Dracula's Castle!! The castle, Bran Castle, is about a half hour's drive out of Brasov. It isn't really Dracula's Castle, but they say it is anyway (to attract tourists?). 

View from a balcony inside Bran Castle
We left Brasov at 7 that night and returned in Chisinau the next morning at 5. It was a really fun trip and it was great to get out of Moldova for a few days. I ate some delicious food, saw some interesting things, and had a great time!