Saturday, February 20, 2016

Romania Part II: Getting Around

I know it was a while ago now, but here is the long anticipated part 2 post of my trip to Romania! Tom and I got a rental - a 4-door smart car. I didn't even know they made those. Our very first stop was a gas station so I could buy a map as neither of our phones worked we were going to have to navigate old school. 

I feel like navigating was part reading the map and part intuition. As we were leaving Sighișoara we saw one sign in the city center pointing in the direction we wanted to go. Then there were no more indicators. Our map didn't help as it didn't have enough detail for the city streets. I knew we wanted to go north west so we drove for about 20 minutes in that direction and we finally saw a road sign saying we were on the right path. It's kinda like just roll the dice and hope you're on the right road.

 A few times we ended up on some sketchy roads. You can see from the map legend something called "other roads." On the map it looked to be a short cut. Then we turned onto it:

We had no idea how long it'd be a dirt road. Looked like they were doing construction on it as well. It was a big relief when we finally saw pavement! Luckily the dirt road only lasted about a mile. Not sure the smart car could take much more of it.

One of the things I was surprised about was the amount of carts and horses on the roads. Even on the main "highways."

Also the massive amounts of stray dogs. At night you could hear them barking. They were everywhere! I have no clue how they get their food, if they just hunt in the wild, or if people leave out scraps. Just dozens upon dozens of mangy strays.

As you entered each town it'd have the town name and speed limit. As you left, there was always a sign that said "Drum Bun" or "A good journey"/"Farewell" And they'd have the town name again but with a slash through it meaning you were no longer in that town. (I tried to get a picture of that too, but taking pictures while moving is hit or miss)

Navigator Selfie!
As I said, our map didn't have details for the cities. The first night we stayed in Brasov, a large city, and luckily drove around until we could pick up some free wifi to figure out exact directions to the hotel. The second night we stayed in Arefu the town next to Vlad's mountain fortress. It's basically a village and definitely no free wifi. We arrived shortly after dusk and followed road signs around the best we could, trying to find our hotel. We couldn't see many street signs. Nobody we stopped to ask directions spoke English so we just kept pointing to the address on our confirmation sheet and then would try driving in whichever direction they would point. After doing this about 5 times and driving to a dead end dirt road, we finally stopped at a small shop. There were 3 people inside, a woman behind the counter and 2 men just hanging out inside chatting. I went up and had the same conversation I had had 5 times before:

[me pointing to the address] "Directions, lost"

Then the woman and men all look at the paper and discuss it for about 5 minutes. Every now and then looking at me and saying something in Romanian, of course I had no idea what it was. Finally the woman behind the counter says, "Deutsche?" I assumed she was asking if I could speak German so I replied "no." Then, "Española?" ooh YES. Or "Da" in Romanian. (I had looked up yes, thank you, and cheers in Romanian because those are the important words to know right?) So then one of the men makes a phone call. I'm not 100% sure what is happening, but I kind of assumed they were calling somebody who could speak Spanish. About 4 minutes later a new man shows up who does indeed speak Spanish!

"Hola! Necesito direcciones por favor!"
It felt so nice to finally be able to say something that somebody would understand! I pointed to the phone number on the reservation and he called it. A minute later everyone in the shop makes an "ohhhh" of realization sound so I know they now know where it is. He asked if I could understand directions in Spanish, like izquierda, derecho (left/right) which yes I can, but I think he could tell that probably still wouldn't help us so then he tells us to just follow him in his car and he'll drive us there. So Tom and I hopped back into the smart car and followed this lovely Spanish speaking Romanian man to our hotel. (There were a lot of turns and dirt roads so there is definitely no way we would have found this place on our own!)

The hotel was actually a family's home and they had converted the top floor to 5 hotel rooms. The family also didn't speak much English but they did have teenage son who is taking English in high school and he did a lot of translating for us. They also had wifi, so between their son, google translate, and miming we actually communicated semi-well!

We arrived shortly after 7pm and were starving but there was no way we were leaving the house as we would never find our way back. The wife asked if we needed anything and we rubbed our bellies indicating we were hungry ha. So she made us a LOVELY dinner.

The loaf looking thing in the middle was polenta with cheese and sausage and OMG was it delicious. She also made pork chops with some pickled peppers and french fries. And for dessert a baked quince. 


After dinner they asked if we'd like to watch a movie, so we watched Step Up Revolution. It was nice because the movie was in English with Romanian subtitles. It was one of their son's favorite movies because he liked to dance so he had seen it a number of times already. The husband was also the town priest. It was dark when we arrived so we couldn't see it then, but the church was right across the street. He was really excited to tell us things about the village and Romania in general. He'd basically type it all into Google translate and then hold up his phone for us to read. It was a really lovely evening with their family. Although at the end we did feel a bit like the Griswalds when they stay with the random German family they thought were their relatives. 

The next morning they made us a fabulous breakfast (which we definitely needed as we climbed 1480 stairs!) 

We also had to drive 2 towns over to find an ATM as we had run out of cash to pay for the hotel and nobody accepts credit cards.

Such colorful money!
Luckily the son came with us to help navigate. He also came with us to climb the stairs to the castle and he knew the person who sold tickets so we got in for free! WINNING. It was definitely an adventure getting around Romania. We took quite a few roads-less-traveled and it made this trip unforgettable.

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