After my first, and admittedly very brief, stint in Romania, I wasn’t too interested in returning. It wasn’t that it was terrible: in fact, I had a very pleasant time in a rural village for two days. I guess I just hadn’t felt very inspired. In retrospect, I was completely wrong, and I think that I was still struggling with semi-irrational fears at the time. However, after failing to complete our rafting journey, I was determined to see more of the country before leaving Europe and heading for South Korea. After a few days visiting a friend in Kraków, nearly burning down our cabin in rural Ukraine, and a brief visit to Moldova, we hitched back into Romania once more, this time heading for Bucharest.
A Romanian guy who had been reading J’s website had (by chance) ended up at a friend’s house in Budapest only days after we’d left. He contacted J to show him a “what-a-small-world” photo of himself with Doris (J’s bike from our cycling adventure), and told us to let him know if we were ever in Bucharest. When we told him that we were headed that way, he graciously invited us to stay at his family’s home. We were immediately welcomed with an incredible home-cooked meal and straight whiskey. “I think I’m going to like it here”.
The next two weeks consisted of some of the best days of my traveling life. Our friend showed us around Romania’s capital city, and I found myself loving it more and more by the step. The old town is gorgeous and not insanely crowded, sporting a variety of restaurants and bars to cater to any taste; it also features the real Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) fortress.
Bucharest definitely displays signs of a brutal Communist period, including a mock Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe that were splurged on while the common folk suffered at the hands of Nicolae Ceaușescu . The most notable landmark, however, is his colossal palace, now the parliament building- the largest civilian building in the world. Although it represents a period of poverty and terror to the citizens of Romania, it cannot be denied that the structure reigns supreme in terms of the Bucharest cityscape.
We were invited by our friend’s mountain adventure group to tag along on a weekend expedition. After sleeping through a several hour bus ride, we arrived in the southern tip of the Carpathian Mountain Range. The first item on our agenda was a scavenger hunt, fully equipped with compass directions and a necessity for sprinting- a true wilderness game.
The next day, I rock climbed for the first time in my life- this experience made me realize that the climbing wall at sixth grade camp didn’t count. It took me a while, but I was one of the only two females who made the full ascension to the top! It was one of the most noteworthy challenges of my life.
After our mountain adventure, we headed to our friend’s country house. There, a group of us enjoyed home brewed spirits (made from fermented fruit and no additives), used an outhouse, had laughs around a fire with new friends, and hung out in old airplane seats.
I even got a specialized individual tour on the back of a motorcycle.
I had nothing but the best of times during my second trip to Romania, and it now holds an irreplaceable spot in my top three favorite destinations. It is one of the most beautiful countries, filled with kind, generous, hospitable, and fun-loving people. I can’t wait to go back. Romania, I hope you’re ready for me.