Romania is supposedly the brackish backwater of Europe filled with gypsies. We did not experience that in our week here. Instead, we found the rolling hills, mountains, and Transfagaran Highway nothing short of stunning. The little German villages throughout Transylvania ooze with charm, plus you get Dracula, roving sheep and shepherds, and the one-of-a-kind Libearty Bear Sanctuary. All unique experiences. Not to mention the infamous Strada Lungă in Brasov.
My son and I survived ridiculously awful Ukrainian drivers and found ourselves happily in Romania, where we reveled in the freedom behind the wheel enjoy these rolling hills.
We spent two nights in Bucharest, but honestly never felt the charm (though there is fascinating history there in the below posts). I would skip Bucharest and explore the countryside. As you’re about to see, it’s spectacular.
And just in time. Because while my son was the perfect travel partner through Ukraine and other lands, it was time to be reunited with my way better half for this surprisingly romantic country of Romania.
Come with us as we discover Brasov, Sighisoara, Sibiu and little villages in between.
Day 1: Bucharest Christmas Gift–Execute Your Dictator
It’s Christmas time. 1989. The Soviet Union is falling apart. Revolution is spreading. It’s been non-violent in other Eastern European countries. The Czechs have their velvet revolution, the Estonians their singing revolution.
In Romania, the mood is different. Communist dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu has ruled Romania with the most oppressive, repressive methods for 25 years since 1965.
He did things like build the biggest civil administration building in the world below. Donald Trump would be envious. It’s huge, massive. You know, for the people. Only he bankrupted the country, razed several monasteries, and left 40,000 families without homes to do it.
He has even ruled over their marriages, demanding that people have children, which ultimately resulted in 1 million Romanian babies left uncared for in disgusting orphanages. The people want blood. And shots will be fired.
An uprising by students against harsh government policies is met by tanks and government bullets and bloodshed. 1,100 fathers, sons, and everyday neighbors are killed simply for expressing their opinions.
A few days later, Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, stand atop the Bucharest City Square below to announce reforms. For 25 years, no one has dared oppose them. As in most communist countries, neighbors spied upon neighbor for favors from the rulers, and crowds were silenced.
Watch this video if you have time:
This is the moment that a brutalized citizenry finally stands up to the dictator and his wife who terrorized them for 25 years.
Watch at about 1:22 when for the first time, Romanians boo him and start to surge toward the building. The look on his face is priceless. He and his wife scream, “Silence!” but the people do not obey. Finally, he tells his wife to “Shut up!” and lectures the crowd, “Be quiet. What’s wrong with you?”
The dictator is shaken, escaping by helicopter. He and his wife are caught in a field, arrested, and subject to a show trial. Justice. If you dare, watch this video.
It shows soldiers turning on the dictators, tying their hands with rope, and then executing them on Christmas Day by a firing squad. Romanians to this day Celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus and death of the devil. There are three devils in Romania: Satan, Vlad Dracula, and Ceausescu. Ceausescu was posthumously convicted of genocide.
Here are some gems from this British coverage of the Revolution if you want more context.
“These factory workers are not used to debate. Freedom of choice is alien. But democracy hard won is soon established.”
“The Chief of the Secret Police was found with luxury goods, food and drink. It is highly unlikely he will be allowed to keep his luxuries. It is unlikely he will be allowed to keep his life.”
We heard church bells. Had a normal European breakfast with warm milk and cream from local cows. The breakfast was so comforting. Good bread and baguettes that you cut yourself. Tons of selections. The Romanian cheese is the best I’ve had.
And they have this mix of peppers and tomatoes like I ate in Bulgaria that’s amazing! Wish it would work in a baggie 🙂
They use our alphabet and speak a language close to Italian. They drive like normal people. Ahhh. I know it sounds funny, but we were just immersed in 10 days without meeting Americans, with very few westerners, with a Cyrillic alphabet and slavic language that’s indecipherable. So, yes, it’s comforting to feel like being in the “west” again even though many people don’t even know where Romania is!
The day started with a hiccup. Go to pickup car at a hotel checkout center which is common. 9am. No one there. Except two customers in front of us. Rental car guy shows up at 9:18 as if everything’s okay. But we had an appointment we couldn’t miss.
Long story short: I went “American” (forceful, take charge, unlike largely passive people from other countries) on the situation and got us a car in time. It isn’t always pretty and I wasn’t mean, but it usually works.
Now I’m driving. We’re both so happy after 9 hours of torture yesterday with tailgating, jerking Slav drivers. We encounter gorgeous mountain meadows sprinkled with cows and horses.
We finally splurge on our first expensive meal overlooking the mountains. Melt in your mouth filet and sweet potato purée.
We happily drove through traffic to the capital of Bucharest, took a quick shower and then went on a very cool, unique experience: a beer and history tour with a local.
We met Bogdan, 27, born and raised here, and for the next four hours visited local pubs and eateries in between seeing historic sites. But the best part is just learning what it’s like to be Romanian and growing up now.
Really interesting experience. Big decision facing young people like him: do I go to another country and make more money or stay here and try to make a life in the country where I have good childhood memories? Funny thing. They love KFC here. Said it’s light and flaky and they use a special garlic sauce. Plus he has fond memories of McDonald’s growing up!
We have thoroughly enjoyed Romania so far. Very welcoming and friendly people. Fantastic customer service. First good chocolate of the trip like in Paris.
Thankful for another day of sunshine. Happy Birthday, Mr. Bode! Love to all.
Day 2: Brasov & Peles Castle–Are We In Germany?
Big gothic cathedral surrounded by red roofed houses.
But we are in the Transylvanian region of Romania. So why does it look like Germany?
This is nerdy, but have you ever wondered how a society is built from scratch? So it’s the 1200’s and the Hungarians have plundered rival kingdoms to their heart’s content. Because it’s easier to steal what someone else built than actually build it yourself.
But suddenly the Hungarians run into tougher kids on the block. So they wisely decide to consolidate their gains and retreat into their homeland and organize it. That would become Transylvania.
So the Hungarian King sends emissaries to Germany, promising immigrants free land, freedom from taxes, and freedom of religion. So enterprising Germans bring their advanced farming technology and discipline to this region in order to build a prosperous society. They measure the wind, the soil, the rain, the temperatures with exacting precision to create the perfect place to plant fields. The King knows that these people, because they own their land, will also live close together and band together to fight foreign invaders. Everyone wins.
We have seen how the Poles and even Ukrainians recruited Jews for this same purpose, though they tended to become shopkeepers and bankers.
So here’s how it works. At first, every person must work solely to provide his or her own food. It’s all hands in the fields. Then through innovation and efficiency, one person and provide enough food for two people, then 4, then 10, then 20 and so on.
Well, that means that others can stop working for food since that basic need is met, and instead become specialists as blacksmiths, show owners, saddle makers, bakers and butchers. And then you can perhaps hire a teacher and build a one-room school house.
With more innovation, you can grow enough food to export and sell to people outside your community. As the extra dollars come in, you can start to build municipal buildings, hospitals, and fund your own military (or perhaps hire professional soldiers or mercenaries from other countries).
Once you are creating enough wealth, then your society can advance to the next level and people can become artists, dancers, singers and entertainers. A small theater opens and now you have the luxury of providing entertainment.
And that’s what happened in these little Transylvanian towns, inhabited by the German Saxons. You can see their culture reflected in the architecture and even the food. The first Romanian King Carol I was imported from Germany so when he built his summer palace in the mountains, it looked like a German castle.
We toured the Peles Castle today, but largely avoided crowds by walking up the hill through local neighborhoods. It’s cool because you get to see how ordinary people live.
It was a gorgeous, sunny day so we had an appetizer at an outdoor cafe.
The pictures aren’t great but it’s gorgeous here. There are flowers adorning everything. Cute cafes.
I had asked the Air B&B host to surprise Nikki with wine, chocolate, Romanian cheese and pretzels (a specialty here and Nikki loves both) for our anniversary so when we arrived, their entire family was waiting…and wouldn’t leave until we had gone into every room, because there were surprises everywhere…because they wanted to see Nikki’s reaction. It was really sweet and they went all out. That’s one advantage of using Air B&B. You get that personal connection.
The apartment has two balconies overlooking the city. Just a gorgeous city and so interesting.
Love to all!
Beer & History Tour in Brasov, Romania
It’s a great option because it’s cheap ($15-$35) and a great way to meet other people with the communal tables. And showers perhaps lol.
That said, I think we’ll stick with our apartment with the balconies and killer view.
Day 3: Lost in Dracula’s Mountains Above Bran Castle in Transylvania
It is the 1400’s. The Muslim Ottoman Turks are conquering ancient Constantinople to the south, while the Hungarians surround your tiny, but heavenly country of rolling hills and flower-bathed pastures.
A son is born into a noble family here in Transylvania. He will be caught in the middle of the epic struggle between Christianity and Islam, between aggressive Hungarians and his homeland of peasants.
His name is Vlad III. His father is known as Vlad II Drac (meaning dragon, later devil) because is a member of the secret order of the dragon. His son will be known as Vlad Dracula, or son of Drac. Young Vlad and his brother are eventually traded to the Ottoman Turks and held as captives as part of a negotiated peace with the larger enemy. His brother will be blinded and killed, his father murdered by a political rival.
This method of killing accomplished his goals. Europeans were afraid to attack his kingdom because German papers printed engraved images of Vlad eating dinner among a sea of impaled bodies while drinking their blood. Besides keeping his enemies away, this myth inspired the most famous blood-drinking character in literature: Dracula and his famous castle.
But Vlad is most remembered in Romania as the hero who pushed the Ottoman’s back to Constantinople (Istanbul). How did he do this? Fear.
Once a group of Ottoman envoys had an audience with Vlad but declined to remove their turbans, citing a religious custom. Commending them on their religious devotion, Vlad ensured that their turbans would forever remain on their heads by reportedly having the head coverings nailed to their skulls.
After Muslim Turk leader Mehmet II, the one who conquered Constantinople, invaded this region in 1462, he approached the capital and found the bodies of the Ottoman prisoners of war that Vlad had taken—all were impaled. He turned around. Vlad had spared his people conquest by enemies.
So today we are hiking above the famous Bran Castle, setting for Bram Stoker’s infamous novel. Vlad the Impaler never actually lived here, but the myth is awesome for tourism.
Only it’s not going as planned. And I had planned out this hike, even copying pictures on my phone of the bridge where it starts. The idea was to escape the hordes of tourists and escape the heat by hiking through the woods above the castle. And it was a cool view.
It was a rough vertical hike and Nikki felt lightheaded and sick (dehydration). She was literally bent over wanting to vomit, but she’s a fighter (though not an impaler) and battled through, eventually feeling better. And continuing on.
But we got lost in the woods. The trail markers weren’t so great and my internal GPS doesn’t work. At one point, I pulled up Uber and it said it could pick us up in twelve minutes somehow!
So we wandered through the woods alone, which itself was therapeutic. It was cool and beautiful and we’re in a foreign country not sure what’s around the corner. And once we came to an opening, the views of the little village below were wonderful.
We wandered through the village and eventually came upon a flock of sheep, holding up traffic.
So why not walk with them? I walked up the shepherd and tried in vain to communicate. Wish you could have seen the hard years of life etched into his sun-baked, leathery face and warm eyes watching over this mom and her little one. It was hot today but he carried the obligatory sweater like my guy in Portugal.
Nikki wanted to hug the baby sheep, but I think that protective mother would have charged her!
We finally made it back to where we parked the car. You pay a guy for the initial hour, but then you have to find him to pay the rest. Although realistically, you could just drive off. He quoted me five times what I had in my head, and I balked before realizing I hadn’t converted it correctly. He smiled and we paid $1 per hour for parking at a major tourist attraction.
To be honest, the mystique of Dracula’s Bran Castle and the area are ruined by the tour buses and crowds of people. Hike above it instead, just don’t get lost. Or get lost on purpose. You never know what you’ll discover.
So now it was decision time. We looked at each other like the kids in that famous VW Cabriolet commercial when they ditch the cool kids party and just go drive with the top down. We wandered up through some long-forgotten dirt roads back into the “hollers” of Transylvania to see how the real people live.
You may be able to zoom in and see people pitching hay by hand in the scorching mid-day sun. A rough life lived among majestic hills.
We happened upon an old church in the middle of nowhere. We wondered who attended on top of this hill serviced by a rutted, dirt road. The old gentleman responsible for the church kindly allowed us to wander inside and admire the orthodox artwork.
I naturally followed my instincts, took wrong turns and spent an extra hour navigating dead-end gravel roads. ****. But it was part of the experience. Watching all those people pitching hay in the blazing sun made us hungry. So we stopped at, you guessed it, a little German restaurant with outdoor patio seating. Just like you were in Bavaria!
There were no buxom German girls in dirndls as the signs had promised, but our young waiter brought us sausage and potatoes and beer that hit the spot perfectly.
This isn’t the day we had planned, but it was perfectly imperfect and I think I’d rather see how locals live than battle tourists. The best and most memorable part of the day, though, was in the evening on this terrace.
The first order of business was having a contest throwing the rock hard pretzels off the terrace. It gives you a view of the surrounding hills.
One of the advantages of having an apartment is that you can have meals at home. We enjoyed a lovely evening eating on that terrace, with the wine and cheese and chocolate and snacks the kind hosts had given us upon arrival. And that’s when we discovered something even more enjoyable, a Romanian tradition we will always know as Strada Lunga. it was a perfectly perfect way to end the day.
Goodnight from beautiful Brasov and Happy Birthday a day early to Wendy! Love you all.
Day 4: Blissful Bears, Backroads and Biertan Village to Sighisoara
I decided to completely change our carefully planned route and surprise Nikki with a visit to the Libearty Bear Sanctuary.
Romania is known for its brown bears. It’s also known for people taking them captive and using them as pets or show animals, keeping them in cages, which is cruel and stunts their growth. So this one woman decided to rescue these bears and give them a sanctuary where they could be free and learn to be bears again. To climb trees. Swim. And just be free and live in nature. It’s called Libearty Bear Sanctuary. One of the coolest experiences ever. Very moving and sad and hopeful as well. It’s not a zoo, but we got to see them up close, playing, swimming, feeding, climbing trees.
Know why the bears here are so small? Because they were kept in little square iron cages for years, where they learned to perform for humans or be mistreated. So they free them here in this sanctuary, but they have to literally learn how to be a bear again.
One of the most poignant messages was: “The bears don’t need your selfish human love. They just want to be free.” That can probably be applied to a lot of our relationships as well!
Along the way, we noticed two guys in our group who stood out. Tall. Jacked. Looking like Americans, a rare sight on this trip. So I asked one guy, “American military, right?” He smiled coyly and admitted, “Perhaps.” And then added that they were trying to fit in here. I was like, “Who are you kidding?! You’re 6’2” with arms like cannon balls!” It’s clear you are American military. Their mission? Fly fighter jets and military helicopters over the Black Sea to let Russia and Putin know we stand with a free Romania.
They both said what’s most different is the American mindset. You see something that’s broken and you jump in and fix it. You innovate, you make it work. He said it’s one of the toughest aspects of training eastern Europeans–that inborn initiative that Americans tend to have.
So we decided to see where the backroads in a foreign country take you. It’s about the joy of discovery, of going where the tourists aren’t. And this is what we discovered.
It’s coming around a bend and seeing a town literally smothered in flowers. Or pulling off the road, crawling through a tiny community where the backs of these pastel houses, not the front porches, face the street.
Then you see a couple old Romanian men with only a few teeth looking up and pointing. And you see big storks everywhere in their massive nests above light poles. Or churches. They smile at your discovery of what they’ve always known.
It’s pulling over for a pretzel or getting lost in rolling hills, stopping for gas and being clueless about which of the five pumps to use. It’s about feeling stupid and lucky at the same time.
It’s taking a chance on little Biertan Village that’s probably only 200 yards long and discovering how ancient Saxon Germans stayed free from the armies marching against them from the north and south.
So you build a fortified church, with three concentric walls around your church. It’s cool actually walking between the walls 500 years later.
You dig tunnels deep below your church. That way, in case of a long siege surrounded by your enemy, you can sneak in food and water. You create a safe place where all the citizens can hide their valuables. Each guild or craftsman group has its own defensive tower it operates to repel the enemy.
On the hills around you, you plant vineyards. You raise cattle and plant gardens and have sheep. You live simply, but you live free. No one ever conquered the German Saxons here. Until the German Nazis chose Romania as a launching pad to invade Russia, lost, and then the country was occupied by Soviets.
Couples seeking divorce were locked in the Matrimonial Prison Tower for two weeks. Sharing one set of cutlery and one bed, the couple had to make their final decision. In 400 years, only one couple decided afterwards to go through with the divorce.
They devised a remarkable wooden door which once protected the town treasures. The door has an ingenious locking mechanism with 15 bolts that can be simultaneously activated by a key.
So you stop at a touristy place for a snack. They don’t have it. The Romanian waitress hasn’t yet learned that tourists actually pay you! She’s not good, but the spur of the moment veal stew is.
This town was a little gem. A postage stamp size of a village filled with history and charm and now, good memories. We spent the next ninety minutes mesmerized by this serene countryside that I never knew existed as we headed north.
We found a room in a B&B with a kindly old gentleman in the medieval citadel city of Sighişoara where Vlad Dracul was born. Best of all, they had free refillable water, A/C (it was 93 today), and cold water for the shower for only $26.
You walk the ancient cobblestone streets with a stray dog who becomes your friend, until he finds someone who will actually feed him. Then you watch the sunset from a 600-year-old church and finish the day with a chocolate pancake (crepe) and ice cream. Blissful day. Grateful.
Happy 4th of July! Here’s to freedom.
Day 5: Sighisoara to Sibiu–Did We Take A Wrong Turn?
So we took a short nap and got ready for a weird adventure. The rain stopped, but instead came a flood of emotions. We’d been told to visit these two tiny villages of Crit and Mesendorf. So we did. But it felt like we took a wrong turn into Appalachia.
People actually live here. In this. But we only saw a couple kids on bikes who stared at us like we were aliens. And sheep alone in front of largely abandoned houses. But virtually no adults.
Kind of like ghost towns. It felt like a scene from Deliverance. Gravel roads. Poverty. We’d been expecting cute little Romanian villages. We drove headlong into reality.
So we regrouped and headed for the third village, Viscri, that I’d read about because Prince Charles bought a home here. It was recommended because there’s a big food festival there. You’re expecting a village square with food tents and such to try local delicacies, right? And instead you find a two lane town facing walls and the backs of people’s homes. There is no village square. Just a couple dirt roads and…nothing. Except a couple old, bored Romanian ladies selling their wool socks and booties.
Now I’m frustrated because my plans are dying. We’ve only got a week here and this isn’t what we expected. So Nikki decides to give it a shot. There is a festival poster on one of those big doors. She pushes the door open and walks into someone’s back yard. And discovers, alas, there’s a restaurant behind those walls.
No signs beckoning visitors. No way for an outsider to know to come in. Now I’m flummoxed as Nikki comes back to the car, excited because she discovered there’s this delightful white barn that’s been turned into a restaurant. And I discovered something about myself.
Even as we went into the restaurant and looked over their (confusing) menu, I remained bothered and felt off. And I think it’s this. I didn’t understand this town and why it was set up like this. Where’s the food festival? Why isn’t there a square with food tents? Context is super important to me. When Nikki came out excitedly to tell me of her discovery, it didn’t register. I was still confused. I am very experiential and sometimes words and explanations get jumbled in my brain. I think if I had had the experience of pushing the door open, I would have felt completely different!
Anyway, the menu items look wonderful. Until we discover we can’t get what we want because it’s a special food weekend. Okay. So we order a cheese platter and a sausage.
The kind young owner who looks like JFK, Jr. visits our table and apologizes for the long wait, then spies the cheese platter on our table. He kind of sighs and grimaces as he says, “These are fine alpine cheeses, a little harder but still very tasty. But it would have been better if you had chosen the Romanian cheeses from this local area. Still, you will enjoy this.”
Wait, what? You just basically said, “Sorry, but you got the wrong thing. Oh well, enjoy!” Nooooo! At least perhaps bring us a couple samples of your local cheeses! I am sure we will remember this incident and joke about it forever.
But it kinda gets even better. When I ask for the check, the waitress literally rolls her eyes and sighs. It’s just odd.
But alas, JFK Jr. helped us solve a mystery. The German Saxons who settled in Transylvania liked their privacy. So they built their communities this way. You enter a door and enter a courtyard where you may find their house, a garden, a shop selling homemade crafts, a restaurant. But it’s all hidden.
We could make a killing here just teaching them basic marketing skills like having signs. 20% off. Handmade Transylvanian gifts. Anything.
After lunch, we found a really cool old church from the 1500’s with carved wooden benches. It’s spartan. Like Germans.
But they let you climb high into the towers for cool views (no way in America for fear of lawsuits from the fall!).
You can see a shepherd with his “sheeps” (how all Europeans say the plural of sheep!) in the hills.
So the day was kinda salvaged as we drive two hours to our apartment through winding country roads filled with horse-drawn carts. Very common here.
It was lovely, though there was a little dread fearing yet another pokey little village. But as we arrived in Sibiu, we saw people. Sitting outside in outdoor cafes! With live music. And live people! Ahhhh.
We sat outside and ordered a mediocre pizza with basil that didn’t actually have basil. But it was great fun because our waiter was a wise-cracking older guy who had worked on cruise ships up and down the east and west coasts of the U.S. He was so geeked up to be speaking English to Americans that he wouldn’t stop talking.
Which was a shame because the live entertainment was as amazing as the pizza–like a singer without a good singing voice. But it was so enjoyable because this guy could have been a 1970’s Neil Diamond milking every syllable and every ounce of pseudo-emotion as he sang Whitesnake and Bon Jovi in the best Holiday-Inn-Lounge-Singer voice imaginable. For whatever reason, it was a blissful ending to a weird day.
This is what I’d wanted–a walkable little city with a pedestrian-free zone where we could walk back and forth from our apartment. Like Lviv and Plovdiv and other cities few people visit. So happy to be here!
Thanks for sharing the journey. Love to all!
Day 6: Sibiu (Why Romanians Chose German Kings)
Sibiu is also home to my favorite meal here, a carpaccio salad, served by a patient waitress who tried mainly in vain to teach us some Romanian words.
Prince (later King) Ferdinand was another boring member of the German nobility. His wife, Marie, had an interesting pedigree. Her mother was from the great Romanov family that had ruled Russia for 500 years. Her father was English nobility, her grandmother the one and only Queen Victoria of England. She was kinda spunky for her time.
Day 7: Breathtaking Transfagarasan Highway Drive
Today completed the perfect final day to one of the best weeks of my life. We met a shepherd high in the mountains, encountered a wild bear who taunted us, and felt cool breezes off a lake reflecting a late mountain snow.
A far more likely explanation for the construction of the road was the simple fact that the mountains were there, and that the road across the very top would serve as a proud example of just what socialist Romania – with Ceausescu as its leader – could achieve. The Transfagarasan was therefore built as a status symbol with little regard for cost or usefulness. Indeed, the Transfagarasan is fundamentally useless. But tourists love it.
P.S.: “I Prefer Communism.” Insights from a Romanian
So George Bush was naive when he said that every human heart longs for freedom. No. It doesn’t.
My insightful Romanian driver, Ivan, drove me today from Bucharest to Belgrade, Serbia. An avid driver, like many Europeans, he daydreams about driving an American muscle car from New York to California, along Route 66 in the west. We hear that a lot!
Ivan is 42 and remembers life under the Romanian dictator Ceausescu. And he actually preferred those days under state rule. Here’s why:
“My dad could tell me which shift he’d be working five years in advance. He always had a job. He had a house. He knew what to expect. We didn’t have a lot, but we had what we needed. We couldn’t leave Romania or get products from other countries, but Romania had everything we needed.”
Freedom is a scare and rare condition. Even the ancient Israelites didn’t want it. They begged God, “Give us a King to rule over us.”
Most of us enslave ourselves to things that don’t ultimately satisfy. Because they feel safe and comfortable and we know what to expect.
So the American experiment with the individual choosing self-government over the state is actually very unique. It has reaped unprecedented freedoms and prosperity, but also widened social divisions.
As tough as it may be in America, it feels immeasurably more difficult here when talking to local Ukrainians, Romanians or Serbs.
Ivan said he had a small business. He was hiring people, which he thought the government should be grateful to him for. Instead, government inspectors would come and make up a violation, threaten a large fine, and then take a bribe. He shut down his business. Corruption is still part of the everyday system in Romania. Another common theme.
So Ivan, who prides himself of discipline and integrity, confided that he cheats the government now. He set up a bank account in London where all his driver income goes unreported. He feels justified given what the government has taken from him.
He and his wife just had a baby. In order to secure better care during pregnancy, he would slip money into the doctors’ pockets. He said you don’t want to be sick in Romania. Hospitals are dirty and patients sometimes have to share a bed.
He told me about the famous gypsies that sully the Romanians’ reputation in the West. The gypsies originally came from India to the east. That’s why they are darker. They lie, manipulate and scheme. But they do not work.
So they had a scheme where they’d go to Austria and get a job. They’d work for four months, then quit or get fired. The government would pay them benefits which they’d bring back to Romania. Then they’d leave after benefits ran out, come back and switch places with another family member. When they come back to Romania, they build ostentatious houses (like the one above with the distinctive roof for greater visibility!) and live together with multiple families to show off their wealth. Ordinary Romanians despise them because westerners associate Romania with gypsies.
We never really experienced any gypsies or even beggars during our time in Romania. And we definitely want to come back. Today, we left Romania and crossed the massive Danube River that separates Romania from Serbia.
It’s actually beautiful in parts and has a long history. It prompted a discussion of how lucky we are as American to be protected by two large oceans. The Danube firms a hard border for enemies to cross so Romania is kind of lucky to be just far enough from the Russians and old Ottoman Empire. Then you have countries like Poland and Ukraine with no natural border protection. And Serbia, which is surrounded on all sides. Geography and luck do play a large part in a country’s safety and prosperity. But so does mindset.
We are really lucky to be Americans. We take for granted that can do spirit and opportunities to really create a good life.