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Romania

Summer vacation! I didn’t expect to have one again as an adult since I hadn’t planned on going to school. London’s an excellent international hub so I took this opportunity to explore what’s generally far from America. Off to Romania as I really loved Eastern Europe on my last trip.

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The second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. More than half is securely underground.

The architecture here is crazy, it had a familiar feeling I couldn’t quite place my finger on, something that wasn’t quite what I am used to in Europe. Then I found out the Communist era buildings here are influenced from Chinese Communism and not Russian. Well, that explains the gaudy, colorful neon and style of buildings. There were large boulevards and the huge capitol building with lots of security, and strangely, the modern art museum tucked in the back since the government can’t actually fill such a monument. The joy of dictators with a sense of grandeur. I took a walking tour led by young 20 something designers who explained that no one can really make ends meet so they all have second jobs and side hustles. They told stories of waiting all day for food rations as children and how oranges were much sought after presents for Christmas. It reminded me of Little House on the Prairie. It was hard to believe that these women who would not look out of place at all in London had experienced this in their short lifetimes. I chatted with them after the tour and they joked privately about how they don’t worry about any criminals because they had all left the country, the thing the UK and EU seem to be complaining a lot about in the media. I asked why the public transit had a feel of extreme age and they laughed that I had noticed. One mentioned in her hometown that they had bought secondhand busses from Germany recently and no one knew how to change the stop text, so somewhere in Romania are buses with German destinations.

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Found in a subway station. I would be ok if more places had reading vending machines.

 

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The strongest motorcycle I’ve ever ridden.

I rented a motorcycle and headed out of town. I haven’t been on a motorcycle in a while and huge five lane roundabouts and bridges over traffic were certainly a challenge. Although perhaps not as much a struggle as the flooding mountain in a thunderstorm I ended up on or the bee that flew into my helmet going 70 mph (100 kmh) on a super highway. I may not forget shuddering, soaking wet in a traditional restaurant trying to gesture to staff who spoke no English to please bring me some hot soup. Definitely the most eventful one day ride I’ve ever been on, even with Vietnam. A mere 30 minutes outside of Bucharest, I passed a guy pulling straw in a horse drawn wooden cart.

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One of Dracula’s supposed burial spots.

Over a peaceful bridge with local kids fishing was a small monastery claiming to have the body of Dracula. It was my one nod to the campy Vlad the impaler legends while here. I really enjoyed the pastoral nature of this monastery that I probably wouldn’t have stopped for otherwise and the natural surroundings that I got very enjoyably lost in for a bit.

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The lady inside spoke little English and smiled after she took my money. “Poeeee-neeee!” She pointed outside. What? OH! There’s adorable mini ponies outside!

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Well, it wouldn’t be Europe without a grand, old castle or church!

I’m not sure if it was low season or what but I definitely stayed in more than one completely empty lodging. The killer deals led me to a 28 euro eco-lodge with my own room, living room and foyer out on the Danube Delta. It may have been the nicest digs I have ever stayed in. It was so peaceful with many people around. I can’t remember anything specific but I know I’ve seen the Danube further up and it felt so different here but I knew it was the same water.

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Birder paradise. I’m not sure I saw any but I enjoyed staring at the vistas. I think I could see Ukraine from here. 

After the peaceful nature of northeast Romania, I got a reminder of my backpacker days. I hopped a bunch of crowded minibuses, eating a large elephant ear sized fried dough filled with salty sheep’s cheese from a truck stop to trains back to minibuses to get to southeast Romanian beaches. From one border to another by way Bucharest.

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Little fried sardines in cream sauce and beer in a beach town.

I stopped in the party town of Vama Veche and got a taste of what I assume is the party scene that Bulgaria is usually known for. I’m not sure I enjoyed that part. How I got from one end of the country to the other in one day confounds me. This was a little faster than I usually like to travel but I am glad I got to see so many different parts of Romania. It is a beautiful country.

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