Romania alternately amazed me and disappointed me in equal doses. Since I had a ‘marvelous’ experience right at the airport when I was entering the country (which involved a scary looking immigration official yelling his head off at me… Delightful), you can’t really blame me for being the teensiest bit prejudiced and expecting, pretty much, nothing. Well, much as I was hoping to be proved wrong, Timisoara didn’t exactly change my views. There was a lot of unexpected snow, and I’m not a winter lover. Why I didn’t do my research before going there is a question I still ask myself. But then I’m an advocate of the whole ‘unplanned’ thing. So I guess it was more fun that I got smacked in the face with a figurative snowball the moment my flight landed.
I didn’t want to dislike Romania, of course. Some of the nicest people I had met during my trip in the summer were Romanians- I couchsurfed with one in Munich and hitchhiked with a couple on my Budapest-Ljubljana journey. Add to that the prospect of meeting a Count Dracula kind of character, I had embarked on this trip with a VERY positive mindset.The thing in Romania is… Since it’s not part of the Schengen agreement, Indians only spend 5 days there in all, including the days you get in and out (no overnight train business allowed!). So I couldn’t afford to loiter in any place. My schedule those 5 days was literally… Reach in the evening, leave the next afternoon. I spent an average of 4-5 hours on the bus everyday, and since it was winter, I’d reach each new city well after it was dark.
One of the most fascinating things I saw in Europe were these little markets selling cheese and bread and eggs. It may not seem like a big deal to Europeans, but for someone like me who’s grown up in a city in India, it is the absolute definition of ‘quaint’!! I’m pretty convinced that this sight helped Sibiu’s ranking in my eyes!! I can’t quite put my finger on what made me find Sibiu so charming. Maybe when you look at a town that is so, let’s say, unpretentious, you tend to associate good feelings with it. Unlike much of Eastern Europe, I got almost no special attention here. On rare occasions, in other countries, I have been subjected to racial slurs. And on many occasions, in most other places I was treated as something so unique, and I got better treatment than I probably would have otherwise- just because of my skin colour and where I’m from.
But in fact, in this country I had been asked to be specially careful because of my physical and cultural similarities with the Roma people (gypsies) who are actually descendants of Indians that had slowly migrated west and settled in Romania centuries ago. And yet, I was left completely to myself (it did get a bit lonely though, something I didn’t have to face elsewhere).
I didn’t get to experience any city in Romania all that much because of time and visa constraints and the lack of walking tours anywhere I went. I did see enough to intrigue me though, and sometime in life, I do wish to go back, particularly to the northern parts that I just couldn’t fit in this time.