My First Impressions of Romania

Tripoto
13th May 2014

Black Tower- Brasov

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Christmas Market in Brasov

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Orthodox Cathedral

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Republicii Street

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Piata Mica

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Piata Mare

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Sibiu

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Timisoara

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Streets of Timisoara

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Brasov

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

Cappuccino at Cafeteca

Photo of My First Impressions of Romania by Surya

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, unpretentiousyou 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.

After shivering in the snow for a few hours, I gave up on couch surfing and went to find a hostel. Quick Google search + Google Maps, and twenty minutes later I was in front of Hostel Costel. THANKFULLY they had room, and the hostel was nice and non creepy (that’s not something I can say about the hostels I stayed at in Rome. Shudder!!!).
After shivering in the snow for a few hours, I gave up on couch surfing and went to find a hostel. Quick Google search + Google Maps, and twenty minutes later I was in front of Hostel Costel. THANKFULLY they had room, and the hostel was nice and non creepy (that’s not something I can say about the hostels I stayed at in Rome. Shudder!!!).
Photo of Timișoara, Județul Timiș, Romania by Surya
Everything is better after you’re full, no? I didn’t have much to do. It gets dark quickly in the winter so I just decided to make the most of whatever little time I had and walked around the city. What can I say about Timisoara? I don’t know much about it, frankly, and I didn’t get a chance to find out either. I can tell you it’s in Western Romania and is the third most populous city in the country. I can tell you it is called ‘Little Vienna’ for some reason (but I was in a foul mood that day and I refused to agree with whoever told me that). And I can tell you that it is a pretty city. If prettiness can show itself inspite of the snow, it’s a pretty city indeed!
Photo of Sibiu, Romania by Surya
The hostel I chose to check with first was Old Town Hostel on Piata Mica. I got lucky! It was cosy and cute, and in a 450 year old building. Fascinating! Aaaaand I got an entire 6-bed dorm to myself. There was only one other guest in the hostel and he had his own 8-bed dorm.
I visited Sibiu’s ‘famous’ Christmas market because it was the first traditional Christmas market that Romania could boast of. Its first occurrence was in 2007 in Piata Mica (more on that in a moment), but has been happening in Piata Mare for the last few years. I think I also remember hearing that it is Romania’s largest. Sibiu is split into the Upper Town and Lower Town. The Upper Town comprises of three squares- Piata Mare (Big Square), Piata Mica (Little Square) and Piata Huet (I don’t know if Huet means anything).
Photo of Piața Mică, Sibiu, Romania by Surya
Work actually started in 1902 even though it was supposed to start in 1857 (my sister has a ‘Time Theory’, which talks about how the same time can mean such different things to different people. So while in 1857 Bishop Andrei Saguna was taking the initiative to construct this church, my people were furiously fighting for our country’s freedom with the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857!!)
Photo of Orthodox Cathedral, Sibiu, Romania by Surya
Work actually started in 1902 even though it was supposed to start in 1857 (my sister has a ‘Time Theory’, which talks about how the same time can mean such different things to different people. So while in 1857 Bishop Andrei Saguna was taking the initiative to construct this church, my people were furiously fighting for our country’s freedom with the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857!!)
Photo of Piața Mare, Sibiu, Romania by Surya
Piata Mare is the historic centre of Sibiu and is, as the name declares, a large square. There are shops, restaurants and cafes on either side. Walking further takes us to the Christmas market, beyond which is Piata Mica and my awesome hostel. Looking for a free walking tour didn’t quite work out (they only have tours in the winter if enough people call and request for one because of how cold it is), so I was left to fend for myself and figure things out on my own. Brasov’s christmas market isn’t Romania’s largest (that distinction goes to Sibiu), but it doesn’t compromise on charm. The sun was shining, and the buzz of so many people milling about just made it all that much lovelier.
Photo of Brașov, Județul Brașov, Romania by Surya
Brasov has a Black Tower and a White Tower. These were two watch towers in the city that stood to protect the cities from attacking the city walls. The White Tower is called so because it was painted white, while the Black Tower’s name comes from the fact that the tower was blackened when it was blackened by a fire that was caused by lightning. Hiking up the hill up to either of the towers (and the up the towers themselves for a panoramic view of the city) was an activity suggested to me by the hostel staff, something I couldn’t do inspite of really wanting to because it was night and it was through the woods, and even though Brasov is said to be one of the safest tourist cities in the world, hiking 20 mins through foresty hills isn’t the smartest thing to do. Also, bears.
Photo of Black Tower, Brașov, Județul Brașov, Romania by Surya
Republicii Street is Brasov’s main pedestrian street. It is a nice pretty street, lined with cafes and restaurants- plenty of food options, tattoo parlours (for some reason), souvenir shops and free wifi ;) It was in this part of the city, though, that I was literally surrounded by Roma kids (the gypsies). They didn’t go so far as to try to open my bag (like we experienced several times in Rome some years back), but they did very much tug at it, and my hands. Thankfully I’m more than used to dealing with street urchins back home in Delhi and I knew exactly how to shake them off without being rude.
Photo of Republicii Street, Brasov, Romania by Surya
Just a few minutes off Republicii street, a few minutes from the Main Square, lies Cafeteca. Saying it was the best coffee I’ve ever had wouldn’t be far from the truth. It was smooth and luscious and absolutely perfect. The fact that it was bitterly cold outside helped, but I think it could be touted the best anyway- any day, any time of the year. It was so good, I ordered another, but then, I don’t know how to leave well enough alone and asked for a French Press coffee instead, got distracted and let it brew too long, and then realised that I was actually craving a head of foamy milk, which you obviously don’t get with a French Press Coffee. Still delicious, but I should have just ordered another Cappuccino.
Photo of Cafeteca Express, Strada Republicii, Brașov, Județul Brașov, Romania by Surya
1 Comment(s)
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Photo of Siddharth Bansal
Siddharth Bansal
Hey Surya... I hope you are Rocking. Tell me one thing. I am planning to ge to Europe next Year. I need to plan some tour on my own as tours and travels will loot us otherwise. As this is my first other country visit I dont know from where should I start. I am planning to visit European countries in 30 days as much as I can with minimum budget. So is there any suggestions from where I should head to this plan.
Fri 05 15 15, 17:42 · Reply · Edit · Delete ·