"We are in Transylvania"
Brasov 15th March
I arrive in Brasov under surreal circumstances. It is impossible to ignore the whirlwind which trudges through every detail of existence at this time. Everywhere from the Edinburgh airport to Brasov Starbucks the coronavirus cloud looms over. I fretted about making this trip but curiosity and determination won over any form of sensibility.
I land into Bucharest airport at 3am- the name of the airport is still ambiguous to me as my boarding pass and luggage tag contradict of the matter. I expect passport control to be strict and to thoroughly quiz me about my recent whereabouts but my passport is swiped and handed back with no converse which both relives and concerns me. Brasov is a two-hour drive away. I expect to be tired given the late hour but I find the conversation with my driver and the foreignness of everything too fascinating to let pass by. My driver gives me an unfiltered viewpoint of daily life in Romania and tells me about the country’s response to the virus crisis; it seems that religion which people are understandably using as a crutch for support has given a false sense of immunity. He also tells me some bizarre stories of buses and roads being exorcized which gives me an indication how significant religion in Romania as well as some fantastic imagery.
After a lazy start to the day at four pm we venture out into the city. Across the street from our apartment is a private hospital, as we pass, I peer in the glass door entrance and see a woman in scrubs with a surgical mask covering her mouth sat at a desk. It depresses me that on the plane over to Romania many people had what appeared to be better quality masks than this woman who was working on the front line.
The old town is only a short walk away from the apartment. Brasov’s population is similar to Edinburgh, yet it feels as quiet and compact as the small village I live in back home in Scotland which only has one percent of either population.
The streets are quiet. I initially put this down to it being Sunday but this feels different for I know people aren’t resting. Almost every establishment we pass by is closed but Starbucks remains open. Inside it is so quiet the staff are rarely behind the counter and I get the sense that most tourists left a good few days ago.
The cobbled streets of the old town remind me of the Grassmarket in Edinburgh although fresher and brighter. I visited Bucharest five years previous, so I feel I know what to expect from Romania. Upon entering the town square, Piata Sfatului, the Saxon architecture instantly takes me back to Romerberg square in Frankfurt rather than Lipscani, Bucharest. We walk to the foot of two towers; Turnul Negru and Turnul Alb, from here we have a nice vista of the city as well as Mount Tampa, the mount is namesake only. On the side of the hill facing the city, in white giant letters the city’s name is displayed like in Hollywood, absolutely nothing I have seen in in Brasov resembles Hollywood to me.
Brasov’s cobbled streets and medieval history remind me of Edinburgh. I hope to explore more and see the city in some form of normality. My first impression of Brasov feels more Germanic and northern European than what I was expecting and what I have experienced of Romania before.