Musings from the Mountains
A Romanian Adventure
Photo : Photo: Stella Verstegen
Photo : Photo: Stella Verstegen
The name itself draws up an image of mystery; a magical land shrouded in tales of gothic romance and fantastical creatures. Vampires and werewolves, beautiful heroines and fierce heroes.
Transylvania, Romania, nestled in the heart of the Carpathian Mountains is an Eastern European dream. Green and lush with rolling mountains and pristine lakes, the land itself seems to be a fairytale.
The main city in which I based myself is called Brasov. Built at the base of the Tampa mountain, the city combines a charming collection of modern twists with all the medieval charm Romania seems to be known for. At the center is the Black Church, a formidable gothic structure rising up from the Old Town. Next to it is the Council Square and main pedestrian street, a touristic epicenter filled with restaurants, bars and shops.
However it is not all sloping buildings and intricate churches; as one ventures out of old town you bare witness to the stark and formal apartment blocks and buildings, reminiscent of a time when communism ruled the country. Serving as a tribute to the fascinating yet at times sad recent history, it somehow only emphasizes how rich and broad Romania is as a country.
The brilliant thing about being in Brasov (apart from the visuals and history) is that you are at the heart of Transylvanian sightseeing. Quick train rides or car trips bring you right into contact with some of Romania’s most famous towns and villages, perfect for a day trip or two. Whether it’s visiting Dracula’s infamous castle in Bran or climbing the weird and wonderful clock tower in Sighisoara, the adventures are endless.
There are also numerous ways to satisfy your stomach, however be warned; the food in Romania is not light and airy. Rich stews and sumptuous meat dishes make up the bulk of the fare; Sarmale is a particular treat and is one of the most traditional dishes you can find. Served with sour cream and polenta, your taste buds will be delighted with you! I know mine certainly were. End off with a papanasi (a dessert consisting of fried dough, sour cream and jam) and your Romanian feast will be complete; however you may need a nap or a long walk afterwards to work off your indulgence!
Another wonderful aspect of Romania is its vibrant and colorful people; although initially they can come across as stoic and a little abrupt, one simply has to exchange a few words and ask a couple of questions and soon enough they will warm up to you, revealing truly unique personalities and a culture all their own. I have managed to make many friends during my time in Romania and I feel all the more enriched for it. Their delightful mix of 21st century mannerisms combined with traditional old school charm makes for a distinctive and informative interaction; truly a one of a kind people that you can’t help but remember forever.
My time in Romania thus far has been a special one, full of adventure and learning. Flying halfway across the world to explore a land still so unfamiliar to so many people has been an experience I will never forget and one I will truly treasure for the rest of my life. The only thing left to say is “thank you Romania for giving me a new home so different to the one I came from. It has truly been the time of my life!”