When a friend comes to Europe for a month-long sabbatical and is up for an adventure the final weekend before returning to the US, you send him the list of places you haven’t been yet. And after 2.5 years of extensive travel, that list is full of some pretty random destinations. And when some other expat friends find out you’re planning a weekend getaway, they opt to join in. And somehow, that results in five friends traveling to Bucharest, Romania for a 3-day weekend. (Well, they weren’t friends when we left; they didn’t even know each other. But, I think it’s safe to say they’re friends now.)
A few other expat friends did a Bucharest / Budapest trip last Easter, and I shamelessly replicated their itinerary to avoid spending too much time planning. I’m so grateful for fellow travelers who share their insights and recommendations.
Rather than take you through a play-by-play of our weekend, I thought I would share with you the things that I learned in Romania. And let me tell you, I learned a lot…both about Romania and about life.
- There is a default app on my iPhone that will track my steps! I’m not interested in wearing a FitBit or Fuelband or whatever they’re called, but I always love when I’m traveling with someone who wears one and tells me how far we walked or how high we climbed. Apparently, I could’ve been tracking this on my own all along!
- Romania has “land mines” coming out of the sidewalk that will take out your knees if you aren’t watching where you’re going. I ran into one less than 10 minutes after leaving the hotel to venture into Old Town our first evening. But thankfully, Bucharest also has really beautiful manhole covers to make up for it.
- Romania is mostly Orthodox, and there are many little churches throughout the city.
- Romanian lakes are drained in the winter making for excellent soccer fields and vending machine locations. The fascinating part is that while the lake is drained, the fountain in the center keeps running. The fountain covered in mud, that is. And who can resist taking a selfie in the empty lake?
- Nestle is alive and well in Romania. And we seem to be really excited about it.
- Caru’ cu Bere has costumes both for its dancers and its diners.
- Romanians love polenta. And so do I.
- Romania decided they wanted a royal family in the mid-1800’s. However, they didn’t have royal blood, so they had to recruit from the outside. They wrote to a French prince first, who rejected their request. Then, they found a German prince who was willing to become their first king. I wish someone would solicit me to become their monarch.
- King Carol built Peles Castle as a summer palace. You can see a lot of German influence in the structure. It was stunning inside, too.
- My friends know how to strike a pose.
- Brasov is a beautiful little town that has its very own Hollywood sign, narrow alleyways, and cozy restaurants with delicious soup (like Gaura Dolce)!
- Dracula was written by an Irish author (Bram Stoker) who never traveled to Romania. Its primary setting is a castle in Transylvania. We visited Bran Castle (also known as Dracula’s Castle) – only to find out the castle isn’t mentioned in the book, nor were any of the films created here. I guess my learning is that it’s unclear why this particular castle is able to lay claim to Dracula.
- Bram Stoker may have been inspired by Vlad the Impaler when creating his vampire character, Count Dracula.
- Dracula is the biggest selling novel in the world. The Bible is the only other book to sell more copies.
- Bran Castle has secret passageways!
- Christie is passionate about Romania. He is an amazing tour guide with the most enthusiastic, heartiest, most genuine laugh I’ve ever heard. We loved our day with him!
- Lacrimi si Sfinti has questionable service, but really great presentation.
- We were able to make it to midnight – even after our long day trip into the countryside. Just about the time the night life in Old Town is starting…
- Energiea Pub serves amazing entree salads and smoothies!
- The Palace of the Parliament is the second largest administrative building in the world after the Pentagon. We went on an hour long tour and only saw 3% of the place!
- There is so. much. smoking. in Romania!
- Romania is the “Las Vegas of Eastern Europe.”
- Nadia Comaneci is a famous Romanian gymnast I should know.
- Air Drop is a great tool for sharing photos between iPhones.
- Visit a City is a new-ish website / app that would’ve made my life a whole lot easier over the past 2.5 years.
- Apparently, my DVD collection will soon be obsolete.
I am so grateful for friends who are up for adventures and who know how to laugh. It was so fun to spend my final weekend outside of Switzerland with them.