Romania is situated in Eastern Europe, near Hungary and Bulgaria. It seems that this country has it all: proud mountains, deep blue sea, even though its called The Black Sea, joyful hills and all the Christian monasteries you can visit. Each of these attractions has an interesting history, a mythical hero or heroes of its own and, above all, places where you can eat those delicious “sarmale with polenta”.
But, despite Romania’s beautiful landscapes and sights, there are a few things you have to know, so that you can enjoy a beautiful vacation.
1. Avoid spending too much time in Bucharest
First of all, avoid its capital: Bucharest. Its a dirty city, and everywhere you look, there are whining beggars. Sure there are some museums here, like Peasant’s Museum or Village Museum, but these are nothing compared to the authentic peasants and their houses in Maramures or Moldavia. So consider Bucharest just the place where your plane lands. Once arrived here, keep going.
If you insist on visiting this city, be aware of all the traps that Old Center has prepared for you. Those buildings used to be wonderful places, with secret stories, but now are just houses of terror. Pieces of them are falling all over, without anyone willing to take any measures. Watch where you step, and better wear a helmet.
Regarding transportation, if you want to travel by train, keep in mind that Romanian trains are mostly late. Never take the Personal Train. This train will not treat you like a person, most of the times being unsuited even for animals. Its carriages are filthy, and we’re not talking about some dust on chairs, but about garbage and rust, poor people eating salami, and unusable toilets. So remember, say no to the Personal Train!
In the summer, avoid going to the Romanian seaside by car. Besides Personal Trains, you can find some Rapid or Intercity trains which, with a bit of luck, can take you there in a few hours (but still, you have to consider taking with you enough supplies of water, food, magazines and maybe some knitting). There is a highway from Bucharest to Constanta, but only half of it is finished. The administration meant to complete the Sun Highway, as they poetically named it, many years ago, but, this is just Romania. Anyway, once this half of highway ends, somewhere in Cernavoda, you are stuck. If you dont have the money to rent a chopper, take the train.
If you choose Romania for your winter vacation, consider yourself inspired. Christmas in Maramures is a fairytale and skiing in Romanian resorts, in Prahova Valley, is always a good choice.
Again, you have to pay attention to how you will get to your destination. You will need an eternity on the road because there is no finished highway. The traffic is so terrible that once, when Mr. former President Basescu considered going from Predeal (a winter resort in the Prahova Valley) to Bucharest by car, after a few minutes in traffic he decided to call for a chopper. The worst thing was that everyone who didnt have “chopper” on their speed dial witnessed that. Oops!
Make sure to always have a portable mp3 player with you. Romanian people love listening to their music really loud, and unfortunately they don’t listen to 80s, pop, rock, house, but an oriental-gypsy style called “manele”. The lyrics are simple words, mixed up to create a song that involves “hope my enemies will die” or “how beautifully you move your behind”. As former President Traian Basescu said, more than 99% of Romanian population listens to this garbage. If you hear a painful song on the radio, it’s a “manea”. Keep your distance.
If you are unlucky enough to suffer an accident, you had better go to a private clinic or book the first flight to your home for treatment. Don’t go to Romanian public hospitals. All the good doctors have left this country, and the ones who decided to stay are too disgusted with the Romanian medical system, because it treats them like they are criminals and not healers. Most of the public hospitals don’t have the basic drugs, needles or bandages. That is why you better have your own medical kit prepared.
In Romania, you will find out that no one respects the order of a queue. If you are on the beach, in line for buying water, beer or grilled minced meat rolls (Romanians call it “mici”) there will always be some fat guy, in his shorts, who will step on your toes and get in front of you. It’s an unwritten rule. Be patient and remember the rules learned in anger management classes.
Speaking from a culinary point of view, Romania is tasty. Romanians love food so much, that every holiday has as its motto, “What should we prepare for celebrating it?” If you eat at a restaurant, it’s ok, considering that every restaurant must pass some “exams”. The problem is eating from street “cooks”. The most common food you can find, whether you are on the beach or on the mountain, is boiled or baked corn. Stay away from this corn. You don’t know anything about its quality. Please go to the nearest restaurant to have a delicious culinary experience.
Last, but not least, do not engage in conversation with strange people, who will want to sell you different things, or to read your future from the palm of your hand. The “sellers” will steal from you, and the fortune readers, who are usually gypsy women, will lie to your face and take all your money. Just say no and keep moving. Never stop and never look them in the eyes. Its like they have a PhD in hypnosis, akin to the vampires. Speaking of whom, don’t forget to visit the beautiful medieval Bran Castle.
By all means, visit Romania. With some precautions you can enjoy the best without experiencing the worst.