Sunday, April 08, 2007

Eastward-Bound

Tomorrow, Andrew and I are heading east, further east than either of us have been before: to Romania. I am incredibly excited. This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing: we were invited by a Romanian friend of Andrew’s, Vlad, who will take us first to his family’s home in the country; then to Transylvania; then to Bucharest.

We found some interesting travel advice about Romania from the Fodor’s website. Some is obvious—like advising against drinking unrefrigerated milk sold at local markets. But some of the other advice paints an interesting picture of what awaits us:

  • On Romanians: “Their efforts on your behalf may charm you, but they could also be cheating you.”

  • On road conditions: “Progress may be further impeded by slow-moving trucks and horse-drawn carts.”

  • On road rules: “Although the law calls for the issuance of tickets for traffic violations, locals often settle with a negotiated payment on the spot. However, you should avoid this practice and instead accept a ticket.” (I love this one—I have a clear image of my engagement ring being part of our ‘negotiated payment.’)

  • An oddly specific warning on safety: “Beware of hustlers at the railroad station claiming (falsely) to represent hostels. They will often offer to make a reservation for you at well-known hostels via cell phone, but only on condition that you pay the first night's fee up front. They then send you off on your own to the real hostel, which will turn out to have no affiliation with the hustlers and will have received neither a reservation for you nor the first night’s fee.”

  • And finally: “Bucharest has many stray dogs; ignore them and they will ignore you.”

All of this suggests that Romania will be a true adventure, a different world. I’ll pack my garlic and my crucifix along with my camera.

1 comment:

supercostica said...

Nice of you to be interested in visiting Romania; remember though that most Romanians don't like to be told that their country is less civilized than other European countries.
Also some of those advices you quoted seem to be a little obsolete or unclear:
- you can find horse-drawn carts only in villages and on back roads, not quite on every road;
- this ticket settlement thing is no longer a so common habit and some officers might arrest you for attempting to bribe them. Also the whole point in bribing the policeman into not writing a ticket is to pay LESS than the fine, so I don't see why you would want to give your ring away;
The other advices are sadly true. Be wary of any "helpful" strangers, especially those that offer you any form of accommodation of transport. There aren't many dogs in downtown Bucharest, but there are plenty in the peripheral neighborhoods.