26 July 2006

Romanian Epilogue

I have to say, I really liked Romania. I came with low expectations, because my Bulgarian friends and colleagues tend to bad-mouth their neighbor to the north, but found their warnings to be unwarranted. Transylvania is especially pleasant, but even Bucharest is worth seeing. Its broad streets and boulevards are crowded with cars, but at least you can negotiate the sidewalk—which you can’t always do in Sofia. There are ostentatious projects like Ceausescu’s People’s Palace and beautifully maintained parks, but I mainly enjoyed the hustle and bustle of big city—again, something Sofia is not.

That being said, I didn’t find Romania to be very tourist friendly. It seems like all people want to do is pry lei (or Euros) from foreigners. Taxi cab drivers are always hesitant to tell you what the price of a trip is going to be, but when pressed they give a price 3 times higher than it’s supposed to be, after which you bargain down to half of that (or, if you’re good like Mike, back to the correct price.) Compounding this problem, there are currently two currencies in circulation the old leu (ROL) and new leu (RON); the new leu is worth 10,000 old lei (about $2.84.) Prices are officially listed in new leu, but everyone still refers to old leu prices, so if something is 10 lei, they will say it costs 100,000 or just 100. Adding to the confusion, after a couple of purchases, you will always be paying with mixed currency—you have to remember 10,000=1, 500,000=50, and so on. I am convinced they are trying to keep the old currency around as long as possible in order to confuse people (and rip them off.)

Below are some pictures from my extended weekend in Romania. These are courtesy of Mike’s camera, since none of my cameras work anymore.

Piata MareThis is a time-exposure I took of the fountain on PiaĊ£a Mare in Sibiu. Mike says this piazza was a muddy mess last winter, but—as you can see—they did it up right!

Mike & I at Lac BaleaThese are Mike’s Romanian friends (you know I’m bad at remembering names), Mike, and myself at Lac Balea. Yes, that is snow in the background!

Glacial Valley at Lac BaleaCheck out this winding, switch-backed road set in this beautiful glacial valley—looks like a car commercial, doesn’t it. Good for cycling too; we saw numerous cyclists climbing and descending.

Mike, landlord, and his TrabantsMike and his landlord, Joseph, with his two East German Trabants. The blue one is a 1979 model and the (newly painted) orange one is a 1990! See any difference? Of course not! Only a capitalist would make changes to a perfectly good car from year to year just to befuddle the poor consumers and make them pick up the additional cost of re-tooling the factory. ;-)  Joseph is retired and spends his days tinkering around with these and other projects. He is of Hungarian descent, and speaks a little bit of German.
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