Jesse and I started our journey up to Chisinau at about 3:00 in the afternoon. We had a 3 hour bus ride to Chisinau and then had time for some dinner before hopping on the overnight bus to Romania. The bus was pretty empty and John nearly missed it, which meant we all would have missed it since he had our tickets. But we were 3 of 6 people on it so we were able to stretch out and sleep. It was about a 10 hour ride with a half hour stop at the borders. It was pretty damn cold.
We arrived in Brașov, Romania (pronounced brah-shov) at about 7:30am. It was brutally cold. Our plan was to hop on a local bus, head to the train station, drop our bags off and buy our tickets to Sinaia and then explore the city. Without knowledge of the city bus system, we hopped on the first one we saw. It was immediately boarded by the bus 'security' and since we didn't have a ticket, we were fined 45 RON (about $12). Romania was not endearing itself to us very quickly. We were all pretty irritated but went on with our day. We made it to the train station and stored our bags and bought tickets for a 3:00 train to Sinaia which was about an hour away. We got back on the bus (tickets in hand) and headed into the center of the city. It was quite beautiful.
|Jesse and John enjoying a hot cup of mulled wine.|
The train pulled into the station and where we had to go was about 1000 stairs up...I may be exaggerating but it sure felt like 1000. It was more like 100 but still...
When we got to the top I was NOT happy, but we found the place we were staying. Our friends Lindsay and Conrad had booked an apartment with Conrad's parents and they were being kind and letting us crash there. They had left a key for us at the front desk. It was a tiny hotel in the mountains with an apartment in the back for us. It was great.
|The front of the hotel.|
Back at home we all shared a nightcap of "Maker's Mark" that Conrad's Dad had brought for us from the states and we all fell asleep watching 'The Shining.' (I know...)
Staying at the hotel included breakfast, a luxury we volunteers were SO not used to. John is an early riser (and is NOT quiet about it) so he and Jesse got up and went to breakfast early. Lindsay and Conrad joined them soon after. I slept in, as did Conrad's parents and the three of us went to breakfast at around 9:30am, a more feasible time to wake up! We all kind of went our separate ways for the day, which was great. Lindsay, Conrad and John went skiing, Jesse went hiking and Conrad's folks went walking through the town. I bet you can't guess what Jenn did? Yeah...I napped. Ha ha. That's vacation! I was awoken by the housekeepers who were SO nice. They loved that I spoke Romanian and we chatted for a while. After they left, I went for a walk of my own. Walked through the town, people watched and enjoyed the cool but fresh air.
|Yeah...I did a double take too...|
|A view from the bottom of the hill.|
We got to sleep in since the free breakfast wasn't starting until 11:30am. (Of course John was up again at 7...). The hotel had a lovely brunch and we all enjoyed it together before saying our goodbyes. Conrad, Lindsay and the folks were headed up to Brașov for the day and had hired a private car so they had to head out. We all said goodbye and the boys and I headed to the train station. We were going to the mountains. We had to meet our ride at 5:00pm. We got back to Brașov and had some time to kill. We had to find a grocery store to buy some food as the place we were staying was quite remote and we were told to bring supplies. We could not find an open store anywhere. We asked a local and he almost laughed at us. Nothing was open on New Years's day. We got to the train station to meet our host, Joseph. He was the owner of the place we were staying in the mountains and he was going to drive us there. He managed to find an open store and we were able to buy some food for the next few days. The road up to his place in the mountains was very steep and very dark but the stars were SO bright and so beautiful, I don't remember the last time I saw so many. It was great. We arrived and he took us around. It was SO quiet and we had the place entirely to ourselves. It was 7:30pm and we were ready to sleep. And we did!
AGAIN, awoken by John at 7am, but I didn't mind this time since I had been asleep for about 11 hours. When I walked outside, it took my breath away. I literally felt like I was on top of the world. Just surrounded by the Carpathian mountains, fresh, clean air and just silent. It was heaven. I went to the kitchen and Joseph had fresh milk and cheese for us that they had made there at the farm. John and Jesse had decided to go on a hike so they were getting directions from Joseph. I was going to stay behind and spend the day reading. I went outside and sat on the porch and read for about 6 hours. The house dog laid across my feet which normally would have annoyed me but I didn't mind because he was quiet and he kept my feet warm.
|My view while I read.|
One final morning of being woken up by non-subtle John. We woke up and Joseph gave us a full tour of the farm. It is a self-sustaining farm, they don't mass produce anything, it is just for themselves. The hostel doesn't see a lot of business in the winter and we found out we were their first guests in a few months so they were pretty pleased to see us. Joseph is a very smart man who loves the country. He is very interested in eco-friendly lifestyles and asked us a lot of questions about what he could do better. But to be honest, he was doing great. I was very impressed by him. He was a hard worker, he loves his country, he loves his home and yet is not 'old school' at all. He uses the internet as a tool to constantly learn new ways of improving his home and his life and is just a very smart business man.
|The sign at the gate.|
|My friend that kept my feet warm.|
|John looking at the mountains.|
|The front of the common room.|
|Where we slept.|
So, 2013...I get to go home this year. Only 6 months of service left which is a little weird. I can't decide if it's flown by or dragged on. I am dreading the inevitable goodbyes that will happen but at the same time, I am ready to go home. I miss the good old US of A...especially the cheeseburgers.