Wednesday, April 30, 2008

depressing romania and spectacular budapest

Romania's reputation for being one of the most depressing places on earth is well deserved. So, so well deserved. I didn't know about this at first and I got myself all psyched up about the idea of going to Transylvania to the point that I stuck my head out of our train window in the black night to freak myself out a little. I imagined being a slavic peasant and being afraid of these dark wildernesses that surrounded my village and making up stories of vampires and such. (Dracula did, in fact, exist. In the form of Vlad the Impaler whose father was Dracul and he, in turn, Dracula meaning son of the Dragon. But he wasnt a vampiure, just a cruel dictator).

But then I actually arrived in Brasov. No buses were running and three taxi drivers stood outside the station with a gleaming look in their eye, like they were ready to con. The distance to town was too far to walk, so we were forced to deal with these sleazy men. They tried to charge us exorbitant amounts of money and called us all sorts of Romanian curses when we refused. Ugh. The worst of people. We ended up paying and cursing from the back seat.

The morning made the town seem slightly better, but not much. The skies were grey, the town deserted, everything we tried to see or do was closed up or moved away or just never existed. Needless to say, I would not recommend Romania.

Yet, as much as Romania was bad Budapest was spec-tac-u-lar, amazing, fantastic. 18th century baroque architecture everywhere, city parks, beautiful statues, blue skies, cheap prices, friendly people, good food and Hungarian baths heated by underground hot springs! Oh, and tall people! I am beginning to find the places of my ancestors. Not quite yet, but I am getting there. Off to Austria, where I might be getting even warmer.

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