Current Location: on the train heading towards Zagreb, Croatia
When I started planning for my trip to Romania, I was very clear about not missing out on a vampire hunt - mainly to look out for places that were associated with Bram Stoker's Dracula because it was one of my favourite when I was a kid. There was a couple of castles that were either inspired the classic or was directly associated with the real person behind the story but frankly speaking it was all a little disappointing because of the circus surrounding it. Nevertheless I wasn't going to be persuaded to leave Transylvania without experiencing any form of the legend.
So from Sofia I made my way to the capital city of Romania in Bucharest and without prior knowledge of the city, I was happy to learn about it's turbulent past, how the kingdoms/districts come together and of course you cannot escape the communist past. Though it was short, the city left some impressions on me and the men, I have to say are rather handsome. The handsomest by far in the Balkan region.
After Sofia, it was down to Brasov which was an old city famous for having the most bears in the whole of Europe and strategically located in the heart of Transylvania perfect for daytrips and such while it was rather uneventful, I met some nice people and one of them, I managed to meet again in Budapest. It was all almost too normal and borderline boring after Bulgaria when I received an invitation via Couchsurfing to spend time with some gypsies. Now these people generally have a bad reputation in the whole of Europe for being nothing but thieves so why would I want to hang out with them?
Maybe because I was looking for something more real and so far the vampire hunt turned out to be nothing but smoke. Also, the guy who wrote to me have great references and this project that he is doing is not just hanging out with them but rather to get people to know the history, culture and perhaps change tgeir perspective on like how not every gypsy is bad. I do believe that conditioning and education plays a role - if you are being prejudiced and singled out for work opportunity then what can you do but steal when you have a family to feed?
So I took a minivan from Brasov to a village called Valenii and it was truly an experience of a lifetime. While I paid so little, I gained so much more in return - truly relaxing to be in a village, drawing water from the well and using outdoor toilet. It truly shocks me to learn that not only gypsy but many Romanians does not enjoy running water and proper sewage system despite having some of the most beautiful houses. I was also very inspired by the fact that the gypsy family that I spent time with is totally against the norm - clean, tidy, hardworking and loving family and cooks the most amazing dinner.
Next stop from Valenii was to get my ass to Targu Murres and then catch another minivan to Cluj Napoca - yet another old city but to me it was more like a way to get myself to Budapest - either this or Timisoara and since 1 hour away from Cluj lies this amazing Salina aka Salt Mine in Turda, it was a no brainer. The mine was the most mind blowing thing to experience, imagine a theme park deep down in the ground. I will let the pictures do the talking because honestly I am really getting lazy and uninspired writing this in a train after leaving the most amazing city - Budapest and like always, I am sad to leave but I know where I am heading to (Croatia) will be amazing as well.