I was set to leave the monastery at 10 a.m. to catch a bus to Transylvania. I was given a crocheted rug and miniature knit boots by a lovely old woman named Stella, who lived in the home, and another woman kissed my face about a hundred times, giving me a blessing between each kiss. I heard the familiar “Ah-maahn-dah!” that meant I was to stop what I was doing immediately and have a beer, 15 minutes before leaving.

Ah-mahhn-dah! Be-re!

Ah-mahhn-dah! Be-re!

P.J. Harvey – Before Departure

The bus resembled an elongated VW van, and departed from a dusty, peeled-paint station. And the ride was exactly as you’d expect sitting in an un-air-conditioned bus for a six-hour trip through the Carpathians to be. While on the highway, the driver even opened the rear doors in an attempt to get some air circulated. I had been fortunate enough to snag a window seat, so I at least had the advantage of viewing the incredible scenery as we navigated twisting mountain roads (the key was not looking down).

I tried to take some pictures, but Googling “Bicaz Gorges” can probably turn up much better images than my crappy on-the-bus photos. Here, let me help.

Having emerged from the mountains, the landscape was markedly different from the other regions I had seen. The roads were better, the buildings cleaner. The mountains and fields were so green and perfect, it was as if I was in a train set. I felt like I had entered a different country — even the skateboarder next to me who had gotten on in Neamţ was replaced by a woman reading a Hungarian-language magazine. Tourism has clearly injected more money into this region than elsewhere in Romania.

I arrived in Braşov with the only hitch being that I went to my hostel’s old address. A new hostel had moved in, and the girl at reception tried to trick me into booking a room there, too. This was apparently a policy of theirs, taking advantage of people with out-of-date guidebooks, so I called my hostel and the owner actually came to pick me up. So to the millions of future travelers to Romania who are reading my blog: Don’t stay at Liberty Hostel in Braşov, because they are jerks. And if you stay at Kismet Dao, make sure you have the right address.

The Clash – Three Card Trick


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