Riiiiiight… I did it again. Another looong unexplained disappearance. So without wasting time on apologies and excuses, and promising that it will never happen again (because you and I both know it will 😉 ), let me just get on with it.
Romania alternately amazed me and disappointed me in equal doses. Since I had a ‘marvelous’ experience right at the airport when I was entering the country (which involved a scary looking immigration official yelling his head off at me… Delightful), you can’t really blame me for being the teensiest bit prejudiced and expecting, pretty much, nothing.
Well, much as I was hoping to be proved wrong, Timisoara didn’t exactly change my views. There was a lot of unexpected snow, and I’m not a winter lover. Why I didn’t do my research before going there is a question I still ask myself. But then I’m an advocate of the whole ‘unplanned’ thing. So I guess it was more fun that I got smacked in the face with a figurative snowball the moment my flight landed.
So my trip started going downhill right when I left Milan. They told me at the airport that I couldn’t go on because I didn’t have proof that I was going to leave, unless I bought a reservation. Once that was done, I assumed my troubles were over. But, no. I had my encounter with aforementioned immigration official a few hours after that. And after that, trudging through the snow in the city centre, I had no hostel reservations and the person I was supposed to couchsurf with was suddenly not reachable (I don’t exactly remember what happened… I think the server was down, or there was no wifi, or one of our messages didn’t reach the other).
After shivering in the snow for a few hours, I gave up on couchsurfing and went to find a hostel. Quick Google search + Google Maps, and twenty minutes later I was in front of Hostel Costel. THANKFULLY they had room, and the hostel was nice and non creepy (that’s not something I can say about the hostels I stayed at in Rome. Shudder!!!).
There were no free walking tours I could go for, so I just decided to go for a meal. When all else fails, eat. That’s my motto.
Everything is better after you’re full, no? I didn’t have much to do. It gets dark quickly in the winter so I just decided to make the most of whatever little time I had and walked around the city.
What can I say about Timisoara? I don’t know much about it, frankly, and I didn’t get a chance to find out either. I can tell you it’s in Western Romania and is the third most populous city in the country. I can tell you it is called ‘Little Vienna’ for some reason (but I was in a foul mood that day and I refused to agree with whoever told me that). And I can tell you that it is a pretty city. If prettiness can show itself inspite of the snow, it’s a pretty city indeed!
I didn’t want to dislike Romania, of course. Some of the nicest people I had met during my trip in the summer were Romanians- I couchsurfed with one in Munich and hitchhiked with a couple on my Budapest-Ljubljana journey. Add to that the prospect of meeting a Count Dracula kind of character, I had embarked on this trip with a VERY positive mindset.
But over the course of the day, I was quite disillusioned. At the hostel at night, I was glad the day was over and sat for a while chatting with the staff, the hostel dog and other guests (and one guy asked me such specific questions about Aam Aadmi Party and Arvind Kejriwal and Indian politics, I was very amused AND amazed).
I lay on my bed that evening for a moment, still in my outdoor clothes, without even having brushed my teeth. The next thing I knew the hostel manager was waking me up almost 14 hours later so I could go catch the bus to Sibiu!! THANK GOD I had told him my plans!!!
Hoping against hope that the next day would be better did me no good because I missed my bus Romania allows Indians with a Schengen visa only 5 days in the country, including the days you get in and out. To stay longer you need a Romanian visa. I could not risk taking any chances, because I could get into trouble. Major trouble!
Note to Self and Future Visitors who are reading this: Walking to the bus station is quicker than taking public transport. Atleast from Hostel Costel, which is actually further away from the station than the centre. I would have made it on time, got on the bus and saved almost 4 hours if I had walked!! I had to wait 20ish minutes for the tram to show up. And even if it had arrived right away, I’d probably still have reached JUST on time since the tram moved slower than I would have walked.
A cup of coffee in Timisoara’s city centre later, I managed to catch the next bus out of the city, glad to be one day closer to getting out of this country which wasn’t being very nice to me. Did I mention that there was a lady who just screamed at me at the top of her voice for no reason? Yup, that happened. I had no idea what she said cause she was screaming in Romanian, and I don’t speak it beyond basic greetings (Romanian has many words that are similar to French, Italian, Spanish etc) and ‘ceai’ (pronounced ‘chai’) which means ‘tea’. It’s weird how many unrelated countries use the same word for tea. Chai!! Off the top of my head… India, Romania, Turkey, Slovakia… China says ‘cha’. Okay, digressing. Stop 😛 But yeah, the scowl on this lady’s face and her fist shaking in front of me gave me a clue that she wasn’t really showering words of love :/I was just walking around, minding my own business, when she appeared out of nowhere and kept yelling till her voice faded out of my hearing range.
But then, like I said in the beginning, Romania alternately amazed me and disappointed me. Because when I got off the bus at Sibiu, it was love at first sight. It was night and it was rather empty, but I couldn’t stop smiling. Let’s leave that for next time, agree?
So that was my first impression of Romania. I loved the food, but I need to dedicate an entire post to that, so I’m not detailing anything out now 😀 Hearty and meaty, AND cheap!! Always a plus 🙂 No trace of Dracula yet… But I still got four days to go 😉