September 5th, 2007 – by: chrisrae
Feeding the pigeons (we gave her the rest of our seeds).
So I survived my first night train on the way to Brasov. I didn't sleep much, though, worrying about my belongings. I also had the worst feeling of being so alone and far away, the first on this trip. I was just laying there as we were making our way through Romania in the night, thinking to myself, I'm alone, so far from everyone I know, anything could happen. I don't know why it hit me then (the darkness maybe), but after the whole "you've got the power," comment, I had to just shake it, and, in fact, my cabin mates were super nice and helpful with my bag.
We hit Brasov about 6 a.m. I say we because there were about six of us backpackers that all converged together to figure out a hostel.
Main Square, with the Black Church in the background.
I booked ahead so led everyone to the hostel I had chosen. Unfortunately no beds were ready and check out was not til noon, so we hung in the common area for a bit and finally decided to check out town around 10:30. This fella from Newcastle joined me for a walk, although he had more of a Scottish accent, so understanding him was quite difficult at times. Oh, I finally, finally met someone from Minnneapolis at the hostel! She lives in the Whittier neighborhood and is literally down the block from my sister on Garfield. Crazy. I haven't met anyone from MN, let alone my neighborhood.
Anyway, so we set off to check out the Black Church, so called because it suffered substantial damage in a fire in the 1689 (originally built in 1383). It wasn't really black from the damage, but it smelled really old.
Thinnest street in Europe - we think it was a corridor built for access during fires.
It had a massive organ, and I had planned to catch the brief concert that night but ended up napping later instead. From there we set off to find the "fortress" on top of some hill. We couldn't see it from below, so we just kept climbing. Once we found it we thought why is this a tourist attraction? It was a ghost town up there. It finally hit me that we are getting out of the height of travel season, as it appeared everything was shut down (including the disco). The other hill, really mountain, to climb had the option of a cable car, which we took. However, when we got up there you couldn't really see the town below as there was no viewing platform and lots of trees. We hiked through the woods thinking we could find a better view, but all I could think about were the two hikers eaten by a bear in 2004 and the fact Brasov is home to many bears.
View of Black church and town square from up top (kind of hazy day).
We were sure to talk the whole time, but finally gave up and headed back down. As it turned out we headed the wrong way on the trail and were supposed to head to Brasov's "Hollywood" sign. Yes, this pretty medievel town saw fit to put up a big Brasov sign on the side of the mountain. These towns are sadly victim to McDonald's and other chains as well as over the top advertising that literally ruins the view of the town squares.
After about five hours about town, I headed back to the hostel to shower and chill. I ended up having dinner with my traveling companion for the day, along with a couple from Vancouver. The staff at the restaurant were super nice, giving us free shots of palinca before dinner and just all around friendly. Actually, so far everyone has been friendly and many speak English.
Chris feeding the pigeons (they sell seeds in vending machines in the square, which we found out after we bought a package wondering what it was).
Everything is super cheap as well. Tomorrow I'm taking a three castle tour, including the Dracula-inspiring Bran castle, although Bram Stoker never came to Romania apparently, so I'm not sure how all that came about. I plan to stay in Transylvania until Saturday, with more day trips to neighboring towns, before heading south toward Bucharest
for a brief stop and then onto Bulgaria.