Hi friends and family,
These exotic names in the title are all locations in Romania.
We have had 2 additional "taxi" drivers in Romania, both were on the very dull side, both were named Igor; you know the type. The first one we ended up with as our train pulled in very late to Brasov, and he was a buddy of the man at Information, or perhaps a local charity case acquaintance. He had a car about as big as a postage stamp, not a taxi, and managed to get us to a hotel in my tour book, which fortunately had a room. The second one took us to the wrong location out in the countryside where we were supposed to pick up our rental car. Fortunately, we didn't have our luggage with us and managed to get to our car rental by running alongside the freeway for a short block or so.
Before we left Brasov, which is a very nice old Saxon town, we walked around the city center (where we saw the priest) and took a ski lift type cable car up the hill. Stalin once had this hill denuded so that he could spell out his name in giant letters - no ego problems there - but the trees have grown back and there is a giant Brasov sign at the top of the hill now. This is what it looks like from the back.
Before walking back down to the city through the woods, we were warned that a bear cub had been spotted on the trail the day before and advised that if we should meet one or its mother, drop what we were carrying and run in the opposite direction. That would be up the hill. Thankfully we didn't run into any bears as our legs were very wobbly after just walking down the hill.
Maria Coffino, who we met shortly before we left for Romania, and who is the only person we knew of (before coming here) who is at least partly Romanian, strongly advised us to drive into the mountains surrounding Brasov. This was a lovely drive, past Vlad the Impaler's castle, aka Dracula, and then up a very unlikely looking road, incredibly rutted and pot-holed, with many of the protective side barriers missing. In fact, Don was convinced that we must be on a wrong road, that it must be someone's private road to their farm. We persisted and were very glad we did. It was getting late and we didn't have a place to stay. The pensione Maria recommended was full, booked for a wedding. We wandered up to a house with a small sign "Pensiune Mamina" (Grandmother) and struck gold.
This truly is a beautiful area; it looks like parts of Switzerland. Nick and Paula (or Mamina) couldn't have been nicer or more welcoming. They fed us copious amounts of stuffed cabbages (delicious), sausages, pickles, bread, and when we couldn't eat all Mamina had served us she moaned in distress "You no like, you no like, OOhhh, you no like my food." It took a great deal to assure her that her food was absolutely delicious, but we were very full. They also brought out the home-made wine, home-made tuinca (tastes like grappa), home-made brandies, see picture below. Nick and Mamina posing with 3 water bottles, not containing water.
More later. We've got to go, and don't know when we'll see another good email connection.
Era and Don