Budapest - Romania
Went to one of the owner's favorite cafes for breakfast: 2 cappucini and 2 very tasty cheese croissants. Total bill: less than $5.
We got into a cab and were whisked to the Ferigheny Airport. Luckily, no traffic. The traffic can be brutal in Budapest. Waited on the runway for an hour, for no discernible reason. Malev Air, Hungarian National Airlines, who are actually highly rated.
Landed in Bucharest's Otopeni Airport. My plan was to take the train directly to Brasov and not go into Bucharest, which I've heard has not much to recommend it and is snarled with traffic. I had been indirectly told in email by the Romanian Tourist Agency that I could do this, but when I think back on it, they never directly said I could catch a train at the airport. So they didn't actually lie when asked the direct question because, guess what? There is no train that comes even close to Otopeni Airport. So we had to take a cab into the boiling cauldron of Bucharest traffic. The driver seemed to have about 6 girlfriends, Don was convinced, because he was on his cell phone constantly while making death defying driving maneuvers which I would never, ever consider doing outside of a nightmare. Fortunately, he didn't get us into any accidents; especially fortunate as his seat belts weren't working.
Got to the train station with not much time to spare. We purchased 2nd class tickets as Frommer's said that they saw no difference between 1st and 2nd class on Romanian trains. Don't know if that's true, but we did meet the most interesting people on the train. I actually met and spoke with a young man for quite some time who told me he was Tatar and Roma (gypsy). I admit I was startled to hear that he was Tatar. I think of them as galloping across the Hungarian plains during the middle ages, living in their saddles, and maniacally attacking everyone in sight. All these fortresses we've been looking at were built to defend against these people. I figured they had all returned to Mongolia centuries ago or intermarried, leaving only a faint genetic whiff in the Eastern European makeup. This young fellow told me that no, there were actually quite a few still living near Costanta on the Black Sea coast, still keeping to their old religion (not sure what that is) and still speaking their language. He, Jonnie, was very intelligent, interesting, well-spoken, in English, no less, and worked for a nonprofit in Romania who helped the Roma people when they were discriminated against. I would guess that might be just about all the time, but I could be wrong. He said he is very busy in his work here.
In our compartment were 2 college students, also from Costanta. The young woman was absolutely gorgeous as well as sweet and the young man played basketball professionally for a Romanian team while also attending college. These two bright and attractive people laughed long and inordinately at our jokes (so not sure how bright they actually are), but fell into the pattern of making some moderately snide comments about the gypsies. I tried to tell them that in the next compartment was an intelligent, very nice man of gypsy heritage, but it just seemed to glide right past them. They couldn't hear or consider it.
I also met an old Romanian mountain man, who lived way high up in the mountains with bears, a few wolves and many foxes. We had no language in common, but a woman on the train kindly translated for us.
All this in a 3 hour train ride. I think I'm going to like Romania.
Priest, reminiscent of St. Francis, feeding pigeons in Brasov Square.
Era and Don