It is 9:00 a.m. and we are on the road in a van to see a couple of castles. This is our vacation day in Romania! We drove through the city of Bucharest past the US Embassy and the airport and now we are getting out in the country where you see endless flat land covered in snow. I just saw a man draped in blue sitting on a small folding chair ice fishing. We have seen a lot of worn down buildings and the backyards here have little vineyards and orchards all set in neat rows. Some of the homes have been fixed up nice while others look abandoned. I have noticed several building projects that were started but seem to be now abandoned. We just passed a cool entrance to a home that was a tunnel of vines shaped like a tall pitched roof. Every building has a fence around it but hardly any have barbed wire or other sharp burglar deterrents. There are very few homes that have steel window guards in front of them. This area we are passing now is so flat white it looks like a lake but when you look closely you can see some slight undulations in the surface. We have also passed numerous Eastern Orthodox churches. They seem to be everywhere. Our driver Emanuel said “90 percent of Romania is Eastern Orthodox.” Often the buildings you see here (home and businesses) are gray in color but every once in awhile you see bright orange and red. Some are a creamy white color. They are the same colors that our mural buildings turned out. They must use the same pigments. Gasoline is 6.00 a liter. Most of the roofs are made out of metal and a few are made with ceramic tile. There is obviously pride in some of the decoration like on the fences and wood trim. The older homes are certainly artistic with odd shaped windows and awnings. Some of the gutters though are very strange. They don’t come down the side of the house they just hang out over the sidewalk or street. I just saw one hanging over a large tree, ha!
I told myself last night and this morning to enjoy every minute that I have left in Romania. We leave in two days. We just passed a support column to a home that was made from broken tile like a mosaic or Gaudi creation. You don’t see a lot of bicycles here or motorcycles. Mostly cars, buses, trains, and people walking. You see a few horse drawn carts which makes me think of the movie Yentl. Here is a huge power plant with a couple of cooling towers. Some of the town signs I see are Oradae and Brasov. We are passing through the Carpathian Mountains into the Transylvania Plateau. We are in the town of Sinaia which was named by one of the first monasteries in Romania named after Mount Sinai. We are about to take a tour of Castle Peles.
We are back in the van now and heading to Prejmer where we are going to see an old fortified church. Castle Peles was incredible. It was a summer palace of King Carol Ist built around 1870. Brittany said “it is listed in the top 10 of castle in Europe.” It was very, very ornate. We toured the greeting room, room of weapons, and many other rooms. Probably the most ornate place I have ever been. They had rooms from Islam, Turkish, Italian, German, and many other countries. The smoking room was Turkish with the hookah pipes and little tables. The entire room had cloth like carpet on it. We saw golden ceilings, inlaid wood paintings, ceramic portraits, and ceramic tiles. I bought a little table cloth just outside the castle for 20 lei or $6.00 US dollars. The lady said she had made it, I am skeptical but it sounds good.
The church we just went to was built in the 13th century and when invaded by the Ottomans the whole town would hold up in it. It was a round building with gun holes, and hot oil funnels. It was built by the Roman Catholics but now is an evangelical Lutheran church. The town has a German community who runs the church. There are over 200 rooms each numbered so that a family could live there during an invasion. A family always owned these homes and the stairwell to them is like you are looking at an MC Escher print. You could climb and walk around the entire top part of the church and see all the gun ports. That was pretty fascinating.
After this we drove to Castle Bran, home of several kings and queens and what is considered to be Dracula’s Castle. It was pretty cool but as Brittany said “drab” but it was a cool drab especially thinking about Dracula and being in Transylvania. Scary… After this we bought some gifts in a huge market near the castle and then we went to eat at the Villa Bran restaurant where we stuffed ourselves with traditional Romanian food. We got back to our room at 10:30 p.m. Even though it was late we had a wonderful day and I believe we are not as tired as when we were painting the mural since it was relaxing. One more thing before I turn in. While Brittany was getting our dinner receipt, the girls and I were in the van and they started doing a ton of Stefan imitations and it was hilarious. This went on for over an hour even after Brittany got back. They were telling over and over again comments like “I am 16, I am a teenager, awkward, Awe come on… That doesn’t sound funny does it? I guess you had to be there. Good night from Romania!