Our second day in Brașov begins early. It is still dark outside as I tread quietly from bed to our small kitchenette. I put on a pot of hot water for tea and begin to slip into my gym clothes in preparation for the day’s activities: a 5 hour hike through Romania’s celebrated Carpathian mountain range. Originally, Billy and I had planned to spend half of the day driving to Sibiu and back, a medieval town that was awarded the European Capital of Culture title a few years ago. I’m sure it would have been lovely, but what a shame it would be to come this far and not explore the wilderness, no?
Everything is Possible
Our guide for the day, Cristian, arrives precisely at 8:30. During the drive to the trail head, Cristian tells us about his family, his time in the army, and the importance of Romania staying ‘wild’ even in the wake of tourism: “A sheep should be able to shit where he wants to shit!” He also notes the Vlad Țepeș was a celebrated leader; the first to organize a coalition against the invading Ottomans – an original NATO of sorts! Finally, our quirky guide wonders aloud why we would pay him up front; he could just take our money and leave us in the woods. Billy shakes his head and laughs.
The trail entrance is tucked inconspicuously behind several homes, past an inviting meadow complete with a babbling brook. Seven Stairs Canyon is made of limestone and is home to seven waterfalls. Hikers navigate the path through a series of (seven) metal ladders and elevated platforms. We pass through easily, admiring our surroundings. I place my hands carefully as I ascend the longest ladder (115 feet). The metal is wet and cold on my bare hands; I try to ignore the bone-chilling spray of the waterfall to my left. Still… climbing ladders is fun!
Once through the canyon, we still have quite a ways to the top. We plug along, occasionally pausing to take some deep breaths of crisp mountain air. At first I ask Cristian questions: do you think we’ll see any wildlife? What about other hikers? His response is always the same, “Everything is possible.” If at first it seems noncommittal or matter-of-fact, it begins to become playful and soon we are all declaring that “everything is possible.” The Transylvanian forest is dark and thick (as promised), the sun staying stubbornly out of reach until we summit.
During our picnic lunch we compare Italian and Romanian words; the languages are surprisingly similar. Billy and I eagerly repeat sounds as Cristian explains the Romanian accent marks. If initially intimidating, they prove quite helpful. Like that little squiggle under the ‘s’ in Brașov? It serves as a gentle pronunciation reminder: Bra-SHov. Billy and I enjoy salads from a vegan restaurant near our Airbnb while Cristian munches on a few modest crackers.
“You are vegetarians?” he asks.
“No, although I don’t eat very much meat. But Billy does – he’ll eat anything” I explain.
“We have vegetarians here in Romania, ” Cristian acknowledges. “They eat Romanian salad. Romanian salad of pork, beef, and chicken. HA!” His laughter ends abruptly and he says, “I like to make joke.”
On our last morning in Romania, William and I enjoy two humongous cappuccinos in the main square. It is here that we learn about the attacks in Paris. I will say this, dear Reader: Europe is a small continent and it becomes increasingly smaller when you actually live in it. Quickly, I run through the list of our friends who are also traveling this weekend. Luckily, none are in Paris. And our French friends… what can we possibly say to them?
After a brief (and drafty!) visit to the Black Church, we bid farewell to Brașov and make our way to Sinaia, a quaint town and mountain resort that is home to two castles and a famous monastery. With limited time and limited options (Peleș Castle is closed for renovation each November), Billy and I opt to explore the smaller – though perhaps more elegant – Pelişor Castle. It is luxurious, no doubt, but it’s also a place I could truly feel comfortable inhabiting. Lots of oak detailing and small, well furnished rooms create an aesthetic that is sumptuous but also inviting.
Our Ford Fiesta speeds along Calea București as we make our way back to the airport. I’m excited when a JLo tune is immediately followed by a Marc Anthony song circa 1999. I just can’t believe I didn’t see it in your eyes… Are they still married? Billy doesn’t know. He doesn’t even know who Marc Anthony is. The sheep graze lazily by the roadside.
“What’s Drum Bun?” Billy asks. “There’s a sign for it in every town.”
“Sounds like a round, tasty cinnamon dessert!” I offer while bringing up Google.
Drum bun, pronounced droom boon, literally means “good road.” As in, “We wish you a good road ahead/good travels.” Basically, it’s bon voyage à la Romania. William and I feel better now that we know.
“Awwww shiiiiit!” You can find me in da club, bottle full of bub… I crank the dial way right and start rapping along. Billy bursts out laughing. “I love this song!!” I declare, leaving no room for further conversation. And I do. I love ‘In Da Club’. Even though I’m super white. Even though I’m in the back woods of Romania. Life’s all about the little things.