We took a side trip to Brasov, a former German stronghold, with architecture and people to match. We took the train up there, 2.5 hours each way, and got to enjoy the countryside and mountains. Brasov is a winter ski resort, and Bran Castle is the big year round attraction.
Our guide, Tudor is a ski instructor in Austria during the winter, and a custom tour guide in the remainder of the year. He was quite insightful about the German occupation, and the distinction most Romanians strongly embrace: they are derived from the Roman Empire, and not the Slavics!
Bran Castle was a nice visit, and we took the ski tram to the top for a great city view. As I mentioned, the famous Romanian tennis player, Ion Tiriac is the richest man in Romania, with his imprint on many businesses, like auto, insurance, banking, and real estate.
But however large that shadows looms, the ghost of Nicolai Ceausescu overshadows all in this country. They are recovering, but still are impeded by the remnants of Communist control. That said, the city of Bucharest is emerging as a “Paris” of eastern Europe, but in my view, more interesting, and certainly more friendly.
We even went to his old mansion, kept intact despite his execution. The Parliament building, the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon, remains about 80 % empty, and supposedly has ghosts. Yet the city, particularly Old Town is most charming and inviting.
Yes, they still have problems, with corruption, like any government emerging from Soviet control, and the despotic Ceausescu. Oh, and too many people smoke here!
Pat and his wife gave me such great insight into the people, city, and country here. We even went to a Shakespeare play in Romanian, with Elvis music. Pat and I went to Brasov, so we missed Fiddler on the Roof in Yiddish on Sunday!
People here are proud of their heritage and country. Hopefully, they are emerging from the giant twin shadows of the two “C’s”, communism and Ceaucescu.
We had a few interesting moments. Pat got us kicked out of an Uber for closing his door too hard! The Uber guy was just a real jerk. Most were nice. One was an old hockey player on the national team, another a former physicist, a student of Ceausescu’s son, who drove us in a Mercedes. Most are decent guys and also quite interesting.
The rather upscale restaurant directly below their apartment is supposedly up for a Michelin star. We dined there my first night in the city. It was as good as any place back home. Better yet, we got to peruse the wine cellar. And the manager greets us every time we arrive or leave!!
Old town is fairly well preserved, as are many historical sights. But without ADA here, the four story walk up to their apartment was a chore (broken elevator). Traffic is bad during rush hours, but they do have a good metro system, to go along with rather ruthless cab drivers.
I was sad to leave Dirty Pat and Renee’. They really know their stuff, spend a good amount of time researching and understanding the culture. Pat lectures on various law topics throughout the year, in English. He is also invited to speak in many of the surrounding cities, where law schools, and legal eagles reside.
We took a walking tour of the city as well. We met the most interesting young lady. She is a translator of French and Italian into English. She travels the world since she does not need an office. She is a freelance translator with a great following. She is from a small town outside of London, where her sister and their two dogs reside. Can you imagine what I would do if I had a portable skill like that? I would never be home!