To begin, travel is magic. Traveling alone is magic as well, and I wasn't so sure this would be the case.
I arrived in Brasov on Friday, and ended up talking until after 3 in the morning, just soaking in the comfortable English conversation with new friends J~, S~, and T~ from Brunei and New Zealand. I got up on Saturday morning and went for a hike up Tampa Mountain- literally one of those experiences you remember forever- the ones that, in a really odd sort of way, define you. It was about 75 minutes up the mountain with all the switchbacks, and I got to the top right as the sun was peaking over the edge. I just stood with my hands outstretched and breathed and screamed and cried because of all the beauty and blessing in my life. See, there are benefits to traveling alone!
The rest of the day was spent exploring the remainder of the center of Brasov- it is an adorable, beautiful, amazing city. The center is so untouched by the Communist influences (bloc apartments, etc...) that seem to be everywhere else in Romania. It was just pure and clean and friendly and warm. The weather was absolutely perfect- the most wonderful autumn weekend. I got moved with my newfound friend J~ to an apartment because the hostel was booked out, and we had dinner at a local restaurant with Romanian specialties. Including the "grilled pig brain." Yes, friends- I at BRAIN! It was rather mushy, but actually rather tasty. We then went out with the two guys from New Zealand in the city center- near Piata Sfatului. It was a magical kind of day.
J~ was supposed to leave in the morning for the next leg of her journey, but she ended up delaying it a day so she could stay and go to Bran with me. THIS was my lie. In the last post, I said that I was not going to Dracula's castle- we did, in fact, go to Dracula's castle at Bran. It is about a half hour bus trip from Brasov, and we (with the help of two Serbian girls H~ and N~) flagged down the bus from the side of the road and made the trek.
Bran is (to be completely honest) rather disappointing. It is certainly a HUGE tourist attraction, but the castle itself isn't amazing. Regardless, for the rest of my life I will be able to say that I spent Halloween 2010 at Dracula's Castle. Honestly, what else in life IS there?
My return home was late (as trains usually are) but rather comfortable. I enjoyed part of the journey in a compartment with a music teacher, an old woman, a man who just kept muttering "frumosa" (meaning "beautiful") to himself, and a three year old child. Around the halfway point my compartment emptied out and I was joined by two men who were- to put it mildly- Romanian gods. They are volleyball coaches. Mhhmmm.
Bucuresti was waiting for me in all its glory. It always amazed me that not only my apartment, but my metro station and my street and my city are all the same when I return. I come back with an entire weekend full of new experiences and memories and friends and thoughts and emotions- and everything here is the same.
It is like magic.