Romania brought us some of this trip’s great highs, both literally and figuratively, as well as a bit of a low.
We spent five days in Bucharest and two days on a road trip through Transylvania.
Romania is a fascinating place – a country with an incredible recent history. In the last century, war, earthquakes, communism, revolution and the European Union have made it a place of strength and struggle, beauty and bleakness, growth and grit, contradiction and contrast.
First off, know this…Romania is a very interesting and safe place to visit.
The people are kind and we didn't encounter any scammers, pickpockets, packs of wild dogs or any of the other warnings/stereotypes that seemed to permeate some of the blog posts out there.
However, Bucharest, the country’s capital, is not on most people’s bucket list and not an overly "pretty" city.
So how did we end up there?
We have an upcoming flight that leaves from Bulgaria. It was cheaper than flying out of other places and we wanted to explore Eastern Europe a bit. Flights were cheap from Barcelona (our last stop) to Bucharest so we figured we’d spend a week there, take a bus to the coast of Bulgaria and chill for two weeks, then head to Sofia for our flight.
When we arrived in Romania we were worn out from visiting friends and moving around so much over the last few weeks. We were looking forward to relaxing a bit.
Unfortunately, our Airbnb kind of sucked. It was pretty much the worst place we’ve ever stayed during all of our family travels. Although we were safe and had the essentials, we were all very uncomfortable in the apartment, especially LJ.
The balcony was filthy and unusable, the beds were very uncomfortable, the place was not very clean, and LJ broke out in a strange rash at the end of the week. Renovations directly above us created the most unbearable drilling sound I’ve ever experienced, we lost hot water, and the building’s common areas were so decrepit and desolate that they seemed somewhat out of a horror movie. The building was huge but we never saw another person in its hallways...
L and I tried to look on the bright side and we stayed (although, had we known about the upcoming rash we probably would have left).
The location was perfect. We could walk or take the subway everywhere and there were two grocery stores pretty much on the ground floor. Through the doors of that balcony was a nice view of the city. We weren’t in danger, it had what we needed, and the building’s condition was not unlike many others in the city. Afterall, we weren’t taking this family gap year to just do the tourist things and visit all the pretty Paris’ of the world; we hoped to really experience these countries, cultures and communities.
There’s a beauty and an edge to Bucharest and so it kind of charms you. Its massive landscaped parks are covered in graffiti and disrepair. Its fancy dessert shops and restaurants sit next to or under buildings that are literally barely standing. It has a Champs-Élysées-type boulevard leading to its own massive Arcul de Triumf. It has garbage and rubble everywhere.
LJ wasn't charmed.
She was uncomfortable in the apartment, frustrated with travelling, frustrated with us, frustrated with not having much control over her life, and just plain missing routine and home. Furthermore, she generally doesn’t love busy cities for more than a day or two so all this combined with Bucharest's grittiness were too much and hard for her to understand and appreciate.
L and I tried to be patient. We didn’t always succeed. We were tired, also missing having a bit of a routine, and the noise was giving us excruciating headaches. It drove us out of the house when we wanted and needed a quiet, slow morning.
We all got through it though and I think we learned some valuable lessons about privilege, compassion and gratitude along the way.
But toward the end of the week we did decide to get away for a bit.
We rented a car and drove through Transylvania…and there Romania really found a place in our hearts (although its delicious soups had already found a special place in our bellies).
We visited Bran Castle, Brasov and Fagaraș; we drove through dozens of small towns and villages; and we ate a delicious Romanian feast. Then, we drove back via the Transfagarasan, which is considered one of the best drives in the world! That drive, with its mountains and hairpin turns took us high – 2,042 in elevation and even more in euphoria. This part of the world is breathtaking and I can’t even really begin to describe it.
We all came back feeling better about our time in Romania.
Would I go back to Romania? I don't know. Am I glad we went? Yes.
It gave me some of the coolest moments, best food and amazing landscapes of our trip thus far. It fascinated me like no other country has yet and helped me to better understand another part of our world. It challenged LJ in a way that I think was good for her and it united L and I even more as a team.
It also boosted our confidence in our ability to handle whatever this year throws at us.
Romania with Kids
How to get to Romania:
We took a WizzAir flight from Barcelona to Bucharest.
Where to stay in Romania:
I can't recommend our Airbnb in Bucharest.
This Airbnb apartment in Brasov was great.
What to do in Romania:
Explore Herastrau Park and the old houses in the Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum.
Eat lunch and dinner at Caru' cu Bere.
Take a road trip to Bran Castle.
Eat dinner in Brasov at Restaurant Transylvania.
Walk around the exterior of the Palace of Parliament.
Wander around Bucharest's Old Town.
Drive the TransFagarasan.
Check out the Carturesti Carusel - a very beautiful bookstore in Bucharest.