So, I’ve spent two days in Bucharest now! On top of this being my first time in Europe, it has been quite eye opening! I’m still fairly tired from being awake for some 27 hours my first day, but really fairly adjusted. When flying in, we flew over Greenland, which was frankly beautiful to see. Then we had a short layover in Frankfurt. I found it interesting that from the air, the German towns were clumps of buildings as one might expect towns to be, but Romanian towns from above were merely lines in the valleys. Not sure why yet. The main thing I noticed, however, was that I truly could not tell where one country ended and another began from my distant vantage point. And yet, the cultural differences are a lot more visible from the ground, although I will know a lot more about that when we head to Veliko-Tarnovo in Bulgaria today. But, it’s amazing to me that so much conflict could’ve come out of a landscape that is more consistent than what we have in America.
When we landed, three of us on the same flight, we thought we needed to get our own cab, so went to exchange money. I made the rookie mistake and didn’t bring enough cash, and ended up having to exchange a minimum $100 from my card which is something like 365 lei. And then, our professors (thankfully) met us and got our cab. Which, by the way, was a hilariously terrifying experience. I lost count of how many cars almost hit us and vice versa, our driver was chill enough to even pick up his phone once, and we didn’t have seat belts. Best introduction to Europe.
It has been interesting communicating with people, anything from pointing and learning words from them, to speaking (probably terrible) Romanian only to have them respond in English. The couple times a few of us have gone out into town, we have discovered that about two thirds of restaurant workers speak English, but the rest enjoy our struggle to remember Romanian words. Whenever we get lost in the twisting streets we can pretty easily find someone to point us the right way. One thing I am having to get used to is having to always buy water… definitely less convenient, but all part of the experience! The food, on the other hand, is AMAZING.
Yesterday, after crashing at the hotel after our flight (only to immediately go out to a restaurant), we went and saw Revolution Square, where Nicolae Ceaușescu made his speech at the old Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party in 1989 only to have the people erupt into protest against communism which quickly turned violent. Right across the street sits the University Library, behind which is the Romanian Athenaeum, a beautiful neoclassic concert hall built between 1886 and 1888. The George Enescu Music Festival is hosted there every year… the day before we arrived. On the bright side, we got to go inside and hear a bit about the building.
I would post a couple pictures of all of this, but it looks like I can’t right now so I’ll post them all later.
Today we visited the Village Museum, an outdoor collection of houses from around Romania, kept in their original styles. It’s interesting how much each region differs in style. The northern regions use a lot of wooden structures and have tall roofs, while the others have anything from clay to entirely underground rooms. That said, all the houses are the exact same layout, minus the regional color scheme.
Oh, and there’s cats and pigeons everywhere!
We learned about the diverse history of Romania; more than half the country has been tossed between empires for centuries, yet still maintains their own images. After communism, it has been a rough transition to democracy, seemingly because Romania is implementing the relevant institutions without understanding their meaning. It is hard to say where this will go, but with time I’m sure I’ll discover part of what Romanians consider their own culture to be.
I’ve already taken over 100 pictures and have 29 days to go… I may need to cut back or I’ll never sort through them all. Overall, I have found Romanians to be incredibly friendly people. I am incredibly excited to go to Bulgaria, a castle or two up north, Constanta, and then explore Georgia!