"What are you going to do in Romania?"
That question I got a handful of times when I was told I was going to Romania. I understand that really well, as Romania is a country that is faced with many prejudices.
I traveled to Romania on Ski with my mother and her boyfriend, who had heard from a colleague that Romania was a good and cheap place to ski - so we had to try. It ended up getting on my list of favorite destinations that I have written about in this article.
Ski rental at child price
We flew to Bucharest and had booked a shuttle service, which picked us up at the airport and drove us to our hotel in Poiana Brașov about 3 hours north of Bucharest.
When we landed in Bucharest, it was almost warm for the month of January with 2-4 plus degrees and I was very skeptical as I did not see a single snowflake during almost two hours of driving. When we arrived in the Brașov area, we finally started driving up a mountain, and when we started to see snow along the road, there was hope again ahead.
The day after we arrived, of course, we had to rent some skis. To our pleasant surprise, this could be done just below our hotel. Here we were greeted by the friendliest elderly gentleman, George.
George had a small ski rental room under the hotel the size of a Copenhagen kitchen. Here we could rent all the equipment we needed at such a cheap price that we almost had a bad conscience.
When we then told George that we would like to rent equipment for three days, his eyes got as big as teacups and he looked like someone who had just won the lottery and let us pay ski rent at child price! We ended up paying only about 340 Romanian lei - equivalent to about 530 kroner - for all three of us.
"What language are you speaking?"
We found out very quickly that we were almost the only ones in the area who were not from Romania. In the gondola lift, we got funny looks when we talked together and were asked a few times which language we spoke. Even at our hotel we were the only ones who were not from Romania.
It therefore dawned on us that many Romanians drive to Poiana Brașov for a day or two, to ski and drive home again. Most even had their own equipment in the car, so they could easily put on ski boots, take the skis under their arm and head for the piste. That was why George was so shocked that we would rent equipment for several days as most locals bring their own equipment.
The experience with a Romanian pirate taxi
Although we lived in a ski area in Poiana Brașov, we were only a 20 minute bus ride from the big city of Brașov, so of course we had to experience it as well. Now that we were in the big city, the hunt for swimwear for me began. There was a spa area at our hotel, but I had not packed swimwear, as I do not usually take swimwear with me on a ski holiday… It should turn out to be an almost impossible task, as most shops had closed on Sundays.
However, I found out that there was a shopping center only 25 minutes walk from the city, so we could easily throw ourselves over it. What Google Maps had not stated, however, was that we had to cross a mountain, so our pleasant walk turned into a hike - it went up, and up, and up…
When we finally reached the center, of course, there was no swimwear. There was actually only a single clothing store, and since January is not bathing season, I walked away empty-handed. At this point, we were so tired that the thought of repeating the same walk back was simply not an option. So we came to the conclusion that we had to get a taxi.
We went out on the main road by the center and started looking for a taxi. Luckily, many people were driving around, so it only took a few minutes to get a free taxi. When we get used to it, we get very confused. Out of five seats in the car, there was only a single seat belt.
It was not because the others did not work, they just did not exist in this slightly battered Dacia Logan. We thought it was a bit strange, but shook it off and explained that we were in Romania.
I showed the driver my phone, where I had an address at a store that we had to drive to - the swimwear still had to go home. He looked at it for a second and immediately knew where we were going. He thought. After a small 10 minute drive, we arrive at an apartment complex and he says we are there. Not quite.
I show him my phone again with the same address, and he radiates again "Aha, I know exactly where we are going". He apologizes many times and starts driving again. At the same time, he begins to draw air crosses in front of him, making a slightly panicky call, and his driving reflected what one will experience in the TV show '5. Gear'; not very structured or comfortable.
We end up arriving at the right place, and the taximeter says 15 lei, so only about 25 kroner for about 20 minutes drive. I walk into the store, find some swimwear and a bottle of water for just 12 lei! When I say that everything in Romania is cheap, I really mean it.
When we get home again, we get the store to call for a taxi. Here comes a brand new VW Passat, which smells like a car dealer, and it has seat belts at all seats. Immediately we know that what we just experienced in the other taxi was probably not quite according to the book.
Food, food, food
When I was preparing for the trip, I had not made the big considerations or expectations for the food in Romania, and then you can only be pleasantly surprised - and we did.
The food in Romania is supremely some of the best I have had of all the places I have been. The menu cards were varied and with different ingredients than we are used to in Denmark. There were many Eastern European characteristics in the food such as pickled vegetables and homemade sausages, but it was also to get a good piece of meat, if you are into that kind.
I can not think of a single meal where we were not overly satisfied with the food and especially at the prices it was sold for. Our most expensive meal in Romania cost about 300 lei including gratuity equivalent to about 460 kroner. Here we are talking main courses for three people with beer and wine for the meal. However, most other meals cost significantly less.
Should I visit Romania again?
The answer is a resounding yes! I did not visit Bucharest, which is a poorer area than Brașov, but I think Romania is a great country. There is excellent food, everything is cheap and the people are wonderful too.
They are not the sharpest for English, but they are very outgoing and welcoming, so it was not a problem to gesture and point until we reached common understanding. We also laughed many times with servants and clerks as we tried to understand each other.
Romania is certainly a place I will visit again, and I think you should too. Good trip!