Transylvania: Fortresses, 2009

Brasov is a nice base from which to visit some of the Transylvanian towns around it, some of them along the so-called Dracula route. We didn't go to Sighisoara, and were told that Sibiu was too far to make the trip productive, but we did do the standard Bran and Rasnov bus ride and also Prejmer, which turned out to be very interesting.

Autogara 2 to Bran and Rasnov

The bus to Bran, which also passed by Rasnov, departed from Autogara (bus station) 2, which cost about six lei from Brasov town centre. Most of the non-locals on the bus would be doing the same thing that we'd planned so it didn't surprise us to keep seeing some of them in the places we visited. B described the buses as "old-school buses". She was so intrigued by them that she took a picture of "us in the bus". At the rate she's sorting her pictures, we'll probably see it next year.

Bran castle was nice but not particularly impressive. There were little hidden corners throughout that B really liked, and a nice garden with an oily pond that made painting-like reflections. The weather was too good for the castle to have that impending-doom look, but it was an interesting tour.

Cristina from the hotel had warned us that the fortress in Rasnov would be closed due to a recent "accident", that is, a chunk of wall falling off the building, but we decided to go and take a look anyway. A German couple who had been on the bus to Bran was also on our bus to Rasnov. When we arrived, we kept a polite distance behind them, relying on them to get us to the town centre and the fortress.

Evidently, the distance we kept was too polite because we inadvertently lost sight of the couple. B asked a local for directions to the fortress. He told us which way to walk and added that it might be closed. We climbed up and, sure enough, found it closed. The views were pretty good though. As we came down, some young people were climbing up so we passed the information on. They thanked us and continued climbing. I doubt anyone would have turned back having come this far.

Freak Chinese monk

Something I couldn't quite figure out: With all those previous Communist ties, I thought Romanians would have been exposed to Chinese-looking people, but I kept getting the stares. Perhaps they weren't used to seeing Chinese people with very little hair.

I said to B, "I feel very good-looking when I'm here. All the pretty girls keep looking at me."

I also said, "They have the I-don't-know-what-expression-to-put-on expression when they look at me. And then when I smile, they smile back in that awkward way."

B: They think you're a freak Chinese monk.

Prejmer

Cristina had recommended that we visit this town. In the morning, Gregor told us that we'd have to negotiate with a taxi driver to drive us there, wait for us and take us back. He sketched some directions and warned that some drivers didn't know where it was, even though it was only 16km away.

At the taxi stand, the first driver we approached looked blankly at us when we mentioned Prejmer. The next one we approached offered to take us for 75 lei. This would cover his costs of waiting, he said. It cost about 16 lei one way, he added. We didn't want to risk not being able to return so we went with his offer.

During the ride, both B and I were thinking about the best way to settle the payment. The way I looked at it, as long as we paid more than 16 lei on arrival, we would run the risk of the driver not coming to take us back. But from the driver's point of view, if we paid him less than 16 lei, there is the slim chance that he would not be able to recover the balance. I decided that half the total - that is, proceeding on trust - was the best plan.

When we arrived, I asked him how he'd like us to settle the payment - now, or later. He said it was up to us. Then he changed his mind, "Maybe half now." I paid him 40 lei and hoped that he wouldn't run away.

The tour of Prejmer fortress was splendid, and when we came out, the taxi driver was there waiting for us. I asked him whether he was there by the roadside the whole time. "I have friends here," he replied.

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