The day began early, as I decided to get up well before we all had to leave. I needed to exchange more money and get some stamps for the postcards I had purchased the day before at the Bran Castle bazaar. The exchange rate at Banca Transilvania was 2.75 Lei per dollar, which seemed to be about the typical exchange rate throughout the entire trip. Finishing my transaction was easy; all I had to do was hand them my passport and US currency, and they took care of the rest. My experience at the post office, however, was not as easy. When I walked in, there were about ten
windows, with a different sign above each one. Not speaking Romanian made it quite a challenge. I
had to make a guess and picked a window that had a sign with a word on it that looked similar to “postage”. When I got up to the window, the language barrier
was quite a problem. After a minute or so of trying to explain what I needed, with no success, I thought that there was no way
that I would get the stamps that I needed.
Noticing that I needed some help, a man behind me in line stepped forward. He spoke both Romanian and English, so he was able to translate for me. In the end, I paid only 3.1 Lei per stamp (~ $1 US), which wasn’t too bad, considering the postcards would have to make quite a long journey in order to reach my friends and family in the US. After leaving the post office, there was still about a half hour
left before I had to meet up with the tour group, so I decided to explore a little bit. The city was an interesting combination of old and new. For example, many of the buildings were very old, yet there was a McDonalds down one of the main streets. I got a kick out of the name of the sporting goods store, “Sport Virus”. Perhaps something was lost in the translation? After walking around for about twenty minutes, I returned to the hotel.
(Click on any of the pictures below to enlarge)
About a half hour later we headed back to the tour bus. Our next destination was
Sighisoara, the birthplace of Vlad Tepes. Along the way, we saw some small gypsy villages, each consisting of 50-75 structures, most of which didn’t appear to be very solidly built. While most of the larger Romanian cities had an abundance of automobiles, I didn’t see any in the gypsy villages. Horse-drawn carriages seemed to be their only means of transportation. I saw many of these villages, spread out sparingly between larger Romanian cities.
Bistrita was our next destination. While all of this had been fun, it had been a long day and we still had a couple hours of travel left. When we arrived in Bistrita, we checked into the Coroana De Aur Hotel. After we got the luggage up to our rooms, we all met down in the hotel restaurant, appropriately named the “Jonathan Harker Salon”. It was named after the fictional character Jonathan Harker in Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”. According to the book, our tour group was in the same area where Jonathan Harker had stopped for a meal, on his way to Dracula’s castle. Upon entering the restaurant, we were greeted by a costumed waitress who gave us a glass of plum brandy. The restaurant was themed in red and had paintings of Dracula hanging on the walls. After having a filling dinner, we returned to our rooms for some much needed rest.