Why I Love Romania
Since I posted about one of the frustrating aspects of Romania recently (the RATB KGB), I thought I’d remind everyone today about why Romania is awesome.
– Mountains! Bucharest is just a short train ride from some amazing mountains, and Romania is one of Europe’s most mountainous nations. Sure, they’re not quite as majestic as some of the more awe-inspiring peaks in the Rockies, Himalayas, or Caucasus Mountains, but they’re beautiful. And they’re accessible. There are trails all over most of these peaks, ranging from incredibly easy to incredibly difficult, and you can get as much of a wilderness experience as you want. If you want to be out in the middle of nowhere with nothing in sight, rent a car and drive to some remote trailheads in the Făgăraș Mountains. If you don’t mind a few people and houses, just hop on a train and ride a couple hours to Sinaia, Busteni, Brasov, or Sibiu. The above shot is from Sinaia, a smallish town tucked at the foot of the Bucegi Mountains, where the ancient Dacian god Zalmoxis was believed to have lived.
– Our neighbor woman with a buzz cut. When our downstairs neighbor came pounding on our door, yelling at the top of his lungs in Romanian, mad about our kids being too loud or something, we were rescued by three older women who chewed him out and basically told him to leave us alone. One of these women is a thin older woman with big glasses and almost no hair. I’m assuming she’s going through chemotherapy or something, but I’m not sure what the deal is with her hair. Anyway, we see her all the time now and she’ll always give the girls hugs or blow them kisses, tell us how beautiful they are, call them “angel” and “princess.” She’s so friendly and cheerful and just loves our family. She speaks only one word in English (“Hello”), and she’s patient enough to talk slowly and try to teach us more Romanian. I love it.
– Romanians care enough to get in your business. In America, everyone is so worried about offending other people or stepping on someone’s toes that they rarely feel compelled to help when they can. Here, people give you help whether you asked for it or not. When we took the kids to the park one day, I was having trouble getting Isaac’s overly plump legs out of a baby seat. It wasn’t that hard, but I just had to wiggle him out a bit. Before I could get the job done, however, a woman ran over, pushed me out of the way, and pulled him out for me. Then she handed him to me with a look that said, “Silly man, what are you doing trying to lift a baby?” People helped us get our luggage out of the overhead bins on the airplane, people have picked up our kids so they could see out of windows just a little too high for them, they’ve helped them down escalators, they’ve helped us get the stroller on the tram… On more than one occasion, without us asking for help, people have noticed our confused faces and walked us over to taxi stands, translated conversations for us, and figured out the best tram for us to take by asking everyone within 50 feet. Someone refused to sell us purses we were buying for the girls, because they only saw Isaac and thought they were for him. When they realized we had girls, they let us buy them. Someone refused to sell Susie ice cream because it wouldn’t be good for her health. Once, when I couldn’t figure out which bill to pay with, I had a man reach into my wallet, grab the right one, and give it to the person I was paying. I don’t think he kept any for himself… 🙂
– There’s few taboo topics in Romania, that I’ve come across so far anyway. In Wisconsin, you can talk about weather, football, or the economy. You’d better not even think about talking about politics or religion. A number of people I’ve met on the street have launched into debates about both politics and religion before anything else. From what I’ve noticed, people tend to speak their minds and ask questions you shouldn’t ask. People have asked us how much money we make, why we have so many kids, if we’re going to have more kids, how much our rent is, if we’re Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc. In America, people always want to ask those questions, but they never do.
– When a Romanian asks, “How are you doing?” he really means it. In America, you ask, “How are you doing?” and everyone responds, “Oh, good, how about you?” It doesn’t matter if they just won the lottery or their son just died in a dramatic car accident involving explosive fires and electric eels, they always say “Oh, doing good.”
– The food. Fruits and vegetables are amazing here, and really inexpensive if you pick them up at the market. Fresh bread from the bread store is crazy good and also crazy cheap. Honey is in a whole new category now. Even food you get from the grocery store has less preservatives than in the US and tastes healthier. I miss cheddar cheese, good old Wisconsin milk, ground beef, and cheap peanut butter, but the trade-offs are nice.
– Romanians are very generous people. Random strangers have given us strawberries, pretzels, tickets to kids events, and other various stuff. Our friends we’ve met here have bought us coffee, donuts, Greek deserts, honey, cake, ice cream… they’ve translated for us, given us advice on the city, helped us learn Romanian, researched events for our kids to go to… Such giving hearts, and still one of our friends here apologized for being “greedy and selfish and not hospitable enough” toward us.
– Bucharest is dirty, busy, graffiti-covered, and prone to pick-pockets in certain areas, but it’s really safe for being a city as big as it is. You don’t get the violent crime (rape, murder, and aggravated assault) that you get in American cities of comparable size.
– Romanians are really kid-friendly. You could argue they don’t really love kids, due to the insanely high abortion rate and the fact that most people are having only 1 or 2 kids now, but we’ve seen a lot of love poured out to our kids here. We’ll do a blog about more details sometime, but we’ve had more random old ladies leave their husbands and run up to our kids to squeeze cheeks and kiss hair and whisper sweet-nothings to them than I ever thought possible. Every event and attraction has really low kid prices, often even free. Kids are welcome at all restaurants, even though not all restaurants are made to specifically accommodate them, which means we’ve seen plenty of kids running around causing havoc while others are trying to eat dinner. Parenting skills aren’t the greatest, but there’s definitely a love for children here.
Well, there’s a lot more reasons to love Romania, but that’s probably good for now. 🙂