Our unplanned stay in Romania has led to one really nice development.... we've come to appreciate the country and it's people more than we ever could have on our original itinerary that had us rocketing through here in less than two days. For us, we came to Romania with the image of the Soviet bloc, and all of the pre-conceptions that go with that. That stereotype hardly tells the story. Start with the Romanian language. It's a Roman language that resembles Italian more than Russian or German. Sure, there is the occasional "Da" thrown in to a conversation, but as I look around the lobby of the hotel, the words that stand out are "Hoteliera'", and "telefoane urgente". The language sounds fast and smooth when spoken. We've found that Spanish is as useful a language to try with the people here as German.
Then the sights... it's not at all defined by the excessive use of concrete unimaginative structure, but by a mix of eastern and western architecture, the mountains of Transylvania and Carpathia, the beaches of Vama Veche, the wildlife of the Danube delta and the rolling hills and buckboard wagons that connect them all.
And then there are the people. When you first smile at someone or greet them they may avert their eyes or remain expressionless, which at first seems stern and cool to a westerner. Yet, when we stop and engage people in conversation, they delight in helping us and are quite willing to share there own stories when asked. Many have shown a wonderful, warm sense of humor. Now, as we drive through the southeast of the country, we wave at people along the road... most smile and wave back, seeming to enjoy the site of an oddly decorated car with gear stacked precariously on the roof... how had we missed this in our first two days in the country? All I can say is that first impressions seem consistently misleading here... the woman who seemed so put out to pump gas effused modestly about her country when prompted and then hovered over us inside the station to make sure that our credit card transaction did not go awry. Our waitress in Moghurino sighed with apparent exasperation when we asked for menus, and in the next moment was sharing apologetically what she thought were the most delicious choices. A Romanian businessman who completely ignored us at the hotel's front desk the night we discovered we were marooned in Galati, came over in the dining room unprompted to urge us to get our dinner order in before the kitchen closed, and that we should take advantage of the beer festival and movie festival in town while we waited for our papers. Even the many dogs in Romania instinctively skitter off when first greeted, but warm up immediately if you simply stay down on your haunches for a minute. Romania and it's people have rewarded us every time we've offered her the chance.