There are no direct trains from Belgrade to Bucharest, so I stopped in Timisoara Romania for a brief layover in between cities. My plan was take off virtually as soon as I got there, but plans change. I’ve learned to travel with more of a backup itinerary than with any sort of concrete timetable. I have found that it is so much more rewarding to just follow the moment.
When I got to Timisoara I immediately went to explore the city. I used the map for reference but mostly just wandered. The first thing I noticed was that it was insanely warm. The next thing that I noticed was how insane I must have gotten because I genuinely thought that 46 degrees was warm.
The buildings reminded me of the Austro-Hungarian style that I had seen in a few cities before. They were also distinctly different in a Victorian-like way. The bricks on a lot of the buildings formed intricate designs and the churches were architecturally unique. They mostly had one central large dome and then four towers protruding from the corners.The city center also had this gorgeous castle with green and brown paint, and disneyland esk pointed towers.
The river that runs through the town was a popular spot for graffiti. I saw some extremely well done pieces in the park by the castle. There were a bunch of old folks playing chess surrounded by abandoned buildings covered in art. I like Timisoara because it is interesting, lived in, and beautiful.
My plan was still to leave the next morning so I went back to the hostel to figure out my next destination and how to get there. But when I got back I realized that I had apparently picked the right hostel in Timisoara because I met so many interesting travelers from all over the world. From Romania to Canada to Italy; it was an international atmosphere. It was funny because I actually ended up meeting a woman from Belgrade, the city I had just visited the day before. Her name is Gorana, she’s 18 and speaks five languages. In fact everyone there spoke at least two languages (expect me). It is honestly a disgrace how awful our education system is compared to these other places. The fellow students from Germany, France, Serbia, and Italy all said that their university is about 200 Euros a year, and the most expensive school was 200 Euros a semester. I do not understand why the US is so glorified at times, we are so behind in so many ways.
When I met a man from Bucharest he asked me if I had heard of Rosia Mountain. I had not. Apparently a US company had tried to set up a gold mining industry on that mountain. It would entail cutting into the mountain and exposing the land to toxic waste and a large amount of pollution. All of his friends, and a large amount of young people protested against the company and it worked. The mountain still exists and the pollution does not. There is so much injustice in the world that I really have no idea about, injustice that my country is largely responsible for. I’m so glad that a group of dedicated young people were able to protect their land. I hope that they won’t have to fight for their right to clean air and waters again.
It still amazes me how well I have been treated in the Balkans. My country has directly contributed to oppression here and yet everyone is so welcoming, kind, and helpful. I have never experienced this kind of hospitality. I’ve met more people in this month backpacking than I did my entire time living in Italy. These are the kind of places where the bus drops you off directly at your home, where you ask someone for directions and instead of pointing they walk you there, where the hostel provides free shots and the staff take you out to their favorite bars.
I decided to stay one more day in Timisoara.
The man visiting from France had a car and he volunteered to take a few of us to Corvin castle in the mountains in Hunedoara. It was an international road trip without crossing borders. In a mini cooper we saw Romania but traveled to Serbia, France, Sicily, and California. Mostly we bonded over food and music and places we had traveled to or wanted to visit. Before we had even gotten to the castle I was already so glad just for the journey.
The castle itself was an interesting place. They had empty beast pits where the rulers would toss prisoners to their death. It felt like a movie set, the design seemed like it could have been plucked from any of the classic vampire folklore. It is interesting how the castles in Romania seem to be associated with monsters while the ones in Germany had princesses.
When I was talking to the man from Romania about it he told me that Dracula was actually a real man; a vigilante of sorts who murdered in pursuit of justice. He did not understand how the story morphed into the most popular vampire tale.
After reading the story (written by Irish writer Bran Stoker), I think it has much more to do with fear of the “barbarians” in the east than a simple miss-telling of history. There is no debating that the novel is a great work of fiction, however, it is also a biased story which plays off of the idea that there are monsters in the East whose goal is to infect the West.
Anyways, the castle reminded me of vampires because of the pointed large towers and perhaps because I had just finished the book a day before.