23.09.2014 20 °C
A weekend away in Brasov was exactly what we needed after a long week in Keresztur. The five hour journey took us much longer than expected, but was definitely worth it. Brasov is an old and beautiful city, surrounded by mountains, one of which features a Hollywood style sign saying ‘Brasov’. After checking into our hotel, we went to explore the old city, which was packed with locals and tourists alike. It seemed that we had arrived during a festival, so stalls were set up all over the main square, and a massive stage belted music at the enthusiastic audience. We had dinner at a lovely restaurant off the square (wonderfully Western steaks!) and then found an outdoor bar to have a drink.
Today we woke up early, ate the hotel’s 5 euro breakfast (MASSIVE ripoff, especially as it was all pork) and checked out. We got a taxi to the town of Bran, about half an hour’s joinery away, where Bran Castle, commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, stands. Our tour of the Castle left us well-informed about Romania’s history since the 1300’s, Vlad the Impaler, Bram Stoker’s inspiration for his thriller Dracula, and, of-course, Dracula himself. After the Castle, we walked around the picturesque market, tempted by the traditional Romanian food and attire, before getting a taxi back to the train station.
Whilst in the bar on Saturday evening, we befriended a group of Canadians who had been working in Brasov for the past two years. Amongst them were a few of their Romanian friends, who helpfully advised us on where to go during in Romania, and where we shouldn’t bother going. As the conversation progressed, we unsurprisingly got onto the topic of Communism. During our time here, we have been cautious about broaching this subject with people we’ve met, worried that they may take offence or simply not want to speak about such a contentious topic. However, this group had no qualms about sharing their views with us, and we provoked them as much as we could. Doreen is a 29 year old from Romania, and having lived the first few years of his life under Ceausescu, but grown up in a democratic though undeniably flawed country, his views were extremely interesting to hear. Doreen appeared in two minds about Communism; he accepted the problems that the country faced under the regime, however his criticisms of democracy were truly eye-opening for us. In brief, Doreen claimed that Ceausescu had made just two mistakes; firstly, he had not listened to the people’s needs, and in turn they revolted. Secondly, he did not ‘ship the gypsies out of Romania’. The latter ‘mistake’ proved once again to us that racism towards the Roma Gypsy population is still prominent in Romanian society. Interestingly, Doreen also had many positive thoughts the dictator, the most significant being full employment and job security. Furthermore, Ceausescu had plans to open a bank that would lend to other countries. Doreen recognise the ruler’s faults, particularly when we reminded him of the insensitivity towards orphans and the disabled, however he does not accept that democracy as it stands is the best form of government. He used the analogy of a spring to explain to us the aftermath of the revolution in 1989. The spring had been pushed down for a long time, and when released it sprung around uncontrollably. Similarly, the Romanian population had been repressed for almost half a century; the sudden revolution caused chaos and panic. People’s savings, previously worth nothing, now had value, and spending was out of control. People knew very little about the workings of a capitalist society, and soon many were struggling without the aid of the state. Listening to Romanians speak about their own history has given us an invaluable insight into the way Communism is viewed today by a selection of the population. Indeed, when asked if they would return to Communism tomorrow if they could, we were told that many of their parents would.
Sally and Emily xx