I lazed around this morning, savoring wifi while I had it and trying to get some work to do. Tonight, no wifi for sure and most likely not even any phone signal. Because today was not about culture or history- it was 100% about scenery! Left at 11am and headed for my one and only destination for the day- the Transfăgărășan!
I was thrilled to death that it was on rural roads out of Sighiosara, and hoped it would stay that way! The problem with taking the back roads out of the main town was that I didn’t pass a gas station. Well, I had half a tank…should be ok. The rural villages were just LOVELY!! Again, so many beautiful things to see, and nowhere to pull over for a pic. Grrrrrr! But, there was a lot of traffic on this trip….
Soon the road turned toward the Făgăraş Mountains. And I saw a sign for the Transfăgărășan! So why did I come here? Well, it looked cool, it was between two of my main stops (Sighosoara and Sibiu), and there was a super cheap airbnb ($16!!). The road wound through lush green forest, climbing and climbing.
Soon the forest kind of disappeared, and I was climbing a mountain. The road was like a jar of hairpins that had tipped over! I literally could not believe what I was seeing. Waterfalls were pouring out of EVERYWHERE. Some of them big and rushing, some of them small streams that made it look like the mountain was crying from dozens of eyes. It was surreal. I was pulling over to every single turnout there was to take pictures! And when I say there is no way the camera is doing any of this justice…believe me.
Soon I got near the top of the mountain, and the turnouts were giving me a SPECTACULAR overview of what I had just come up! This highway was completed in 1974. And not just as a spectacular tourist attraction! It was built for fast military access over the Făgăraş Mountains, in anticipation of a potential Soviet invasion. Hundreds of men lost their lives building it. BBC’s Top Gear has named it the best road in the world. I am a believer.
I arrived at the airbnb for the night. It’s at the top of the Transfăgărășan, just on the other side of a long tunnel. Access is through a gap in the pilings of said tunnel, and I missed it at first. It’s easy to miss! Got turned around and pulled into the parking lot. This place is remote. Super remote. I could only see one building from where I was and it was empty (I know, because there’s where I thought the bnb was, parked, explored, and realized it wasn’t!). A woman came out to greet me. She didn’t speak much English, and well, unless we’re talking about entering a chicken (I know the Romanian words for enter and chicken and that is the extent of my knowledge!), my Romanian is useless. Her name is Elena. She showed me inside and gave me a bunk bed. There were about 8 in the room. There was a cozy fire going, it was starting to rain, and the view was just INSANE!! Oh, and there’s a dog that is seriously as big as a freaking sheep!! I think we communicated that he’s 10 months old, but I’m not sure… The toilet was Asian style #squat and I don’t think there’s a shower. I knew there would be no wifi, and I was shocked- SHOCKED- that there was just barely enough phone signal to get a text out to Brian. No worries, one night only and I NEEDED this. I needed to be out of my comfort zone, to be remote, to unplug (she says as she writes this, but if I can’t watch CNN on youtube, that is unplugged!!).
Elena offered me some kind of drink. I couldn’t figure out what it was because it was in a water bottle, and she couldn’t tell me, other than it sounded like “Plinka”. What the hell….when in Romania. She poured it into a tiny mug that looked like it was made for a leprechaun, and I tasted it. Yep, alcohol. SUPER STRONG alcohol. Me and alcohol are a big nope. I drank about 1/3 of it, then discreetly ditched it in the sink… I later learned that it is Pălincă- a traditional fruit brandy made generally with plums.
Soon a big group of Germans (about 8) came in. They spoke German and English all mixed up (literally sentences would be part German and part English!), so I could make out some things. I turned around a couple of times when they said something of interest in English and smiled at them, but they didn’t acknowledge me, so I retreated back into my phone to text with Brian. My fault. I just kinda suck at that sort of thing. They left after about an hour.
It was shortly after that I got hit by a feeling of loneliness like I’ve never had while traveling. I felt so completely alone and isolated. Here I was the only foreign girl in the WORLD in this crazy unique airbnb at the top of the Transfăgărășan, in a really remote part of Romania, with an INSANE view out my window, watching a storm roll in over the mountains, and I was about to have a mental breakdown. It was just this feeling of disconnect, and if I could have transported myself home right that moment, I would have. Shortly after that, Brian texted, “Do you know anything about a special delivery for me?”. I lied, “No”. It was his birthday, and I had a German Chocolate cake (his favorite) delivered to his work. It was about half an hour after that that I realized the source of my loneliness. Guilt. This is 3 out of 3 times that I’ve missed his birthday because I’m traveling. ☹ I’m going to start the paperwork to move his birthday to mid September when I get back. I’m always home in mid-September. Maybe we can roll a few years off of him while we’re at it. Old chap has one more year to go until he’s 50. I’M TOO YOUNG TO HAVE A 50 YEAR OLD BOYFRIEND!!! 😜
It was after 8pm and I was freaking starving to DEATH!! Elena had literally been in the kitchen for over 3 hours straight cooking. A group of 3 young English guys came in. It was apparent that they were staying for the night. They immediately went for the Plinka!! I walked into the bunk room after a bit, and ugh. One was in the bunk above me and the other 2 in the bunk right next to me. Not long after, Elena FINALLY brought out food! A super delicious soup that was heavy on the soup and light on the pui (that means chicken for those of you not fluent in Romanian poultry like myself!) and some bread. I ate all of mine. She cleared the plates, I sat there for maybe 10 minutes. It was almost 9, so I decided to just go to bed. Went into the bunk room and started organizing. Not long after, Elena came in and said “Food?”. Apparently there was MORE food! Yay!! Because I was still hungry. This time it was fried pui (drumstick), mashed potatoes, and some kind of sauce on the side with a tomato and cucumber salad. Very, very tasty!
After that, I was definitely ready for bed. The English guys were at one table, about 5 Romanians who had come in earlier were at another, drinking Plinka. I worried that it was going to be a long, noisy night. Put on my sleep mask and settled in. Much to my surprise, everyone was really quiet and I slept great!