November 26th, 2010

if I were me

Notes for Another Time

* travel days are almost always a bust
* stop inserting so many travel days in your trips, Mer
* two weeks is not enough time to put in four major travel days (besides your arrival and departure days, I might add), I'm just saying
* four is okay for for a 3 week trip, but not two
* three travel days in a row is dumb, btw

So, I was a bit of an idiot when figuring out where I wanted to go on this trip. I foolishly thought: "Germany's one of those small countries, not as small as Britain, but they have less windy roads and higher speeds so it's probably easier to get from place A to place B."

And that was how I ended up driving five hundred kilometers over the previous two days and eating the hearts out of said days so completely and making them touristically non-viable. (Rothenburg was a little saved by the fact that it has a night tour, so arriving at 3PM wasn't such a kick in the pants.) Likewise, I flew to Romania today, pretty much getting here too late to do anything but snap a few pics out my hotel window. And then, I'll have the travel day back to Germany, which will not be as busted because I have to catch the plane at 8 AM and the time change is in my favor in that case.

When everything closes by 4 (tourist spots, not shops) and it's dark by 4:30... well, that's the penalty of traveling in the low season. I suppose the other penalty is that I'm not really willing to do a lot of travel in the dark, either, when traveling in the dark means me driving down unfamiliar roads in the dark in a foreign country ALONE. So, there is me, hampered by my own rules and by traveling in the off season.

Every trip, I learn something more, I guess.

On the other hand, the internet makes things better. Better/worse. I don't know. should I be so reliant on contact from back home? Well, it kind of doesn't matter, because I *am*. And I don't think any travelers from long ago would have done anything any differently if they could have. Eh? Eh. Thinking about all the long letters that people wrote to each other when they could afford to--is that really any different than our internet access, in intention, anyway?

I had a lot of anxiety about coming to Romania alone, in part because I knew it would be SO different from what I'm used to. But it's actually not that different after all. I had a pidgin conversation with my cab driver about cauliflower. I've been pounding vocab lists like mad in Romanian, and they're sticking because there are so many cognates with Spanish and French. I don't even know what to think. I'll have to let the culture shock bowl me over, and see how I come out when I can stand again.

My FB album is here. I don't have many pics yet because I arrived shortly before dark, and didn't take any pics on my cab ride from the airport. I exited passport control shortly after 4PM, and walked immediately into a branch of the tourist's office, who told me where to find an ATM ("to the left") and suggested I take a bus to town and then walk a kilometer. I asked if a taxi were doable, and she said sure, don't let them charge you more than 5 euros...

I walked around a bit and couldn't find an ATM, and finally, a kindly looking man was standing there watching me, so I asked him where the ATM was in what I would like to believe was very convincing Romanian--so convincing that he started in with a whole spate of Romanian and I had to back off and say that I didn't actually understand the language very well. This happens to me a lot. I am better at learning to speak and smoothing out my accent than I am at cognition for the first parts of language learning. Sometimes, a little too good at smoothing out the accent, I think, because like I said, this happens to me a lot.

Anyway, I caught the gist of what he said, which was that he was offering to drive me wherever I liked in his taxi. Yes, please--once I confirmed he'd take Euros because the darn ATM wasn't "to the left." I got into the car, and we drove--to the left. For quite some ways. And pulled up in front of an ATM. Where I laughed, got out, got money, got back in, and he drove me off toward the city center. He asked if I'd come from Munich. "Yes, but I'm American." Yay, vocabulary! Oh, America? Did I know Arizona? And so on.

People do tend to know Arizona. Or Florida or California. Because they're warm?

I plopped out of the cab at Piatsa Mica, spotted my hotel immediately, paid the driver, all that... and couldn't figure out how to get IN to my hotel, since there was someone tiling what would be the entrance. We stared at each other, the tiler and the tourist. My Romanian deserted me, or rather, I never learned the words for "Why are you tiling the hotel entrance when I want to go in there?" I stuttered along with "hotel" and "where is" and some other words in random order, and thankfully, a woman showed up who assessed the situation on the spot, conversed with both the tiler and the tourist, and told me I might have to enter through the grocery store.

The... Grocery store?

The tiler flipped open his cell phone and started talking into it. Then, without a word, he picked up my suitcase and led me and the other woman down a tiny alley, onto a street, into a door next to a grocery store, up a flight of stairs, down a corridor, up another flight of stairs, through a door, possibly through someone's house, through another door, down a flight of stairs, around a corner, through some doors and... into a hotel reception area, where he dropped my suitcase and disappeared.

The other woman--blonde and beautiful, I might add, also disappared--a guest? A hotel worker? Don't know! And a man and a woman appeared, discerned I was a guest, explained the breakfast hours, had me fill out a form, and took me up two more flights of stairs to a cozy hotel room, where I took a picture out my window, used the bathroom, and lo, the sun had set, so I attempted the internet, and found it was working.

Well. There you go. My first two hours in Romania.

Oh, did I mention I drove through a snowstorm to get to the airport this morning, and had to scrape ice off my window? No, I did not mention it. It is positively balmy in Sibiu in comparison.