Romania Insider Stories from readers – positive impression about Romania, but not the easiest place for traveling
The story below has been written by one of our readers, Lynn Ungreanu, an American who has recently visited Romania. Feel free to share any stories from Romania with our readers and the world. Send us a story by e-mail: Editor – in – Chief Corina Saceanu, email@example.com and we’ll consider it for publication in the Romania Insider Stories series.
“I'm an American married to a Romanian (now a naturalized US citizen) and have just returned from my very first trip to Romania. My husband immigrated in 1991 and, before this trip, had only been back one time. We spent two weeks (along with our 5-year-old) traveling around to many places in the country. The Romanian community in our US hometown had literally warned me repeatedly to have low expectations as they know I have traveled most of Western Europe along with much of Eastern Europe. However, once I arrived, I was shocked how wrong they were. Everyone was very welcoming and very patient that I don't know the language. I found it to be a stunningly beautiful country and was sad when our visit ended. My impression was overwhelmingly positive and I'll carry life-long warm memories from this wonderful trip.
However, it was not the easiest country to travel in and would have been far more difficult had my husband not spoken the language. Despite my husband being Romanian, he hasn't lived there for many years, so was traveling like a tourist, not a local. We found it very, very difficult to obtain tourist information. In most cases, my husband knew when to ask for extra information and people were happy to oblige and provide it. However, other times, the lack of clear information made the trip more difficult than necessary. It was as if we were supposed to just "know" how things worked, which, of course, we did not.
As a matter of fact, we were stranded on top of the Bucegi Mountains because the telecabina in Busteni stopped running at the confusingly early hour of 3:45 (15:45) in the afternoon, despite the warm June weather. There had been NO signs warning of this early time and no one gave us the simple courtesy of verbally warning us -- despite seeing us depart for the top at 12:30 with a small boy. After hiking all the way to the Heroes' Cross and back (about 4 hours), we arrived at the telecabina at 4:30 and were shocked it was closed. The caretaker at the top wouldn't even open the shop to allow us to purchase some additional water and snacks for our small boy. We were completely stunned at being stranded and had no choice but to hike down the mountains, only to find that the trail markers were more missing than present. It took us nearly another 4 hours to get down because the trails were so poorly maintained and we were criss-crossing trails without knowing it. My poor child was literally shaking from hunger. Though we made an adventure of it and made a point to enjoy the beautiful scenery on the way down, I just couldn't believe how everyone in this tourist area seemed completely unaware of basic rules of attracting and serving tourists.
And the garbage. Everywhere. Everywhere. Even on top of those beautiful, wonderful mountains. In America, there is a mantra taught to all young children, "Leave no trace." We should traverse this earth and try to leave the beauty unspoiled. Pack out everything you brought with you. In cities, place your trash in receptacles. I had to hold my son physically back from running into streets to retrieve other people's trash to throw away. He kept saying, "Why don't Romanians know to take care of the Earth." We saw people throw bags of trash out of their cars in the countrysides and cities. Watched them toss trash onto streets when there was a trash can a meter away. It was very disheartening and made it seem that the Romanians don't understand the precious treasure of a country they have.
Finally, my one last bad impression was the smoking. We tried (in vain in most places) to find non-smoking areas. I realize this last one is me speaking as a rather spoiled American, but a huge number of US States have banned smoking in all restaurants and businesses, so we are just never around smoke anymore - ever. Thus, it was thoroughly unpleasant to gasp smoke through my meal. If you want to attract Western tourists, restaurants simply must maintain smoke-free areas.
To sum up, Romania is beautiful. The people are generous with their time and their hearts. I've visited many countries I would love to recommend to my non-Romanian friends to visit, but fear it would just be a bit too difficult for them. To attract more tourists who want to spend money in your country, there are three pretty easy steps.
Clearly (and LARGELY) post start and stop times of tourist events (businesses, restaurants, telecabinas, etc.). Even better, make sure verbally that the tourists are aware of these times in case they don't read Romanian. This is completely standard in countries with a large-scale tourism industry and service economies. Provide great service to tourists and they will return with friends and spend money.
Clean up the trash. It's nasty. It's unpleasant and spoils the amazing, gorgeous, beautiful land that is Romania. It makes it seem as if you don't care about your country and our shared Earth.
Extend a bit more courtesy for your non-smoking visitors. This last one may seem small to smokers, but it's a big enough deal that I will not be returning for another vacation for quite some time -- perhaps by then my family won't have to breathe other people's poison as I eat."