We never make reservation in advance. It’s ruining the spontaneity of any exploration and ties you up to a specific location. But sometimes it’s hard to find a place to stay, like in a Saturday afternoon trying to find a room for four people in Sinaia. This is another hurdle in Romania and all over Europe; used to the American hotels where everything is big and you can sleep easily two people in a bed even if is not listed as queen size, when you try to find accommodation in Europe everything is so tiny that you feel that you’d fall off during the night. On Booking.com there were few locations available and when we finally found an overpriced pension named “Floarea de Colt” in Sinaia, that did not have kitchen and implicitly no breakfast and was also way out of the road, we decided to call and try to book it, a safer bet in Romania where everybody advertise on the booking sites but they hate paying the fees so they give you a way lower price if you book directly. “OK, we’ll take it” we told the host, “but we will be there around 11:30PM or even 12AM”, our typical way of traveling where the hotel is just a set of beds used for the minimum possible amount of time spent during the night. “I cannot wait and it’s not worthy to wait so late” told us the host. “If you come till 9:00 PM I can wait but no latter than that. It’s not worth it for one hundred euro…”, in an economy that pays a minimum monthly salary of about 200 Euro/month….Digging deeper we found a better option in Roberto’s Hotel in Sinaia where the lady receptionist was way more accommodating and for a lower fare we got a charming room with four beds and a delicious breakfast served on a terrace overlooking the mountain that reminded somehow of the last lovely breakfast I had in Santiago de Cuba in Anna’s house.
The reason we came there was to hike a full day on the Bucegi Mountains plateau that raises at over 2000 meters on top of Sinaia. So we started to investigate how good is the road to the “1400” a place located at that specific elevation that used to have a famous hotel: “It’s hard to tell because is getting ruined in winter and they don’t fix it” or maybe how long is the hike to Babele, a charming place on the plateau: “We have no idea how long would take” and they did not know how long is to the “Caraiman” or “Omu”. Sinaia used to be a place where most of the people were mountain people and a question like this would have easily thrown you in the category of “tourist from the valley”. People came by car or train to Sinaia and hiked all the way up the mountain, or free rock climbed like I used to do on the Bucegi valleys, Cerbului or Galbinele, vertical hikes on rocks on all four that bring you all the way to the plateau. On these hikes we regularly encountered herds of black goats that were running scared up the mountain throwing dangerously toward us large boulders and prickly stones that on the open mountain we tried to deflect only with our backpacks. But while hiking in Romania I tried to stay away of the Bucegi plateau that became a boulevard after the installation of the cable car making the mountain easily accessible. I don’t remember ever hiking there since I was twelve, preferring mainly Piatra Craiului, an astoundingly beautiful mountain close to Brasov whose rock climbing trails were spectacular.
The drive to “1400” was completely empty, nor cars or people could be seen on the road. “It’s way too early” told me a guy pointing to his watch that showed something close to 10 AM. We walked up to the newly built gondola trying to get information about the hikes from the girl that was selling tickets, an always good source in the old days:”I skied this mountain several times a day but I have no clue how long it takes to walk down. Does it happen for you to know?” I asked her. The answer left me speechless: “I don’t know because I don’t walk.” I looked at the levitating creature in front of me and I was wondering how long it takes her to levitate till she gets in her Porsche in the parking place bought by selling tickets…But it was not the first time in Romania when I got this type of response associating walking with a health hazard.
We did not plan to hike up from 1400 meters to 2000 meters and we boarded the gondola for which our levitating girl sold us tickets and we almost levitated ourselves to the top at Varful cu Dor, a place where I skied several entire weeks each winter while living in Romania to the chagrin of my American friends who said that this type of life is lived in the USA only by aristocrats. The surprising perks of a Communist system… As a German friend recently returned from Havana was saying: “I work for 11 month like a German to live one month like a Cuban. And they live the rest of the year like this with no effort whatsoever…”.
To be continued…..