I, of course, was dead set on traveling to another former Communist state. Riga sounded romantic! Vilnius would be an adventure! Bratislava would be a blast! Ben, though, was more into the western part of Europe. “What about Madrid?” he offered.
I was not interested in Madrid, Paris, London or any other top European destination.
So, lacking any sort of consensus, we turned to Lonely Planet’s website and started perusing. That’s when we stumbled upon Romania. The main photo featured an old man sitting atop one of the greenest mountains I’d ever seen and playing some sort of wooden flute. It looked absolutely idyllic.
Because Romania had been behind the Iron Curtain, it fit the bill for me. For Ben, it was perfect because Romanian was a romance language, and therefore, he reasoned, the country was probably somewhat like Western Europe.
- This is a uniquely Jewish custom, to wash one’s hands upon exiting a cemetery. And each place we visited in Romania, places that have been fully stripped of their Jewish populations, had an individual who gave us the chance to honor this custom. These Romanian villagers, with no connection to Jewish customs and culture, honored our traditions, more than two generations after Jewish life became a relic of the past in most of these villages. (Samantha Vinokor)
- As for Romania’s capital city, Bucharest, I’d recommend that tourists visit but not spend too long. Bucharest lacks the sense of romance that other Eastern European countries seem to have, despite the Iron Curtain’s effects. Ill-kept and dirty, Bucharest is filled with dogs let loose in Ceausescu’s Communist reign, some which roam the streets foaming at the mouth. On Saturday nights, funky restaurants sporadically line vacant cobblestone streets. (Rachel Sales)