On my last day in Brasov, I had a couple recommendations to see a small town on my way to Bucharest called Sinia. The attraction there was an old monastery and some really beautiful mountain scenery. It was literally on the way, and I enjoyed seeing more of the country before heading on to Bucharest. Sinia was only an hour Southwest of Brasov by train, and the monastery was kind of cool. It was something like 600 years old, but for me, the scenery was the best part of Sinia.
Inside the monastery.What I found hilarious was that there was a huge casino right next to the monastery.The guy from the Peace Corp I met in my hostel joined me to checkout the town. After the monastery, we spent the next couple hours trying to get to the top of one of the nearby mountains. We didn’t have time to hike up, and went looking for the gondola. We could clearly see the cables (below) and the cars, but could not find the stupid spot where you board the gondola. Kind of lame because it would have been an incredible view
In the end, we failed, So Sinia was the fourth small town I got to see in Romania. I felt it was worth the day trip. Not worth an overnight stay, but definitely a good stop on my way to Bucharest. I hopped on a train to the capital late in the day, so it was another after dark arrival. I’ll admit, by the time I reached Bucharest, I was ready to be done with Romania. I had seen some cool castles, experienced some good outdoor scenery, done a bit of hiking, and had some decent hostel stays. But I wanted to get back into Western Europe. It was getting cold, and my trip doesn’t end with Europe. I have to keep moving to stay on track with my overall plan for the year. I had stayed longer in Brasov than I thought, and since I had booked a flight already, I only had two nights in Bucharest before flying to Vienna.
I had been given a great recommendation from someone in Brasov to stay at the Antique Hostel. It was about a 30 minute walk from the train station. The hostel turned out to be really small and was essentially a home that had been turned into a hostel. It was run by the owners, a husband and wife in their early 30’s. One of the owners, Andreea, gave me the warmest welcome I’ve ever had at a hostel. She gave me a tour of the house, and offered me a cup of tea and a dessert. We chatted for a bit about my travels and the places I had been to in Romania. Soon after, her husband Bogdan came in and greeted me. This place was perfect. I started to feel bad for only staying two nights. Little did I know that in just a couple hours, I would find myself in a Romanian emergency room and extending my stay. Here’s the full story…
So I was watching TV upstairs around 11:00 PM and felt tired from a day of travel. As I was coming down the spiral staircase my foot slipped, and I tried to catch myself. After a few steps, I caught myself briefly, but then completely lost control again and fell down the remaining stairs. I more or less landed on my butt and back. I was able to stand at first, and got up quickly. I felt really dumb, and at first thought I just hit my side up against the stairs kind of hard. However, I soon felt very lightheaded, so I went back to my room and sat on the bed. I guess I passed out, because when I woke up, I was face down on the white tile floor looking at a pool of blood about five to six inches in diameter. I was extrememly confused. I didn’t know what was going on, and couldn’t figure out why I was bleeding. I remembered falling, but didn’t recall hitting my head. I stumbled into the kitchen, and Andreea saw me. She had this really worried look on her face and asked what happened. I said I fell, but wasn’t sure why I was bleeding. I asked if she could see where the blood was coming from, and she couldn’t tell right away I guess because one side of my head had blood streaming down it. She had me sit down, and then got me some gauze to hold up to my head. Bogdan told me that I had a cut above my eye and I asked to see a mirror.
When they showed me the mirror, I saw the damage. I had a good size gash above my left eye, too big to just bandage up and call it a night. I needed stiches. I couldn’t imagine how I hit my head. I figured when I was twisting around down the stairs I must of wacked my head on the railing. Bogdan told me he called a taxi, and we would go to the hospital immediately.
I was actually pretty calm, but I had a million things going through my head. What the hell does a Romanian emergency room look like? How would the treatment be, and how would I pay for it? What’s the healthcare system going to do with an American who’s just been in a really stupid accident? I had enough sense to grab my cash and cards before leaving the hostel with Bogdan. I was prepared to just give them my credit card and tell them to do whatever they needed to help me.
The taxi arrived pretty quickly, and Bogdan and I went to the ER. We went up to the inpatient window and Bogdan told them what had happened. There’s nothing like having a huge head wound and blood streaming down your face to grab people’s attention. I felt like everyone was starring at me, however, the guy at the window appeared to be more bothered than willing to help. However, within a few minutes, I was allowed into the ER and given a bed. It wasn’t really that much different from emergency rooms in the US that I’ve seen. Everyone can see everyone else. There’s a mix of doctors, nurses, EMT’s, older patients with breathing problems and chest pains, and younger ones who’ve been in accidents. Most of the younger nurses and doctors spoke enough English to speak to me. Everyone kept asking me what had happened. I just kept repeating myself in the hope they wouldn’t think something suspicious was going on and call the police. I was completely sober, but I imagine everyone that I was either drunk or had been in a fight. I told them I thought my ring finger on my right hand might be broken as well. It was in a lot of pain, and I coudn’t move it at all. It wasn’t long, and they brought someone with a wheelchair and wheeled me down a hall to a giant x-ray machine. The technician didn’t speak English and was a little frustrated getting me to follow her directions and position me in the correct spot for the machine to work. They x-rayed my head and right hand and then I was wheeled back to my bed in the ER.
I’m not sure if it was my English or my head wound, but I felt like a lot of the ER staff had their eyes on me most of the night. A nurse who spoke English began filling out some forms and asking me questions. “How tall are you?” I smiled and said, “5 foot 7”, knowing full well height here is measured in centimeters. I wasn’t up for doing the math, and she said it was fine, they would convert it. “How much do you weigh?” Ha, another measurement we Americans refuse to cave on to the rest of the world. “150… pounds”, I said. Another smile from the nursing staff. Another conversion needed. I asked jokingly, “Don’t you get Americans in here?”. More smiles and snorts. “No” was the response. “What about other foreigners?”, I asked honestly. “No”. The nurse then continued to check me out. She was concerned I might have internal injuries and began pressing on my abdomen. She squeezed my legs and arms, and applied pressure on my hips. I felt no pain, and since I had walked into the ER, I felt like everything else was fine. I was in a bit of shock, though, so was a bit worried I wasn’t feeling some other more serious injury. After another hour or so, a doctor showed up who I’m guessing was the closest thing to a plastic surgeon. His English was decent, and he communicated as best he could what he was doing exactly. He then cleaned out my wound with some warm fluid that I’m guessing was hydrogen peroxide based on the smell. Next, the area of my trauma was numbed and that was really the only painful part. After waiting for a couple minutes, he sutured my wound with five stiches. I was bandaged up, then told I would need to come back in seven days.
Shit, I was supposed to be in Vienna in two days. So here’s my dilemma. I could just fly to Vienna as planned in a couple days, find my way to a hospital, tell them my story and hope it all works out. The thing is, I felt really banged up. In addition to my head injury, I had very limited use of my right hand. I also stubbed a toe on my right foot bad enough that it bothered me when I walked. I really was in no mood to travel at that point. I would likely just stay in bed at the hostel in Vienna. The idea of staying at some big box hostel trying to recover wasn’t exciting either. Vienna is really expensive compared to Romania, and it wouldn’t make sense to just go there and do nothing. The hostel in Romania was dirt cheap and felt like a home. I had no ill will towards Bogdan or Andreea, and they had been nothing but kind to me and helped me a ton when I was in a really bad situation. Despite the fall, I felt safe and comfortable at the hostel. It was more like a home, and I wasn’t up for traveling, so I decided to stay in Bucharest for the next week and resume my trip after the stiches were removed. My flight to Vienna was non-refundable, so I just ate it and accepted the circumstances. I booked another flight on a Romanian budget airliner to Paris for the day after my stiches would be removed, and just moved on mentally. My plan had been to see Vienna and then Munich before going to Paris, so if I just went to Paris in one week, I’d be staying on track to complete Europe by the end of the year.
So I had a week to kill in Bucharest which isn’t exactly a tourist destination. I did go out a few times, and some highlights included the old town… I also checked out the parliament/palace building. In terms of square footage, it’s the second largest building in the world behind the Pentagon. It was built by Chacescu between 1984 and 1995. It’s a testament to what one egomaniac ruler can achieve when he puts his mind to it. Chacescu was executed during a revolution in the early 90’s, so he didn’t get to see it completed. I wasn’t allowed to take photos inside since I didn’t want to pay extra for a “photo ticket”. The place was pretty much a ridiculously opulent palace that is probably ten times bigger than what it needs to be. Here are some photos from outside.
For me, the best part about Bucharest was catching up on some reading and writing in my blog. I also looked forward to the breakfasts Andreea made every morning. It wasn’t just for me, they made a traditional Romanian style breakfast every morning for everyone staying in the hostel. It got us together and we had some great conversations about our travels, different cultures, and life in Romania. The breakfast was easily the highlight of each day in Bucharest. I know, kind of sad for me to say that, but it was true.
One more random bit of info on Romania. Their currency is called the Romanian Lei and it’s made of plastic. They’re really thin sheets of plastic that are almost paper like, but they have this clear window in the middle of them in various shapes. So Romania was interesting and I think in the end, I don’t have regrets about going there. I wanted my trip to be more than just seeing only hot tourist spots. I was kind of tired of a lot of those types of cities anyway, and Romania was a good break from that. It was the most difficult country to navigate and I felt so foreign there. There was never any English written or spoken on the trains. They don’t even announce the stops, so you just have to keep looking out the train window and hope you see a sign with the station name before the train pulls away. In Romania, I saw more of the country than any other country I’ve been to on the entire trip. I got to see Bran Castle and some great scenery. Bogdan and Andreea were amazing too, and I’m so grateful for their help during my accident. Bogdan stayed at the emergency room waiting for me to be released which wasn’t until 3:00 AM. He then accompanied me back to the hospital three times… twice to get my wound cleaned and redressed every two days, then finally when I got the stiches removed. I’ll likely have a scar for the rest of my life to remember Romania so in that way, it truly will be an unforgettable experience. Not sure if I’ll go back, but if I do, I’ll definitely head to Bucharest to visit Bogdan and Andreea and catch up on what’s been going on and show them how well more injury has healed.
Not that I want to gross anyone out, but I did take a photo of my head wound a couple days afterwards. I just had to see the damage again, and was curious at how well I had been stiched up. It’s kind of nasty, but if you’re really curious, here’s the photo I took. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.