Home cooked eats and loving company. How can I compare that to another place? With more family in this one nation than in the rest of the world, and the ability to fluently communicate with any strangers, I have an insider track that you’re unlikely to replicate as a tourist. But my Romania visits are never about travel — much of my time was spent across dinner tables, convincing relatives that the gorgeous woman next to me had willfully chosen to be my girlfriend. I don’t know if they believed my story, but of course they liked her all the same.
Romania’s history is long — the ancient Dacians, the Roman conquest, the Ottoman tributary, a national unification, and the rise and fall of communism — museums and tours are densely packed with the country’s past. But there’s more than just history to explore — seaside resorts, patchworks of farmland, rolling green hills, unmolested forests, snowy mountaintops — all within a day’s drive. Sprinkle a few ancient castles across the nation, and Romania’s countryside quickly becomes a hidden jewel of European magic. No, we didn’t explore all of it in this trip. But that gives us a reason to come back.
Bucuresti — the town I was born in. A lot has changed in the last three decades. City infrastructure has improved and the shops are international, sure, but more important is the attitude. Gone are the days of exodus, when my parents and many others migrated to a better life in North America. Locals are now proud of their city. And they’ve got a lot to love. Victorian buildings lining the downtown core, large green parks aplenty, and a glut of nightlife attractions. The transport is efficient (with phone service in the metro!), the streets are clean, and don’t get me started on the countless cheeses that don’t even have English names. Bucuresti might also be the only Western capital where it’s more common to own than rent — “getting” an apartment almost always means buying one. And the access to European travel is unimaginable for a Canadian kid, with easier access to Asian destinations too.
I would have thought the glitz of Tokyo, London, or Singapore would have lured me this year. Or maybe I’d be yearning for the food and warmth of Thailand or Malaysia. But between all the places we’d traveled, Bucuresti seems like the perfect middle ground. Contemporary but affordable. And a lot of fun.
Images by Amanda Gansfield