We joined up with Hiway 1/E68 at Sercaia, passed thru the city of Fagaras, turned south on Hiway 7C at Arpasu de Sus, and drove toward
the Balea Cascades and Lake. At the first pension the price was high, down the road were several others, and we stopped at one of these.
The owner and his late-teen daughter were in the courtyard to greet us. However, he was leery of this lone bearded American male
(Peter would stay in his car overnight) and Peter had to negotiate with him about my stay. Finally agreed to 80 RON (divide by 2.4 for US$)
per night with breakfast. Initially he wanted to keep my passport, we said no; then he wanted payment in advance, also no; but finally agreement
was reached and I unloaded my little case and backpack. His concern was that the unit I would occupy was brand new,
I would be the first guest in it (it was unclear if he had a bad experience with Americans before), and he was being protective of his quarters.
The room had a tiny bathroom with shower, sink and stool; the bedroom itself just big enough for a double bed shoved into the corner with
walkway on one side and the foot-end. No windows except the entry door with a small side window. Plenty of room for me, and the water was hot,
quite acceptable. We asked about a nearby restaurant and were directed close by, but the owner there said closed, so we went on a little further.
We stopped at the courtyard gate of another pension; the operator met us as we entered the courtyard; we inquired about a meal and he said yes,
and asked what we wanted to eat? They had no menu. I said meat and potatoes and he said OK. Invited inside, met his wife who would cook for us,
and Peter and he (Dimitri) talked at our table.
They had just had a tour bus of guests leave that evening (Sunday) so had no guests at the pension
that evening (price would have been somewhat higher than what I was paying). The operatorís son, Radu, age 13-14, joined us, he was in 7th grade
in school and learning English, so he and I talked together in English. After his mother served us our meal, she joined us at the table to talk with Peter.
The day before in Brasov I had bought a bottle of wine, Peter suggested I bring it in and we all share it, a very good idea and I did.
It was not very good wine; then Dimitri brought out a huge bottle of his own home-made rose wine and we started in on that. By the end of the evening
it was agreed that tomorrow his wife, Marianna, would cook us a typical Romanian meal for dinner. We would go to the market the next morning
together to buy the ingredients (including buffalo milk and polenta).
Romania Trip Log, Day 9, June 18 - Picked up Dimitri and headed for the next village, where he bought the buffalo milk and polenta. Then Ed needed
to exchange some $s to RON, so drove to the next town where they had a money exchange. Along the way, noted most farming done in
long narrow strips, with alternating crops (corn, potatoes, grain, hay); a man walking along the rows of corn spraying with a hand sprayer/tank.
Other men in field cutting hay with a hand scythe, and women raking the hay by hand with wooden rakes. Most had walked to their fields, or rode a bicycle,
or maybe rode in a horse-draw wagon; I saw no motorized farm equipment. Return to Dimitriís pension, had coffee on the terrace and talked.
Son Radu was invited to join us for our hike to the Balea Falls and Balea Lake which he did.
We set off by car, arrived at the hotel/cable
car station where we could have ridden up to Balea Lake but chose not to. We hiked up an often primitive trail, Radu running on ahead and yours
truly making every effort not to seem like the old man he is. Scrambling over rocks, hiking up the trail which resembled a very rocky creek-bed,
but eventually arriving at the base of the cascade/falls which was awe-inspiring; about a 3-4 hr. hike up and back. Then back in the car to drive
up the serpentine road to the much higher Lake Balea. At higher elevations the road was flanked by snowbanks 4-5ft high, a path having been cut
thru so traffic could make it up to the lake.
The Balea lake lies in a semicircle of high mountains, with snow still at the lakeís edge.
The road up to the lake actually goes on, passing thru a tunnel to the other side of this mountain range but we did not go there.
On the other side is an even higher bungee jump of over 166 meters. There are two hostels/restaurants, one sitting uphill from the lake,
and another right on the edge of the lake. Also the station for the cable car is there. Again, this is a popular tourist spot and there were
quite a few people walking around, taking in the beauty of this setting. We walked down to the hostel on the lakeís edge, which has a lakeside cafť.
Just past this hostel, a trail headed eastward up the side of the mountain, crossing an upper snowfield, and finally up to the mountain saddle
I took several looks at this climb, and decided it would take me 2 days to make it up and back, so I elected to drink coffee on the terrace while
Peter and Radu scaled the mountain. It only took them about 1 hour to go up, less to return. I would have still been going up!
I bought Radu ice cream for his efforts. We drove back down; on the way stopped to look for Raduís cell phone which he has laid down
at an observation point and forgotten to retrieve, but it was gone. Back to the pension, the finders of the cell phone had already called
and made arrangement with Raduís father for its return (there still are some nice folks around) for which Radu was very happy.
So, time for an early 6pm supper. The Romanian specialty was hot/warm buffalo milk served in a large bowl, into which you dropped spoonfuls of polenta
(thick cornmeal mush) before eating it; this followed by a huge platter of scrambled eggs with chunks of pork, and a salad
(a smaller bowl of wedge-cut tomatoes with grated cheese on top). What a feast! But Radu was so tired he went to bed without eating.
After serving us 3 men, Marianne joined us to eat and talk again. Since tomorrow would be my last day, I walked back to my pension to pack while
Peter stayed and talked.
Romania Trip Log, Day 10, June 19 - Got 4 wiener-wursts for breakfast this a.m. plus the usual milk/sugared coffee. Paid the room,
asked the young lady to inspect the room to see if Iíd left it OK, she said yes. Peter arrived and we loaded up for the trip to Sibiu Airport.
We arrived at the airport around 10am, Peter stayed and talked until about noon, then we said our goodbyes and he headed back home.
The flight back to Munich, Germany left in mid-afternoon, I arrived in Munich at 5pm and was picked up by my brother-in-law for the trip back to his home,
where I would spend the next several days (until June 29) before returning to the US from Munich.
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