I’m Goin’ Up The Country…Where The Water Tastes Like Wine
Bucharest was a pretty city, as cities go, but after a heavy dose of traffic, noise, and crowds, we always end up needing a dose of the mountains. A haven, where we can stroll through winding trails listening to birds sing and dance, gaze upon fields of beautifully colored and aromatic flowers, and sip on a lovely bottle of adult grape juice. So, after reading the guidebooks and doing some internet research, Sinaia seemed to be the perfect spot.
Mountain Town or Mountain City?
So off we went and after a two and a half hour leisurely train ride, we were in Sinaia. Upon arrival, we immediately headed for the front of the – larger than expected – train station, where our Airbnb host was waiting to take us to our home for the next 7 days. My first thought was: WOW, this station is pretty big for a sleepy mountain town. We tossed our luggage into the car and we were off. My second thought – I don’t have many, so I can keep count – was: WOW, traffic is a lot heavier than I expected. (I use WOW a lot when I’m thinking.) After a few minutes, our driver/host informed us that we were now in the city center, pointing out ATMs, grocery stores, and favored restaurants. My third thought was: WOW, there are a hell of a lot of people strolling about. Must be a holiday or something.
“Hey, is there a holiday or special event going on now?” I asked. “No, it’s summer and the weekend. Our busy season, before our busier ski season.” Replied our driver/host. We slowly wound our way uphill, passing flocks of tour buses, until finally reaching our ‘home’. Our room, located on the second floor, was lovely with a nice balcony overlooking hundreds of red tile roofs, monasteries, churches, and of course Sinaia. Settled in, I asked Carrie: “What did you think of the city center?” “A bit crazier and bigger than I expected.” Her response was tinged with a bit of disappointment. “ We’ll go up on the mountain. That will be quieter. A bottle of wine and all will be well.”
Town and Mountain – Mirror Images
Our first course of action was to head downhill into town for some lunch and some ‘grocery’ essentials. Finding a restaurant was easy enough, but one not filled with families on holiday, not so easy. The place we chose only had 3 or 4 rug rats running around uncontrollably and had pretty tasty food. Next stop; the Mega Image grocery store. Mega Image? A grocery store? What the hell kind of name is that for a grocery store? Anyhow, the store was well stocked with reasonable prices (no gouging of the tourists was evident). We picked up essentials: yogurt, fruit, bread, salami, cheese, wine, and scotch. Now, fully laden with supplies, we began the ascent back to our Airbnb. Maybe we should have taken the bus. It was hot, I’m old, and I just dealt with screaming brats surrounding my table while I was attempting to have a quiet meal. But I digress. Our first impression of Sinaia, the town/city, was confirmed and we vow to spend as little time there as possible.
Goin’ Up The Mountain
Next stop, the mountain, hoping for a quiet afternoon cavorting with nature. A ten-minute bus ride had us at the base of the mountain where a gondola awaited to either take us mid-mountain or all the way to the top. We elected to get off at mid-mountain and it was like a small city up there. Multiple restaurants, people in heels and sandals, and tourist shops. “What the hell is this?” I
asked. In shock, ever insightful, Carrie replied with: “Damn, I have no idea.” Even finding a trailhead was nearly impossible. Finally, as we worked our way through the crowd we found a well-traveled, exposed trail. The trail did eventually end up in the forest, but there were always people around. We found a so-so spot with an OK view, gulped down some food and wine and headed back to our room. What else could possibly go wrong in our ‘little’ mountain retreat, we wondered?
Learning How to Watch Our Liquor
Back in the comfort of our room, the only place on this entire mountain where tranquility reigned supreme, could we finally relax. Our place, where we could enjoy a quite cocktail
while staring blankly at red roofs. “Need a scotch mountain boy?” Carrie chirped, in a much better mood now that we were home. I knew the question was rhetorical, but just to make certain: “Damn right! I’ll be on the balcony.” A few minutes later Carrie showed up with our drinks and with a perplexed look. Before I could ask, she said: “We’re almost out of scotch and we just got this bottle. There’s no way we drank that much of it already or we would still be in bed popping aspirins.” Hmmm…where could it have gone? Evaporation? The next day we headed – downhill – back into town to reprovision. This time, the crafty Carrie marked the level on the scotch bottle and sets the cap to a precise marked position. We returned to a moved cap and a lower level of scotch. Now, we’re not great detectives or anything, but we were beginning to suspect that the maid was coming in and helping herself.
The Maid Did It
The tech-savvy Carrie found an app that will fire off a photo to her email whenever her laptop senses motion. Sure enough, we got photos of our booze guzzling maid. She must have thought that our room was a great place for cocktails as well. At least we used glasses. Oh, and she never did anything to the room. No making of the bed or clean towels, just boozing. Wanting to avoid a confrontation on what was supposed to be a relaxing week, we decided to not reveal the results of our detective work to the owner until we were leaving. We simply left the ‘soiled’ bottle on the table and hid the ‘good’ bottle. Unbelievably, the ‘soiled’ bottle continued to lose altitude until there was barely any left. Stupidity and thievery: Not a good pairing.
And Now For The Good Parts
OK, so our week long sojourn into the mountains wasn’t going as expected. Relaxing? No. Quiet? No. Being violated? Yes. But it wasn’t all bad, we did manage to have some fun times. There was an excellent restaurant just up the hill from us with a great wine list. We discovered a really good dish that included polenta, smoked pork, egg, and cheese. And it went really well with some outstanding wines that we discovered; especially Feteasca Neagra. A grape which is native to Romania that produces a deep, dark, full bodied wine. Just the type that makes us salivate. The monk monastery and the surrounding grounds were very cool to see, as well as Peles Castle and Castelul Foisor.
The Travel Wall
It had been nearly 4.5 months since we left our home in the USA for this grand adventure and we were tired. For most of our destinations, we only stayed 3 or 4 nights, interspersed with the occasional 7 to 10 day stays. That meant for a great deal of packing/unpacking, and many introductions to new, and sometimes, contrary mattresses. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t tired of traveling. I wasn’t ready to go home yet. It was just that sometimes you need a breather and Sinaia was supposed to be the place where we were to recharge our batteries. A place to get us over that wall. Would I recommend Sinaia? No, it just was not our style. Many would disagree and that’s fine. Vive la différence.
So it didn’t work out perfectly, but in the end, we did manage to turn a corked bottle into a finely aged wine. Adjusting to situations is a necessary and mandatory requirement when traveling long term. Batteries 60% charged, let’s hit it!
Hike Drink Live Laugh (Apero Time) More photos below
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