Bucharest, Romania

We packed up in Brasov and headed to the train station. Like most public transport in Eastern Europe, it was late. This time, it was about 60 minutes late, and it was evident that passengers were confused and uncertain, as the train also picked up on the wrong platform. Hannah and I struggled to identify which carriage was ours, as this one was not marked clearly. There never seems to be a rhyme or reason as to whether the seat assignments are valid or not, people seem to just sit wherever they want. A dark haired young woman with green eyes and a kind smile invited us to join her 3 empty seats. Later in the ride, she offered us each some Toblerone. As she was pulling it apart, she realized purple pen had exploded all over the wrapper, her hands, laptop, and backpack. Lucky for her, Hannah and I have become experts at grabbing any available napkins and toilet paper at each stop, just in case.

During our full day of Bucharest, we took up one of Hannah’s long time travel passions: a free walking tour. It was a windy 2 hours with an occasional cold rain drop to wake us from our walk through Romania’s languished past. Romania still struggles with its Communist past and has really only begun to resolve its damage over the last 20 years. Our walking tour highlighted this history and the struggle the for the country to embrace being a democratic republic. Like most of the Eastern Europe, Romania is known to be a highly corrupt country.

In the middle of the tour, we made friends with a French woman named Annabelle. She has an interesting job in that she works as a puplic transportation lobbyist for the European Union. She explained that the Presidentship of the EU changes at predetermined times to different members and that it was currently held by Romania. She was fluent in English and Spanish, and learning German. After the tour, she asked us if we would like to grab lunch, and so we did. We went to Hanul lui Manuc. It is one of the only buildings left in Bucharest that was built in the Turkish style during the Ottoman occupation. It served as a caravanserai, as well. A caravanserai was a sort of stopping point for travelers where they could have shelter and protection. This term was not new to Hannah and I. Our priest at St. Catherine of Sienna in Houston, Texas had used the term several times in his homilies, explaining that the “inn” that Mary and Joseph tried to stay in was actually a caravanserai.

When I walked into Hanul lui Manuc, I became lost in thought back to a long forgotten history lesson. It described the Western concept of time and how we see it as a linear function, on a straight line continuing into perpetuity. This lesson described the differentiation of the Eastern concept of time, redoubling back on itself like a loop or a cursive letter “e”, written over and over and over. That concept seemed apparent to me as I watched the curved arches of Hanul lui Manuc on several floors continue onward as if to infinity. While no longer serving its original purpose as a caravanserai for protection and shelter, it was still repeating history, providing a hearth, community, and a meal for 3 weary travelers.

We spent our final evening in Bucharest touring an outdoor history museum. It was a scaled down model of Romania in its different ethnic zones. Each had housing from several different periods. Hannah loves these type of museums and “living histories”.


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