I’ve been home from Romania for a few weeks and I’m really glad I made this trip. I hope I can go back next year and I hope I can schedule multiple European conferences during the same trip.
Here are a few final thoughts about the trip
International Travel is much easier for Americans
To travel to Romania, I had a passport, an airline ticket, and a hotel reservation. After I arrived, I decided to go to Hungary. I rented a car and was at the border crossing 12 hours after making that decision. I didn't need to call anyone in Hungary to let them know I was coming.
Europeans have it different. To travel to the US - even for vacation - a Romanian must apply for a Visa. Visas are granted by lottery, so chances are he will not get one on his first application.
I speak only English fluently and know only a few phrases in other languages - none of which are common to eastern Europe. Yet I had very little problem communicating in Romania and Hungary. Why? Because Europeans grow up learning multiple languages and guess what the most popular language is? Nearly everyone in a large city's service industry speaks passable English, as does nearly everyone under 30. It was blind luck that the language I grew up speaking is the common language for these countries.
I was surprised that most Romanian hotels did not have an alarm clock – something that is now standard in American hotels. Some hotels also did not provide a washcloth. I looked and was surprised not to find one.
In the Cluj-Napoca hotel, there was a low sink about the size of a toilet next to the toilet. I don't know what it's for but I did not wash my face in it.
In the second hotel I stayed in Budapest, the pillows were enormous - way bigger than I've ever seen on a bed before. I wonder what sort of creatures usually stay there.
Romania has only one highway. Major cities are often connected only by 2 or 3 lane roads.
The roads in Romania and Hungary are not as well marked as in the U.S. Often the road names are on the side of a building, rather than close to the intersections. In Budapest, the many road sign are printed with a fancy font, making them difficult to read in a hurry.
Smoking is more common in Romania and Hungary than in the U.S. Smoking is allowed in restaurants and many people smoke while eating. I had forgotten how much that bothers me.
Every single person I met in Romania and Hungary was friendly and willing to try to help. I was lost several times and I received help from complete strangers, who went out of their way for me.
The landscape in Romania is much prettier than in Hungary (at least where I traveled). Transylvania was filled with green, rolling hills, farms, and small towns everywhere I went. But Budapest was a nicer city than any I found in Romania. I liked the Romanian cities but Budapest is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever visited.
This is part 4 of a series describing my 2014 trip to Romania and Hungary.