By Celina Sol Cruz

The idea of living abroad was a big question mark for me— even an idea I did not want to entertain. Cause, right? It’s just so complicated— with the differences in language, culture, religion, etc. I always thought of it as putting yourself in a position wherein  you are the fish out of water. How do you survive that or a better question would be: why would you even want that?

But I guess there’s a certain excitement with the unknown and living outside your comfort zone. It’s a door to new experiences, new people, new perspective and maybe even a new and improved you.

Last 2015, I was presented with an opportunity to work and live abroad for 2 months. It scared the hell out of me but I knew I had to do it. And so I did.

Dates: April 17 to June 19, 2015
Total budget: PHP 75,000

Quick Facts:

Romania is a country often forgotten when visiting Europe. It is in the Southern-eastern part of Europe in between Hungary and Ukraine. Filled with culture, history and art, Romania is also known to be country of the Origin of the Dracula located in the Transylvanian part of the country.

When I first heard I was going to have an interview with a company in Romania, I immediately reached for my laptop and googled: Romania. I had zero knowledge about the country and I thought: Hey this is kind of scary in a VERY exciting way.

So I got the job and moved to Romania for 2 months and believe me, It was overwhelming ­­­­– and definitely in the best way possible.

How to get there:

You need to secure Romanian Visa first and pay accordingly. This usually takes one week to process.

This usually takes a week to process depending on the purpose of your visit. See below for Romanian Embassy information:

Address : 150 Legaspi St., G.C. Corporate Plaza, 6 fl., Legaspi Village, Makati City, CP 1229
Phone : 0063-2-843 9014 (Tuesday and Thursday between 15.00-17.00)
Secretariat phone : 0063-2-892 7682
E-mail : manila@mae.ro
Web: http://manila.mae.ro

Book your ticket – got a connecting flight MN-HK-MUN-SIB -37 hrs P50k through PAL and Lufthansa.

I booked through Vayama and got a connecting flight from MNL-HK-MUN-SIB which was a total of 37 hours (I know!! It felt like forever for me too). It was my first time traveling alone so I made sure I had enough time to figure things out in between flights, which ended up giving me too much time at each airports. I used this time to research more about Romania, and make a list of all the places I have to visit, and catch up on Game of Thrones.

How to get around:

Since I was living there for 2 months, my friends would normally take me around to visit different cities. Around Sibiu (where I lived and worked), I would usually take the bus which costs 1.5 RON or Php15 per ticket. Totally worth it! You just have to plan accordingly and check the schedules online to be sure not to miss it.

Buses to and from different cities in Romania: http://www.autogari.ro/?lang=en
Bus Routes in Sibiu Romania- http://www.tursib.ro/en/trasee

Now it will be hard to write about my full experience since I was there for work for two months so I will just share with you the places I visited.

Where to stay and where to eat:

I stayed in an apartment in Haus Paltinul along Strada Paltinului in Sibiu- http://www.haus-paltinu.ro (50 RON per night).

As for food tips (my favorite part), if you are a meat lover, I would definitely recommend for you to try Mici (which means small in Romanian & pronounced as mitch)- it is a traditional grilled pork or beef sausage type dish dipped in lots of mustard best paired with a bottle of beer (My personal preference: Nenea Iancu Wheat Beer!). Grilled lamb with cheese is also good and for starters, why not try their traditional soup dish- Ciorba de burta!

Here is a list of my go-to places for food:

  1. Café Wien and Esspressee are my two favorite coffee/beer places in Sibiu, Romania- Café Wien has a terrace overlooking the city sunset and Espressee Cafe has beautiful interiors with wooden and earthy vibe
  2. Caru Cu Flori Sibiu- mici and lemon juice/beer
  3. Pardon café
  4. Crama Sibie Veche- lamb steak with cheese and potato
  5. The best shaorma place- chicken kebab
  6. Turkish kebab- After work, I would jog to my favorite shawarma place, buy my lamb shaorma for take-out and then jog back to my apartment. Always finding a reason to move my ass and this turned out to be the most effective! haha
  7. Music Pub – Located in Piata Mica. It’s a good pizza and burger place!
  8. Prima- You can try the best Ciorba de burta (traditional soup dish of Romania) and end your meal with Papanasi (traditional doughnut dessert topped with cream and blueberries)

What to Visit in Romania:

Sibiu

This was my home county during my stay in Romania and needless to say my favorite place. One of the counties in Transylvania and considered as one of the most important cultural counties in Romania, Sibiu was designated the European Capital of Culture in 2007.

I loved how quiet and peaceful Sibiu is.  Everyday is like a walk in the park– little kids feeding and chasing pigeons, mothers watching by the bench, couples biking, people jogging around, etc. It give me a certain peace of mind every time I look around and people watch.

yourlocalocals-sibiu-romania-piata-mare
Piata Mare
yourlocalocals-sibiu-romania-piata-mare
Sibiu
View from the tower of Council

What to do:

Since I had work Mondays to Fridays, I would usually just go around Sibiu on weekdays– jog around Sub Arini Park, have a cup of coffee or a bottle of beer in Piata Mare or Piata Mica. They also hold events after work in places like Oldies Pub like Karaoke Wednesdays. There are not a lot of party places in Sibiu, but the ones that I frequent on Friday nights would be Oldies Pub and The Box.

On weekends I was able to visit:

Astra National Museum Complex

It is the largest open-air museum in Romania and one of the largest in Europe. It is located in Dumbrava Forest which is easily accessible by bike, car or bus. It is home for houses and workshops of traditional Romanian folk culture from the pre-industrial era.

It’s a whole compound of old houses, old equipment and mechanisms they used back in the day. It was very interesting to learn about the history of Romania first-hand. Entrance fee was 10 RON.

 

Turnul Sfatului (The Tower of the Council) & Turnul Scarilor (The Tower of Stairs)

Located in Piata Mare and Piata Mica respectively. Get ready to climb the stairs 8968542 (exaggeration!) flights of stairs but it’s all worth it. Reaching the top of the towers will give you the best view of Sibiu. Make sure to go before 7pm. Entrance fee is 5-7 RON (Php 50-70)

yourlocalocals-sibiu-romania-tower

Bridge of Lies

Romania’s oldest cast-iron bridge which was built in 1859. It is located in Piata Mica and as you walk through it you will notice padlocks attached to the rails with names of people on it.

Stories have been told why they named it the Bridge of Lies. One legend is that this bridge is used to tell if a person is telling the truth or not. It is said that the bridge shakes and makes weird noises when someone tells a lie on this bridge. Another was a legend about this bridge being a place where a man promises a woman to marry him only with the intention to sleep with her but in reality he is already arranged to marry a rich woman in society.

Every time I cross this bridge it would give me a completely different vibe from those legends that were told. Maybe it’s because of the padlocks with couple names attached to the rails of the bridge, couples taking romantic photos, even prenup photos. Through those legends this bridge became popular and reinvented itself to be a place where good memories are shared by locals and tourists.

 Bâlea Lake

It is a glacier lake located at 2,024 Meters of altitude in the Fagaras Mountains and is easily accessible by car during summer and by cable car during the rest of the year.

I went in mid-April and winter was just ending then. It was such an interesting drive up the mountains. You’d notice the surrounding trees getting whiter and whiter as you go higher. From the jump-off point, we took the cable car going to the top of the mountains (25 RON). The moment I stepped out of the cabin, I got blinded by the view. Everything was so white and bright! My friends and I walked around, played with snow and some dogs we saw then went to the restaurant to warm up with some coffee and snacks.

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yourlocalocals-sibiu-romania-balea-lac

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yourlocalocals-sibiu-romania-balea-lac

 

Ocna Lac

Salt lakes that have health benefits and can cue arthritis or fasten the process of healing your cuts for an entrance fee of 20 RON or Php220.

This was where we spent one Sunday afternoon in June to start off our summer with Turkish kebab and beers! I am a total water baby and it’s been a while since I was in the water (except the shower) at that time so I was really excited to swim and just be in water. To my surprise, there were a lot of people but only a few were swimming, most were just sunbathing / drinking beer by the lake. When I got into the Salt lake, I found out the hard way that man, this lake is REALLY salty. Haha I am telling you, DO NOT SUBMERGE HEAD/HAIR. We all got out, drank some beers and ate kebab and I noticed my hair and my skin turned kind of white cause of dried up salt water. My friends all took a nap and I went back in and enjoyed the feeling of being in water (no matter how salty it was) haha

yourlocalocals-sibiu-romania-ocna-lac
Start of Summer
Other places outside Sibiu:
PELES CASTLE

It is a Neo-Renaissance castle in the Carpathian Mountains. The palace is closed on Mondays and only opens from 9am-5pm on the rest of the days.

This was definitely on my Romania Bucket List. I grew up with Disney princesses, of course I was gonna visit and go inside a castle. I did the ground floor tour for 20 RON, which lasted 45 minutes and I must say it’s quite different in cartoons. It was definitely not golden and shining bright with diamonds but the interiors were so beautiful. The palace was made of rooms inspired by different styles such as Austrian Baroque, Italian, North-African and Hispanic Moorish style. Different theme and style per room, It was like traveling through different countries through magic doors.

yourlocalocals-romania-peles-castle

yourlocalocals-romania-peles

SIGISIORA FORTRESS

It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site Located in Transylvania, Sighisoara is a must-visit place due to its narrow streets, charming colorful building, and 9 towers including the clock tower

yourlocalocals-romania-sighisoara
Sighisoara
BUCHAREST

Capital City of Romania. My workmates and I spent the weekend in Bucharest to join in the festivities for King’s Day. Some of my workmates joined the marathon event and afterwards we all attended the Royal Garden party. My plan for the weekend was:

  1. Support my workmates joining the marathon
  2. Attend the Royal Garden Party
  3. Meet and marry a prince
  4. Become a princess

So yeah, 3 & 4 didn’t happen but at least half of my plans pushed through and although I wasn’t able to meet a prince and become part of the the royal family (lol), I was able to shake hands with the Queen. Can you believe it? I bet she was thinking: “This lady is definitely not one of my people” Haha but it was such an honor being in the presence of royalty let alone shaking the queen’s hand.

 

My favorite places in Bucharest are the following:

Manastirea Stavropoleos

yourlocalocals-romania-bucharest-monastery
Inside garden of Stavropoleos Monastery

Caturesti Carusel – Bank turned into a 6flr bookstore with over 10,000 books and 5,000 albums and DVDs.

yourlocalocals-romania-bucharest-bookstore

Salida Turda

A saltmine located in Durgău-Valea Sărată area of  Turda that has been certified by Business Insider as the most beautiful underground place in the world and is ranked as the 22nd most beautiful tourist destinations in the world. Prepare to walk and go up and down several times as you go through tunnels and staircases until you reach the bottom of the saltmine where you can play badminton, explore, and ride a boat.

We passed by Turda on our way to a Jazz in the park event. Totally worth the visit!

yourlocalocals-romania-salina-turda

yourlocalocals-romania-salina-turda

RASNOV-BRASOV-PELES

One weekend, Georgina, my work buddy, took me to visit different places outside Sibiu. We drove to Rasnov Fortress and then spent the night in Brasov and in the morning we visited Peles Castle and headed back to Sibiu after. It was such an eventful weekend hearing seeing how people used to live in a fortress,hearing about the life of the royal family and learning about the story behind the interiors of the castle. Here are some pictures from the that weekend:

yourlocalocals-romania-rasnov

 Adventure hacks:

  • June-July is the month where a lot of events happen in Romania because it’s the start of summer for them
  • Romanians are really nice and friendly, do not be afraid to go talk to people in the bus/park
  • Currency exchange is LEI-US-PESO
  • Credit cards arent that reliable especially in small towns. Some request for a pin code. Better to have cash available at all times
  • Remember to be extra polite when talking to older people
  • Tipping is the norm 10% might do, but only if the total is above 50 RON

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