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Bears

I woke up without my alarm in the morning, but it was late enough that the restaurants that weren't open for breakfast yesterday at 7 should be open. I packed my stuff, and headed out for a real breakfast. Except that it's Saturday, when they apparently don't open restaurants until 10. After a small loop around the university area to realize that nothing was open, I gave up and metroed to the train station. I ended up buying a grocery store breakfast of bread, cheese, and cherry jam. I hadn't realized that one of the cheeses I had purchased was horseradish cheese, but you'd be surprised at how well horseradish goes with cherry. The difference between a first and second class ticket was $5. Given my recent experiences in Sri Lanka, I splurged for the first class. I ended up in a spacious cabin with 4 other people. The seats were staggered so that everybody could stretch their legs out straight without interfering with anybody else. It also had a little table that made it convenient to eat my breakfast. At first, I was questioning whether it was worth the fiver, despite the pleasance because I didn't know what second class looked like. And then people ended up standing, making me feel good about my investment. The scenery started out pretty flat, with lots of farmland, but then changed into forested mountains. They were steep and gorgeous, and the type of scenery that makes it fun to take the train. I arrived in Brasov and taxied to as close to the hostel as he could get. The hostel is on a pedestrian-only street, right in the heart of old town. It is clean and cozy, and the guy at the front was friendly and helpful. I got settled, then headed out to check out old town for a bit before I had to meet for my tour. It's quaint and pretty, and there are several impressive large buildings. In the main square, I saw a farmer's market with all sorts of goodies. I saw the biggest carrots I've ever seen in my whole life. They had plenty of pumpkins and other fall veggies. Plenty of pickled veggies called from their briny jars. And the cheese! I saw my first glimpse of the famous local cheese that is packaged in tree bark. But I was surprisingly unhungry. I got a local sparkly juice out of a big barrel and figured I'd come back when I was hungrier. I walked around the park near the bus stop, and enjoyed the lushness and the beauty. Then it was time for me to grab a bus to the meeting point across town. It was quite easy and gave me a good view of the rest of Brasov- the part not for tourists, where real people live. I had made sure to be early, and was early enough to stop in the gigantic grocery store by the meeting point. I wandered the aisles to see if there was anything interesting, but I wasn't very hungry and I didn't see anything particularly different. I met the other 2 people on the tour and the driver in the designated meeting spot-a gas station- and we were on our way. At the edge of the forest, we picked up one other person, and then entered. We drove on a one-lane path through the forest, right through a creek. Later, I asked about that, and it turns out that when the water level is too high to drive through, they have to walk. Even with us parking closer, we still had a short, pleasant hike to the lookout point. The path was mostly a goat trail, unmarked and not wide, but there were a few bridges or handrails to let me know it was for humans. The lookout point is a tiny wooden room with very clean glass windows all along one side. They face a small clearing. The park ranger had placed two cattle carcasses in the clearing, and tied them to posts. The scenery was beautiful and serene. I was enjoying the calm, and then the ranger came into the lookout with us and started whispering with the guide. Their conversation really detracted from the whole experience. It drowned out the babbling brook, the bird song, and any chance we had of hearing the bears coming. But the bears hadn't appeared yet. We sat and waited and sat and waited, and I guess they ran out of things to whisper about, because the silence returned. The quiet became soporific, so I pulled out my book and read. Much, much, much later, somebody pointed out our first bear. It was a very large male, the guide informed us. The reason we hadn't seen other bears before was that he was around to scare them off. They weren't likely to come eat until he had. He walked around a bit, but didn't touch the food. He then returned to the woods. The guide explained that he might not be eating because it was still light out and it can be somewhat dangerous for a bear to be out in the light in a clearing, exposed. But another bear, this one a female, finally ventured out for the bait. While they see different bears each day based on who is in the area, how good the eats are elsewhere, and who is in the mood for a snack, this female is apparently a regular. She took a few bites, but then ran back into the woods. Apparently she also was nervous about the light. This reminded me a lot of the beginning part of the Penguin Parade in Melbourne- some would get brave for a bit and then run back to safety, while others hung out in safety, just observing. Then, as it got darker, they got braver and more and more emerged. At one point, we saw 4 different bears. Because this is real nature and not a zoo or safari park, you never know what you'll get. These bears aren't trained or used to people, so to see 4 wild bears was pretty special. However, we did have to get back to our vehicle safely. We left just before the sun fully set, with just barely enough light to see where we were going- mostly. The ranger lit a cigarette to warn the beads that we were there so that none of us got mauled on the way out. The smoke was right in our path in our faces ans made me cough, so the bears also had auditory warning that we were coming through. We made it back to the vehicle without any mauling incidents, and drove back to town. Despite the fact that it had been over 11 hours since I had last eaten, I was not hungry at all. As I was walking old town, the hunger hit and I decided to find a place to eat. I entered a few restaurants and was told that there were no tables. In a few, the staff didn't even greet me or were nowhere to be found. Apparently you need a reservation to eat Saturday night in Brasov. After being rejected or ignored at every single restaurant for several blocks in a row, I found a Chinese restaurant with some tables open. I felt bad about having been in Romania for 2 days and not having eaten in a Romanian restaurant, but I didn't have a lot of choice and it wasn't for lack of trying. The food was surprisingly good. On the way back to the hostel, I checked out the music coming from the main square. They had set up a stage, and hundreds of people were gathered round to see the live music. I watched for a bit, and then headed back to the hostel. Unlike yesterday's hostel, this was not a party hostel. This was a calm place for people to save money on a bed. A couple of people cooked dinner in the kitchen. Others sat and read. Everybody was polite, quiet, and friendly. The hostel was warm and clean. This is basically the epitome of what a (non-party) hostel should be, at least in my mind.

Lunch

Lunch


Brasov

Brasov


Park

Park


Waiting for bears

Waiting for bears


Bear eating

Bear eating

Posted by spsadventures 16:00 Archived in Romania

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