15 February 2015, Brasov.
Our Romanian adventure began with a slight delay at Bucharest Airport, as we had no way of contacting our host, National President Alexandra, but we soon found her after a short rendezvous with free wifi at a Cafe. With her was Irish NP, Kenny, a spirited guy who was to deliver a leadership workshop.
After a short trip to Alex’s apartment, we gathered at the Bucharest Station to catch the train for Brasov. Things also got a little hairy here, as we cut it quite close, and had to sprint for the train as the final boarding whistle sounded. I channeled my inner Usain Bolt as we boarded the last door of the last carriage as it started pulling out of the station.
The ride itself was a 3 hour long journey toward the mountainous centre of Romaina, Brasov. The country side of Romania was surprisingly flat and nondescript. In Brasov, we had dinner near the station as we met up with more ESN Romania members. By this time I thought we were close to arriving at our final destination, but I was informed that all 60 ESN students would all be staying in a Chalet lodge closer to the Castle of Bram, in the valley side, another 40 minute cab ride away. By this time we were 12 strong, and we split into 3 cabs, and were packed in like sardines into these unbelievably tiny taxi’s, winding our way through the darkness and fog, in search of this Chalet.
After many U-turns and stops, we eventually found the Chalet, which was situated half-way up a small mountain in Moieciu De Jos.. Kenny, Jeff and I shared a room, which had quite amazing views down the valley. The first night was a fairly quiet affair, as we got settled in, and started meeting all the other members who were arriving by cars from across Romania.
The following morning, Jeff,and I along with Danish representative Maria paraschiv had some spare time before presentations and decided to go hiking up the small but relatively steep hill behind our chalet, which would offer views down towards the small “town” of Moieciu De Jos. We were accompanied by the neighbour’s pet dog, who followed us all the up the hike. We nicknamed him leneș (pronounced Lenesh, Romanian for lazy) because he would not move from our back-door for much of the weekend. The snow made the journey up the hillside difficult, but we were rewarded with beautiful views once we got up there.
In the afternoon, the ESN board members organised a snowball man competition in groups, with the most creative snowman being declared the winner. I had never built a snowman before, it was surprisingly difficult to make it 1.5 metres high! Following this we had an official snowball fight, of which I took wayy too seriously, bringing in wheelbarrows for snow and chairs as defines. I mentally blocked out the pain my fingers were experiencing from shovelling snow into balls. Our team lost, but we still had a lot of fun. The night was full of barbecuing traditional Romanian food, as well as a table tennis match against ESN Sibiu.
Saturday had come around, and the presentations from all members got underway. ESN romania members updated the national board, and ideas and thoughts were shared. It was quite nice that Jeff & I (along with Kenny) were the only non-romanian speakers, yet everybody spoke english at all times during presenting. Just before we had to present. I decided to include a short video explaining what the Expo in Milan was about. I think it was a good introduction for the viewers, and it attracted interest immediately. We presented to a solid crowd, and we had a lot of good feedback. After our presentations, we had workshops given by some members, including leadership and social media skill building. By the end of these, it was quite late into the night and everybody was itching to start partying.
Roel, our dutch friend, offered to drive us to get some drinks, and we stopped by Bran Castle, of Dracula fame, which was a pretty impressive sight to see. The party involved awards, presents and traditionsl dancing early into the morning. The following morning (ha!) after some relaxed talks it was time to say goodbye to all the people that had become our friends over such a short time. I think all of us being together in one large hotel space helped strengthen those friendships. We got a lift to Brasov, and then caught a packed train back to Bucharest, where we had traditional romanian cuisine with Alexandra and Maria, before they showed us as much of Bucharest as they could in the night time.
We caught a plane out early the following morning, lamenting on the end of an amazing weekend in Romania.
Many thanks to the EU EXPO 2015 & ESN Italia and mulțumesc to my new Romanian friends!