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Letters from Istanbul, and a (brief) story of Transylvanian misadventure

Letters from Istanbul, and a (brief) story of Transylvanian misadventure

After again trying(unsuccessfully) to wrangle the Romanian banks to accept my bank card, I cashed in my emergency dollars, leaving one last Jacksonin my pocket to contemplate whether he’s worth more than the lint he sits next to.  Or perhaps hes an optimist and looks towards brighter times in lands where he’s respected.  In either case, neither of us were prepared for the remainder of the day.

After being disappointed with the dracula paraphernalia in the tourist shops, I decided to scope out the mountain peaks that lear over Brasov that were now revealed from yesterdays fog.  On one side there was a peak with a massive radio tower and giant block letters “BRASOV” ala Hollywood.  Cool.  And a cable car to get to the top?  Word.  As I walked up to the base of the cable car station, the backside was boarded up and covered with graffiti.  There was no one around and I wasn’t even sure if they were open, but I proceeded around to the front.  I read a sign that said “Last up 4:45p”.  It was 3:30.  sweet.  15 Lei’s($5) and 10minute wait by myself next to a brick furnace, and a weathered old romanian comes out, unlocks the car and takes me to the top.  I take video as we ascend and notice the car on the other side is full of people descending.  hmmm.
I get to the top and see a door to a restaurant and figure I’ll check it out after taking some snaps of the peak.  There is deep snow everywhere and a hill up to where a Romanian flag is flapping.  The wind is blowing like its determined to blow the mountain over.  The mountain held its ground as mountains tend to do.  Though somehow the wind wasn’t too strong down by the ground, but it howled above me.   still no one in sight….kind of spooky.  screams probably get lost easier than hikers do ’round these parts.  I climbed the small hill in the snow and did the myspace angles in front of the flag…you know the ones where you try to look aloof as you snap a pic of yourself with an outstretched arm…
Not really satisified with my $5 spent, I followed a small trail round the backside of the mountain with a mind to keep it quick as the sun was setting soon.  And I still haven’t seen a soul besides the man who took me up.  Turns out the small trail led to the BRASOV sign with one of the most amazing overlooks I’ve ever seen.  It was also kinda one of the scariest with a steel platform hovering over the cliff with a thigh high railing.  A fenced off cave opposite the platform wrapped a grave with a cross tombstone of some famous Romanian.  Hopefully there was no relationship to the thigh high fence….
The visibility was crisp and I could see way out into the Romanian landscape with the wrinkles of the snow capped Carpathians slumbering out to the right.  I wasn’t sure why they called the black church and black tower black, but up here jutting out against the terracotta roof terrain of Brasov, it kinda made sense.
So, 4:15pm…I should probably get back.  I trudge back through the snow  and no one is still around.  The wind is fierce now.  The entrance to the platform is locked, probably a safety thing, but no one is around.  There is a laptop bag filled with bread and rolls sitting on a garbage can.  I go to the restaurant…its closed.  I go door by door around the facility, everything is locked.  Hello? I start saying.  Then I start shouting out to call for someone.  HEEELLLLLOOOO??  Nothing.  Visions of a Dracula themed Shining are flashing through my head.  I run around the grounds banging on doors and shouting….nothing…I take a breath and watch the sun start to dip below the horizon….oh fuck.  I call my friend here who happens to be an accomplished mountaineer.
Uhhh… Mihai?  I might have an issue…
Yea, I think they close the mountain at 4 and they don’t really count who goes up there.  

So umm…

Its cool dude, there’s still plenty of light, you can walk down.  

ok, umm… 

walk to the where the BRASOV sign was and before you get there…

ok, i’m walking there now…(sprinting actually)

…theres a dip to a trail head that you can take down and it winds down until it drops you right into the old city center.  Just make sure you can see the cable car cables, and you’re fine.  


Oh fuck mihai, i think they’re calling for me, call you back…

hey mihai, damn, they left, just as I got to the platform…headed back to the trail now…I know where it is…call you if i have any problems…

As I’m halfway down the craggy, snowy mountain, I see a car going up…what the deuce?
I made it to the bottom by 4:45 on the nose and approached the base house for the cable car.  The lady who sold me the ticket is locking up and the sign still reads “last up – 4:45pm”.  arg…
Umm just so you know I’m not still up there, I thought you closed at 4pm(pointed to my watch) and left without me, so I walked down

Tomorrow, tomorrow,  we closed, you come back tomorrow.

Fucking hell, she thinks I want to go up.  Where’s the vin fiere(hot wine), I need a drink.
After, I went out to dinner with Mihai(my saviour), his girlfriend, and her sis to a great restaurant.  Art nouveau posters and white vignetted portraits of people with curly mustaches, bowler hats, giant dresses and expressionless faces.  Ragtime music played live on a grande.  Garland and gingerbread cookies along the railings.  small golden lampshades with fringe that stood still.  gnocchi with walnuts and Ciuc(chiuck) beer.
What a day.
The next morning I had an 8am 24hr long train to Istanbul via Bucharest.  Mostly uneventful except for our stop at 2am at the Turkish border where I didn’t realize I had to buy a visa.  All my cash is now is in Romanian lei’s and yup, they only take Euro’s or Dollars.  How much is the visa?  15 euros or $20…cash machine? nope, exchange office? nope…wait!  I’ve got that last Jackson in my pocket that I saved from before….thank god i’m not canadian(their visa costs $60…)
…and so…I’m writing you from my hostel in Istanbul where the atm’s accept my bank card, its warm(er) and life is good again.
love you,
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