Dracula’s Castle in Bran

Today in Bran we went to an outside market and dracula’s castle. First, we grabbed lunch and shopped, where most of us spent the last of our lei. Next at the castle we explored the intricately styled rooms. The castle was actually pretty hard to navigate and at one point half our group watched the other half on the patio and tried to figure out how we ended up in completely different areas. Art history students boasted about their knowledge of the castle’s gothic style and other stylized features.  Before we left, we revisited the market to get gifts for some of the kids that helped fund our building materials. I’ll let those gifts stay a surprise ;). Right as we were about to leave, a flash mob broke out and sone of us decided to join in the fun! Overall, it was a very fun day in Bran, Transylvania.

Sighiosora Exploration and Ride to Brasov

Today, we began our day touring the fortress of Sighisoara. First, a guided tour led us to the furthest corners of the fortress, and revealed an ancient German school, as well as a historic church, and not to mention a beautiful view. The tour proceeded to the clock tower museum within the entry gate, which upon the top balcony, allowed us to see the entire city. Next, the students were allowed to go exploring for themselves within the walls of the city. Many chose to go to souvenir shops, which were covered in Dracula themed souvenirs. The students then ate lunch wherever they pleased, and were full for the bus ride ahead. At 2:00, the bus took us to Brasov, and we arrived at 4:00. In order to pass the time, we explored the town, and eventually stopped for a nice treat of ice cream. After an hour of rest, we ate a lovely dinner with Americans who had moved to Romania to become youth group leaders.

Off to Sighiosoara 

After a nice 7 hour bus ride through the snowy Carpathian mountains we arrived in Sighiosoara around 5 pm only to find that our hotel was in a fortress. The medieval town was beautiful because the town was so well preserved. At 6 we went outside for the surprise with the Roma people aka gypsies. We were greeted with homemade traditional appetizers, which included bread with a spread and pickles and an assortment of drinks. There were several gypsy children who performed lovely traditional dances to live music and then pulled us in to join them. After dancing, we ate traditional Romanian goulash. 

Goodbye in Radauti 

On Friday, we had to say goodbye not only to our tools but to our newly acquired friends. There was a melancholy feel in the worksite, balanced with a sense of excitement during the final additions to the homes. After a shortened work day, we were given some free time to explore Radauti before saying goodbye at “the last supper.”

The majority of the group was tired and stayed at the hotel to pack and relax, but 7 of us, along with Mr. Hattori and Ms. Rhodes, went out to the town. Although we had walked into the town every night for dinner, it was very different seeing it in the daytime when everything was open. Viviana told us that Friday is typically a busy market day and we could tell the city was bustling a lot more than at night. We were excited to finally be able to find some martisor that was difficult to hunt down in Bucharest. We found pastries, some of which we already had at the worksite, at a bakery and bought Romanian cupcakes and tiny crescent rolls that tasted like Fig Newtons. We ended our trip with a visit to the local grocery store and bought candy, like the ROM chocolate bar that is often associated with when it was introduced during Communist Romania. 

7:00 rolled around, signaling the dinner where the families had to say their final goodbyes and start their new lives in their new homes. Both families gave speeches which were translated by Viviana. Everyone was taken aback by the amount of gratitude that the families had for our work, and all of this emotion peaked when Mihaela announced that her a Robert were expecting a third child. There was a true sense of family in the room, and despite the fact that we had only known these families for a short amount of time, it truly felt like we had become a part of the community and a major part of these peoples’ lives. 

As we finally reflected in our group, this time with Viviana, everyone expressed their final thoughts about their experiences this past week. After a lot of crying from Viviana and a few others, it hit home how much we’ve learned from the families, the Habitat employees, and our fellow classmates and teachers.