Where do you go on holiday? Do you enjoy returning to the same place where you’ve been countless times before, or do you like exploring the unknown and discovering new worlds every time you leave home?
Before you answer, let me tell you a little about how my people choose to spend their holidays.
I live in Romania, and when I was a kid, back in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, the whole country went to the seaside. There was no greater arrogance than bragging about the two weeks spent lying in the sun at Mamaia or Neptun, on the shore of the Black Sea.
Later, people looked further and discovered Greece. Suddenly, the name of Paralia Katerini was on everybody’s lips as the undisputed symbol of cheap yet extraordinary vacations. Buses crowded with anxious tourists started flocking towards the Aegean, as Romanians discovered marvelous blue waters, fine sands and tasty sea food.
A few brave men went even further to the East, relishing in the lavish 5-star resorts of Antalya. This new found land was accessible only to the worthy (read reach enough), but once you got there, you were allowed a glimpse of true heaven, amidst pools mirroring the sky, lush vegetation and fabulous restaurants.
Still, Greece and Turkey were too far. Getting there proved exhausting for some. So, they stopped halfway, in Bulgaria. They were still on the shore of the Black Sea and somehow they still felt like home, but the beach was nicer (read cleaner) and the food much better (read plentiful). Thus, they stayed for a while, then called in their friends and, in a short time, Albena, Nessebar and Sunny Beach became everybody’s destinations for the holidays – not only in the summer. Romanians came swarming in, helping the neighbours in the South boost their economy.
Afterwards there was a new expansion: Egypt, Tunisia, Spain and some truly exotic places at the far side of the world: Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Tenerife.
I am pretty sure that – given the opportunity to go on his dream vacation – the average Romanian won’t stray from this pattern, as all the places I mentioned before have become tourist stereotypes. For example, this August, my father spent a few days in Bled, the beautiful mountain resort in northwestern Slovenia he read about on the web. When he initially asked his travel agent about Bled (not only the resort, but the lake and the castle), the man promptly replied: What is Bled? And where is it?
So, you can enjoy a beautiful vacation even beyond well known destinations. Often, people mistake “popular” for “worth seeing” – and Romania is such a place: maybe not to popular because of poverty, corruption, stray dogs and such, but nonetheless picturesque and capable of taking your breath away.
This is a story about Romania, seen through the eyes of a guy who travelled its roads, climbed its mountains and visited its cities, only to realize that there’s more to it than it meets the eye.
Read on and maybe next time you go on holiday it will be somewhere you never knew existed.