Blog #7 of the Globerollers. So far, we have rolled through Istanbul, all over Bulgaria, and are currently in Romania. This country is all about their steep staircases and thieving cab drivers. But before we go into all that, let’s keep it light and give you a list of Romanian pros.
The architecture in this country, particularly its capital, Bucharest, is absolutely stunning. There is a heavy influence of French and German architecture, and that fused with the Romanian twang makes for incredible structures.
The history of this country is unbelievable. Similar to Bulgaria, Romania was a communist country for decades. In Bulgaria, we took a survey of its people and found that most who lived during Bulgarian communism did not actually have a problem with it. They reported that things costed way less and they were able to take more paid vacations. It seemed like the older generation in Bulgaria missed the way their country used to be. But in Romania during communist times, things were different. Chucheski was a dictator that remained “president” for 25 years and took communism to an even more extreme. The architecture in the city of Bucharest was largely created under Chucheski’s orders. Some churches were preserved, but many historical buildings were destroyed so that more communist structures could rise. One of these structures was the infamous Parliment. Which brings us to…
Accessible My Ass:
Roxy and Madeline took a free walking (rolling) tour of Bucharest on our first day in the city. During the tour, we learned a lot about the city, its buildings, and its history (hence, our showing off in the “pros” section of this post). One building that was particularly amazing was the parliament. Apparently, it is the second largest building in the world after the Pentagon. We did not go inside of the parliament during the tour, but made a note to visit it the following day.
That night, we looked into the buildings touring hours and ticket prices. The building was open the following day, sunday, from 10-4. As for ticket prices, well, the wheelchair card allowed us both free admission. So nice of them to let us in for free, right? Sounds too good to be true? Well, that’s because it was.
We arrived at the parliament on Sunday around 2 pm. We could lie and say it was because we were busy rolling around seeing other sights, but we don’t want blog-lies on our conscious. In truth, the breakfast buffet at our hotel was just too delicious. We stuffed ourselves with eggs and Romanian sweet rice pudding with cinnamon and then needed a siesta directly after.
We roll into the parliament around 2 pm. The guard at the gate outside of this gargantuan building insisted that we could not go in as the elevator does not seem to run on weekends. He spoke in Romanian and angryarmflapslish. We decided to ignore his arms and “R” rolls as he pointed at our wheels in protest, and carried on through the entrance.
Inside the front doors there is a fairly sophisticated security point. We went up to the ticket desk and asked for “two please”. The woman behind the counter explained in a detached tone why we could not be admitted. Apparently, if we have wheels, we must call two days before and let them know about our plan to visit the parliament. We asked if everyone has to do that and she said yes. At that very moment, she addressed two non-wheeled people who had just approached her desk. They asked for two tickets, she asked if they had made a reservation, they said no, and then she assigned them to a tour group and directed them toward the security line, just like that.
Apparently reservations are optional for walkers, but mandatory for rollers. When we confronted her about this, she said that it is more complicated for us. She would have needed to accommodate our rolling ways by making sure the elevators were working. As we were told by the guard at the entrance, during weekends at the parliament the elevators take a break from working. With this being the second biggest building on the globe, that seems a little nonsensical.
Roxy then went off to search for a bathroom as Madeline picked a fight. The woman wrote down an email address on a sliver of paper and told Madeline to make her former complaint out to that address. “Next!”
Roxy and Madeline regrouped. We looked up the giant flight of stairs that led to the first floor of the walking (rolling) tour of the infamous Parliament. A security guard came up to us and said, “it is not possible” and that is when we decided we had to do it. Don’t tell us we cannot do something. It only makes us want to do it more.
We rolled back over to the information desk puta and gave her plan B. Since she is unable to accommodate the wheels, we will figure out the logistics. We will find a team of fierce lifters for every flight of stairs and all she has to do is allow us to go on the next tour. She passed the subject onto her colleague, who passed it onto his manager, who approved our mission. We’re goin up!
Despite our protests of, “but we’re the Globerollers!” Madeline’s rollerblades had to be forfeited at the security checkpoint. You win some, you lose some. As soon as we got through security, we started recruiting our lifting squad. We scanned the area and picked out three of the strongest, kindest looking men we could find. After choosing and approaching the second man, people caught onto what we were doing. They started looking at us eagerly, hoping they would be chosen for the ultimate lifting squad. We couldn’t take all of them and although many were disappointed, we ended up with the best team wheels could buy.
Our tour guide met us at the bottom of the steps and guess who it was, the info desk puta! She dodged our piercing eye contact and recited her introduction to the tour. When it was time to begin the climb, everyone grabbed a corner and Roxy floated up into the air like a crowd surfer. Pictures and videos were not allowed on the premises. But if they hadn’t sent us to Romanian prison at that point, we figured we could get away with breaking one more rule.
The parliament was more than it was chalked up to be. The ceilings were taller than any we had ever seen. The rugs were bigger than any swimming pool we had ever floated in, and the chandelier were more than swinging-from worthy. It was a palace. And we felt right at home.
At each level our team gravitated toward us and resumed their roles as “the lifting squad”. We ended up getting friendly with them. An Irish man by the name of David gave us a detailed agenda of where we need to go in Ireland when we visit the country in a few weeks. A french man by the name of John tried persuading us to come to Paris, while also telling us about how inaccessible Paris is in his pessimistic french way. At one point, the girls in the tour group started feeling left out of all the fun, so they began fanning Roxy as she rose to the top of the crowd at every staircase. She really was the queen of the parliament.
All the while, we really needed to pee. Our main motivators for going into the parliament in the first place were 1) they said we couldn’t do it and 2) there wasn’t a bathroom on the ground floor. We kept asking our puta tour guide where the bathroom was and she kept insisting that we would have a resting stop soon, where we can all use the bathroom. Half way through the tour, the resting stop came. She neglected to mention that the bathroom was down a narrow flight of stairs. When do they end?!
The lifting squad came before they were ever called for and down we went. After we did our bidness, we were greeted at the women’s bathroom exit by the lifting squad and floated back up to meet ms.puta and the rest of the gang.
At the end of the tour, puta tour guide pulled us aside and said that someone was coming to bring us back downstairs to the ground floor. This seemed strange. Who else would we need, other than our lifting squad? She said there was a secret elevator that the woman meeting is would take us down on. So there was an elevator the entire time. All of the arguing and lifting we did to get on this tour, and there was an elevator that the entire Romanian parliament team was hiding from us. Was this a test? We had a million questions, comments, and concerns, but we decided to just let this one go and turn it over to the blog.
We grabbed the French man from our lifting squad because he was the most entertaining. The lady met us and took us down some hidden hallways and locked doors. We insisted that she give us a bonus tour on our way out, and she did with a laugh. In the elevator, the French man talked about how it was his french way to have beautiful women surrounding him. We had second thoughts about taking him as our VIP lifting squad member. But then again, as the French guy said, “Shits happen”.
After two days in Bucharest, we took a train out to Brasov, a beautiful town north of Bucharest where Dracula’s Castle perches close by. On the train, we met a lovely Romanian guy. It was so refreshing after only meeting horrible taxi drivers, puta tour guides, and grabby train conductors for the past few days. The Romanian man signed up for helping us safely lock up our baggage at the station when we arrive, and help us get on a bus to Dracula’s Castle. We were only going to Brasov for the day then catching a train to Budapest that night.
Halfway through the trip, our train car doors open and in walks…the Irish lifting squad member! He had spotted us getting onto the train and came by to say hi. He also had a few more tips to give us for Ireland. The tips rolled off his Irish tongue quickly. We wanted all the help we could get, but could not understand, let alone process all that he was telling us. So we gave him Madeline’s phone and had him record a voice memo. David-Irish-lifting-man gave us a detailed agenda for our week in Ireland, then popped a squat in our car and got into some heated discussions. We talked about economics, immigration, racism, sexism, and then we threw abortion in for a bonus round. Interesting hearing about the viewpoints people from other countries have on these issues. Interesting, while also infuriating. But let’s not get into that.
Nice Romanian man helped us off the train and took us to the luggage storage booth. As soon as Madeline unloaded her dangerously heavy backpack, she snapped on her wheels and nice Romanian man’s eyes lit up. At that moment, he truly understood the essence of the Globerollers. We went outside to find a bus that did not exist. So he called us a cab and negotiated a fair price with the driver. Thank you nice Romanian man.
Our taxi driver drove us 30 minutes to Bram where Dracula resides. He pulled up next to a giant cobble stoned walkway, leading to an even more giant hill and said “Dracula”. He pointed to our wheels and said, “I dunno…not so possible.” Oh no…he said it! Now we have to.
We piled out and looked at the journey ahead with dread. But we had come this far, and were not turning back now. The ticket man at the gated entrance before the giant hill took one look at our wheels and told us we could go in for free. What is it with Romania and giving free tickets to places that are utterly not wheel friendly? It seems that blisters and tears of laughter were the currency we were paying in.
The hill was tough. It required many laughing/crying breaks along the way, but we eventually made it. Next were the steps to the castle. We summoned a crew and made our way up. Then we approached the castle. There were about 100 stairs leading to the entrance and not a gorgeous young man in sight. Everyone around was 70+ and looked at us with great empathy. An old woman who was perched on a bench near by assured us that this is not a place we can visit. She explained that there were many stairs inside the castle. What was she suggesting? That we couldn’t do it? Damnit! Now we have to…
Roxy looked at Madeline and said, “I knew this day would come. It’s time for plan B”. Madeline pondered on what plan B could be and asked Roxy if she was about to walk. Roxy said, “Yes, I’ve been lying to you all of these years. Now the jig is up” and brought herself to sitting on the bottom step. She scooted her seat up to the next step, then brought her legs up to follow. Madeline watched in awe, then snapped out of it when Roxy said, “now lift my legs. Like a bride” So one step at a time, we shuffled up those 100 stairs as the old people below watched with amazement.
Unfortunately (or fortunately for the blog’s sake), this was only the first of many shuffles up staircases. The inside of Dracula’s Castle was a maze of narrow, winding staircases. Because of their narrowness and the twists and turns that made up the character of these vampire-esque staircases, it would be impossible to lift Roxy and her thrown up them at the same time. So we resumed to the stair-shuffle and every time, acquired a willing and honored entourage. At one staircase, we gathered a group of three guys. Two were from the UK, and one from Romania. They wanted to know how they could help so we told one to film, one to bring Roxy’s thrown behind us, and the third to just enjoy the view. When we got to the top, they admittedly felt a bit useless, but we assured them that their moral support was greatly appreciated. Plus, the film footage one of them got was GOLD. Ellen, here we come.
At each level, Madeline would snap on her blades and roll along the narrow hallways, the two of us peeking in rooms and posing for selfies. The castle was pretty cool, and we were happy to be there, but most of all we were proud. Proud to be rollers rolling in foreign lands, in inaccessible world wonders that we were certain no wheels had ever touched before. Even though the places we were visiting were unique and lacking in both the New York City and Dutch world, half the fun was the challenge of climbing the different monuments. Sometimes we looked around at groups of tourists and felt like they were missing out on so much of the fun because they didn’t have wheels. It is only a matter of time before the world catches on…
We climbed back down the castle with ease. Once you go up with wheels, going down feels like a piece of cake. When in doubt, gravity will take care of the task at hand. When we got to the gate with the doubtful guards, we showed them photos of us at the top of the castle. They could not BELIEVE that we managed to go up there. They obviously wanted to understand how, but the language barrier made the details of our legendary Globe Roller’s venture up Dracula’s Castle forever a mystery to those guards.
That night, we were meant to catch an 8:20 night train to Budapest. Unfortunately, the time table on our eurorail app was incorrect. We showed up at the station at 8:13 with tickets in hand, only to find that the train left one minute ago.
We were running a bit off schedule because after the castle, we wanted to treat ourselves to our last Romanian meal in the Brasov city center. We found a restaurant with a terrace that was willing to bring one of its tables out from the shade and into the sunlight. We were sitting in the parking lot, next to the bathroom, but it was still a beautiful place and we achieved our dinner-tan.
Roxy got a bit tipsy at our meal. She had two large Ursus beers to take off the edge from our Dracula’s Castle shuffle. When it was time to race out of the restaurant, she peed while Madeline called for a taxi. The taxi came and then left. Madeline went back to desperately call for another one. When she got back to the road to wait for ride #2, Roxy was chatting up a man in a van. He was good looking and spoke zero English, but really wanted to understand. As we were running late, Roxy was flipping her hair and asking for a ride. Madeline vetoed the option of having a strange man in a van drive us anywhere, and that’s when the taxi pulled up. Thank Goddess.
After we picked up our stored luggage, we ran over to the underground hallway where a multitude of different staircases lead to different platforms. Madeline and Rox frantically asked a stranger where to find our train, while a screaming ticket lady tried to tell us that our tickets were now useless. She snatched them out of Madeline’s hands and said “buy tomorrow! You can’t take train tonight.” DON’T TELL US WHAT WE CAN’T DO! Madeline snatched the tickets back while Roxy asked the friendly stranger whether it would be a good idea to take a cab to the next stop and hopefully get there quicker than the train. The stranger said that would be a good idea but that we needed to hurry! He then spelled out the name of the next station as Roxy and Madeline ran out of the underground station. Which one of you cab drivers is up for an adventure?! Valim saw our distress and immediately started loading our things in his trunk (giggidy?) He gave us a price to drive us to the next station our train would be stopping at. It was two and a half hours away and it will leave that station in two and a half hours. He gave us a price that three nearby Romanians confirmed was a good deal, and we were off!
Valim made the trip in one hour and fifty minutes. He weaved through traffic and raced through the few stoplights that exist in this part of the world. For once, our lives were in the hands of someone else’s wheels. During the ride, Roxy needed music because Madeline was too anxious to be any fun at all and Roxy still needed to enjoy her buzz. We were driving through endless mountains and the radio signal was terrible. So when music wasn’t playing, Roxy either sang acapella or played as many songs as possible on her 4% batteried iPhone, while belting along.
Finally we made it to the train with time to spare. Valim was so proud. And we were proud of you too, Valim. When the train pulled up, we were excited to see what it had to offer. On the eurorail app it was listed as accessible. It was not accessible in the least bit, so they bumped us up to a first class sleepers cart free of charge. Gotta love that wheelchair card.
The Wheels Deal:
By the time we arrived at the night train, we were exhausted. It had been a very long day and we were so ready to sleep on a train, just like in the TCM movies. Despite the train’s advertisement of accessibility, it was far from it. We had to lift up onto the train, then take a wheel off to get through the train hallway. Our first-class sleeper car barely had room for a wheelchair which meant that the only way to get around was for Madeline to swing from railing to railing like a monkey, grabbing PJs and toothbrushes along the way. What exactly classifies a train as accessible? Elizabeth?
Next stop, Budapest. Happy rollin!