Over the years, I have really come to appreciate the commercials on the Eurosport channel. In between watching low-rating sports such as track cycling and non-Grand Slam tennis, I am often entertained by the tourism slogans of little-visited destinations.
There have been zingers like ‘Colombia is Magical Realism’, ‘It’s Beautiful, it’s Pakistan’ and the often trotted out, ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’. (For more of these beauties, check out these hilarious maps. They’ll make you spit out your tea.) But the one Paul and I would often quote to each other was the extremely specific yet hard to pinpoint ‘Explore the Carpathian Garden’.
I mean, huh? I’m pretty sure that I’m among the 0.023% of people who actually know where the Carpathians are, but it doesn’t exactly inspire me to trot off to their gardens. Plus, controversially perhaps, I’ve always associated the Carpathians with Hungary. It took me a bit to realise the advertisement was for its neighbour. (Sorry Romania, I didn’t realise you guys have more than half of them. I never think of you when it comes to the Danube, either. And then there’s that whole issue with Transylvania too. Let’s move on, shall we?)
Anyway, suffice to say Paul and I never had any real plans to visit Romania. As one of my colleagues so aptly put it, “Everyone thinks of us like Mexicans. We’re so hardworking but you just think we’re all a bunch of criminals.” So years went by and we were constantly drawn towards our old favourites like Spain and Germany, or dazzled by glamorous new entries like Malta and Iceland. And my colleagues just didn’t understand why.
“You need to visit Romania!” they would plead when they discovered my oversight. With many hailing from the country itself, they slowly chipped away my uninterested resolve until I gave in. “It’s cheap!” they cried. “The food is delicious! We all speak English! The roads aren’t nearly as bad as you think!”
And so, to the bemusement of family and friends, Paul and I booked an eight-day getaway to Romania.