In my last blog post on this subject, I was writing about Jewish life in Romania, and finished by talking about the kosher restaurant in Braşov. Romania's not an easy country to keep kosher in if you're on holidays; there aren't many vegetarian restaurants, and most of those there are are raw food places.
This is a phenomenon I'd seen beforehand when researching veggie eateries abroad, but until now ignored in favour of more conventional restaurants. This was a luxury I wasn't able to afford in Romania.
TBH, I don't get the appeal of raw food restaurants, nor how they can succeed in a country where there's insufficient demand for vegetarian food to sustain conventional vegetarian restaurants. Of the three times I had soup in one (in two different restaurants, one of which claimed to serve both raw veggie and vegan food), two times it was served lukewarm (the final time, after I'd given up hoping otherwise, I got nice hot soup)—yet that couldn't have been on the grounds that it was "raw"; you can't prepare soup (apart from the likes of gazpacho) without cooking it, otherwise what you have is vegetables or pulses floating in water.
The main courses available at the place in Braşov we went to were nice enough; that at the place in Bucharest was a bit of an effort to get through. All the raw good places I saw advertised online showed beautiful desserts (chocolate cakes, etc), enough to make one think that raw food wasn't so bad... but when we actually tried them out, none of them lived up to their promise.
*shrug* Well, it's past now; I'm not going back to such a place until the next time I have no choice. :-S
Aside from that, I did get to try a few Romanian specialities (including at the shul meals in Bucharest). Can't remember much about them, but they were nice.
Speaking of which, one thing we were introduced to in Transylvania I haven't until now mentioned is the Kürtőskalács, a "spit bread" according to Wikipedia, which means a hollow cylinder of dough baked with sugar on the outside, to which aviva_m took a great shine. Wikipedia says they are "specific to Hungarian-speaking regions in Romania, more predominantly the Szekely land". You might recognise the name of the Szekelys, as I did, from Dracula, which brings me nicely onto the subject of:
Of course, I couldn't write an account of holidaying in Romania without mentioning its most infamous son (I think in the long run he'll be remembered whilst Ceauşescu gets relegated to a footnote in history).
Vlad III Ţepeş ("the Impaler") was of course brought to international attention by Bram Stoker's classic novel Dracula; however, if you read Dracula, you'll get a rather false impression of the man himself. For a start, Dracula was not prince of Transylvania but of Wallachia; but Wallachia is flatland, and rather boring scenery. Stoker wanted mountains and spooky forests for his novel, so he moved the location of Dracula's castle.
Today, Dracula is associated with Bran Castle, a short distance southwest from Braşov, but a long way from either Dracula's principality of Wallachia or from the Borgo Pass, where Stoker sets his novel (it is at the foot of the Carpathian Mountains, but the Carpathians form a horseshoe shape, and this is on the other side of the horseshoe).
It turns out that the connection of Bran Castle with Dracula, aside from the fact he might have visited it once, was manufactured in the second half of the last century by the Americans, who noticed that Bran Castle has a circular tower and a square tower, which made it a good match for Castle Dracula in the novel, and therefore a good tourist selling point. We'll just have to ignore the fact that Castle Dracula is described as being at the edge of a long ridge high above the forest, with steep cliffs on three sides, whereas Bran Castle is on a small hill only a few metres above the Transylvanian plain.
Oh well. Well, they know in Romania that Dracula is a good tourist sell nowadays. I suspect that the natives are probably sick of the name, but the shops in Bran and at Bucharest airport are full of Dracula merchandise, with everything from kitsch T-shirts to bottles of Draquila.