Lesson learned - always keep some currency on hand, even when you think you're done and leaving a place!
We crossed the bridge into Romania where my passport got us pulled over for a few minutes. The border area is not clearly organized so we wound up parked next to a shack and a pack of stray dogs.
We later find out that in addition to the speeding charge - which might be valid, the highway flips between 90 and 50kph based on if you are in a village and it's hard to tell when you are - the cop added a charge for seat belt violations, which was 100% bogus because Peter and I always wear seat belts. I assume the cops have ticket quotas to meet and this was an easy way to pump up his numbers. Amazing how such an experience can colour your opinion of a place though.
At this point we were pretty tired and grumpy and not loving Romania... and it never really recovered from that first impression.
We got to Sinaia - a Romanian mountain 'resort' town - pretty late (Romanian highways are frustratingly slow). Sinaia is an okay place. I think we were expecting something a bit more polished and it's still quite dreary in many respects (but they are actively improving it). The location is lovely.
We visited the main attraction - the Peles Castle which is pretty from the outside but MIND-BLOWING on the inside due to the wood-carved details. It's quite a new castle - inaugurated in 1883 (with construction continuing until 1914). Also interesting because it consists largely of imported skill and all the best shiny things from other places. It cost a fortune to build and I don't think much of that money went to stimulate Romanian craftspeople or artisans. Given the amount of woodcarving in the place (staggering amounts of detailed carvings in every room) - instead of having an Austrian master carver do all the work in his Austrian workshop - the king could have brought a master carver to Romania and had him set up a workshop there - creating a whole new industry in Romania. But no, the King preferred to just use Romanian funds to buy all the pretty things other countries produce, so that's a bit of a bummer. I'm not one to be impressed by room after room of gilded, expensive stuff - but room after room of insane craftsmanship, that does impress me, so Peles Castle is very interesting to tour.
After 3 days in Sinaia it was time to head to the city. We managed to drive into Bucharest without dying, which is an achievement! They have some enormous roundabouts in Bucharest (# of lanes) and you kind of just grit your teeth and go through them, hoping for the best. We parked our car near our hotel and didn't touch it again until it was time to leave. Bucharest is not a town to drive around.
Next post is about Bucharest, which was the end of our trip!!