Take The Kids Along

Two Weeks

This is a high-energy 12- to 15-day trip that covers approximately 1300km of Wallachia, Transylvania and Cri^ana - a journey that is sure to keep a wide smile on your kids' faces. Start off in Bucharest and either go boating on Herastrau Lake (p65) or pretend to travel the whole way round Romania in a day at the VillageMuseum (p64). Then head to Poienari (via Pite?ti and Curtea de Arge$), where you'll find the 'real' Dracula's castle (Poienari castle; p 186) -all 1480 steps to reach it. From there, keep heading north along the fantastic, ever-twisting Transfagara$an road (pll4). Once on Hwy 1, head west to Hunedoara and visit some ancient Roman strongholds (pl71). Then get ready for some heady caving in Croatia province, north of Hunedoara, in the Bear Cave (p232) and the famous Ice Cave (p232), both located near Chiscau. Keep heading north to Oradea where you can check out an ace puppet show (p228) or splash around in a thermal pool in Baile Felix (p231) before heading to Cluj-Napoca, stopping for some horse riding (pi50) on (he way. Just south of here is the Turda salt mine (pi55), where you can enjoy a game of table tennis in the depths of the cave. If the young 'uns have any energy left, head northeast to Bistrita and beyond to the Hotel Castel Dracula near the (own of Piatra Fantanele (pi63) and see what surprise lies in the basement, before returning to Bucharest.

Iliittirtlilfi/Mtililiivfl

I'liliulmiim (millions):

2II,W1/H,700 M)P growth (mid 2003): 4 5%/5,4% Ywily Inllilllon rate (2002 I): 15%/7.5% (Mill litl unemployment mi«M/mt

Average monthly salary: 111//',/(I

I lie expectancy (male-ftmile): 69-75/60-69 Adult male-female smokers: 62 25%/46-18% Moldova's world rank lor length of its prison sentences: 2 f needed to repair all of Romania's roads: 28.7 billion

Miu .lit. itniM r»i llliin .r. peels of travel is being plunged, temporarily,

It ' »i" mil i mil el us of the inhabitants of the country you're

Hiliiiit, I" |i i mi hi ii lit iind Moldova, both struggling to improve their ii.,. In,I ,.i li\lM)>„ 11 it-11' is no shortage of topical issues you'll likely hear 4I11.111 liniii llii people you meet on the road.

I.. I'..111,1111.1. llic government's drive toward integration and membership in (lie I II is topic numaral unu in the newspapers and sometimes 111 tin liiti rooms of the nation. Watching all the horse-drawn carts pass In in die villages, (owns and even cities of Romania, it's easy to think that llir country's goal of accession by 2007 is just a tad optimistic, but the Hitvci nment is forging full-steam ahead in adjusting its laws to adhere to I II conventions and a majority of the urban populace is enthusiastic about joining.

Still, the European aspirations of the government remain beyond the realm of most ordinary Romanians, foremost on whose minds is how to improve their daily lot. You're likely to hear about searching for job opportunities or about fantastic ideas which only need sponsors and financing to become real.

Also on the minds of Romanians are the putative lingering tensions with the Hungarian population (some say there's no problem, others will be less polite, but everyone has an opinion about it), and the so-called 'Roma question'. Romanians like to bring up their supposed Roman ancestry and highly resent foreign assumptions that Romanians are Roma or are related to them in any way. For a guaranteed dynamic (if not explosive) conversation, dip into that one.

In Moldova, as EU integration is a far-off dream for the moment, it's not brought up much in conversation. There are way too many other problems to deal with beforehand, especially Moldova's own unsettled problems with internal integration, namely with the breakaway region of Transdniestr. The contentious possibility of Moldova becoming a federation of several autonomous regions has not been completely abandoned. Until these issues are cleared up, it will be hard to deal with other major issues of a backwards economy, lack of foreign investment, corruption and unemployment, to name just a few.

Expect one of the first topics of conversations to be about Moldova's biggest pride and joy: wine (p45). To avoid having to answer 'no' when asked if you've had any, enjoy a bottle or two upon arrival! You're also likely to hear about relatives of the people you meet working in the country you're from - it's an unofficial fact that a good part of Moldova's economy has been sustained by the astounding 25% of working-age Moldovans who are working in other countries and the money they send back.

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