I Miss You, Joe!

You’re probably wondering, “Who’s Joe?”

Well in this case, Joe isn’t a person; it’s a type of candy made by Nestle, and it is delicious! The tragedy is that these tasty treats are only sold in Romania.

I’ve never ordered from Gima before, but apparently if you’re a member you can order bags of Joes from them!

I buy several bags like these every time I go to Romania, but I never can make them last longer than a month once I get home. In fact, I can down half a bag of these things without even realizing it!

The wafer-like quality of Joes reminds me a bit of Kit-Kat bars, but they’re not as crunchy. They come in several flavors: chocolate, vanilla, hazelnut, honey, apple cinnamon, and more. My favorite flavor is the the one featured in the picture above: chocolate between the wafers and also on the outside. Not all of the flavors are dipped in chocolate. But in my opinion: the more chocolate, the better!

So if you ever go to Romania, be sure to buy some Joes! I highly recommend them. You can find them in just about any gas station or grocery there, unless of course they are sold out because of their wafer-y goodness!

Let’s Put This Into Perspective…

I realize that not everyone reading this blog is an expert on Romania, so I thought it’d be good to share some basic facts about the country before diving right into posts about cultural experiences. So here are the three most common questions I am asked about Romania, plus my answers:

Question #1 – Where in the world IS this place?

Thank you, Wikipedia, for colorful maps!
Romania is an Eastern European country that shares a border with Hungary, Serbia, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, and the Black Sea.

Question #2 – What language do Romanians speak?

Romanian. Romanians speak Romanian.

I’m guilty of giving people a funny look when they ask this. In my mind I’m always thinking, “Germans speak German. Hungarians speak Hungarian. Russians speak Russian… Clearly Romanians are going to speak Romanian.”

But then I remember I live in America, and we don’t speak “American” here. And Mexicans don’t speak “Mexican”, Canadians don’t speak Canadian… you get the point.

So if you’re one of those people I’ve ever given a funny look to, I apologize.

Question #3 – What is the weather like?

 In my opinion: nice. Summers days typically average around 80 degrees Fahrenheit (~25 degrees Celsius), and humidity isn’t much of a problem. The winters, however, are very snowy and cold, averaging at around 35 degrees Fahrenheit (~2 degrees Celsius). For someone like me who is used to hot, humid summers and wet winters, Romanian weather is a nice relief!

I’ll be going into detail about the Romanian language later, as well as doing a weather-centric post, so be sure to stick around to learn more about this interesting country!

Enjoying the Countryside

Whether you’re used to the hustle-bustle of city life or the stillness of the countryside, Romania has some breathtaking views. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance yet to spend time in any major Romanian cities, but the countryside in Sălaj County is absolutely beautiful. See for yourself in the pictures below!

There is a lot of farmland in Romania, despite its hilly terrain.

Haystacks like these are common sights throughout the rural areas.

A large secluded pond. It was so peaceful not hearing any cars driving by!

No, the trees in Romania don’t naturally have white trunks. I noticed this a lot in orchards and in towns. I’ve never gotten a certain answer as to why so many trees in Romania are painted white at the base, but eHow has an article explaining several reasons for doing so.

This is actually the view from the top of the hillside in the first picture.

Germany and Romania: A Comparison

When most people think of Europe, countries like England, France, Italy and Germany are typically the main places that come to mind. These countries are renowned for their architectural masterpieces, quaint villages, and exquisite cultures.

But when countries such as Moldova or Romania are mentioned, many people draw a blank. Why would people want to visit these countries?

Eastern European nations are generally far poorer in comparison to the rest of Europe. I’m not an expert on the reasoning behind this, so I won’t waste your time and mine by attempting to explain. What I do know is that in some cases, you can tell a difference between Eastern and Western European countries simply by crossing a border.

After a three-week mission trip in Romania this summer, I was able to visit friends in Germany and Switzerland and do some sightseeing. And, having never traveled to any European countries besides Romania before, I was amazed at how many notable differences there were.

For example:

Difference #1 – Roads

Each time I have visited Romania, I have noticed that the roads are nothing like the roads in America. Once you get off the main highways, many of the roads are gravel. And the ones that aren’t gravel are filled with a seemingly endless number of large potholes. Imagine a ground version of nonstop turbulence.

Yeah.

On top of that, Romanian drivers can be, to put it bluntly, terrifying. The constant rush of passing people at high speeds with oncoming traffic is enough to make any tourist close his eyes and pray he makes it to his destination. In Germany, on the other hand, the roads are smooth and there is a sense of order even on the speed limitless autobahns.

Difference #2 – Timeliness

Another difference is that Romanians are typically not punctual. “Be ready to leave at 8:00” typically means that you’ll be leaving at 8:30, and trains will stop in the middle of fields to pick people up, regardless of schedule.

After getting used to the easygoing life in Romania, traveling in Munich was an interesting culture shock. If you travel to Germany, try to be at least ten minutes early to everything. In Romania, however, time is not always of the essence.

Difference #3 – Food

Possibly the most obvious difference between Eastern European countries and their more wealthy neighbors is the food. Soup is a very common meal in Romania, whether it’s snowing or it’s the dead of summer. Although it seemed strange to eat soup when the temperature reached the nineties, I had never thought anything of it until asking one of my Swiss friends why people in Switzerland and Germany hardly ever ate soup.

“Because we are more wealthy,” he replied. “I remember eating soup as a child when our country was poor. But now, I never eat it.”

So which is better?

As unpleasant as Romania might sound to some at this point, that’s not the case at all. In spite of the differences mentioned above, life in Romania can be just as enjoyable as life in Germany. I noticed that the poorer country of the two seemed to have more people who were content with their lives; the simple life has treated them well.

The majority of people I came in contact with in Germany, however, seemed to be searching for something. Their advanced technologies, lifestyles, and culture in general seemed to hinder them from discovering the basic things that bring life and meaning into the world.

Or maybe that’s my preference of country life over city life leaking through…

Regardless, I think when people travel to Europe they should add an Eastern European country to their itinerary. Yes, it might mean missing out on the Colosseum or delectable French cuisine, but taking the time to experience traditional Eastern Europe will be something you won’t regret doing.

So go explore those unheard of places on the map. But be prepared for some culture shocks!