Romanian Currency

If you ever plan on visiting Romania, it might help to know a bit about the currency. Since I’m from the States, I’ll compare Romanian lei (singular: leu) banknotes to US dollar bills. There are three main differences between the two that I have listed below.

Romanian banknotes

Photo source: About.com

1) Size & Texture

Like euro banknotes, Romanian lei vary in sizes. On the other hand, US dollars are all the same size. US dollars are also made of cotton and linen, whereas Romanian lei are made from polymer, which is like plastic.

2) Visual Appearance
Romanian banknotes are very colorful compared to US bills. Check out this Wikipedia entry to see different versions of the Romanian leu over the past century.
Back in 1999, Romania had a special banknote made to celebrate the total solar eclipse that passed over the country that year (see below). Although this banknote is no longer in circulation, a friend of mine who visited Romania when it was still recognized gave me one. I’m very glad to have it! I love how colorful it is.

solar eclipse banknote

Photo source: banknotes.com

3) Value & Denominations
Currently, 1 US dollar is equal to about 3 Romanian lei. If you’re using an online currency converter such as XE or Oanda, look for RON (Romanian New Leu).
Romanian banknotes also come in the following denominations: 1 leu, 5, 10, 50, and 100 lei. 200 and 500 lei banknotes also exist but are rarely used.

Coins are also used in Romania, and they are called bani (singular: ban). There are 1 ban, 5, 10, and 50 bani coins. 100 bani is equal to 1 leu, just like 100 pennies is equal to 1 dollar.

Romanian-Coins

Photo source: About.com

So now you’re a little more prepared to visit Romania! Don’t worry, it’s not hard to figure out once you get there. ­čśë

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Roundabouts: Do they work?

roundabout

If you’ve ever been to Europe, you’ve likely encountered numerous roundabouts before.

In the States, we have what are called 4-way stops. I had never seen a roundabout before ┬ávisiting Romania, so needless to say, I was a little confused as to how it worked! But once we went through several of these roundabouts (some single-laned and some with two lanes), I realized they weren’t too complicated.

It wasn’t until I randomly came across a roundabout an hour away from where I live that I began to wonder which method worked better. Luckily, Mythbusters also wondered the same thing back in August of this year.

I’m not going to spoil the answer, so if you want to find out if 4-way stops or roundabouts are more efficient, then check out the video below! (Plus if you ever plan on visiting Romania, this will come in handy! ;))

Have any thoughts or experiences concerning roundabouts vs. 4-way stops? Tell me in the comment section below!

Stray Dogs

Some towns in Romania have a problem with stray dogs. Typically the idea is to avoid strays, but… there are some people that don’t always heed that warning.

*innocent cough*

But look at it’s face! How could you not show it love?

So I thought I’d share an entertaining tale of my encounter with one such Romanian canine. I did cave in and feed the dog pictured above, but the story I’m about to tell you is about a different dog (so don’t have any hard feelings against the cutie above!).

Once upon a time…

…I journeyed to the faraway land of Romania. (Okay, I’ll cut it out now and get to the story.)

The first time I went to Romania, my team and I stayed at a hotel that overlooked the town below. It was the summer of 2010, and they had not had much rain in the region. But one day while we were there, we saw the storm clouds approaching in the distance and knew we would soon be in for a downpour.

It wasn’t long before it started raining. We all gathered outside on the porch of the hotel since the cool air was a relief from the heat. Suddenly, a dog came running up onto the porch to escape the rain.

Now before I continue, you have to understand that this “stray” dog actually hung around the hotel and was considered a pet by the owners. I had seen it several times during our stay there, and since it was considered a pet, I felt it would be okay to pet the dog.

I’ll let you decide if that was a good idea or not…

Being the animal lover that I am, I slowly approached the wet, shivering dog since no one else was showing it any attention. The dog was wary when I walked towards it, but it didn’t growl or run off, so I cautiously started petting it.

It seemed like the dog was actually enjoying the rare show of affection, but that changed when someone on the porch thought it would be funny to bark in order to try and scare me. There was just one problem to this plan…

It scared the dog more than it did me.

Startled, the dog turned back and bit the closest thing it could find: my arm. It latched on for a solid two seconds before letting go and running off the porch. Needless to say, my adrenaline was pumping! To this day I’m still wary of large dogs, strays or not.

So kids, the moral of the story: don’t assume that you can go all “animal whisperer” on an animal that isn’t used to human interaction. But if you do decide to dismiss my warning, just make sure no one around is going to bark or make any sudden movements to scare the animal.

How about you? Do you have any crazy animal stories?

Methods of Transportation

Other than the obvious transportation such as cars, buses, trains, etc. (or even more unique ways such as the four-wheeler in the picture above), many Romanians still use one old-fashioned way of getting to town.

You guessed it: horse and buggy.

Believe it or not, this is a very common sight in Romania. Not so much in the big cities, but many people in the rural communities and small towns such as the one above, many people still rely on horses and buggies to get around. I’ve never had the chance to go for a ride, but it looks like fun to me (as long as the weather is nice)!

Most people walk to where they need to go if they live close to town, but the majority of Romanians own some kind of vehicle. Dacias are very common there.

Have you ever used a horse and buggy as transportation? If so, where?

I personally would love to have a Dacia since they’re very fuel efficient. But I have to say, the little guy below looks like fun… ­čśë

“Is That a Nest?”

That’s what I said when I saw this for the first time:

Huge nests atop power lines are not an uncommon site in Romania. These nests belong to white storks (yes, the very same bird that is associated with delivering babies), and can weigh hundreds of pounds! White storks can be four feet tall and have a wingspan of seven feet, so with two adults plus around four chicks, you can see why the nest needs to be so big.

Stork nests like these can be seen in other European countries as well, but they are very common in Romania. Have you ever seen anything like this?

Romanian Climate

I live in the Southeastern part of the US, so I’m used to hot, humid summers and wet, nearly snowless winters.┬áRomania, on the other hand, is quite different.

Even though it can get really hot in the summer (especially with no air conditioning to help you cool down), the humidity level in Romania is relatively low. So if it’s a rainy or simply overcast day, the temperature can cool down really quickly. I’ve only ever traveled to Romania during the summertime, but even in the middle of summer there were some days where I found myself wearing a jacket!

Some days look like this:

…while others look like this:

Rain or shine, Romania is still pretty awesome. ­čśë

I have never been to Romania in the winter time, but it’s safe to say that my hometown in the South has never seen as much snow as Romania gets. In fact, last year Romania made international headlines with its record amounts of snowfall. A blizzard buried some villages in as much as 16 feet of snow!

Check out this article from┬áThe Washington Post┬áto see more photos from the incident like the one below. I can’t imagine seeing (let alone dealing with) so much snow!

Photo source: Reuters

Photo source: Reuters

Being used to the humidity of the South in the US, I’m not a huge fan of the cold. But it is nice to not be nearly as hot walking around outside in the summertime in Romania as I would be back home.

What about you? What kind of climate do you prefer?

Window Woes

Possibly one of the most interesting cultural differences about Romania concerns windows. Or rather, what an open window lets in.

A draft.

I remember the first time I went to Romania, back in the summer of 2010. It was very warm, but air conditioning is not a common amenity in Europe, let alone in Romania. So the mission team I was serving with decided that we would open the doors and windows to our hotel rooms at night.

The cool night air was a welcome relief from the nearly unbearable heat. I’d even say the mosquito bites I received due to lack of screens on the windows were worth it.

We spent the majority of our time during the trip at an orphanage. One of the first things we noticed was that all of the windows were closed. When we went inside and realized how hot it was, we wondered why the workers didn’t open the windows to let some cool air in for the kids. After all, the mosquitoes aren’t bad during the day.

Eventually we found out that the reason the workers kept the windows closed wasn’t because of the mosquitoes, but because of “the draft.”┬áApparently, many Romanians believe that a draft -no matter how refreshing- can lead to serious health issues, or even death.

It sounds strange to us, seeing as how many of us are used to driving with our windows down or opening a window to let in some fresh air, but  Romanians are very cautious in this area.

Another blogger by the name of J.S. Bangs wrote a humorous article┬áabout his encounter with “the draft” in Romania. He linked to another blog post by Ask A Korean!, which might just have some scientific evidence to back up the belief that a draft can be deadly.

So what do you think? Is there a medical mystery behind “the draft”, or is it merely a misconception?