I arrived in Baile Tusnad, Romania by train the day after a heavy snowfall. Light, fluffy snow – the kind that makes us warm climate dwellers spin in circles with huge dopey smiles – covers the trees, the houses, the cars, and the two narrow streets.
For two weeks, I took a break from house sitting and teaching English online to volunteer as an English tutor in Baile Tusnad. I heard about this town and this opportunity from Patty, a wonderful friend and fellow English teacher. Patty has written beautifully about her experience in Tusnad, which may or may not have included a visit from “the Pope.” You can check out her story here.
I knew I’d be stepping out of my digital world for a while, but I didn’t realize I’d be stepping into “a Hallmark Christmas movie set,” as my mother put it. I look around, expecting to see Lacey Chabert and a catering tent in the parking lot of the deserted looking hotel.
The white snow makes everything seem brighter. The mountains, stretching up high on every side of town, look like they got sprinkled in powdered sugar. Transylvania is known for bears. I’m surprised and a teensy bit disappointed I didn’t see one while I was there because at least six people told me personal stories of bear sightings in town. One even told me about that one time a bear got into her house.
But the most memorable part of my time here wasn’t the scenery or even the excitement of potential bear sightings. It was the people who welcomed me into their home with warm mugs of fruit tea and the bright children who tried to teach me their language while I tried to teach them mine, all while braiding my hair like a Disney princess. Seriously, my hair has never looked better.
Many afternoons, the other volunteer and I would walk to town or the park with the kids.We walked lap after chilly lap around the half-frozen lake and played several heated games of “who can skip the rock the farthest.” While I snapped pictures and marched through the fresh snow until my boots filled with icy sludge, the kids made snow angels and snowmen. They slid down any angled surface, sometimes on a sled, sometimes on their snowsuit covered bellies. They shook trees until the snow piles resting on the highest branches fell on all of our heads, screaming with laughter.
Experiencing the natural beauty here and spending time with great people made my two weeks in Baile Tusnad fly by too quickly. I mean really, just look at it!