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A true story of a ski holiday in Romania 1992.
I wanted to learn to ski, one day my luck changed. I met a guy and we became close friends, even with a thirty year age difference, I struggled to keep up with him. His profession as landscape gardener kept him very fit. He was also a champion ballroom dancer and skier.
He offered to take me on a ski holiday, we booked a holiday in Yugoslavia. After a week on the slopes I found myself skiing down the piste without falling over.
The following year he booked a ski holiday in Romania. We drove from Lincoln to Manchester airport in under two hours. Our flight was on time, and at noon we boarded the plane. The flight went without any hitches and we enjoyed a nice meal on board.
Ten hours later the plane landed at Bucharest airport, Romania’s largest capital city. As we waited for our luggage to arrive on the carousel, grim faced soldiers armed with rifles stood on guard outside the airport lounge.
Our destination Drakon hotel in Piona Brasov located near pine forests and breathtaking Carpathian mountains. We boarded the coach as snow began to fall, windows steamed up in the freezing atmosphere.
Piona Brasov was roughly 14 kilometres from the airport. The coach made its way along snow covered winding mountainous roads. Lights glimmered in the dark from hotels perched on the mountain side.
The next part of the journey was very scary. The Romanian driver began the ascent of the road leading up to the hotel. Back wheels began to spin on the icy track, the coach tyres lost their grip and we slid unceremoniously back down the road to the bottom of the hill. Some of the passengers were crying, others white and shaky, as the driver turned off the engine.
He jumped off the coach and ran to phone for help. We sat in our seats shivering with shock. An hour later a large truck arrived and towed the coach up the hill without any trouble.
We jumped off the coach and collected our luggage from the boot. All thirty passengers were staying at the Drakon hotel. By now we were very tired and hungry, it was two in the morning. A security guard opened the door and led us into the foyer of the hotel.
The Drakon hotel was rated as four stars, yet the gloomy lights could not have been more than forty watts. In the dining room a waiter served coffee, tea and sandwiches. We all tucked into the food. Later we collected our key from the reception desk and climbed the stairs to our room.
The room had a double bed, two rickety chairs and a thin carpet on the floor. I opened the en-suite bathroom door and found the toilet only two inches from the door. The bathroom window catch was broken, I pulled out a spare boot lace from my case and secured the window catch.
We slept well, exhausted from our precarious journey in the coach. Breakfast in the lounge consisted of porridge, cereal and toast. No cooked breakfast on the menu.
We changed into ski gear, and at nine o’clock set off down the snow covered road to the ski slope. Our first day on the slopes was fun, I enjoyed traversing down the piste. A young boy on a snowboard whizzed over the end of my skis, I managed keep my balance.
We returned to the hotel and had a shower and changed into indoor clothes. The evening meal was a disappointment. I had brought packets of biscuits and chocolate, which we devoured in our room.
In the early hours I woke up to visit the bathroom. The window had flown open in the wind, I stared out across the dark mountainside. An eerie sound of wolves howling made me shiver, I tied the window shut again and ran back to bed.
The next day we decided to explore our surroundings, and walked down the road to the village. Our spirits sank into our boots, the shops were boarded up and no one to be seen. Further along the road we walked into a open square surrounded by huge buildings. Women and children crowded around a wagon piled high with apples. The fruit was bruised, yet they gathered apples into their pockets.
A group of scruffy boys gathered around us shaking a small metal pot. Barefoot, their clothes hung from skinny bodies, I felt very sad. The Romanians did not speak to us, we made our way back to the hotel, the visit to the village had not been pleasant.
The next day grey sky heralded a storm, as sleet began to fall. We decided not to try skiing that day. Several people from the hotel were gathered outside. A coach tour was about to begin, visiting Bran castle the home of Dracula. We decided to go along, and boarded the coach. A small Romanian man with white hair and a limp was the guide for the tour. He sat at the front of the coach with the driver.
The journey was perilous, as the coach negotiated blind bends, snow swishing underneath the tyres. The scenery was breath taking, mountain peaks covered with snow. We arrived at Bran castle an hour later and climbed off the coach. The driver stayed aboard and put his feet up to read the paper.
The guide led us to the entrance to the castle, tall towers loomed above us, black birds circling swooped overhead. The atmosphere inside was eerie, apparently Bran castle was built in 1378. Many alterations had been made over the next hundred years. Dark corridors led to the centre of the castle, a mysterious labyrinth of ghostly nooks and crannies were adjacent to the main walkway.
I could imagine the ghostly figure of Dracula, black hair swirling as he descended the steep staircase. The guide took us up the stairs to the top of the castle, wind whistled through the turrets. Even clad in ski coats, hats and gloves most of us were shivering partly from cold and fear. The eerie atmosphere seemed to seep into our bones.
The tour over, we boarded the coach glad to be in the warmth again. Darkness began to fall as we arrived back at the hotel.
The next day Friday, we headed out to the ski slopes, a heavy mist blotted out the mountains. An attendant at the ski lift explained in broken English, there would be no skiing because the slope was engulfed in thick fog. Back at our hotel room we agreed not to stay for the second week. The food was terrible, the hotel had many repairs to finish and the staff were not at all friendly.
We managed to contact a ski representative and he arranged for us to fly home the next afternoon. The holiday had been a disaster from beginning to end. Back home we were pleased to tuck into a decent meal.
This was one of those holidays you want to forget. Fortunately we received a refund for the second week of the holiday. In future we are skiing in France which has good hotels and excellent ski slopes all the year round.