Amazing Race 14: Romania is simply gorgeous

Going to Bucharest, Romania from Salzburg, Austria doesn’t seem to be that difficult–unless you’re Tammy & Victor who were on the first flight out–that plane had engine troubles and returned to the airport–or Brad & Victoria who decided to take a gamble and fly to Amsterdam for an earlier flight possibility. Instead, they missed their connection. For everyone else, the trip was smooth.

What I noticed during this episode of Amazing Race 14 was that as teams criss-crossed each other, often ending up at the same place at the same time, they seemed to enjoy each other’s company. In my opinion, this is making this season’s race more fun to watch. I mean, my goodness, who wants crabbing in Salzburg? This episode also was a chance to take in Romania’s beauty while seeing how the show would tie in Romanian themes.

When the teams left Salzburg, they headed to Munich on the train with the goal of flying to Bucharest. The train trip was a piece of cake. Except for Victor & Tammy and Brad & Victoria, the flight was smooth as well. Because of their flight’s engine trouble, Victor & Tammy ended up on the second plane instead of being the only team on the first plane out.

Once in Bucharest, the first stop was the gymnastics hall where Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci trained. Here one member from each team donned a leotard to learn parts to three routines: balance beam, parallel bars and floor exercises. Tammy had a time of it. Poor girl. She couldn’t do a cartwheel if she tried for a hundred years. Her somersaults weren’t much better. Luckily, she didn’t have to be perfect. I sympathized. I can’t even touch my toes. Never have been able to and never will.

One of Tammy’s problems was that she was so focused on how their first place status was gone that she wasn’t able to concentrate. As a metaphor for life, it’s hard to stay balanced if you’re not balanced.

After the gymnastics routine, it was off by train to Brasov, the town where the castle made famous by Dracula is located.

In Brasov, at Biserica Neagra, also called the Black Church, the teams found the clue to their next task. There were two from which to choose. One of tasks involved loading up a bunch of miscellaneous belongings, mostly junk, on a gypsy cart and hauling it to another location to unload it. The other task, hauling a coffin downhill and unlocking the chains to open it in order to get to the old wooden framed tablets inside, was at the grounds of Bran Castle of Dracula fame. To complete this task, each tablet was impaled Dracula-style on a stake in order to find the next clue. As the wooden tablets were impaled, blood spurted out which made for an unusual exercise.

At the gypsy settlement, while the teams struggled with their loads, gypsies looked on or did tasks similar to what one might see in a circus. Some played whimsical instruments. Gypsy life sure looks like fun. At least it does if the Amazing Race helps organize it.

The gypsy cart loading was a bit problematic for Mel & Mike because of Mel’s groin injury and the fact that the goods included part of a car and huge tires. But this father and son duo kept their good humor which helped.

Amanda & Cris had a minor setback when they couldn’t find the fanny pack with all their money and passports, but instead of freaking out too badly, they found it where they had unloaded their cart. One reason they were able to find it so quickly was Amanda’s calm demeanor. While Chris freaked out, Amanda said things like, “We’ll find it.” This helped maintain focus.

Victor & Tammy continued to have issues that kept them falling behind because of their interpersonal dynamics. Victor took them up the mountain in search for the coffins on the wrong path. No matter how much Tammy told them they were going the wrong way, he wouldn’t listen. Their game turned into Victor’s power struggle. Eventually he stopped pushing against reason and they headed back down the mountain to find the right trail. Unfortunately, one of the keys to the coffin came off as they dragged it, but Tammy kept calm giving them enough focus to find the key in the leaves. If I were this pair, I’d feel badly that a camera person was filming my every move.

This time it was Mike & Mel to arrive at the Pit Stop first. Their first place win granted them a trip to Costa Rica.

Brad & Victoria’s side trip to Amsterdam cost them. Brad, covered in red goo from impaling the tablets, and Victoria who was still smiling even though it was dark, took their elimination in good spirits. When they lost, I was thinking “You guys are going to love Thailand.” Ko Samui is the site of this year’s Elimination Station. Of course, it would be more enjoyable without having to lose a race in order to get there.

This episode made Romania look like an accessible and beautiful place to visit. An afternoon of wandering along cobblestone streets edged with architecturally interesting buildings would make for a visual treat. The mountains look perfect for hiking, particularly if you’re not on a race. Plus, The Pit Stop was at Villa Panoramic overlooking the castle. Not too shabby.

Photos from Amazing Race Website.