What a great start to Romania, every person we’ve spoken to has had a big welcoming smile and it makes all the difference. Plus, the English seems remarkably better than in the neighbouring countries.
One worker even started conversation with us telling us nice places to visit and how apparently England wrote in its papers last month that the Romanians are the worst people in the world! They do get quite a lot of stick as a lot of them come to the UK and beg. There was an interesting documentary about how they make so much money begging, that they send it back to Romania where the leader of the mafia or whatever they are live in mansions.
But, so far, it’s a far cry from what we see in England, and probably the friendliest start we’ve had to a country. We passed lots of rustic villages and I’m so happy to see a strong culture, old ladies, in sweet floral aprons and little bandanas. They all seem to get past 50 and shrink to 1 metre tall, you’d mistake them for a kid if it wasn’t for the traditional clothes and the hunch back. One particular women was a silhouette crossing the road ahead of us and looked like the evolution image of monkey into man.
We passed one town which had loads of mansions in the process of being built. It was so peculiar how they all had the same style to them with silver decorations and detailing around the roofs. It seemed the priority was to decorate the roof first and it looked like a lot of them had ran out of money as most of them were just shells with elaborate roofs. As we drove further along we saw a few finished products which were huge, bold and multicoloured. Is this the sort of mansions that us Brits pay for by giving to beggars?
Romania is well known for Romas, and I always put two and two together, thinking they were Romanian gypsies. But it seems that the Romas originally came from India about 1000 years ago and travelling across to Europe. I should read more about it actually. We’re seeing lots of them already, infact there were loads in Slovakia, you could drive through a village and mistake it for India.
The locals seem to love sticking to their traditions, and I love it. Horsedrawn carts ply the main roads. We passed some elaborately dressed women in long fluorescent skirts with bandanas and their husbands in little trilby style hats.
We managed to find a fairly discreet dirt track to sleep along on our first night. There was a great view as we were at the top of a pass with rolling hills and a quaint village with terracotta roofs and steeples below us. All of a sudden we heard a bell dinging, then a clip clop in the distance, then it got closer, ‘shit, gypsies are coming!’ We panicked. You hear stories and we didn’t know if we were on someone’s land. A women sat atop the cart with a silver milk urn and gave me a subtle smile and nod, phew. To be fair, we’re pretty similar to gypsies, they’re travellers after all.
The next day we took a horrendous dirt track to Turda Gorge. It was a really impressive gorge with sheer walls rising 300m and stretching 2900m long. The approach was pretty cool, (minus the bumpy road) as we drove past fields of crops, that turned into forest ahead and then dramatically dropped into steep rocky walls.
We did a walk through the gorge, the river passing through it was quite nondescript, I can’t imagine it bruising a flower on the shore, let alone gouging through rock. Craig decided he wanted to walk up to the top of the gorge and back around. As soon as we went uphill the sun started roaring and it was unbearably hot. The surroundings were dry and arid, it felt like we were in the desert. Plus, crickets were everywhere shooting past our legs like mini missiles.
When we left the area, we noticed a grassy section that said camping. Fire pits were all over the place, and it was by the river. We wondered if it was free as there weren’t any prices, so we checked with a local lady who said it was gratis. Why thank you Romania! We had a great view of the gorge, had a refreshing cold solar shower and washed our clothes.
Romania has a lot of stray dogs, and soon enough we saw a feral looking one come down the road towards us. Luckily he headed the other way. Craig was sat reading his book on the van floor and then he said ‘the dogs here Lauren!’. It had silently snuck up and stood staring at us, I made a little scowl noise which made him jump back a bit. I felt bad, he was pretty cute and harmless so we let him hangout with us. Then he thought it would be funny to sit in front of us and get out his goddam lipstick! This is why I will never get a male dog. Put me right off my dinner.
We were soon joined by another dog, and it seemed to be quite a popular canine hangout. Mr Lipstick got comfortable and laid down, then he did the most incredible wolf howl. I actually started to wonder if he was mix breed with a wolf, it was that good. Craig and I looked at each other in horror…holy crap, what’s this dog capable of. Then he proceeded to lick his manhood.