Often the unexpected happens ... Romania’s reputation from the eyes of the standard German really is a negative one: car theft, rabied wild dogs, gypsies, street prostitution, children gangs et cetera ... All this certainly happens in Romania – just as in Germany, the USA or elsewhere! Still, we really fell in love with Romania! Why? Well, here are some of our impressions so far:
When was the last time that ...
... somebody, well, nearly everybody greeted you when you passed them by or happily waved back when you waved at them even though you never met before?
... you were invited to 8 cl shots of home distilled whatever-fruit-schnapps by a complete stranger just after arriving at a "campsite" (over 50° proof, after hours of driving, in the direct sun with over 30 °C)? Soooo tasty and relaxing!
... your children were given cookies, crisps and sweets just because people think they are cute? Romanians love children!
... your children were kissed by other children just passing by.
... people stopped on the road for a small talk about travelling, children, Germany, Romania?
... people were hospitable beyond any expectation even though they are terribly poor?
A long time ago? Never happened at all? Then hit the road and go to Romania! Forget its reputation in the western world, forget negativeness and fear and open up to Romania’s people! Far more important than all sights a country can provide - even though they have a lot of them here in Romania - are its people(s)!
Other nomadic impressions:
Impressive churches of all ages, made of wood, stone, with silver or golden roofs.
Old people with thousands of stories deeply engraved into their withered faces sitting next to the road.
Fairytale impressions of an age long ago. People with scythes, complete families travelling on horse-drawn carts, following old craftsmanship, the beautiful young girl selling fruit along the roadside. Please don't get us wrong here ... we know that all this means life-long hard work and is not romantic at all. But they have something that seems to be getting lost (or sadly is lost at all) in many western countries: family and community sense, a deep and friendly willingness to help, and a deep connection to land, weather and people that is worth far more than material wealth!
Hundreds of dogs barking the night away.
People working on the fields living in plastic shacks.
Roads with potholes the size a 4wd can get lost in (the roads reminded me of Kingsley Holgate's essay on the African Pothole). Still, wherever you look, there are a lot of roadworks going on.
People selling fruit and vegetables, mushrooms and any kind of goods alongside the roads (we even saw people selling home-distilleries).
Everybody is consequently not following any traffic rules.
As you can see, Romania is a country of many contrasts! We hope that the spirit of Romania doesn't get lost in the development process in the following years.
The Route from Poland to Cisnadioara/Micheldorf in Romania:
From Niedzika in Poland we went to Slovakia where on the first "campsite" near Veláty (it was an outdoor swimming pool, actually) we were invited to a party of the local hunters. They sang the night away with an old man playing the harmonica and a young man playing the guitar. After falling asleep to the singing and a short but very relaxed night we went on our way East taking small country lanes and an "African style" ferry (connecting Zemlénagárd and Tuzsér) through Hungary. Hungary for us is the country of storks. We lost count of them. In every village, you find at least three nests with three to five (!) storks in each of them ... hundreds, thousands alltogether! Here the first horse-drawn carts appeared in the regular traffic. Hibiscus bushes line the roads. People here are dressed the way people were dressed in Germany about 40 to 60 years ago (apron dress and headscarf; I remember my old great grandma wearing the same clothes about 35 years ago).
At the Hungarian-Romanian border near Satu Mare (RO) we did not feel comfortable at first (people "aggressively" begging next to a money exchange office), but going north, travelling through the small villages in the Carpathian mountains (Baia Mare, Desesti, Borsa, Bicaz, Gheorgheni/Niklasmarkt) meeting people on the streets, asking for the way and being guided to the next campsite, changed this impression to the positive.
From there we went to Cisnadioara/Micheldorf near Sibiu/Hermannstadt in Transsylvania/Siebenbürgen. Here, until their eviction after the second world war and another wave of emigration to Germany after 1989 a lot of Germans lived peacefully alongside Romanians. The German culture is still kept alive here and many people address you in German when they meet you on the streets.
The plan for the next few days:
We leave tomorrow and try to find "Jacob the American". Wait and see!