Mar 162012
 

Laza - Hincesti

Laza – Hincesti. Click to enlarge

Getting up in Laza was an easy thing. Pack up the tent, a couple of vagabond dogs and thumb on the road. A father with his child appeared and took me to the next town (Vaslui), where I could ride a van that left me in a crossroad to the village of Crasna.

There I met Constantinu, a man who was working and living in Spain and was temporally in Romania because his mother was ill in the hospital. He was with his two children, picking some plums from a nearby tree. He had the double nationality, and showed me a crumpled paper that truly proved it.  He was working in Oviedo’s El Corte Ingles as furniture fitter, but had lived in Valencia, Tarragona and, as many other Romanians, in Alcalá de Henares. He was a man worn out by work, with tired honey eyes, with plenty of stories about the ages he had been working.

I stayed with him and his children one hour or so, until their bus came and we said goodbye. I kept hitching in the same place without much luck, until it came a lightly dressed beautiful girl, asked me if the bus was gone and, as I answered affirmatively, began to hitchhike by my side. I knew that was going to be fast, and I was right. The first car that passed in front of us stopped.

The girl sat in the front seat. Nobody was saying anything. Until the girl got down.

“Can I stay in the car?”, I asked.

“Oh! I thought you were together with the girl”, answered the driver, “of course, you can”

And then it turned to be some familiar thing. His wife was living in Barcelona and knew Spanish, and he had been many times there. He had made money in the timber business with wood from those Carpathian forests, selling it to the growing Chinese market. He knew some words in Spanish and said:

Ven a mi casa, this must be celebrated”

Cart crossing the Romanian lands

Carts crossing the Romanian lands

His house made me remember a typical Mediterranean house, a big pitcher, a giant decorative mortar and a grapevine covering with shadow the front of the façade. Further, apple and lemon trees, and a couple of dogs wandering or sleeping around. And three women talking bla bla bla under the shadow.

One of them was the wife of Laurian. She knew Spanish very good; she was a designer living in Barcelona, now on Romania for vacations. Their newborn baby was there, so I congratulated the family. At her side, her sister was a little bit shy, beautiful 25 years and dark brilliant hair falling down the neck. She demonstrated her good English as we were making a small talk, but the sister insisted to put me inside the car and drove right to the border of Moldova, with Laurian speeding up a big motorcycle at our side.

Romania - Moldova border

Romania – Moldova border

I stayed a long time on the border. Picking up a foreigner can be a funny thing when you are driving alone and you are a little bit bored, but nobody sees it so clear when it’s the time to cross the border. There, it wasn’t an exception. Golden dry grass was covering a flat zone without any shadow in the deep hours of the midday and my head was starting to burn. My hat was lost in a lonely Bosnian road, so I had nothing to cover, but suddenly a van stopped.

It had many seats and some exhausted people. They were Moldovans living in London, and came all the way by bus for the summer holidays. The bus was half empty, so half of the people were Romanians who already went down. A couple of them talked a little with me, but they were so tired, so the conversation was not fluid. A woman who only spoke Russian was repeating “Samaliot, samaliot” and the customs guards let us go without many hassle. Then happened something strange. There was some misunderstanding when they were talking about me. There was a discussion about how I got there. Some said I came by plane, another said by train… I told them I came hitchhiking, but nobody wanted to listen. They were very happy with the discussion, and I was having a funny time. But it didn’t last quite long. They were tired.

The green and yellow beautiful Moldovan rolling hills passed upon my eyes as the car was making kilometres until half the way between the border and the capital, where I decided to get down in the harmed town of Hincesti.

I thought that in that decrepit place I would be able to find something cheap to sleep. But cheap or expensive, I couldn’t find anything, so I followed the road without any hurry, sitting in a bank, and eating some smashed berries I had in my bag. Those berries really looked bad, but they seemed to calm the need of asking for something of two gipsy woman. But they were two nice fat old gypsy woman and I sat with them and laughed and made some tricks and I kept following the road, stop at a couple of bars and at the end of the town there was a beautiful road pub near a forest in the foot of a hill, and I decided to take a couple of beers and plant my tent near the pub because I was still afraid of bears and wolves and all the fucking beasts in the world.

And that was all. And goodnight.

Flower

Mar 062012
 

mapo 6

Campulung - Laza. Click to enlarge

With the daylight it came the calm. But when I got outside and thought the last night’s tight spot, I discarded that it was a bear. For the trajectory of the beast, when it touched my little tent had surely passed under the guy rope, so it couldn’t be that big. And as Romania is the country of the vagabond dogs, I supposed it was one of them.

Adrian was my first lift of the day. He was a quads mechanic and 4×4 mountain races driver on his free time. He was pretending to be angry because I wasn’t making so many photos of the landscape, which he considered very stunning – and it actually was. Finally he stopped his car in the top of a mountain pass where I was obliged to make some shots. Here you have one of them:

Fundata

Around Fundata, between Campulung and Brasov

Concrete lorry full of decorating souvenirs

Cabin of the concrete lorry, full of decorative souvenirs

Then we went to his business, a house full of quads, paintball stuff and 4×4 cars, all made to attract tourists on summertime, he explained me something about all the show and gave me a jar of delicious marmalade. From there I jumped into a funny concrete lorry with souvenirs from all over Europe decorating the cabin. The driver had been to the Vatican and was very proud of it, but it was the only thing we could exchange: he didn’t speak any language but Romanian and was incredibly bad in understanding the body language. He even couldn’t understand what my name was. But for some strange reason – maybe instinct – he dropped me in the exact place I wanted to go: the Bran Castle.

The Bran Castle is part of the Dracula industry in Romania. Even thought there’s no historical evidence that Vlad Tepes had been in the castle, its walls are covered with Dracula’s illustrations, genealogical trees of his family and other stuff about him. But why not? It’s a beautiful castle in the middle of Transylvania, so even it’s too modern for a middle ages castle, let’s believe Dracula lived there, make many photos and say “hey, I set the foot on the same floor Dracula did!”

Bran Castle

Bran Castle dominating the village

From there, a surgeon brought me right to the center of Brasov. I decided to look for a hostel, it wasn’t hard to find.

I spent two days in the city . With a center full of colors like many other Central European cities, Brasov has a small center that is rapidly seen. Then some tour on the nearby mountains and it’s done. And comes the time to join the every night party in the hostel, drink many beers and meet new friends. That night it was the World Cup 2010, playing England against Australia. There were many Australians and English in the hostel, so it was not difficult to find a subject to talk about. The Koreans were more quiet, and a French girl told me stories of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, where she had been to and I was heading for. But I stopped the conversation afraid of getting ti know too many things, because it’s always better to discover them by yourself.

After two nights, on a rainy morning, I was next to Otniel as he was driving me some towns away from Brasov, where Daniel picked me up. He was a dentist going to Hasi to make an exam to reaffirm himself as a good doctor, and he decided to take me until Bacau (that is quite a long ride). He was complaining about his country. He was not agree about the measures to be implemented by the Romanian Government against the upcoming crisis, that was going to cut the public employees salaries by 20%.

“And nobody protests in the streets! We don’t know how to fight for our rights!”

Then he complained about the Romanian drivers, telling that people drive too dangerously in his country, criticizing all the cars that were overtaking us… until he made a mistake and we nearly had a small crash. He said shyly “sorry”.

But despite this, it was a very nice ride, maybe the best I had until the moment. We talked a lot about the revolution against Ceaucescu – killed by Romanian people -, the Franco dictatorship in Spain, and other political facts. In one moment, he revealed himself as gay, so I gave him the advice to come to Sitges, a famous gay destination near my town, and he got happy when I told him gays could get married in Spain.

“You are an advanced country!”, he said. But I didn’t know what to answer.

Once in Bacau, I got a lift with Radu, who had become father some days ago and was very happy. He was still a student, and now was going to spend some days in his family cottage in the town of Ivanesti. There he had a vegetable garden, some livestock and bees that made exquisite honey. He said he liked more to work in the field than the engineering he was studying, but there was no future there.

There I took the last ride of the day. As I was planning to reach Moldova the next morning, I didn’t exchange more money. And the driver of the next car wanted a bit, the first of the whole trip who asked me for this. I told him I had not enough, to stop the car so I would wait another, but he was not stopping. Finally he agreed to take my little money and threw me out of the car after the next curve.

But sometimes fortune smiles to someone, and as I looked around, I discovered I was in a wonderful place near a lake, not far from the town of  Laza.

Romania Laza

Near the lake in Laza

Feb 292012
 

Jiet - Campulung

Jiet - Campulung. Click to enlarge

I woke up in that lonely road of Jiet, but it wasn’t difficult to have a lift. After a few minutes a big truck appeared and I got in. It was driven by Ivi, a happy driver who used to drive all over Europe and now was cheerfully driving his own truck through those unasphaulted roads. And it was hard for his double wagon trailer to make itself a path between those wooden bridges and narrow trees. But he was a master of it. As he was showing me photos of that place in winter time, he told me I was crazy to sleep there: bears and wolves inhabited those forests. Then, he realized our ways were different, and when a van appeared right behind us, he used his radio to call them. After a while, he was turning up to another mountain as I got out and jumped into the van.

Little friends in Lacu Vidra

Little friends in Lacu Vidra

It was some kind of minibus, or a van with lots of seats, with two adults and six children, karts drivers that were going on a competition in some circuit between those mountains. The older one was Alexandru, and he was the one who talked the most, as he was the only who knew some words in English. We had a nice ride until the Vidra Lake, were they turned to a road leading to some resort. And I got out and waited for a car. There I could admire the beauty of those mountains and the lake, as there alone I was insecurelly thinking in wolves and bears living around there. After a while (and always incredibly fast thinking in the loneliness of those roads) a sort of gentleman appeared. Clean, perfectly combed and elegantly dressed, with a new 4×4 car with the wheel in the wrong side as it was bought in England. His name was Gheorghe and he was a farmer. He was driving so fast, making myself scared for my luck, but maybe because of this he stopped in a bus stop in the next town.

Furtherv I was driven by Florin. He had to stop at a bank to make some formalities. He gave me the keys of the car and told me, “Hey, wait here for me, and watch over the car”. There, with the keys in my hands, unethical things passed through my head, but, I’m not that bad. He told me goodbye in Brezoi, where I bought some food and I walked to a park and ate with tho old ladies looking at me. “Where are you from?”, one asked to me in Romanian. “Barcelona, in Spain”. “Oh, you come walking from there?” “Yes!” And they were congratulating me a few time as I was laughing inside…

Caciulata

Caciulata monastery

Some drivers told me I should stop in Caciulata, and I did so. A woman with her daughter brought me to the beautiful old monastery, built in the 14th century, the walls full of orthodox icons paintings and a pleasant calmed atmosphere all around. A nun came to me, told me something I didn’t understand and showed me her teeth made of gold. And yeah, I was happy and hitched again to Ramnicu Valcea inside a car with a trailer. The guy was angry at the beginning, and when I asked what he had in the trailer, he answered “nothing!”. But then we talked more and more and he got happy and finally said “Peanuts, I have many peanuts there! Do you want some?”

I’ve made it to Valcea and there I was picked up by a big old man. He was a mechanic with big and dirty hands. He told me he needed to carry something and we went somewhere by secondary roads. Then he stopped at a big house and said: “Come with me”

Inside the fence it was full of chickens here and there. An old woman with a shawl gave me some grain and made the gesture to  feed the hens, so it was what I did. Then it was the turn for the pump. I helped Adrianu to carry that heavy pump inside his car, and we left right to Curtea de Arges.

After a couple of car rides, I was with Madalin, a sim card and Orbit chewing gum seller who also wanted some help. We were driving through tracks to small villages bars, trying to sell the goods. He didn’t know English and every time we couldn’t understand each other, he was calling his cousin, who tried to say the same in English or Italian. And it was getting late, but that was more exciting, paths full of cows and hens, bars full of dirty drunk men and everything was fast and interesting and nice.

Mateias Mausoleum

Mateias Mausoleum near Campulung

Finally we arrived to Campulung. He showed me a pension, I gave thanks to him, and when he was away, I walked following the road looking for a place to plant my tent. After 10 minutes walking, Madalin appeared again.

“What are you doing?” He said.

I improvised something about the pension prices, and he decided to bring me to another pension, right in the path to Brasov. We stopped near Mateias Mausoleum, and he showed me a resort not far from there. I asked him about planting the tent around there.

“Noooo! Bears!”

But I didn’t pay attention to him.

Late at night, I was reading torch on head when I heard something  big went down the mountain slope, came to my tent and started shaking it. I was terrified. But as I was trying to find my knife, an empty water bottle was treaded on frightening the animal, and I could hear how it went to my food garbage that I smartly had placed some meters further my tent.

That was a long and hard day, but it was impossible to sleep.

Feb 222012
 

Beograd Petrosani

Click to enlarge

If we would make a list with the best countries for hitchhike, Romania would be clearly rounding the top. The waiting times decrease to an average around five minutes and the fun is assured. I could happen through many different situations with the people who gave me a lift: going to sell telephone cards to lost villages through mountain unasphaulted paths, help a man to repair his bathroom, bring a (heavy) pump from one house to the other, and more earthly activities like giving food to the chicken or keeping a car (with the keys in my hands) while the driver went inside the bank to attend some business.

To get out of Beograd, I took a train to Vrsac, and there, near the Romanian border, I began to hitchhike. An old car took me to the customs control. When hitchhiking, it’s very rare that a woman let you inside her car. They are afraid of an aggression or a pervert. But when I saw the first lonely woman of the trip stopped for me, I understood why. She was extremely ugly. Over her lips, there was a mole flooded by hair, and the face was rounded with fallen greasy skin. Her body was huge, exceptionally fat. She was from Kosovo, but escaped to Serbia after the political events that everybody know.

- Everything is ruled by mafia in Kosovo! – she said.

She took me to a road bar near the border. Then I crossed the line and it began the fun.

Entering from the Serbian border in Vrsac, the Romanian lands appear as a flat thing covered by sunflower and corn fields, and it’s not until Reşita that it becomes undulated like the sea surface, and keeps like this till we arrive in Petroşani. There the real Carpaty Range starts and the roads become abrupt climbs to beautiful mountains. And the beauty is an important point in Romania. The mountains are specially photogenic. Although they are not so high as in other places like the Alps,  the wet climate give an intense green to the valleys and the grass fields mixes constantly with dense forests to give it a very characteristic landscape.

My first lift in  Romania was an empty bus that  was going to pick up people in Timişoara. I went down in the road cross with Reşita, where a truck driver saw me. His name was Ovidiu, and he had been living in Catalonia. We talked lengthily about the towns he had been to,Tarragona, Lleida, and some more, and talked again and again about a disco he went to in Lleida and he was offered cocaine.

Jiet

Road outside Jiet

After some misunderstanding with him, I was dropped down in Reşita. I walked till the end of the town, where a policeman found it funny to ask for my passport. I was retained one hour there while the police was trying to figure out who I am and why I was there.

A car with a young boy who once was working in Napoli bring me to Caravansebeş through a road that was going wavy more and more. I asked the way to Hateg to a guy that was walking, and he said:

- You go hitchhiking, right? Come with me, I’ll take you!

He left me in a nearby town right in the road to Hateg, a fantastic spot to hitch the next car, a refrigerator van. The driver was very proud of his van, because he could keep his water and dinner cold. He explained me he went everyday to different cities to bring some meat, and today it was the turn for Hateg.

Outside Jiet

Sleeping place outside Jiet

After an easy way to Petroşani, I decided to go deep in the mountains. I wanted to arrive to the Vidra Lake and sleep there, but I didn’t know the road. Just out of Jiet it became just a path that made its way between the walls of the mountain. The cars completely disappeared, and the gorge didn’t leave any empty gap to place the tend. But after a long walk I could find a place to sleep near the river. It was a long day and I was tired; I deserved a bath.