Romania is an intense experience that is difficult to prepare for. All senses work at an increased speed. I miss it even though I know that after a few days, as it was, my fascination would be mixed with irritation and tiredness.
It begins somewhere after the Hungarian border. Part of the route that should have taken six or seven hours took eleven. We changed drivers every three to four hours. I drove the last 200 km. The final 100 km was physically painful after nineteen hours in the car.
The road was narrow and full of bends. Sometimes we would round a bend to find a a family with their tent and Dacia (flock of sheep) in the road. Oncoming trucks with blinding headlights intensified our weariness and caused delusions. It will be the same until the end of our travels through Romania.
Fascination and irritation. Even though it was not our first time in the country, we were taken in like naive children. Endless hairpin mountain bends appear in places that would scare even the suicidal. The asphalt on mountain roads would suddenly end after a few kilometers and we would think that there must have been a better way around. But there wasn’t. Romanian reality sensed our ignorance and delivered a swift kick without hesitation.
The inconveniences of our journey were compensated by fairytale landscapes. I do not remember exactly where we were but I think it was near Sighișoara. In the mountains where the land was warmed by the sun we saw four boys playing football. The sky contained massive cumulus clouds and temperatures climbed to almost 40 degrees Celsius (104 Farenheit). On the pitch, really a pasture full of cows, the boys were chasing the ball. They looked like they were running on the hand of a giant. It was a surreal spectacle which embedded itself into my memory. It was a strong picture, one which remains in your mind for a long time and when recalled makes you feel a satisfaction of the sensation and longing.
In some countries nature can exist beside industry. Here iron, steel or plastic from former-factory graveyards are abandoned and forgotten. Oradea with its suburbs and Brăila are two such places.
In a few places, religion is interspersed with reality in a very casual way. Illustrations, rosaries and pendants and religious goods are often made with a peculiar sense of humor. These things are found in unexpected places in Romania, often in things from everyday life. We were surrounded by dozens of fancy objects with the face of Christ and Virgin Mary., The roads are decorated with countless crosses that give a feeling of impracticality. Romania is a fairytale, a country full of contradictions that does not allow you define it easily.
We headed south. We wanted to cross the delta of the Danube by ferry to reach Sulina and drive its sandy roads. Here we saw a moored ship from Phnom Penh which was a quiet, sophisticated background for shows in celebration of Romanian-Greek friendship. The sailors, less naïve us, only cared about getting to a liquor store.
A bus driver became our guardian angel as he appeared in the yellow light of a staircase on a dingy block carrying the wallet lost by Juras containing valuable documents and credit cards.
But Sulina is a different story…
Following are more images from our journey.