border was again a breeze. - Australians? What do you have in your baggage? Move
all you know, this could be the garden centre of all Bolivia!" (Sundance to
Butch on their arrival in Bolivia - Butch
Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, 1969)
confronting the two evergreen heroes of the greatest movie ever made was almost
identical to that presented by the first village we passed through in Romania.
Free range chickens, ducks and turkeys scavenged on the roadside. Broken farm
equipment littered the dirt and gravel side streets. Dirty children played in
the dusty streets. At every turn, horse-drawn carts driven by dark, unshaven men
and women (yes, we mean both),
lumbered along amongst heavy trucks, BMWs, Trevants, Dacias (Romanian made) and
one lone campervan!
finally the un-reconstructed East we had come to see? You bet 'ya!
a population of 22 million and a GDP about a quarter of Australia's. The monthly
wage is about US$100. Capitalism has again been adopted with
fervour, in this the poorest of the Eastern European countries. The usual
street stalls line the streets of every village. However there is something
different here. Except for those who have been able to jump the 'capitalist
queue', mostly we assume educated urban folk, much of the population is still
living the bulk of their daily lives as they did in the 1930s (mind you with
satellite TV and electricity).
carried by cart from wells to home. Corn and other staples are stored for the
winter. Cattle and sheep are herded by shepherds - across Highway 1 today!!
Horse-drawn ploughs are as common in the fields as tractors.
industrialisation brought by the Soviet era has either fallen into an ugly
disuse, or is so antiquated that it pollutes what otherwise would be a beautiful
country. Although small villages abound, the intervening countryside is
virtually empty. Is this a result of Collectivisation? Whatever the cause, the
country is open and often bare. It is not unusual to come to the top of a hill
and have a clear view, as far as the eye can see, uninterrupted by any sign of
human habitation. Most unusual in Europe!
roads. Guide books warn travellers not to drive at night in Romania. Why? The
potholes, open manhole covers, one-way bridges and sections of roads in and
around villages and poor or non-existent signage of all of the above!!.
Extensive road repairs are in progress throughout the country and when one is
lucky enough to travel on new roads, they are very reasonable. But! At least two
thirds of the roads we travelled in the past two days allowed speeds of no more
than 40km/hr. In a full day's driving, 8.30 am - 5.30 pm, (no stops!), we
covered just over three hundred kms.
All along the roadside there
are people!!! - people sitting outside their homes, either selling things or
just sitting and watching the traffic - especially
- it seems - us; people standing around and chatting or watching - again
- us; people waiting for buses which never seem to arrive; people hitching rides
EVERYWHERE - even policemen and soldiers at the end of a shift or tour of duty;
people at the aforementioned potholes, one-way bridges etc trying to flog red
onions and glassware to captive motorists. The most unnerving aspect of this
country to date has been the feeling of being constantly observed. WHY - we
ask????? It is an aspect of European life with which we Australians don't feel
stark contrast, the cities have all the services you might expect…although
they are fewer and further between! But mixed with this are the ever present
carts, dirt streets (even in the middle of cities) and undriveable roads!
not the Third World. But it is the closest we want to get at the moment.
camping places is a matter of sheer luck. Last night we had an uneasy night in
the carpark of a closed Spa Resort outside the small city of Oradea. We
survived. Tonight we tracked down a Restaurant/Cabins place that allows camping
in Sighisoara. Not bad as we don't have to sleep in the cabins (they are a bit
off!) but we have pulled our van up beside one, fed our power lead in through
the window and have full and exclusive use of the shower and toilet.
is supposedly the home of Dracula! The real person on whom the character was
based was Vlad Tepes, or Vlad the Impaler. His birth place is really the small
village of Sighisoara where we spent last night. The birth place of the
legendary Dracula is now a restaurant!!
the Dracula legend is associated with a castle at the small town of Bran. The
castle is sited on a rocky outcrop guarding a small pass in the mountains. A
perfect opportunity for that widely accepted European custom - the TOLL! With
the sky as clear as a bell, the castle was a picture. We camped in a field at
the foot of the castle hill.
practical minds turn to what this great weather means at this altitude! COLD!
The next morning the inside temp was 0C, with ice and the usual
"crisp" -read "frozen" - laundry. - Still no rain to speak
of after 5 weeks!
Late in the
afternoon we were befriended by a local "lad" whose 'job' it was to
watch cars in the castle carpark. His approach was less aggressive than the
norm, so, against our normal practice, we gave him a tip. He had put us on to
the free camping spot and later that evening he 'happened' past for a chat and
told us that his mother made jumpers. Partly to get rid of him and perhaps more
to salve our conscience, we agreed to look at mum's handiwork
'domani' - meaning tomorrow.
Within minutes, however, mum was at the van door wanting to know the size. She
was ever so nice and we chatted incomprehensibly but mutually happily for a
while until we agreed to buy the local product in the morning!
AM -4C, at least, outside. As soon as we moved in the van there was a knock at
the door. Poor old mum had been standing in the open field for God knows how
long waiting for us to awaken! The total cost of the kid's tip and the jumper
was less than $20AUD. The elevation of first world guilt was worth at least ten
times that much.
actually refreshing and what we expected - but the van didn't. The b... wouldn't
start. We assumed battery trouble (and for once were right). Now. To harp back
to the van biosphere. We have two batteries. After trying every thing else we
decided to 'jump' start the main battery from the accessory battery. Obviously
this requires leads.. We had none. But this is Romania and anything is possible.
Walking around on the scrounge is a normal activity here. After a while we came
upon a buried cable. Was it live or not? Who gives a rats when you are
desperate? In a sequence that again is best left for dinner conversation we
'came upon enough wire to jump start the car! (Good story - please ask one day!)
Brasov to find a new battery ........... and ........... after several attempts
we finally found a Ford dealer, which was more than we had expected. This place
was a story on its own (more dinner conversation) - don't forget to ask about
the FORD 'chickie babes’ and their accounting methods!'.
has been a very long day! To cut a long story short - Janita drove into
Bucharest in peak hour in the dark! Got lost on the worst roads you could
possibly imagine, survived humungous potholes, trams, tram lines and Paul's
panic attacks Look out!!.Go left!!! NO, go right!! Found a freeway and we are
now ensconced in a very questionable motorway motel (first time!). Had dinner.
before we had agreed to 'look' at some jumpers...... Romania has laid claim to
two more victims.
smog, 0C degrees and a clear blue sky. What better a start???
are we in Eastern Europe? Vive la difference... And that's just what today
brought. Off on the freeway to Bucharest. Why? 'Cause it's there!
the communist period the Ceausescu regime commenced work on what was to be the
largest building in the world. The Palace of the People. It is in fact the
second largest building after the Pentagon - and we saw it! Well actually drove
past it twice on our way into and out of what has to be the new lowest ebb in civilization - yes Wroclaw has been out
done! - by smog, by ugly rows of ugly "Communist Grey" buildings, by
roads being dug up, re-routed (without signs), and unmarked so the bit of the
road you're driving on becomes a
lane - easy!! -- but most of all by the people. They're everywhere - waiting for
you to stop so they can clean your windscreen and then demand payment, waiting
to cross the road, crossing the road right in front of you, lurking around
streets (not just corners - whole streets!), just standing, watching you,
waiting for buses/trams, etc, etc. AND they're generally dark, swarthy,
dirty-looking people you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. So-o-o-o....
decided that we had had enough of Romania. But she had not HAD enough of us.
Minding our own business on one of the country's 'superb?' roads, we were pulled
over by what seemed to be a group of plain clothes Police. "Passports!
Auto-documents!" The usual cry. We asked for ID from the officers and with
the confusion of language and the imposed threat to us and our plans we complied
(suspiciously) with demands to see our money. Were we carrying drugs? etc. In
the course of all of this one of these 'Police' lifted one of our Visa cards...
(Another dinner story!)
phones quickly remedied this problem. A quick call home to Liz and our cards
were cancelled, hopefully before they were used.
this bad taste in our mouths we attacked the Romanian/Bulgarian border,
reputedly one of the most challenging in Europe, with gusto. Romania was not
finished with us however. Ecology tax, Bridge tax and ‘just being a tourist’
tax took all but our last US$20. We approached the other side of the frontier
with a degree of trepidation as we knew they also demanded their pound of flesh
jovial immigration officer did the usual "Australians" - wise knowing
nod? And waved us on. Next stop entry tax. US$15... Oh dear? Was there more? Oh
yes indeedy! Quarantine. The officer smiled as only the knowing Serb can!
"How much?" said I, knowing that I had $5 left and more than likely
would be camping with the ever-present 'Roma' in no-man's land for the rest of
the holiday. "Four dollars", she said, knowing somehow that that was
all I had! We drove through the car cattle dip (another dinner story) and were
in a servo right beside the motorway, the only bit in the country!. Noisy but