It started with the nicest border control man we’ve ever met. He smiled and joked and gave Jamie a pat on the back as we left.
Back in the EU.
We’re in Romania. A quick mental reorientation.
Ok, we have data again. Bonus.
How long are we here?
Where are we going?
As we ride in to the first village a couple pass us going the other way on a horse and cart.
It’s a Saturday, which may explain the dozens of old men sitting at the side of the road, in ones, pairs or groups just sitting watching the world roll by. All of them wave, smile, shout as we go.
– hello !
– bon voyage!
Wizened women walk down the street, hair behind muted headscarfs, faces lined with sun and time and hard work.
I see one woman balancing her shopping bag on the end of the hoe slung over her shoulder. Why not?
More horse and carts, usually with someone cadging a lift in the back. Laden with bundles of sticks. I know not what for.
One man we pass appears to be doing some blacksmithing on the pavement.
I feel like I witnessed a stereotype, and that makes me feel stupid. But it’s what I saw.
We stop at a couple of shops, check whether they accept card payment – we are not surprised that they don’t. One guy shrugs “This is Romania”. We ask where we might find a cash machine. “No, only in the city. This is how it is”.
The second town we pass after this has a cash machine. We feel we should goo back and let the guy know that apparently Romania is changing. We don’t of course.
Wild flowers in the verge at the side of the road are blooming. The vibrant red of the wild poppies and the blue of the cornfowers are a surprise amongst the greens, yellows and whites. A little orange and purple pop up too, flowers I don’t know.
Some of the horses roam free in the vast unfenced land between towns. We spy a few new foals out in the distance.
We come across herds of goats, with a solitary goatherd sitting nearby. In the heat of the afternoon I spot a large tree offering shade to dozens of goats with a contended looking goatherd at their centre.
As evening draws close the streets are full of people on their benches. Men gather at the bars of course, we pass a intense game of dominoes.
I’m drawn to the little groups of old women though, whose faces light up as they see us go by.
I notice the absence of young women sharing the streets with everyone else. Are they inside, or have they gone elsewhere? There aren’t lots of young men, but there are some. A mystery.
We camp in a wood by the river, completely saturated with mosquitos it turns out. We take shelter in the tent and listen to the sounds of the woods. It is loud. The cicadas, crickets and frogs start their singing. Birds too, more than you’d think at night. Occasionally the packs of dogs would start up howling in the distance.
Not a peaceful night, but one I’m glad to have had.
We start carrying sticks. After having a few packs of dogs chase us with intent, we decide we need to carry a deterrent. It seems to be the half-kept dogs which are the worst. Perhaps they’re kept around as guard dogs, they seem to be effective.
The feral dogs also move around in packs, but skulk in the background, scavenging for food.
We do see two beauties padding down the road by the forest. The size of Labradors but longer, lush coats. They slip in to the woods as we pass.
On Sunday morning we hear a racket coming in to town. As we approach it changes to bell ringing, and we see two enthusiastic bell ringers summoning the believers. They aren’t interested in just dinging and donging though, they make all sorts of noises with these massive bells. They too, however, manage to shout and wave at us as we go by.
Later, we enter another village and see a gathering in the road. Its the mustering for a funeral procession. On a tractor. We sidle by as respectfully as we can. The guy at the front carrying the standard gives us a wave, before returning to his duty.
Two days in Romania is not enough.
We leave reluctantly across the mighty Danube, our last crossing of the trip, towards the rolling hills and mountains of Bulgaria.