So yet again I have had a couple more interesting weeks, and as I dangle my legs over this here cliff, I can’t help but think about how content I am with things right now. Although perhaps this sun could be a little less warm… Maybe.
I last left off at the village of Hosman, a bit East of Sibiu in a valley of old Saxon villages, which are now mainly inhabited by gipsy folk. My stay was generally good, my work being cleaning up the property, mostly. The highlight of my stay was when I took a day off to hitchhike up to Sighisoara, as it is supposed to be a good example of the old medieval architecture – also, the birthplace of Vlad Tepes (tepes meaning impale… He’s the lovely man the Dracula stories are based off of). I was first offered a ride by a Romanian for a ridiculous amount of money (common, it seems), but then I was picked up by an Austrian man and two Romanian girls by the names of Adrian, Commelia, and Iulia. After the usual discussion related to travel, they mention they are going to a brunch, set up by a German man who is trying to get tourism into the valley, the result being the smaller villages getting some money. I thought it was interesting, and when they invited me to tag along, I had no reason to say no.
It was in the tiny village of Retis we journeyed to, in the garden of a small church (basically inside the graveyard as well). There were so many different kinds of Romanian food (though I still prefer Hungarian), some traditional dancing, and afterwards we strolled through the village, talking to some of the unusually happy locals. And because we were invited to, helped some old folk rake their hay field. Apparently all the old ladies liked me.
I also made a new cat friend, Fernando the church-cat. He climbed up my arm and fell asleep over my shoulders. It was hard not to steal him.
Next we went north to Apold, to see a fortified church, there usually being one in each village in this valley. It was locked, but Adrian apparently knew who had the key, and so we got ourselves a private walkabout in its walls. I love anything castle-like, so for me it was fantastic. And as the day came to a close, we passed by Hosman, they let me out, and we parted ways as is the travellers way. Their kindness and willingness to take a stranger with them and treat me like one of “the guys” was a perfect example why I love hitchhiking so much.
Soon after I departed Hosman, after finding a job near Fagaras, in Cobor. By far the smallest village I have ever stayed in, and very far off the beaten path. Here I worked for a week under the command of a French/German couple. My work days were eight hours, at least, and quite physically demanding. That is the most I have worked thus far on my trip, and I would say probably a bit much in exchange for food and a room. But it was a last minute situation, and had no real time to find out more… But the way I see it, I got a glimpse into the toughness of rural life, and how some people must work quite insanely to keep a certain level of comfort. Also, I got to do some things I had never done before, such as working in a small sawmill, and hauling massive trees from the forest to be cut up (the highlight of that being riding on top of the logs back through a couple of villages). Erwan, the man of the house, runs a taxi, recycling collection, sawmill, and even a fire department out of his property. An industrious man, and quite a workaholic. In the end I did enjoy my time there, but it was time to move on south, Greeceways!
On hitching out from Fagaras, back West towards the Transfagarasan, a famous road built by the communists over Romanias highest mountain pass (to prove they could), I was picked up by Robbie and his wife Laura. They were on a bit of a roadtrip up to the top of the pass, to trek up to Mt. Moloveanu, Romanias tallest mountain at 2544ft. After some talk, they asked if I would like to join on this trip…I was advised some trekking in Romania would be very nice (by a few people), and it was a day before my one year travel anniversary… I just couldn’t say no. And so we decided the next morning we would go. They took a hotel, and myself… well, I tried (and failed) to sleep in their car.
The next day we set off on a 6 and a half hour trek up to a cabin about three hours from the peak. The trek is graded as quite tough, and the route we took had many steep ascents and descents. But after many breaks, a couple rain showers, and tiring climbs, we reached the cabin. Due to bad weather, we decided to continue on the next day.
What a day to pick – perfection! A thick fog in the morning opened up to mainly blue skies on our ascent, with no rain at all the entire day. One tough (and some other not so tough) climb took us to the top. Blue skies and a very gratifying sense of accomplishment greeted us. Joined by some others, we all took our time to look out across everything around us. Though we are no mountaineers, you don’t need any experience to appreciate that feeling of being at the top of a mountain that rises above all the surrounding ones. The silence (save for the wind) is so calming, and the sheer scale of the landscape is enough to make one remember how silly and little we humans are. A fraction of a feeling astronauts must feel, but hey, It was more than good enough for this man. As midday was arriving, we had to make our long trek back to the car.
9 hours it took, with only a couple tough climbs, more of a… horizontal trek along the ridges of the peaks of the day before, and overall a more mellow route. By the final couple of hours, we were a bit low on energy, and going a bit sluggishly. However, as if the mountain knew our situation, we found an almost full bag of peanuts! And what glorious peanuts they were, giving us another burst of energy to conquer the last tough climb. And as we finally descended and touched pavement, we soon after parted ways. Rob and Laura had to start the trail back to England, and I needed a good nights rest for the continuation of my trip.
I do believe I am quite used to these situations now, where my world merges with that of others, and we share some good times, almost like old friends, but as our worlds part, it doesn’t feel sad, melancholic, or anything negative… It is just another chapter in the story done, and the memories shall always remain. I am glad to have met them, and that adventure has so far been one of the highlights of my journey so far.
That night I was able to sleep in the local volunteer Search and Rescue cabin, though not before being fed homemade schnapps.. Being alreaxy exhausted, I had no trouble sleeping.
The next day I made my way South. I teamed up with one other hitchhiker on my way down, Jurgen the beekeeper. a nice older man. We shared a cup of pepsi that for some reason a policeman gave us (apparently young Romanian police are nice, I hear). But as two men hitchhiking is definitely not easy, we parted ways after a ride, and I made my way towards Poenari castle (Vlad the Impalers real castle) which I had heard wasn’t TOO touristy.
I was wrong. There were many people there, with cell phones, ipads, and cameras flashing all around, children crying, and overly loud tourists making lame dracula jokes. After the peace and serenity of the mountain, it was too much of a shock to my system to stay too long… It was an alright castle, but this is the way things go sometimes.
I then set my eyes on Bran, where the castle Draculas story is based on is situated. It took a few rides to get close, but I ended up camping in the middle of a forest that night, enjoying a perfect starry night with some beans and fried smoked pork leftover from the trek.
And so refreshed and happy, I visited the Bran castle… but again, tourist hell. I find it hard to appreciate a place when you have loud talkers everywhere, people stuffing their faces with all sorts of fast food, and people running around taking pictures of absolutely everything, simply to have the picture (seriously, someone ran up to a candlestick, took a picture, and ran off to the next thing… I’m not even sure he knew what it was, as he wanted to get pictures of absolutely everything). But I knew it would be touristy, so after following the line/horde of people, I made my getaway..
Where did I get away to? Well, where I am now, Brasov. I’m currently hiding on top of a nearby mountain, looking over this city. Its a nice enough city, the old-town anyway (though the old areas of most cities are nice), but I have found cities end up looking quite similar in the end. I walked around a wee bit, through the alleys and parks, and the more unique sights… But I’m already itching for the road. This was a rest stop for me, and Bulgaria and Greece await.
I do believe I will head south, tomorrow, through Sinaia to see its castle, and maybe Turgaviste, before its South, south, SOUTH! Romania has been kind to me, and a fair chunk of it has reminded me of home, especially with the weather. But new adventures await in the South, and I want to start making some distance now. That big ol road is waiting.
Oh, and one day I WILL upload pictures… A lot, but I still haven’t had access to a computer where I can upload pictures to.
Not all those who wander are lost