Romanian adventures Sept 2010

You know you have landed in Romania few seconds after the wheels of the plane have touched the ground. Perhaps Romanian mobile phones are so advanced that they automatically turn on at that moment, so that even before the plane has finished breaking, you hear the sounds made by phones turning on. And even more surprising is the fact that by the time the airplane has reached the gate, there are at least 3-4 conversations on the phone going on. Busy people.
I landed at the end of August, apparently after a period of extreme heat. And two steps outside the airport I felt like I’d happily crawl somewhere under ground. But with a bit of luck, the coming week was a bit windy and without extreme highs. First night was quite difficult though, both due heating and due the noise on the street. Bucharest is a noise polluted city, if that term exists. Dogs are barking, cars engine are supposed to be heard at the max, not to mention motorcycles. Plus, I live across the street from a hospital and it feels like there’s at least an ambulance per hour leaving with the siren on. Drunk people or some who are just mad and decide to scream and have a verbal fight at 2AM are hardly worth mentioning.
I type this while flying back from Bucharest, in a KLM flight to Amsterdam. And we’re being served a small pack with two tiny sandwiches. One of them having cheese in a bread with raisins. Altogether it ends up tasting like salty raisins. Beah.
Back to Romania. I grew up and lived there for many many years. Yet, now coming back like twice a year, the things that were part of my daily life are somehow seen through some different filters. For example stray dogs. I love dogs. I always stop and talk to them or pet them if they seem friendly enough. But now I really notice each and everyone of them and wonder what system they use for sterilisation since they simply seem more and more. Living there, you don’t notice their amount. My mum didn’t even know there were at least 3 of them around the block where we live.
A nice surprise was the visit at the local zoo. I recall that I saw this zoo back in ancient times and I have memories of a camel and some of the felines who hardly had any fur or meat on their bones. Not to mention the smell. But now the animals looked really good. Shiny hair, well fed, etc. A bit too well, considering that most of them were having a nap in a funny position and out of the 5 or so beautiful ‘kitties’, only one was bothering to move around. All the others seemed sedated (which I heard might be the case), including the bears and for a while, the lion and his lioness. The rackoons were the main attraction and all in all, it was a nice Sunday afternoon and no longer a depressive experience. Bins everywhere, wide spaces for animals, pretty clean on the alleys, hardly any idiot trying to feed them. There was indeed one guy with the bored neuron syndrome who kept knocking on the fence of a cage where the animal was asleep between some branches and couldn’t be seen. Disturbing was also the fact that they needed so many guards, almost one for each alley. It must mean that either there are way too many idiots visiting the zoo overall and they really need ‘trained’ guards to tell them not the put the fingers through the cages (for God’s sake, let them do that please. Help them with the other hand as well) or the zoo has too much money to spend. Whatever, I’m happy overall with it.
Speaking of guards, I was also surprised to see so many of them in the subway. Felt like one per wagon. They just stand there all day long and…look at people I guess? As far as I heard, if the louder the incided might be in the train, the harder it gets to spot one of these many guards. But I actually saw them in action when one big dude caught a teenager and was holding his arm behind his back and pushed him into a certain direction. Ah, how cool, someone farted in the airplane. They should have oxygen masks for such occasions too.
Another nice surprise was the record time (under 3 hours) required to change my drivers license. You go there with all required papers, they take a photo and tell you to come back in 3 hours. I did it in 2.5 and it was ok. The only problem is actually getting there. There is a new building dedicated to the police issues related to auto stuff and it’s in the middle of nothing and some buildings. They are working on building stuff where the nothing currently lies, but this involves either a lack of sidewalks or a sidewalk full of cables and dirt. So the 500 meters you had to walk were a challenge to keep your balance, walk/jump like a ballerina and avoid being soaked by the passing cars and buses.
One of the days I went with my mum to visit her father, my grandpa, at the countryside somewhere in the South and then we drove up to the mountains to visit my aunt. I’ve never been on this Rucar-Bran route and it is indeed, beautiful. Lovely landscapes with the valleys between the hills and the beginning of the Carpathians, I also saw a bit of the Bran castle (Dracula’s headquarters, pictured before) and the Rasnov fortress (due lack of history knowledge, I have no idea what it is famous for). I drove all the 500+ km and was really desperate we should leave early in the morning to avoid the early traffic jams in Bucharest. From this point of view, it all went ok. But if you consider other points, such as the quality of the road after you exit the highway and the road gets so wavy that you’d probably end up with a nice shake at the end of the trip if you happened to carry a bottle of milk with you. On the way back it got dark and for a good hour and 30 mins or so I drove on a road with no side lights and hardly any lines on asphalt. I am still thankful to the red arrows placed in the crazy hair pins on the way, but it’s quite creepy to drive and not to know where the road ends. But before getting on the bad road, we stopped for some shopping at a big supermarket. I had just purchased a big bag for my camera and I wouldn’t dare to leave it in the car, so I took it with me inside. Surprise, you have to get your bag sealed at the entrance and my bag wouldn’t fit that sealing machine. The woman happened to have a bigger plastic that could be wrapped around my bag. But I keep thinking, how many thieves must there be in that country that shops are forced to come up with such preventive measures…Sigh.
The pic here shows how people in the countryside in the region where my grandparents live like to decorate their walls.
One evening I was supposed to meet some friends. They couldn’t make it since he had a motorbike accident as in his bike slipped on the wet tram line. And she was telling me on the chat that he was due to get a fine from the police for self injury (!). Then she also told me a story of some friends who passed away after hitting a … whatever you call those round covers on the streets while they were driving a motorbike. But he has an opened lawsuit for murdering himself. After this story I told her that we have to stop talking for that day since that was enough for that time. That evening was doomed to be full of somehow unbelievable stories though. This last image is the orchard from m grandparents. I spent so many moments of my childhood playing or working there. Now it looks so ruined..

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