Sunday, July 18, 2010

Back in Time in Romania!

After the comfort of Great Britain we stretched our comfort zone as far as we could and traveled next to Romania! Eastern Europe has a beckoning appeal as the Euro/Dollar is strong and we thought this would be a good cherry on top of our exotic European destinations list.

Ummm, yeah - it was something else!

We definitely felt like we had traveled back in time. And though Romania had its bumps and curves, we learned a lot about its fascinating history, culture, and customs. I am glad we went and would recommend to those with time for an adventure. But I am also glad and relieved we made it out of Romania. Those comforts of the 'comfort zone' are considered comfortable for good reason!

Here is a map of Romania. I circled the parts of the country we traveled to during our 4 night jaunt.
Romania so recently relinquished Communist status. It is the only place we traveled without GPS satellite coverage so we reverted to our trusty map-reading skills. It wasn't a big deal though since literally there is ONE and only one road that travels east to west across Romania. There are barely any cross streets; you just pass by a small town here and there with the highway its only road. The map reading went fine, yet the roads were treacherous and twisting up and into mountains so what seems like it will take an hour quickly turns into 3 or 4.
We flew from London to Budapest and then on to Kluj, Romania. The flight was originally planned for Targu Mures but strangely the airport closed so flight rerouted 2 hours away. Mercifully the car rental agent realized the change and intercepted us at the new airport. Kirk made extraordinary arrangements to rent an automatic car - clearly the one and only automatic rental in the entire country judging from the price and effort involved with coordinating.

We drove from Kluj to Gura Humorului in the northeast.
It was very clear that, um, Dorothy, we weren't in Kansas anymore! The 7 hour trip that was only supposed to take 4 provided a revealing look at Romania.
The one lane road was full of eye entertainment...
The few forks in the road were always accompanied with ornate crucifixes.We came across many livestock on the highway.And most notably these hay-filled, overflowing horse drawn carriages. Sharing the highway lanes right along with us in the twisty-turny byway.It was beyond belief. We felt like we had been taken back in time to Little House on the Prairie days with the carriages everywhere.The Roma Gypsies hail from Romania. They are colorful to say the least. Carrying whatever and going wherever. I don't think we ever got used to their uniqueness on the road. And were always guessing what we would see beyond the next bend.Looking back at these photos it seems awfully surreal. We were there in the only automatic car in the country driving right beside this. Probably not our safest move. But definitely taught us volumes about the world around us.The Roma were easy to spot with their colorful garb and twirling skirts.There they sat (stood) by the side of the road. Seemingly friendly enough, yet I was grateful for the car and prayed for the safety of our destination. Foreign travel takes great trust that all will come out alright in the end.
Though most towns were clearly poor, if not third-world, Kirk and I marveled at the large homes peppered throughout. I have since read they are Roma Gypsy Mansions.
The unusual haystacks dotting the countryside became a Romania icon. Not sure I have ever seen hay stacked like this outside of my "Three Little Pigs" days when the wolf huffed and puffed and blew the straw house in.
Another unusual yet usual sight along Romanian roadways are these enormous stork nests atop power poles.
Ever present were the incredible Eastern Orthodox churches. There seemed to be a church on every corner. They were simply breathtaking.
Unlike most European countries where there are known tourist must-sees, Romania's WOW factor came in discovering the everyday and routine rhythm...the horses, the gypsies, the bird nests, and the churches.


Sues said...

One of my BFFs actually lives in Cluj!!! She's from Texas, but she became a missionary working with street youth there, met a Romanian man, fell in love, got married, and now they're staying there to raise their 2 boys! She comes home 1 or 2 times a year, and she came to stay with us in December. She's found ways to make American conveniences work over there (slingbox for tv, etc.) and they have built an amazing house with an indoor pool, but yeah - that would still be hard for me. It IS so different from Western Europe!

Jenna said...

Well it definitely looks different! Looks like a lot of fun though! I am glad you were safe! :D I am going to be sad when you run out of European adventures to blog about! :(

Dallas said...

Wow, looks like a very different place. Was it like this in cities too or just in the countryside? Thanks for sharing the photos.