Sunday, September 28, 2008

Romanian Snapshots

The Calafat, Romania, Post Office, in need of TLC. How about some EU cash?

Wouldn't I like a ride?

King of the Castle

flat, flat, flat

Today's road to Oltenitsa: typically flat, but untypically smooth

Words of disuasion, August 2008
"They're not like us. It's like the middle ages." H, Switzerland
"It's not like here [Austria]." J, Australia/Germany

It's been a gruelling road (~580 km) between Drobeta-Turnu Severin and here, Oltenitsa, with ups and downs that need some processing and reflection. Until I write about that, here are some "snapshots" from my last week of cycling.

Border crossing
"The purpose of your journey?" My mouth is open, to answer, but words aren't coming out. With a smile, "You're cycling to the Black Sea. Have a good trip."

Too vigilant
A guard outside the ATM, wearing a jacket emblazoned with the words VIGILENT SECURITY, leans in and peers over Angelica's shoulder as she tries to get her first Romanian cash.

Iron Gates Museum, Drobeta-Turnu Severin
Exhaustive collection on three floors and many rooms, representing a long and impressive history stretching back 42,000 years (oldest human remains in Europe were found in Romania): dusty, faded displays with parts missing. As I approach each room, a different woman rises from her seat behind the door to turn on the light.

Morning highway sounds
Clip clop, clip clop, clip clop.

Danube Valley landscape
Mountains far off now; the gold September fields stretch wide on both sides.

The gift
A horse-drawn cart behind me on the road: clip clop, clip clop. Then, ca-lop, ca-lop, ca-lop. Gaining! Attack from behind? I pull over. The man holds the reins with one hand, reaches out with the other--two apples for me from the pile in the cart. The woman grins, points into the cart--wouldn't I rather ride with them? They drive off, but as they are only doing about 15 kph, I soon pass, call out again, "Multsumesc! (thank you!)" My most handy Romanian word.

King of the Castle
High on a massive stack of corn husks, women in skirts ride, legs splayed. From behind, the horse's legs just visible, kicking back in rhythm.

Funeral procession
Mourners fill the road. Many old women in dark skirts, aprons, and head kerchiefs. The coffin rides on the tractor. A brass section-two horns and drum-brings up the rear.

Goats on road
A teen girl strolls behind her goats, no hurry. Goat aroma sharpens the air. One takes a huge pee.

Dogs in ditch
Some look like they're just resting, others have the grisly appearance of road kill. I've never seen this much canine carnage.

Water well
In the town of Calafat, a woman draws water from a roadside well.

Main Street
The road I'm travelling is one long main street for small town after small town. Children are enthusiastic: "Bonjour, madame!" "Salut!" In another town, "Hola!" In another, "Ciao!" and "Ciao bella!" (this boy wins points for charm). In some towns English is the choice: "Hello, how are you?" If I get to go first, I say "Bunai dimineatsa! (good morning!)" The old ladies watching life on Main Street smile with surprise and an echoing "dimineatsa!" is my reward.

Oltenitsa, Romania, 6002 km

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