Romania is our most foreign country in Europe to date, like stepping back in time. Here you’ll still find donkeys and horses working the fields and pulling carts with vegies in them. They canter along the sides of highways holding up traffic, pulling a family from village to village. A young boy hawks a fish by the gills on the side of the road as cars zoom by hoping for a sale. Old ladies, shrunk into their skin, waddle along with their long dresses and gypsy head-scarves as old men stare at us, not maliciously but often not happily, just bewildered, as to why the fish (us) would purposefully want to be out of water. We were a little like Romania’s most popular sitcom about a crazy American man that moves to normal Romania to be with his cousin, a shepherd. Hilarity ensues as these perfect strangers try to get along.Wild dogs too roam Romania’s countryside. They aren’t wolves, in fact some of them look like they belong on Paris Hilton’s purse. Though occasionally you get one trying to be tough. Our friends Matt and Jenny who were cycling through weren’t to fond of the mutts nipping at their heals, and another couple on a tandem bicycle found that carrying rocks in their pockets and pelting them at hounds who got too close often kept them at bay. For the most part however these pooches just need a couple of decent meal and an industrial tick bath and they could be turned from savages to man’s best friend.
We do wonder though, is this collarless existence the good life? No fences to bind you. No leads to hold you back. No limit to ass-sniffing. We know of a couple that picked up a stray while they were touring in a VW throughout Europe – was Flash saved or enslaved?Nearby the wild dogs and noble donkeys on the sides of roads are large faggots out in the open air. These faggots are everywhere, often in groups and piled high. They reminded me of one very famous Australian faggot from my childhood. We never actually found out what these faggots were used for, maybe fire, maybe compost.
Another odd quirk about Romania as noted from the seat of a motor car is the amount of unfinished houses in various states of construction. Buildings without windows, roofs, and walls often show promise with just the jagged metal support ready for another concrete pilar or storey, but most often they look like the house has been started, and then left to crumble. It’s as if, after realising they didn’t have any ancient ruins, they’d jump the tourist gun and go straight for modern-day ruins.
As beautiful as Romania is with its farm lands, rolling hills that rise into mountains, straight plains and the Black Sea coast, rubbish dots it all, in forests, on the beach, on the river banks – and it’s a sight that will become all too common in many parts of Eastern Europe. Pardon my cynicism but my guess is as communism deteriorated so too did the worst jobs of the working class like garbage men.But for all my complaining pretty towns dot the highways and bigger places like the city of Sibiu, a city with an old town and a fantastic square, like a small version of Prague or Krakow are worth stopping in for lunch or an afternoon wander.