Saturday, 24 December 2011

Unexpected Romania

We left our nice mountain town and headed towards the banks of the Danube for the unusual ferry border crossing at Vidin. We stopped into the town first to get ingredients for a Christmas dinner and use up our lev, (the currency). Despite looking for alternatives for ages and finding an interesting and buzzing outdoor market, (home grown veg and wine, second hand everything, you know the sort, all laid out on rugs) we got everything except the tatties at Lidls. The Bulgaria boarder was fine. There was no snow here and the boarder guards were excited to see so much still on our roof rack and enjoyed a wee snowball fight! We pulled up at the quay expecting, from Internet reports, to be there a good long time. The ferry goes when it's full and we were the ONLY car there.
We were pleased therefore when they ferry turned up quite quickly, laiden with lorries from Romania. We were still the only vehical transported from this side and we had the whole, enormous ferry to ourselves with one other foot passenger! You could see the 60% completed new bridge spanning the incredibly wide river from the crossing and it seemed sad that it would probably spell the end of this ferry service and the jobs of all involved when it opened within the next year. The passport guy on the other side was very nice and spoke good English, he noticed the snow too and said they had only had 40cm in the Romanian ski resorts so far. The next guy, despite I.D. was a bit more random and asked for ten Euros through we're still not sure what for but oh well. He was friendly. We were glad to be over the boarder fairly hassle free compared to the last four crossings.
Entering Romania I was struck straight away by the attractive buildings. I haven't really got a good photo of any of them as we had such a long way to cover to get to our pre booked hostel that we didn't want to stop for pictures so you'll have to make do with these. This church was in the boarder town but is a classic example of the beautiful ones that we found throughout the countryside- they reminded my very much of the mosques throughout Iran- bright and colourful, whatever the village was like and standing out from a distance in the landscape.
Homes were almost all very ornate- bright colours, lots of intricacy in their surface design and in the details like lintels, fencing, roof shapes, stained glass roof bits and lots of Roman columns made from nice rock, often supporting a roof over a small balcony. This gave them a very Roman villa feel. I think I expected a lot more Soviet concrete and down trodden, washed out feel. THese colourful buildings were not only old, so pre dating that whole era but many of the more run down ones were in the process of being renevated and new buildings were often being built in the same style. Many had tacky, cheerful Chisitmas decorations- Santas climbing up walls and giant glowing snowmen, just like in the UK. The Christmas lights we saw in settlements were suprisingly tasteful anc cheering, (unlike Bulgaria's more tasteless chouce of colours and light designs).THe people were dressed as they would be at home, although the hats and coats of the men looked a little more Russian. There are plenty of fancy cars and shops everywhere, including big supermarkets, (again, inlike Bulgaria).There were plenty of horse and carts people were using to transport things but the road surfaces were all good and all in all, it's not what I expected at at all- almost disappoijntingly un exotic but I'm so glad for ROmania that it's doing so well!
At dusk, the almost continuous towns that we were constantly passing through began to smell of wood smoke- at first it was a very comforting homely smell- you can't help but associate it with being somewhere warm and homely, however as the smoke got thicker we turned off the ventilator in the car as it was fairly thick and unpleasant! This is what much of Britain must have been like before the clean air Act!
Our last leg took us along a steep sided river valley with both the road on one side and the railway on the other twisting and turning in sympathy to it's bends. It was a shame that is was so dark by this point, I'm sure there were fantastic views but we could only get a feel of them. Sibiu was a lot bigger than we imagined but our hostel is in a lovely old building right on one of the beautiful squares in the old town. Because it's so empty we have an enormous room all to ourselves, plus on suite! We took a walk about the town where there is a Christmas market- so like Edinburgh or Manchester and doubtless many other places. I even found a nice feeling place to go out and see live music later however, after a filling bowl of macaroni cheese back at the hostel, (special treat for Alex) and only one glass of the home brew wine we had bought by the roadside we both fell asleep on the bed- must try and stay up later to meet some of the other hostel residents!

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