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Journeys : Feb March 2011
February / March 2011 19 presented with my hotel bill made out to CUNNING MAM. We love the ‘Mer ry Cemetery’ at Sapanta. The wooden crosses have hand-painted images telling a stor y from the person’s life. They include images of a teacher, a weaver, a miner, a prostitute, a drinker – perhaps not necessarily how one would choose to be remembered. The friendly women of the villages in their dark headscar ves, flowered patterned tops and short pleated skirts seem entranced by us. We are probably of a similar age. What to talk about as we wait together on a Destinations bench for the church to open up? We don’t speak Romanian. They have no English. A flash of brilliance! Out with the iPhone and a visual conversation about homes and families. But we still have no idea why one woman is wearing sheepskin leggings in 40 degrees heat, national costume or not! As we explore the valleys and head over the mountains we become conversant w ith road conditions in r ural Romania. We keep a watchful eye for cows and deer. We swer ve to the verge when trucks overtake on blind corners. We slow down cheerily for horses and carts and tractors. We see there is a tendency for the land to fall away on roadside shoulders in the mountains and observe that it’s common for rocks to fall from overhangs. The roads remind me of some Tasmanian highways – the old Elephant Pass comes to mind. ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions’ seems to fit – throughout the country, huge strips and rectangles have been cut to depths of 20 centimetres, ready for filling and resealing – but the bitumen team has never arrived. We head north-east to see the painted monaster ies in Southern Bucovina, driving over the massive fir-forested Car pathian Mountains where bison, bears and wolves still roam. Luckily, roadkill doesn’t seem to be a problem. We are strangely relieved by the conditions of the 2500 kilometres of roads we travel in our two weeks in Romania. Maybe they would be tricky if you’d come from the autobahns of Europe, but I have an excellent preparation for a road trip to Romania – rural roads of Tasmania! So, ‘ drum bun!’* *Romanian for ‘good travelling’ and roughly equivalent to ‘bon voyage’. Often seen on signs at the end of a town limit or district, or at the end of a conversation when you’re heading off on a journey. Clockwise from top left: The author (left) with travelling companion Shirley Greenhough in Sibiu’s baroque hotel; country pedestrian; Shirley meets the local ladies; Sapanta Cemetery
Apr May 2011