Canvassing the region of Moldavia, February 10th through the 13th.
I got back from a short, but intense research trip around the region of Moldavia Monday night. Four very, very trying days. It was deathly cold, and I’m from Minnesota, so I know what genuine deathly cold feels like. There was heavy snow each day making driving very slow and perilous, a lot of the rural sights and sleeping places I needed to check were closed, abandoned or manned by bizarre eccentric caretakers with bad teeth and my days were entirely too short, what with the sun going down by 5:00PM and night driving being too risky. I managed to contract a cold while hoofing it up a snowy mountain to see a (closed) citadel and I was involved in two super-slow, but alarming fender benders due to ice; one with a bank of ice/snow and the other downhill and backwards into an earthmover. The one hour drive from Iasi to Suceava took four. I drove around in circles for 90 minutes, following conflicting road signs, looking for the North Train Station and a hostel on the outskirts of town whose owner, it turns out, was in Australia and I was splattered from neck to toe with filthy slush/dirt the first time I stepped out of the car by a truck that passed unnecessarily close to me.
Barely resisting the urge to drive off the nearest bridge, I drove to the centre and found deliverance in Chip, a local guide who just happened to be hanging around in the tourism office when I slogged in. Sensing that I was near meltdown, he took me out for coffee and then dutifully led me to every sight I needed to visit in town, while simultaneously making dozens of phone calls on his mobile to verify information, arrange my accommodations for the night, fix my broken turn signal and connect me with other local tourism movers and shakers. He turned what would have been 36 hours of wretched pounding the pavement and pathetically banging on the doors of closed hostels into an afternoon of high speed, productive research. I took him out to dinner and gave him a giant tip.
The next three days were frenetic, driving through heavy snowfall, travelling untold kilometres to closed sights, racing around towns and cities to check hotels, restaurants, clubs, museums, bus stations and scribbling dozens of changes on my LP maps.
At night I slept fitfully.
I understand this is how LP research generally goes, minus the arctic conditions. I’ll be sending out countless emails and making dozens of phone calls to account for all of the incomplete information due to closed hostels and sights.
So, I’m a wreak and I’ll be writing a stern author feedback report stating that researching in the winter in Romania is largely futile and unduly dangerous. Meanwhile, I’m juggling my own duties to allow me to put off more road-research until the weather lightens up.
– The Official Trip Stats
- Percentage of closed/abandoned hostels and pensions (“pensiuneas”), both urban and rural: 50%
- Number of notable closed rural sights, some of which I was specifically asked to visit in my brief: 3 (almost 4, it took me two phone calls, three visits and finally a one hour wait to get into the Wooden Synagogue in Piatra Neamt, time that I did not have to waste)
- Number of car accidents: 2
- Number of near fatal accidents involving other cars, animals, people, horse carts and cliffs: countless
- Number of times I opened the hood of my car to fix something: 9 (though this partly is my fault for buying my low-profile, disposable car)
- Number of minutes I sat in my car over the course of four days revving the engine waiting for it to warm up enough to drive it: ~90
- Cities/towns/villages visited in four days: 11 (Suceava, Radauti, Marginea, Sucevita, Gura Humorului, Vama, Campulung Moldovenesc, Vatra Dornei, Durua, Piatra Neamt, Targu Neamt and a potpourri of monasteries, rural pensuineas, natural sites and whatnot). Whew!