I’m a snot factory. My nose is running full steam on three shifts. This is typical. Not even 12 hours after I had bragged to Robert that I almost never get sick when I’m on the road, the cold reared up and now I’m in full suffering mode. I’ll never learn not to tempt the Law of Jinxing.
Where to start. Well, let’s get the bad out first and I’ll see if I can summon the strength to finish with the good after that.
My snowballing sleep deprivation and the maniacal mindset of Romanian drivers contributed to my first car-on-car accident today. I was crawling along in the parking lane searching for a street sign to get my bearings just after entering the south-western city of Craiova and some jackass comes flying out of an angled side street (in my blind spot) and decides to turn right in front of me. Of course this is all my fault because I was coming out of a parking spot without signalling (this is semi true, however, I wasn’t moving into traffic, just moving straight along in the parking lane into an intersection). But what possessed him to fly past and turn right, inches in front of a moving car? Well, the same thing that drives all Romanians to drive like idiots all day, no sense of mortality. Why must all driving be done at top speed, tires squealing, horn shrieking, even if they’re just driving 20 metres down the street or across a parking lot? Why do they all drive with the assumption that everyone else is looking out for them and so they can execute the most plainly outlandish manoeuvres without any sense of consequence?
Earlier in the morning, leaving Targu Jiu there was some nasty fog. Visibility was at 10-15 metres and that was only if the oncoming cars had their headlights on which, since this is Romania, many of them didn’t. Did this give them pause? Of course not! They were passing and taking high speed turns straddling the white line like any normal day, literally flying off into unknown. And it’s not like they were passing me to avoid going 60KPH for the next few hours. They’d risk their lives and the lives of the people in oncoming cars just to pull over 30 seconds later in the next village a whopping 7 seconds earlier than if they’d just stayed behind me. Pure idiocy.
Driving has been A LOT slower than I was planning. It’s impossible to gage driving times in Romania. If you have to go 100km, you can’t just say, ok, at 100KPH I’ll be there in an hour! Oh no. You have to factor in all the time you spend cooling it behind horse drawn carts and tractors waiting to pass (and being lined jumped in the passing lane by dickheads in Mercedes’ and BMWs) and having to slow down to a grovelling 50 KPH crawl every 2km as you pass through small villages, each of which has a police officer dedicatedly manning his little speed trap, the proceeds of which fund 100% of his station’s annual budget. Some villages are daisy-chained together so you end up having to plod along at 50 for eight or ten kilometres. All Romanian drivers flash their high-beams at oncoming car to warn of cops up ahead, so there’s almost never anyone to bust for speeding and those village cops are always pissed off about that. You could be inching along, perfectly centred down the lane, seatbelt on and hands at two and ten, and they still stare a hole through you, searching for any reason to stop you. I’ve been stopped twice now. The first time they took one look at my passport and waved me along. The second they asked for the car’s papers. I thought I was sunk, as I still haven’t gotten my car re-certified for the road, but they just came back two minutes later, handed everything back to me and said goodbye. I don’t know if I’m getting away because they don’t want to try to shake me down through the language barrier (I always do a great job of reverting to the worst possible, phrasebook Romanian when stopped, so there’s no potential for lengthy questioning, as none of these cops have been to university and thus don’t know a lick of English) or if they simply don’t know what to look for on these papers when faced with them. It clearly says that my certification has been cancelled, so why they don’t toss me into the hoosegow is anybody’s guess.
I’m getting a lot of comments on how great my Romanian sounds from people I speak with at hotels and museums. What I don’t tell them is that I use the same 20 or so phrases, interchanging 100 or so key words about rooms, breakfast included, renovations, entry prices, etc., all day long and so of course I sound good. But it’s still nice to get the compliments.
My favourite city so far is Curtea de Arges. Cool monastery, cool ruins and a bunch of great cheap accommodations options.
Favourite monastery is Turnul Monastery a new one that I was asked to visit for this book. Well, more accurately it’s new to the book, the monastery has been around since a couple monks went up there to settle in the 15th century, carving two little caves by hand to conduct worship. Now there’s a small church and a huge, two-in-one church, one of which has brand new frescos from 1998, which is only interesting to see how little this art form has changed and how new frescos compare to the centuries old ones (remarkably similar, to those frescos that have been cleaned that is…). A huge honourable mention goes to Horezu Monastery which is just so neat that I was crushed to learn they had closed the rooms they rent to travellers for the off-season and I had to move on to the expensive, crap rooms in Targu Jiu.
That’s all the poop that’s fit to print for now. Assuming no more fender benders with dough heads speeding to church, I should be in the huge, pulsating city of Timisoara by tomorrow night.