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We leave Târgu Mureș with slightly damp clothing (I think they forgot about our laundry at the hotel until this morning), heading towards Baia Mare via the following castles:

1. Kemény Castle, Jucu de Sus
2. Bánffy Castle, Bonțida
3. Kornis Castle, Manastirea

The winding road takes us through villages; some people are dressed traditionally, and a particular fashion seems to be a wide-brimmed hat, some kind of a suit, and a gigantic moustache. More sheep than before, and nearly as many horse carts as there are cars. In Râciu we drive past a strange little parade with schoolchildren, people of all sorts carrying large crosses, and the flags of Romania and EU. At nearly every crossroads is a small shrine-like construction, usually complete with a colourfully-painted crucifix.

Fields here aren't as lush as before, as the more fertile grounds are past us and also it's clear that the most powerful agricultural machines and tools aren't available here.

Those EU flags really are everywhere. Clearly displaying some serious EU pride here.

As a huge herd of long-haired goats nearly leap in front of our car, I realise I may have mistaken them for sheep earlier. Definitely seen sheep too, just probably fewer than I thought at first.

Kémeny turns out to be both small, boring and off-limits, but Bánffy of Bonțida is interesting. Its construction was started in the 1500's and finished two centuries later. After years of neglect, all the buildings are nearly ruins, but they're reconstructing it now—there's builders hanging around and about the place. There's much to do, but both what's left of the original and what they've already built is looking mighty fine.

Kornis Castle is nothing more than a ruin, but a particularly attractive one for one detail: the old gateway is guarded by two unicorn statues. Yes. Unicorns. With the horns made of steel and hence mostly intact. Next to the castle ruin is a neglected mansion, probably dating back to the mid-19th century, with two horses grazing on the yard. Tall pines, broken windows, caved-in roofs and tall columns all together give a slightly haunted feeling.

It starts raining when we get back on the road for Baia Mare. Passing a nasty-looking accident. The road's good, but it matters little if you're driving recklessly.

Our hotel, or guesthouse, for tonight is Casa Olarului, a potter's house, and as picturesque as they come. Father and I go scouting up the nearby hills, to find out about a curious-looking spot on the topographic map. It turns out to be pasture for the most part. The way up is incredibly beautiful, dashing through a thick forest of tall, slim, bamboo-like trees, on an old stone slate road. We run into some Italian tourists while up there, beyond a mine and a skiing centre. I'm further away taking pictures, but apparently they're quite the travelers—they've been to Finland, and to Turku, even.

The grande finale for tonight before bedtime is a restaurant called Rustic, which lives up to its name and is strangely in line with the aesthetics of our pensionat which, by the way, we have entirely for ourselves.

Tomorrow we'll be leaving Romania for Lviv, Ukraine.

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A Journey in the Dark

March 2016

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