Jun. 12th, 2013

khar_muur: (khar_muur07)

We went for a drink (and ended up doing some grocery shopping in a 24/7 market) after midnight in the very sleepy Chișinău. Monday is, unsurprisingly, not the busiest night of the week.

The hotel apartments were quite comfy, apart from the little maggot friend I found in our bed. Meh, as long as there's Wi-fi.

Moldova is very rural, most of it fields and cows and goats and tractors and hills and vineyards and fantastic landscapes wherever we go. (Other animals: ducks, dogs, chickens, horses drawing carts or grazing, various birds of the Corvus family, one family of turkeys, and very infrequently, sheep.) A friendly billy goat I'm trying to photograph nibbles at my hand with its flabby lips. TomTom is firmly of the opinion that there are no roads here. Radio plays energetic folk music and international hits.

Crossing borders is relatively easy, and roads improve immediately.

România is beautiful, what can I say. Plenty of houses look brand new and people look well off, if a touch surly. Mushrooms and other goods are sold by the roads. Horse carts aren't uncommon, and there are lots of wells in every village we drive through. Towns and cities look and feel very different, chaotic and grungy but interesting and occasionally also very impressive. Churches, shrines and monasteries are everywhere. Here and there they fly the EU flag together with the Românian flag.

There's a storm brewing as we reach the Carpathian Mountains, but so far only one ruin of a castle sighted. The lightning strikes inside a cloud a few times, rain pours down on and off, thick mist blankets the tall pine trees and nearly touches the ground, and I can't remember the last time I was so overwhelmed by the landscape. Words simply fail me. The moment I saw the mountains I knew I'd always wanted to see them. Transylvania, a (mild) storm, some bats—only the castle is missing.

This part of Transylvania is partly Magyar; most signs are in Romanian and Hungarian.

We stop by a large field to admire the rainless thunder light up the entire sky. (Yes, there are pictures.) Hope we'll still get inside the hotel at this time of night, with all these delays...

This hotel is the only one we've been to that advertises itself well ahead, so it's laughably easy to find (unlike a few others); just follow the huge sign and the flashing neon lights!

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Today brought us the unarguably tourist-y but very gratifying Sighișoara, the birthplace of Vlad Tepeș, and its Medieval citadel. We climb the furrier's tower and the clock tower, visit the incredible Hill Church and its crypt—"Visit a crypt in Transylvania, check!"—and the adjacent atmospheric cemetery. The church's friendly guide apparently speaks every European language, and presents the church like a Romanian David Attenborough. He also recommends us the town of Brașov and the strange salt mines of Praid. At this point I know I have to return to this country, preferably sooner than later. Next year, maybe!

After Sighișoara, we take a quick turn at the little hamlet of Biertan, sad but not surprised to notice the castle has closed for today; then, we travel back to Târgu Mureș, take a stroll around town, sit down for a while in a café (they all seem to double as bars in Eastern Europe), and return to the hotel, preparing for an early start tomorrow.

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A Journey in the Dark

March 2016

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