Retired Prostitutes, Mountains and Gypsy Weddings

The following events took place in the Summer of 2014.

Retired Prostitutes, Mountains and Gypsy Weddings. My Return to the Road

Just before leaving the Transylvanian wilderness I did climb to the top of the nearby mountain ridge. I in-fact spent a night up there freezing my bollox off. I was also convinced there was a hungry bear quite rudely clawing on the door of my circular metal hut too. The pathways have these huts scarcely scattered for stranded hikers or tourists.

Anyway the bear paranoia, freezing cold and howling wolves managed to keep me from counting any sheep. I instead sat there huddled in a ball with my legs tucked inside my rucksack shivering and watching the door of the hut which I had secured shut with my shoelace. Should I have an unwanted guest I was prepared to hurl fireworks in ill taste at the hairy cunts, some old Romanian men gave me the fireworks while I was hitchhiking.
It so happened that my train of thought that night was mostly my ex. Jaysus I could do with her body heat now I reckoned, but it wasn’t’ to be, choices had been made, some words said and I was now single and ready to hit the road hard. All that freedom from plans and attachments, I was looking forward to the road again, even if I would be missing some limbs from frostbite.
Dawn did arrive eventually though, and I welcomed it like a child welcomes Christmas. The sun meant warmth but not just that. Looking out over Transylvania as the sun rose was in a word, epic! That’s why I had climbed here, and I wasn’t’ disappointed. To this very day I still consider Transylvania possibly the most beautiful place I have ever been, definitely the most medieval, with it’s castles, shepherds and old fashioned farming methods.

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Two days later after some good sleep back in a bed I set out for the road once again. An old Romanian who liked to listen to Italian music dropped me into Brasov, he offered a ride all the way to Bucharest but I was content in Brasov. The real starting point of hitch-hiking journey number 2!

In the two nights I spent at a hostel in the town of Brasov, Romania I;

  • All too briefly meet a lovely girl
  • Got my first invitation to a gypsys wedding
  • Became acquainted with Brasov’s best Rapper
  • Meet a lovely retired prostitute turned backpacker
  • Washed my clothes

An eventful two nights. For the purpose of not wasting everyone’s time I will address each story separately and briefly (except the clothes washing as I really had little influence over this event).
Ok so first the lovely girl, I wont be going writing any poetry about it soon but still I was very much interested in the girl. Who wouldn’t be though? She was gorgeous, Polish, good conversation and she wrote her name and number on a postcard which she left on my bed beside the borderline unconscious me. It was very cooly done in my opinion, a wee smiley face and all to decorate my postcard! More on this later when I happen to be in Poland.
Just a couple of hours earlier then the departure of the Polish girl from the hostel (about 7am from the hostel). I was in the street drinking with gypsys. I had originally went out for some Palinka shots with a hot Hungarian tom-boyish girl and a gobshite Danish guy who pretty much sulked because his tinder date never showed up (first world problems eh!).

I lost them though and ended up talking to the other people who were last to leave the bar and I got invited to their wedding, how lovely. I absolutely promised to go before I left of course without getting the details or their names. What do you wear to such an event anyway? One of the girls did make some sort of advance on me I believe, not to toot my own horn or anything but she did ask her friend who spoke English to ask me to fuck. Wouldn’t of got on her to see over a wall though if I’’m honest.
Even just a few hours previous to all this I had meet the best rapper that the Romanian town of Brasov had to offer. He got up on the mic in the bar and spit some ryhmes in Romanian and all the girls bounced their asses like they saw on MTV. Strange experience really, the hood meets Soviet Europe. Not what I expected, throw back some Painka shots and its alright though.
Finally the retired hooker. I meet her the night after everything I just mentioned happened (sorry about the inconsistent Pulp Fiction style timeline here). She was an older lady, in her forties though still quite attractive if not all that fresh, like pizza leftover from the night before if you know what I mean. Back in the day ( twenty five or so years previous) she had been a professional call lady, working through newspaper adverts and such. She had an agent and all and raked in the cash before the Eastern European girls arrived. She spoke about the whole thing as if it were just whatever, a real interesting lady with some crazy stories. Now she backpacked a lot with her money and never felt embarrassed about being in her forties and staying in hostels or couchsurfing. Guess you haven’t got much care for the younger girls judgement when you probably shagged their daddy’s for money.
That concluded my two nights talking to strangers in Brasov. I heard from a friend who I had hosted in Budapest through couchsurfing that he was having a birthday party in Odessa Ukraine soon so that is where I began for. Undeterred by the news of pro-Russia rioting and the threat of civil war I was bound for Ukraine and a party.

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Chopping Wood in Transylvania, Workaway Experiences

Workaway Experiences

I got free board and food in Transylvania in exchange for five hours of work each day.

I landed this gig through Workawayinfo. Simply sending a message to my host Andras wondering if he had any vacancies for a labourer.

I was happy to stay there for a month, one of my positive workaway experiences, because I was deep inside the Piatra Craiului National Park but still not far from Zarnesti. On the weekend I would go hiking up the mountains which surrounded the location.

The work involved cutting up fallen trees with a chainsaw, maintaining the chainsaw, chopping the wood and staking it for the winter. Straight forward labour but hands-on so I was kept happy tipping away for five hours in the morning in the good Romanian weather. I was never expecting to do more than the five hours.

The food was fantastic, the house itself was a B&B so all meals were well prepared (three a day). Usually Romanian or Hungarian food, Goulash Soup being my favourite and sometimes a shot of Palinka after.

There were two other guys working here too, one painter and another labourer so I was never too bored. There was only internet though for maybe two hours in the evenings when the electricity generator was switched on. Showers had to be taken during this time too.

As with most Workaway hosts you have to be prepared to work unsupervised, if you are then the host will develop trust in you. A bad attitude will land you in an awkward situation fast. One other Workaway volunteer was more or less asked to leave, being unimpressed with his task of scything in the garden.

I can understand why he didn’t want to Scythe for the next few hours when he wasn’t being paid. Workaway in Romania and other Eastern European countries isn’t a chance to relax though because your host at the end of the day could hire a local professional labourer for the cost of feeding you each day.

Once you do five hours and are social when around the host’s family then you should be fine to stay for a couple months. The ability to go without electricity was needed here too, I could hike during the day and read a book in the evenings, so I was happy.

Have any Workaway related questions then just leave a comment below.

 

Hitchhiking in Romania Tips

Hitchhiking in Romania Tips

Capital : Bucharest

Population : Around 20 Million

Languages : Romanian

 English (Many but not all younger people)

 Hungarian (Parts of Transylvania)

 Italian (Common amongst the Guys)

Difficulty : Great for Hitch-hiking.

Money : Leu (Cheap)

Hitchhiking in Romania is quite easily done, especially on the countryside roads of Transylvania (see hitchhiking in Transylvania).

People often say that you will need too pay for rides in Romania but that’s simply not true. I hitchhiked over 20 lifts in Romania (cars and trucks) and was only asked for money once in the middle of nowhere near Zarnesti. I just said Nu Bani (no money) and offered a cigarette instead.

Romanian truck drivers are especially helpful and often speak Italian or Spanish.

To flag a car down you can either hold your thumb up or point at the ground while making eye-contact with the driver.

Most male drivers tend to drive a bit more recklessly then in other parts of the world, and two of my drivers managed to get lost too in the countryside.

Complimenting Palinka “the local home-made alcohol” is usually a good way to get off on the right foot with your driver. Speaking highly of your Hungarian friends is not recommended at all. Many Romanians will claim all of their neighbours (especially Bulgaria and Hungary) are not worth a visit and might even try persuade you not to cross the border. There no need to listen though, rivalry between neighbouring countries is common in Eastern Europe.

It’s a good idea to try learn some Romanian too (Multumesc meaning thank-you), since it’s a Latin language it’s not that difficult for anyone who knows Italian, French or Spanish too.

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Van driver I hitchhiked with.
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Scenic roads in Transylvania
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Truck driver I hitchhiked with for two days.

Hitchhiking in Transylvania (Bears and Vampires)

Hitchhiking in Transylvania

Country : Romania

Cities : Brasov, Cluj-Napoca, Sibiu

Languages : Romanian, Hungarian

 English (Many but not all younger people)

 Hungarian and German are common in some areas

Difficulty : Great for Hitchhiking.

Money : Leu (Cheap)

Up for Sunrise in Transylvania
Up for Sunrise in Transylvania

Hitchhiking in Transylvania can be like travelling back to the Medieval times or travelling through Middle Earth.

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The Transfagarasan Highway is a stunning route to hitchhike.

The roads meander through beautiful mountain routes. Many villages still have very traditional living with little electricity and Gypsy-carts for transport. Wild animals such as bears, wolves and boar populate the forests and great castles and forts are scattered around the province.

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Romanian truck drivers are great! Get talking to them at petrol stations at the borders. Most speak Italian or Spanish too.

Hitchhiking around is relatively easy (see hitchhiking in Romania), payment might be expecting on a rare occasion since the locals do it, just say nu bani (no money) and the driver will understand.

It’s possible to hitchhike the gypsy horse-carts too but they are very slow.

Language

Some villages are Hungarian speaking but most speak Romanian and often these villages are but a mile or two from each other.

The Hungarians usually speak Romanian too but the Romanians rarely speak Hungarian.

German is a little common too as some villages are of Germanic origin.

Hiking

Going hiking in the Piatra Craiului Mountains National Park is the highlight of Transylvania. The best access point I found to be Zarnesti which is easy to hitchhike from Brasov. 

There are small metal huts scattered along the mountain trails for trapped hikers and shepherds to rest in but I recommend packing a tent and definitely a sleeping bag, plenty of water too. It get’s very cold on the ridge and there’s also no water sources up there, make sure to print-out a map and don’t get lost.

Bears

Bear’s do roam wild here and the local Romanians will tell you stories about spotting them rummaging through bins and crossing the roads. Your chances of seeing one aren’t that high unless you might go tracking them and sneak up on one.

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Visible Bear tracks on a hiking path in Transylvania

If you do meet one then don’t panic, try making noise or running downhill (I heard they don’t chase down hills).

At the end of the day a bear dosen’t want to meet humans, (they dislike our meat) so making noise as you walk around should suffice to keep them away.

If you do want to meet them then I heard of a professional tracker in Zarnesti who takes tourists out tracking bears and wolves. There is also a sanctuary near Zarnesti for the Bears.

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Selfie on a mountain ridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castles and Forts

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Bran Castle

Transylvania has a scattering of Castles and Forts all over the countryside and in most towns.

The most famous of them being Dracula’s Castle in Bran.

I hitchhiked there one day and wasn’t overly impressed.

Bran Castle is really quite small and packed full of eegits with selfie sticks.

If you do go however then make sure to check out the nearby Fort and cave in Rasnov.

Sleep

The bigger towns like Brasov and Cluj have hostels for around 7 or 8 euro a night and couch-surfing is definitely possible.

When the smaller villages then camping is probably your best option but be wary of stray dogs. It’s a good idea to ask for permission to camp by someone’s land if your not in the woods, I doubt anyone would refuse you permission, Romanians like camping themselves. I guess a small B&B wouldn’t cost more then 15 euro though anyway.

Hitchhiking from Brasov to Zarnesti (Piatra Craiului National Park)

Hitchhiking from Brasov to Zarnesti

Many bag-packers staying in Transylvania want to experience the Piatra Craiului hitchhike zarnesti brasovNational Park or go to the bear sanctuary near Zarnesti.

I stayed for a month in Zarnesti using Workaway and would hitchhike in and out of the town (the train is only about 1 euro but takes nearly an hour).

The spot I used to come from Brasov was at the edge of the city.

hitchhike brasov bran rasnov

 

Overall Rating : OK

Waiting Time : 30 mins

Zarnesti is quite small so you can jump out anywhere, easiest place would probably be the train station then you can stroll through the town onto the Strada Toplita. This road leads straight into the National Park.

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It is a few km before you will reach any mountain trails or the trail to the old Orthodox Monastery. When walking along the road into the National Park keep your thumb up to passing traffic to make the journey quicker. Since its an old dirt road without any markings don’t expect much other then tractors and horse-karts however.

 

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Photo I took on a trail. The fork on the main (dirt) road can be seen in the distance (keep left).
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A cave nearby the old Monastery near Zarnesti, the trail to it is signposted on the road into the Park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keep left at the fork in the road along Valea Crapaturii to get to the best trails. A map of the trails can be got here.

Remember you can’t make a camp-fire except for in special locations (you can be fined).

When hitchhiking back the way to Brasov you can simply start anywhere around the train station is in the direction of Rasnov.