Although Mike and I have just left Transylvania, we have not left Romania. We are now in the northern region of Romania called Maramureș. We were told by various people that visiting this area is like going back 100 years in time to a period where traditional clothes are still commonly worn and traditional dances are still performed. When we first arrived in Romania, the hairdresser that I was visiting told me that her father lived in Maramureș and that we should make sure that we visited the area. We have skipped many regions of Romania that are supposed to be beautiful, but I did want to make sure that we got to Maramureș. Maramureș is largely mountainous and we were told that the some of the roads are quite narrow. Where Transylvania was known for its fortified churches, Maramureș is known for its wooden churches. The region of Bucovina, just east of us, is very well known for their “Painted Monasteries”. Everyone says that they are so different and really nice to see. If you have looked at our photos you will have seen the gorgeous painted interiors of the Romanian Orthodox churches. In addition to the interiors being painted, the outsides of the Painted Monasteries are all beautifully painted as well. We were told that the direct road through the mountains from the Painted Monasteries to northern Romania was not feasible for our RV. This would have meant a very long backtrack. Since we are averaging almost one week per stop this would have delayed us considerably. With much hesitation, we decided to skip Bucovina. We had a look at the map from where we were to northern Romania and saw that the road out of Baia Mare looked like it also had some severe switchback turns in it. We actually took the car there one day and drove part of the route ahead of time to see if it was OK for the RV. Although it was mountainous and very curvy the road had recently been repaved and was in quite good shape.
We aren’t the only ones who really like Transylvania. Prince Charles apparently owns about 5 rural properties here. Some of them have been opened to the public as inns. Prince Charles visits Transylvania multiple times a year. The locals say that he is the best ambassador that Transylvania has.
We saw signs in one city for Mamma Mia. We asked someone about it and we were told that it is a big production, completely in Romanian. Even the songs will all be in Romanian. That is one thing that we do miss while we are traveling, English theatre and music entertainment.
One afternoon our host took the six of us staying at his campground to see some different villages. We ended up in a Hungarian village in Romania. Apparently, it is known for its folk dancing and was quite famous in Hungary. A gentleman from the Netherlands, who himself was a serious folk dancer, immigrated to this village quite a while ago. He restored the main folk dancing house and created a small museum that we toured. He commented that although he had lived in Romania for quite a while he had no opportunity to learn Romanian. It took me a while to realize that he was telling us that everything in this village was done in Hungarian. It turns out that there are also some German villages in the country. These are all left over from the times when borders where in very different places. When we arrived back at the campground our hostess had prepared a “snack” of crepes and jam for all of us, very nice. They are very common here. Mike has just started cooking them in the camper. I am gaining weight I am afraid.
I mentioned previously that we were getting a little tired of the backyard campgrounds that we have had such problems getting into. On the way from Transylvania to Maramureș we stopped for three days at a truck stop. It actually worked out very well except that there was no-one to come and serve us free crepes and jam and tour us around ☹. There was a restaurant onsite, electricity, internet and water for the camper. The truck stop was right off the highway so there was no problem getting in. We parked in a corner, opened up the RV and the awning and had our large windows facing green fields and trees. It was quite nice and not at all nerve racking. The truck engines were actually quieter than the dogs and roosters around many of the campgrounds. We were heading towards a village with a steam train that you could ride on. When we got there, they had a parking lot that campers could stay in. They also had water and electricity which are our two major requirements. We can do without both for a while but having them is nice. Of course, being in a train yard they had one other unpleasant item, NOISE. Train whistles and the noise of the wheels on the tracks went off at all hours of the day and night. For some unknown reason, my husband wasn’t bothered by this at all.
We arrived on a Friday and tried to book the train ride for Saturday. It was fully booked so we bought tickets for Sunday. Since Saturday was now free, we took the car into some of the surrounding villages. We drove up the mountain and the scenery was gorgeous. One town had a ski chair lift that I took to the top of the mountain. Mike stayed below and read his book. The ride was longer than expected but what a beautiful area and view at the top. Forests, mountain meadows, houses scattered here and there on the mountainside, some sheep and cows and a few winding roads in the distance. It was lovely. After leaving that village we stopped for a lunch in a nearby town. At a table near us were 5 young men about 18-20 years old. A sixth young man came and joined them. I noticed that even before he pulled over a chair to sit down, he first shook hands with everyone at the table. Different greetings than at home.
Next door to the restaurant was a car wash. When we tow the car in the rain it gets just filthy from all the dirt the RV throws up. For $10 CDN we had the inside and outside washed. They did an excellent job. There were two men working and they spent close to an hour on our car.
It is interesting, while a lot of things are less expensive in Romania not everything is. At a quick glance, clothes aren’t as inexpensive as I expected. Name brand electronic items are similar priced to the ones at home. One difference is that there are often less expensive brands that aren’t available in Canada. When Mike’s Samsung watch quit charging he bought a new sports watch from a company that we had never heard of at a much lower price. So far it seems to be working fine.
The steam train is apparently the only one in Europe that still operates as a production forestry train. The tickets warned that the passenger cars had been left in their historic state and might not be as comfortable as modern trains are. I didn’t realize that this meant, in addition to shaking around a lot, there were no washrooms in the cars! My bottle of water that I carried sat unopened in my knapsack. In addition to the steam train there were multiple vehicles that had been modified to run on the tracks. We had two mini vans, whose rubber wheels had been replaced with train wheels, follow us all the way down the mountain on our scenic trip. Mike liked “camping” in the train yard. He got to wander around and see all sorts of things. They are much less restrictive about where you can go here than at home on active train tracks. Actually, I don’t think that there were any restrictions at all. Once, I was in the RV and I could see Mike looking at an engine that had just started belching black steam when all of a sudden, I saw Mike violently jump backwards. It turns out that the belching had sent hot, wet, dirty water drops all over Mike. He wasn’t burnt but he wasn’t happy. He had just put on a brand-new shirt for the first time and it now looked like it had black chicken pox.
We met a very nice couple, Jan and Geertje, from the Netherlands who were booked on the steam train for the Saturday. They have a small van camper. They gave us a heads up about the rattling and bouncing around for hours. As I sit here writing this it is Tuesday and Jan and Geertje have turned up at the campground we are now in and are parked next to us. Mike and I decided to take today to catch up on lovely things like laundry, updating this web page etc. (note the sarcasm). Mike is sitting outside talking with Jan and Geertje while I am writing this. Actually, he is now bringing them inside. He has offered them our laundry machine to use. I think that he plans on going for a long walk with them while I finish this up. It is currently drizzling out and there are thunder storms predicted throughout the afternoon. They might regret this.
Below are a couple of interesting pictures, two of them were taken from inside the RV while we were driving. One really shows what “putting the cart before the horse” means. As we were driving to our current campground we had to wait for a vehicle blocking the road. It turns out that it was a small supermarket on wheels. It would drive to homes and sell various goods from the back of the van. The final picture was taken while I was writing this article. Someone had left the gate into our campground open and we had a few unexpected visitors. After 10 or 15 minutes the owners came out to chase them away. There was a concern about the damage the horns could have done to the campers (and also potential droppings on the ground). As I sit here and write this, the door in front of me is open, with only the screen door closed. Imagine my surprise when a head with two horns came right up to the screen door, like it was looking in. I wasn’t quick enough to get that picture, but Mike got one outside and it is included here. You have to be prepared for anything in Romania. We love it.
Update: Mike, Jan and Geertje have been gone for over 4 hours now. There has been a massive thunderstorm and power failure the entire time they were gone. Their laundry, that was hung outside our RV is now soaked. The just washed sheets are hanging in the mud. I am hoping that Geertje’s underwear hasn’t blown away in the storm. What a mess.
Update 2: Mike, Jan and Geertje arrived back after 6pm. They hadn’t had a very nice afternoon. They tried to take shelter beside a locked church. When the rain died down a little for a few minutes they ran inside a local bar where it was very dark. Like the campground, the town was also without power. We had to wash half the clothes and sheets a second time. Our dryer is very small and very slow. I am writing this at midnight. Jan and Geertje have just left. They treated us to dinner at the restaurant in the campground. We had a very nice evening visiting with them while their laundry was trying to dry. We did get their sheets dry for sleeping tonight. The rest of their clothes are now hung all around our living room. Our dryer is in the bedroom and even for friends I won’t have it running while I try and sleep. The whole situation has been quite funny really and will be resolved tomorrow.