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Archive for April, 2009

More Romania

Romanian Life

When I got to Romania I wrote in my little book “Things I’ve seen: A donkey pulling a cart with two women in it; an old man in a trilby winching water from a well; a horse and a goat wandering around on the street; a pub lav being a hole in the floor” but that was only after a day or two. These days none of those things have any effect on me because they’re all so commonplace. Running water here isn’t unusual but it isn’t the norm either. Most villages have a few communal wells and a lot of private wells in people’s gardens and it is standard practice to winch your water. I’d never used a well before I got here and now I do it quite often.

Horse and cart, also, are standard methods of transport. In one town, Timişoara I think, where there was a busy and fast dual carriageway, I saw a horse pulling a family in a cart turn into the road in the wrong direction, get overtaken by a few people and then dart across to the other side. It looked frantically dangerous but only raised a few beeps from the oncoming motorists. Donkey and cart and cow and cart are less common but still not unusual. And the things they tow around are always a bit surprising. Things like a bundle of really long sticks and a Dacia’s exhaust pipe, or a three piece suite. With generally more than 2 people balanced on there as well.

The running water situation means that most people have an outhouse which turn out to be not particularly unpleasant. I suppose the unpleasant bit is when you clean them out which I haven’t yet got involved with but to use, it’s no big problem. Nor is the great outdoors and now I’m armed with my own bogroll I’ve been taking advantage of Mother Earth’s facilities as well, which is slightly better because you get to have a small bonfire afterwards which is quite satisifying. Thusly I’ve been keeping the IBS at bay with no hugely embarrassing poo-related stories as a result.

IbS

Relatedly, and on request, here’s a full update on my bodily functions: my bladder problem is restricted to precisely one symptom – tiny bladder. It’s as if it has shrunk. I wee about twice a night depending on how much I’ve drunk. At first I quite devoutly followed Mum’s suggestion that I drink lots (LOTS) of water (WATER) but then I noticed that it was because she thought I was dehydrated. Well I know what dehydrated means, it means thirsty. And the symptoms are not that your bladder shrinks to half its normal size, but that you want a drink and your wee is yellow. And I’m not dehydrated because I don’t want a drink and my wee is normal colour.

The other suggestion was that I have some sort of bacterial infection which suited me quite well because Dr Wallace told us in Biology that we have white blood cells which identify the bacteria and then sort of smother them and kill them and remember what they looked like so I can’t ever be infected again. So basically all I had to do was wait for a bit and I’d fix myself, but I’ve waited and it’s not better. Still, no big deal, it’s just a matter of weeing more often and it’s not like I’m particularly pushed for time at the moment.

Feet

Though I haven’t really washed very much recently (related to the running water issue previously discussed), when I do get the opportunity I’m caught on the horns of a small dilemma. At the moment my feet don’t hurt when I walk. Partly due to me taking out one of my inner soles (I did a medical examination of my feet and discovered that my right one, the one which had been rubbing in my boot so much, was bigger than my left one – it took me about two months to work that out) and partly due to a decently calloused foot. When I wash my feet the callous bit goes soft and white and then comes off. If I cunningly wash them quickly so the callouses don’t have time to go soft and white, they stay smelly. The smelly bit turns out to be the useful bit. So basically my feet stink, but I’m just going to carry on using the same defence I’ve always used – hide them in my boots. No problem.

Food

Did I ever say about my hunger? Well I was hungry before, in the German speaking countries, and now I’m not. In fact, before, in the German speaking countries, I weighed myself anxiously a couple of times and converted the numbers I saw into stone to see whether or not I should be worried about it. I think I weighed 76kg. For the last few weeks I’ve had such a glut of food in my bag, lots of which was fresh, that I’ve struggled to eat it all before it went bad.

Rory’s suggestion that maybe talking to people in a hopeful and hungry way was, in fact, just a form of begging seemed to me to imply that what he thought I really should do is to hide from anyone who might give me food as much as I can.  Recently I have been doing that, not because I don’t want to seem like a beggar but because if I talk to anyone for any length of time they foist food on me. Hundreds of food! Tonnes of it. So I try to sneak through the towns on my route without being noticed with limited success. I haven’t had the chance to weigh myself recently but I have again that reassuring holdable slice of fat round my stomach. In Easter week, for example, I think I ate a minimum of four hard boiled eggs on any day and I reckon an average of five or so. Maybe even more. That’s a high daily average even for an egg enthusiast.

Easter

Before Easter everyone (actually everyone’s mother) makes about a thousand hard boiled eggs and colours them red somehow. Then, when Easter comes, you get one of the eggs and someone else gets another one and you say “Christ is risen” and they say “He is risen indeed” and then you tap your eggs together until one of them breaks. The person whose egg breaks is the loser and then you eat your egg. Those are the standard rules of the red egg game, but there’s another variant where you see a stranger walking through your town and you just give him red eggs. Two old men who were talking to each other hailed me down to hear my story and afterwards one of them produced, from his pocket I think, though it wasn’t obvious, a red egg and gave it to me. A guy in a car who stopped to ask if I wanted a lift gave me a red egg. I have a container which fits a maximum of 10 and still I often had to turn down egg offers. Last Sunday I was given a red egg and two normal eggs for lunch so I think it’s the end of the red egg season, but it was excellent while it lasted.

Another thing that’s good about Easter here is that you’re allowed to use “Christ is risen” as a greeting and people really do. As well as killing a lamb and having all kinds of other good food around which means that there’s all the more to foist on me.

Romanian Towns

When I walk through a town in Romania, this is what happens. Everyone stares at me, always. I always nod at people and say “Buna Zeua” and smile and sometimes even that doesn’t stop the staring. Quite small towns are often laid out along one road, so they last for quite a while and after a bit of walking someone usually asks me where I’m going or where I’m from and I still often get it wrong. There are a million different ways of saying both in Romanian and I’m not yet on top of them all. Since getting to Southern Romania I’ve noticed a development in this area. Some people, instead of going for the straight-up ask, do a sort of gesture. They flick their chin up as you would if you were too lazy to point to somewhere and wibble their hand as you would if you were saying “roughly this many” and that’s it. Then they stare at me some more. I still don’t know how to respond to this. If I was selling something I’d tell them how much it cost, but I’m not. Normally I say “Eo sunt Englaise” which seems do as an explanation. It isn’t a hostile gesture though, as I found out when the first guy did it and then asked if I wanted food or anything (and since I’d just eaten and had a bag full, I said No) and then he offered me coffee and I said Yes and then his parents gave me a massive meal and red eggs regardless of my claims.

When I have been accosted successfully, a bunch of people gather round and ask me questions in Romanian and when I don’t understand (most of the time) they just ask me again but louder or sometimes one of the other people asks me again and eventually I explain enough for them to either fetch a person who speaks French or give me food or leave me alone. Then I walk further into the town and the whole thing happens again, sometimes just 100m away, in sight of the first batch of people. If I’m lucky I acquire a follower who answers all the preliminary questions for me.

Police

I mentioned last time that I was in a police station. I was, of course, just using the internet there and not being duffed up or anything. Last night a new and slightly ridiculous development took place. I had set up my tent underneath a massive electricity pylon which I thought was quite funny and I was eating my sandwich and drinking my beer when the police turned up and told me I wasn’t allowed to stay there. Not because I was breaking any particular law but because there were lots of “banditos” around and, worse still, Gypsies. After a lot of pleading they let me stay there but wrote down everything in my passport (pretty much every police station in Romania now has my full details) and alerted the nearby petrol station and found out my route.

It seemed that there was no real harm in telling him my route but when I arrived in Drănic I was met by a policeman who had been instructed to guard me and make sure I got to wherever I was going. Now it seems I am to have a relay escort of police taking me through from town to town. I’m sure the army of Gypsies who are after me won’t have a chance now.

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Gypsies

Aha! We all knew it was coming and here it is – nice Gypsies! One of the things that Gypsies like to do is tell you after not very long that they’re Gypsies so although I can’t tell by looking at them I’m reasonably good at knowing if someone’s a Gypsy or not. One such group who were loitering around outside a Magasin Mixt drinking beer started talking to me. After a while one of them bought me a beer so I could loiter as efficiently as them and then a little later one of them suggested that maybe I was in need of female company but in quite a discrete way which wasn’t really very alarming. Then, just as I was bracing myself for whatever shakedown they had in mind, they all left. I finished my beer by myself and thought “Well, that does it, Gypsies are nice after all.” In the evening I walked past someone’s house and a little boy was there and he delightedly darted inside to tell everyone to come out and look at the English person. As soon as his aunt saw me she said “You want some food? A coffee?” and because I am a suspcious type of person I didn’t immediately say Yes Please because I was thinking “This feels like some sort of Gypsy trap” but then I remembered the lesson I’d learnt earlier and so I changed my mind. With much speed and enthusiasm I was given a plate of eggs and bacon and other stuff that had been imported from Austria and a French speaking person was unearthed from the family and I was persuaded to stay the night. Furthermore they were Orthodox and it was Holy Saturday for them and they have a midnight mass for Easter as well as Christmas which I wouldn’t have gone to otherwise. Evenfurthermore they have a massive Easter Sunday meal with every conceivable animal cooked in some Romanian way and a whole load of cakes and such which I also joined in with. They taught me how to do the sign of the cross properly (two fingers together with a thumb and it goes Head, Stomach, Right Shoulder, Left Shoulder – I’d been doing any old thing with my hand and right shoulder first), they gave me loads of food to take with me (to add to my already loads of food) including Easter boiled eggs which are always painted, normally red (for the blood of Christ, obv). After midnight mass there are bonfires on the streets around town which people sit round and drink and dance and we went to a Gypsy one but by then I was a little too shattered to enjoy it. The mother of the family had been a Baptist when she married, and unable to have children. Four years later she converted to Orthodoxism and since then has had seven children (or eight… can’t remember, lots anyway) so that just goes to show you.

Racists

So I’m still a racist but less than I was before. On the subject of which, I met a couple of racists who were very nice to me. They’d bought a bunch of land which they were working on when I walked past and they welcomed me over and spoke excellent English etc. After a while the woman (who was German) said “Are there many auslanders where you live?” and I said words to the effect of No, hardly any, and before I’d finished my sentence she said “Gut, Gut. I am little bit racist. I don’t like all this niggers come to England and Germany. It’s not Africa. It’s England.” I didn’t quite know what to say about that but I said that I quite liked living in East London because there were lots of curry houses. She didn’t like foreign food either, so that wasn’t an excuse for her. When we weren’t talking about race, which came up every so often (Me: Fort Lauderdale is a funny place. Elvis: Yeah. It’s nice, but too many Spics) they seemed to be the type of people I quite like in that they were funny and friendly and interesting and one of them was called Elvis and other things. So now I’ve had to modify my view of both Gypsies and racists. Well I don’t have much else to do.

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Route

No wonder Mum’s in a total panic, I haven’t updated my route for a week or two. I imagine that quite a few other people are also worrying but managing to keep it quiet.

  • Kiskunhalas
  • Zsana (where I ate the stomach-and-trotter surprise – the surprise is how much the stomach really looks like stomach)
  • Kiskunmajsa
  • Bordany
  • Szeged
  • Kubekhaza
  • Beba Veche where my first pilgrimage ended.

The border police then drove me to the frontier at Cenad where, instead of walking back to Beba Veche like someone with an ounce of integrity, I just carried on walking towards Jerusalem. Pilgrimage 2, then:

  • Cenad (where I met Alin who unnerved me slightly by nicking my money)
  • Sânnicolau Mare
  • Saravale
  • Sânpetru Mare
  • Periam
  • Variaş
  • Satchinez
  • Hodoni
  • Sânandrei
  • Timişoara
  • Moşniţa Nouă
  • Sacoşu Turcesc
  • Otveşti
  • Berini
  • Tormac, which seems to be a Hungarian village – the people there say “I’m Hungarian” and the church service was in Hungarian
  • Şoşdea where someone gave me half a litre of Tsuica to replace my inferior water
  • Măureni
  • Ferendia
  • Surducu Mare
  • Forotic
  • Ticvaniu Mare
  • Oraviţa
  • Ciclova-Românâ
  • Ilidia
  • Socolari
  • Potoc
  • Cheile National Park where I got throughly lost for about a day and popped out in
  • Sasca-Montanâ
  • Ştinâpari
  • Şopotu Nou
  • Bârz
  • Dalboşeţ
  • Prigor
  • Putna
  • Şumiţa
  • Iablaniţa
  • Mehadia where I had a much more pleasant encounter with some Gypsies
  • Orşova
  • Minăstrirea Vodiţa (not really a place, more of a monastry, but I met some people there)
  • I took a small departure into the hills, got a little bit lost and ended up with some shepherd type people near Jidoştiţa
  • Breznita-Ocol
  • Drobeta-Turnu Severin
  • Şimian
  • Bistriţa
  • Izvoru Aneştilor
  • Livezile
  • Şipotu
  • Poroina Mare where I am now, in a police station.

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What Romanians Are Like

You may be wondering what Romanians are like and so far I’ve only mentioned the Gypsies. I think it’s only fair to separate them because so far they’ve behaved quite differently. When I arrived in Romania and got scammed a little bit, it unnerved me somewhat and put me a little bit on the defensive. Since then I’ve met a few other Gypsies and they’ve ranged from being friendly but in a sort of only-because-I’m-about-to-ask-you- for-money way to unpleasantly hounding and I still have an overall negative view of them. I didn’t think that would happen and I’m still waiting for the time when I meet the nice ones. I’m sure they’re around.

Romanians, however, (the non-Gypsy ones) are like this: the border police, while busting me which took ages, gave me a massive meal. The owners of a grocery store slash brothel gave me two massive sausages and some tinned meat. A roaringly drunk guy fried some eggs for me which I ate sitting among the hens that laid them and the pub slash grocery store where I found him gave me a loaf of bread to eat it with. A family of quite brown people (they weren’t Gypsies, I asked) gave me an omelette with sausages followed by another omelette and since it isn’t really veggie season, pretty much all of these meals have been accompanied by gerkins. Another guy brought me a polystyrene tray with chicken and eggs for supper when I’d put my tent up. Two people who worked in a motel gave me a whole load of meat and such. A farmer who I met quite late, maybe at 9, when I was thoroughly exhausted from having just managed to shake off a Gypsy scamster (which involved him following me and yabbering about how I should buy his mobile for five Euros for ages), didn’t say anything but just nodded that I could sleep in his field and then in the morning he gave me some hard boiled eggs and a hunk of cooked meat (cooked, not smoked, and at least half of it was flesh and not fat so it tasted a bit unusual).

Another character bought me a beer and a coffee and then called the police who duly turned up and checked my passport. That was a bit weird, but I think in Romania although the levels of goodness and generosity are as high as anywhere else (actually I think higher than Western Europe – I have been eating three or four meals every day and am normally in a rush to finish whatever is in my bag so it won’t go bad), the levels of distrust are higher too. Whereas a French person would hear that I have no money and I’m walking to Jerusalem and think “Oh! Mon Dieu! Those crazy English” and a German person would think “But have you got enough maps and the appropriate footwear?” and a Hungarian would say “Jerusalem? By foot? HAha! You drink Palinka? Get him a Palinka!”, a Romanian is more inclined to think “Is this guy some kind of illegal scamster?”

Another thing that Romanians are like is that they don’t all go to the pub to drink all day like the Hungarians do. In fact, in any village there may not even be a pub, but instead they have grocery store slash cafes called “Magasin Mixt” where you can sit outside and drink if you like, but mostly people don’t. Instead the idle just loiter around on the street outside their houses waiting for something interesting to happen, and wherever I go I am that interesting thing. When I get to a place the timid eyeball me from where they are and the bold come up to me and say “Where are you going?” and when they find that I’m English they summon the town polyglot who will find out in either German or French or, if I’m lucky, English what I’m up to and relay it to everyone else. This process often gathers a crowd, particularly of children, who are almost always very comfortable staring at me. Luckily I’m quite comfortable being stared at because otherwise I would have been a bit put off my food on certain occasions.

Also Romanians are quite fond of growing their own stuff instead of buying it from Tesco, a trait they share with Hungarians and which I really like. That means I normally get given stuff which is home-made which also means that I get a large amount of whatever’s in season (eggs at the moment, and “cheese” or “Mozarella” as one imaginative person called it). Less and less people say “this is made here” as it seems to be less a matter of pride round here and more just the way things are done.

Church

There are two Easters in Romania, one on Easter and one a week later. The Orthodox church for some reason celebrates it later and on Easter they have something called Florin Sunday which is like the Saint’s Day of people who have flowers’ names. Can you imagine? I met a couple of people called Florin to prove that it wasn’t a total waste of time. Also they have a weird system where you get Easter Monday off, but only your Easter Monday, so when you sign up for a job you have to say whether you are Orthodox or not so they know when to give you a day off. I think that’s true, but I’m not totally sure – it seems so unlikely. On (the real) Easter I woke up in a town with only an Orthodox church so after I’d eaten my fried eggs and bacon (brought to my tent by two boys who crouched down and watched me eat it) I went to church.

It’s a funny old affair. When anyone comes in, the first thing to do is go up to a table which has some things on it – an engraving and a couple of pictures or something – and kiss certain parts of them. Everyone except me did this, I didn’t realise I was meant to until it was too late. Then you go and shake hands with the people on your row (I wasn’t on anyone’s row – I think it was like at school where there was the cool table and the nerds table and some non-designated tables and I was on one of them) and then, if you feel like it, you can buy a candle or five from the candle seller who is right in the middle. If you’ve bought a candle you can then leave for a bit, presumably to light your candle somewhere, though I didn’t find out where, then you come back and settle down. Since there isn’t really a start time, you just do all this as the service is going on. And the service, at least the bit I went to, involved an old woman singing for a bit until the priest turned up and got dressed into his finery. Then the priest took over the main brunt of the singing, occasionally stopping to let the old woman do a response (and she had been joined by some old men by then). Every so often he would say a keyword and everyone would stand up for a bit or do a cross or something. I think if you stay for the whole lot you get three and a half hours and at the end there’s a sermon, but I only stayed for an hour or so. When I left the watchers from breakfast were still there, waiting for me.

In the evening I walked past a church which seemed like there might be some action and it turned out that they were about to have a service and that they were Penecostal. That was a stroke of thoroughly good fortune. Before the vicar took the reins, instead of just sitting there, one of the old women of the congregation would shout out a number and everyone sang it. There wasn’t any accompaniment and nor was there any need because unlike almost every other church in the world (by which I mean the ones I’ve been to), the people seemed to like singing. And I liked the music. It was sort of rhythmic and folky and one of the women had the sort of croaky semi-real voice that only exist on archive films from a hundred years ago. That doesn’t explain it very well, so I’ll say this instead – it was extraordinary and beautiful. There were three solos during the service and a poetry reading and despite – not despite, because of – all that, I thought it was an excellent service. When it finished, the entire congregation moved towards the door which blocked it, then turned towards me and did some high quality staring. I mumbled “Nu… vorbesc… Romanesc… Eu… sunt… Englese” at no one in particular which gave everyone something to talk about, thus softening the stare. An Anglophone was found and pushed forward and a few moments later I was eating chicken and fried mashed potato (if you’d like to know how to make mashed potato better, fry it in loads of oil).

Feet

I also went to a reformed church where afterwards the minister told me to come with him to his house and I was the recipient of a bed for the first time in ages. That was wonderful but it made me notice a new development which has come with the hot weather (did I mention that it’s hot here? It is). Every evening I am made aware of the smell (strong and unpleasant) of my feet and every morning I clamp them up in my boots and forget about it for the day. However when I was the guest of Francisc and Dora I was thrown into a quandry. It was obvious to me that I should walk round their house in my boots and not in my socks, but it was hard to explain why. I chose the direct approach, doing impressions of an unpleasant odor and asking if I could wash my feet. Well I took my heinous socks off which had acquired a good deal of sock butter (hardens overnight and melts almost immediately when I put the sock on again giving the feeling of walking on a slice of raw bacon), washed my feet in the bath and put on some clean(ish) socks but it was already too late. There were black marks on the rug where I had trodden with my bare foot and what was undeniably a stench in the air. No one said anything, but when I went back later the window and door were open and later still Fracisc offered me a sanitary pack of soap, toothpaste, toothbrush and socks.

Jam

I can’t believe how rude I was about being given jam. Since then I’ve had a maximum of four pots of jam on me and a minimum (yesterday) of half. I love it. For a while now I have not been hungry at all. Not even in my mind. For a decent stretch of this walk I have had the mind of a starving man, constantly flicking back to food and how I was going to find it. In my sensible moments I knew there was no point in thinking like this but there it is. One of my most constant fantasies was of finding a bag of Starbucks muffins, the like of which we used to throw away every day (for the super-interested, I think they’ve now changed the shelf life of muffins from one day to two days which should mean a significant drop in muffin waste) and which I used to take home and pick little bits off before throwing away in my bin. At those times I wouldn’t have picked little bits off, I would have cheerfully eaten a sackful. Now, however, and specially with the advent of jam, I seem to have enough sugar in my life. Enough sugar and enough everything else.

Indiana Mikey

Two days ago I took a shortcut through the Cheile Nerei-Beușnița national park, only halfway through I got to an unpassable bit. The map doesn’t show it, but there’s a drop of twenty feet or so which you need a rope for, so I diverted my path up a dry river bed which was flanked by trees marked with a red stripe. Obviously it was a different path and so it would lead somewhere. Much later still the dry river bed I was walking up started to get wet and to stop being so much a river bed and more of a river. And it got dark. I climbed the hill to find a place for my tent, found quite a good place and noticed a red mark on one of the trees. In a matter of minutes I worked out that the red marks which I had been following were everywhere in the park. So I wasn’t so much following a path as just walking into a river. In a few minutes more I decided that tomorrow I would walk back the way I’d come, but I’d already finished my bread. Yesterday I woke up, ate a breakfast of half of my last sausage and half of my “cheese” and started backwards. Later, after traversing many dangerous obstacles etc. I was back at a road. I ate the rest of my sausage and cheese and a pot of jam. Eating jam from the pot should be really good but I still felt a bit guilty that I wasn’t diluting it with bread.

A few times I’ve been running low on food and sort of economised, like by not eating jam straight out of the pot, and then later I’ve been given tonnes of jam or whatever and I’ve thought “Idiot! Why did I save my jam when I was hungry?” Now my motto is: “When I’m hungry, eat my food.” Also, once someone gave me some delicious turkey which made my mouth water and two days later it had gone mouldy and I cut bits off and threw them away. I still feel bad about that, and my plan is never to get into that sort of situation again. Much better to risk having no food for a little bit, specially since it never actually happens.

Hungarian Fine

Don’t worry about that fine. It’s Hungary that wants it and I’m not in Hungary any more. I think it says something about how if I don’t pay then they’ll do such and such and if I’m not an EU member then I may get banned from Hungary. Well I don’t want that any more than you do, so I’ll probably get round to sorting it out at some point. I’ll admit that it’s not at the top of my list of priorities, but when you think that Rory gets banned from America every time he goes there and they still always let him back in, I reckon it’s not worth worrying about.

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My last header photo. Me by the Danube with loads of food.

My last header photo. Me by the Danube with loads of food.

This is me and David and Agica in Hungary

This is me and David and Agica in Hungary

This is after I got busted. I wasnt really meant to take any photos, so its not very explicit, but thats the border police station in the background, with some border police.

This is after I got busted. I wasn't really meant to take any photos, so it's not very explicit, but that's the border police station in the background, with some border police.

This is the confession that the Romanian fuzz squeezed out of me brutally. On the right is the meal they gave me. It was delicious.

This is the confession that the Romanian fuzz squeezed out of me brutally. On the right is the meal they gave me. It was delicious.

This is Alin, my first Romanian friend, who stole €30 from my tent. Poor old Alin.

This is Alin, my first Romanian friend, who stole €30 from my tent. Poor old Alin.

This is my Easter lunch. I was made breakfast without being asked so my boiled eggs had to wait a little. I may look freakishly red but its a trick of the light.

This is my Easter lunch. I was made breakfast without being asked so my boiled eggs had to wait a little. I may look freakishly red but it's a trick of the light.

The couple from the Pentecostal church who gave me dinner

The couple from the Pentecostal church who gave me dinner.

A couple of co-pilgrims who came with me a few kilometers up a hill

A couple of co-pilgrims who came with me a few kilometers up a hill

A rubbish photo of some new blisters.

A rubbish photo of some new blisters.

This is one of a large supply of old women wearing black and doing manual labour in public.

This is one of a large supply of old women wearing black and doing manual labour in public.

When I took a wrong turning in a National Park. The day after I took this photo I walked back this way.

When I took a wrong turning in a National Park. The day after I took this photo I walked back this way.

No ones going to say Im a wildlife photographer, but this guy was just sitting there being lazy so I photod him. Later I prodded him with a stick and he moved a bit so I think he wasnt dead.

No one's going to say I'm a wildlife photographer, but this guy was just sitting there being lazy so I photo'd him. Later I prodded him with a stick and he moved a bit so I think he wasn't dead.

If you want to wake someone up you could do worse than killing a pig near them. I walked over to see what all the squealing was about and found that the trotters were already off and they were getting to work on the head.

If you want to wake someone up you could do worse than killing a pig near them. I walked over to see what all the squealing was about and found that the trotters were already off and they were getting to work on the head.

Old man smoking, dirt road, two cows, a plough. Romania is pretty cool.

Old man smoking, dirt road, two cows, a plough. Romania is pretty cool.

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Police

One of the things I wanted to do on this pilgrimage was to get kicked out of a country by the police. Well I’ve done that now. I was ejected from Romania by the very efficient border control who spotted my illegal entry and diverted me. I thought I’d head across the Hungary/Romania border from Kubekhasa to Beba Veche since there were nice small roads and although there wasn’t a little sign on the map saying that there was a legitimate crossing and although lots of people told me I wouldn’t be able to cross there, I knew that Romania was part of the EU these days so I’d be ok.

When I got there the last person I spoke to about it drew a very careful map of how to go back the way I’d come and then did a good impression of soldiers killing me which was meant to warn me not to try to cross the border through the fields, but he did point the direction of the border and I said I’d go and have a look. There was no sign of soldiers or killing, so I tentatively stepped forward. Then it became obvious that I could easily just walk to Beba Veche, which I could see, and that no one would stop me.

When I arrived there a policeman ambled up to me, looked at my passport, took me to the station and we did a lot of waiting. I had been spotted. They called the Hungarian border patrol who drove up to the border several hours later, then drove away to be replaced by another Hungarian border patrol, this time with Romanian translator, who took me to Cenad in a car. Well actually in three different cars. The whole process took several hours and several people and when I was dropped in Cenad, which is a border which you are allowed to walk through, I walked through with no problems. Now I’m legal, and it’s almost exactly as it would have been if I had walked across to Beba Veche without being spotted, only I moved 20km East in a car, so that’s the end of pilgrimage 1. Pilgrimage 2 started in Cenad and hopefully I’ll get to Jerusalem this time. And also I got a fine for 15,000 Forint which I have to pay in 30 days. Goodness knows how I’m going to do that.

Gypsies Again

Another thing I wanted to do was to be robbed by Gypsies and luckily I was able to strike this off my list as well on my first day in Romania. As I walked into Cenad a friendly looking character was sitting outside his house and waved me over. I said I was looking for a place to put my tent and he pointed at his garden and I thought “Cool, I’ve made a friend already” and then he made me coffee and so I was right. Then he said “Are you hungry?” and I had just learnt how to say “I’m always hungry” in Romanian so I proudly stuttered my way through that and he told me that there was a shop in town and that he’d take me if I liked. Well that wasn’t the right answer, he was meant to say “Here, have some food”, and then I told him I had no money and he still didn’t say “Here, have some food.” That made me smell a rat, specially since he asked a few questions about whether I really did have no money. (Actually I had thirty Euros, but I always say I have no money because I was planning on giving it away and it’s too complicated to explain all that). A bit later he invited me into his house to watch TV and I said yes OK and at the same time his friend turned up who didn’t look at me when he shook my hand and was a bit squinty and suspicious looking. I sort of had the feeling that he might be there to look through my stuff, so when I went to bed a bit later I checked my stuff and I had no Euros any more. Everything else was where it had been so either he knew where I kept it somehow (in my compass – too obvious?) or he was an effective sneakthief. Either way I slept unsoundly that night, thinking that maybe some other sting would be effected on me to get anything else I might be hoarding. Particularly since after I had gone to sleep, Squinter knocked on my tent and tried to make me come and eat some food. He was reasonably forceful and as a result I turned down the offer of a meal with more vigour than I have in months. Unnervingly he also shoved his head into my tent and looked around, without explanation. In the morning he was back and because really they’d not done anything wrong and also (mostly) because I wanted to lose a bit of weight from my bag, I gave Alin my jumper as a no-hard-feelings present. Then I shook hands and didn’t mention my money and scuttled out of there like a massive chicken.

One small downside to this incident is that the church in Jerusalem which was meant to get twenty Euros, won’t get it. A bigger downside is that I have become a practicing racist since then. I have been reliably told that there are nice Gypsies around so I have an open mind, but since my only experiences so far have been a bit negative, I am in the ugly position of judging people by their skin colour. Hopefully I’ll meet some of the good type soon.

An hour after leaving Alin, in case this seems a little gloom heavy, I was given breakfast and 10 Lei by someone, then later a sausage or two by someone else, another meal a bit later and in the evening an omelette (four eggs) with sausages followed by an omelette (two eggs) by some other people. Poor old Alin. All he needs to do is wander around with a stick and instead he steals off his friends.

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This is me and Eric triumphantly crossing the border into Hungary. Notice the wind.

This is me and Eric triumphantly crossing the border into Hungary. Notice the wind.

 

Attila and Bese having a breakfast of bread, sausage and raw onion.

Attila and Bese having a breakfast of bread, sausage and raw onion.

 

There didnt seem to be a lot to say about Bakonybank, but someone has paid for a tourist info sign and it had to go up. The best bit is the paragraph above the awesome photo.

There didn't seem to be a lot to say about Bakonybánk, but someone has paid for a tourist info sign and it had to go up. The best bit is the paragraph above the awesome photo.

 

I stopped for a rest by these guys house and asked them if those were vines they were growing. A bit of Kellogyellogpellog later and a son appeared with three glasses and a plastic bottle of wine. There seems to be no inappropriate time for a quick glass of wine in Hungary.

I stopped for a rest by these guys' house and asked them if those were vines they were growing. A bit of "Kellogyellogpellog" later and a son appeared with three glasses and a plastic bottle of wine. There seems to be no inappropriate time for a quick glass of wine in Hungary.

 

This is Istuan Hatuani, and he shouted at me as I was walking past, led me into his cellar, drank some wine with me and then gave me a little bit to take with me.

This is Istuan Hatuani, and he shouted at me as I was walking past, led me into his cellar, drank some wine with me and then gave me a little bit to take with me.

 

And when I say a little bit, I mean the two bottles in the middle - one white (Chardonnay) and one red (red). On the right... Palinka (beware).

And when I say "a little bit", I mean the two bottles in the middle - one white (Chardonnay) and one red (red). On the right... Palinka (beware).

 

This is Rudi who watched me eat a couple of sandwiches in a bar, then offered me a meal at his house. I naturally accepted. The bowl behind my food contains paprika which means chille peppers and you cut them up and eat them with pretty much everything in these parts.

This is Rudi who watched me eat a couple of sandwiches in a bar, then offered me a meal at his house. I naturally accepted. The bowl behind my food contains "paprika" which means "chille peppers" and you cut them up and eat them with pretty much everything in these parts.

 

Sadly the German trend of importing Clipart gravestones from India is spreading to Hungary, but there are still plenty of good ones, specially the older ones. Here are two with photos. Of course! Why dont they all have photos? Its the Modern Age after all. In the background there are a bunch of small graves. The children get a separate section.

Sadly the German trend of importing Clipart gravestones from India is spreading to Hungary, but there are still plenty of good ones, specially the older ones. Here are two with photos. Of course! Why don't they all have photos? It's the Modern Age after all. In the background there are a bunch of small graves. The children get a separate section.

 

Does anyone understand the cups? Cups on the left, crosses on the right.

Does anyone understand the cups? Cups on the left, crosses on the right.

 

I accidentally started a fire which went a bit out of control, but then it sort of burnt itself out and I pulled the embers together and made a little barbeque. If youre a computer whizz you can zoom in to check out the slabs of bacon fat Im cooking. All the charred black stuff was caused by me.

I accidentally started a fire which went a bit out of control, but then it sort of burnt itself out and I pulled the embers together and made a little barbeque. If you're a computer whizz you can zoom in to check out the slabs of bacon fat I'm cooking. All the charred black stuff was caused by me.

 

This is a pub where in the night there was a birthday celebration for which they cooked a Hungarian speciality. Cows stomach and pigs trotter stew. I was given quite a lot of it and although it tasted nice I have to admit I was grossed out a bit. I finished it, but I didnt have seconds. I took this photo in the morning at 9.20 and already lots of the same guys were back and drinking beer or white wine spritzers.

This is a pub where in the night there was a birthday celebration for which they cooked a Hungarian speciality. Cow's stomach and pig's trotter stew. I was given quite a lot of it and although it tasted nice I have to admit I was grossed out a bit. I finished it, but I didn't have seconds. I took this photo in the morning at 9.20 and already lots of the same guys were back and drinking beer or white wine spritzers.

 

A couple of lovely Hungarians who, among other things, washed my clothes for me.

A couple of lovely Hungarians who, among other things, washed my clothes for me.

 

I asked to go for a ride on this horse and I did, but it was quite short. It walked one step, galloped one step, stopped and I flew off and (this bit is a little blurry) I did a double somersault and landed on my chest and head. No harm done, but I did stagger for a minute.

I asked to go for a ride on this horse and I did, but it was quite short. It walked one step, galloped one step, stopped and I flew off and (this bit is a little blurry) I did a double somersault and landed on my chest and head. No harm done, but I did stagger for a minute.

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