Monthly Archives: February 2012

Romanian Beauty II

Jiet - Campulung

Jiet - Campulung. Click to enlarge

I woke up in that lonely road of Jiet, but it wasn’t difficult to have a lift. After a few minutes a big truck appeared and I got in. It was driven by Ivi, a happy driver who used to drive all over Europe and now was cheerfully driving his own truck through those unasphaulted roads. And it was hard for his double wagon trailer to make itself a path between those wooden bridges and narrow trees. But he was a master of it. As he was showing me photos of that place in winter time, he told me I was crazy to sleep there: bears and wolves inhabited those forests. Then, he realized our ways were different, and when a van appeared right behind us, he used his radio to call them. After a while, he was turning up to another mountain as I got out and jumped into the van.

Little friends in Lacu Vidra

Little friends in Lacu Vidra

It was some kind of minibus, or a van with lots of seats, with two adults and six children, karts drivers that were going on a competition in some circuit between those mountains. The older one was Alexandru, and he was the one who talked the most, as he was the only who knew some words in English. We had a nice ride until the Vidra Lake, were they turned to a road leading to some resort. And I got out and waited for a car. There I could admire the beauty of those mountains and the lake, as there alone I was insecurelly thinking in wolves and bears living around there. After a while (and always incredibly fast thinking in the loneliness of those roads) a sort of gentleman appeared. Clean, perfectly combed and elegantly dressed, with a new 4×4 car with the wheel in the wrong side as it was bought in England. His name was Gheorghe and he was a farmer. He was driving so fast, making myself scared for my luck, but maybe because of this he stopped in a bus stop in the next town.

Furtherv I was driven by Florin. He had to stop at a bank to make some formalities. He gave me the keys of the car and told me, “Hey, wait here for me, and watch over the car”. There, with the keys in my hands, unethical things passed through my head, but, I’m not that bad. He told me goodbye in Brezoi, where I bought some food and I walked to a park and ate with tho old ladies looking at me. “Where are you from?”, one asked to me in Romanian. “Barcelona, in Spain”. “Oh, you come walking from there?” “Yes!” And they were congratulating me a few time as I was laughing inside…

Caciulata

Caciulata monastery

Some drivers told me I should stop in Caciulata, and I did so. A woman with her daughter brought me to the beautiful old monastery, built in the 14th century, the walls full of orthodox icons paintings and a pleasant calmed atmosphere all around. A nun came to me, told me something I didn’t understand and showed me her teeth made of gold. And yeah, I was happy and hitched again to Ramnicu Valcea inside a car with a trailer. The guy was angry at the beginning, and when I asked what he had in the trailer, he answered “nothing!”. But then we talked more and more and he got happy and finally said “Peanuts, I have many peanuts there! Do you want some?”

I’ve made it to Valcea and there I was picked up by a big old man. He was a mechanic with big and dirty hands. He told me he needed to carry something and we went somewhere by secondary roads. Then he stopped at a big house and said: “Come with me”

Inside the fence it was full of chickens here and there. An old woman with a shawl gave me some grain and made the gesture to  feed the hens, so it was what I did. Then it was the turn for the pump. I helped Adrianu to carry that heavy pump inside his car, and we left right to Curtea de Arges.

After a couple of car rides, I was with Madalin, a sim card and Orbit chewing gum seller who also wanted some help. We were driving through tracks to small villages bars, trying to sell the goods. He didn’t know English and every time we couldn’t understand each other, he was calling his cousin, who tried to say the same in English or Italian. And it was getting late, but that was more exciting, paths full of cows and hens, bars full of dirty drunk men and everything was fast and interesting and nice.

Mateias Mausoleum

Mateias Mausoleum near Campulung

Finally we arrived to Campulung. He showed me a pension, I gave thanks to him, and when he was away, I walked following the road looking for a place to plant my tent. After 10 minutes walking, Madalin appeared again.

“What are you doing?” He said.

I improvised something about the pension prices, and he decided to bring me to another pension, right in the path to Brasov. We stopped near Mateias Mausoleum, and he showed me a resort not far from there. I asked him about planting the tent around there.

“Noooo! Bears!”

But I didn’t pay attention to him.

Late at night, I was reading torch on head when I heard something  big went down the mountain slope, came to my tent and started shaking it. I was terrified. But as I was trying to find my knife, an empty water bottle was treaded on frightening the animal, and I could hear how it went to my food garbage that I smartly had placed some meters further my tent.

That was a long and hard day, but it was impossible to sleep.

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Categories: carpathian mountains, Europe, hitchhiking, Romania, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Places to go III. The Kolyma Highway

Kolyma Highway - The Road of Bones

Kolyma Highway - The Road of Bones. Distance in miles

If the world would have an end, the Kolyma region would be surely a firm candidate. The end of the Russian almost uninhabited Far East offers a mix of adventure, unknown, picturesque people, incredible nature and cold. A lot of cold.

Made by forced labour in Stalin’s times, the road M-56 is also known as the Kolyma Highway or the “Road of Bones”, because of many people who died building it were directly buried under or along the road. It begins in the big city of Yakutsk, in the region of Sakha, and finishes in the Pacific coast, in the city of Magadan. The original route via Tomtor was 1900 km long, and distance increased with the new road. On the road you can find  the coldest inhabited place on Earth, ghost towns, several old gulags  and a stunning nature all over the landscape.

Traveling the Kolyma highway is a challenge itself and should not be done by people not ready for extreme conditions of isolation, cold, inexistence of public services (such as health, transport, security, etc), wild nature (wolves, bears and those dangerous ticks), and bad road maintenance that can lead to an accident. Alcoholism and nature of locals can be tricky, as well as their lack of foreign languages knowledge, but I suppose this should be considered as part of the fun.

Oymyakon is considered the Pole of Cold

We are moving the blog. Please, keep reading this post at:

210 Countries – The Kolyma Highway

You have more “Places to go” pages there. Sorry for the inconvenience.

Thanks for reading!

Oymyakon

 

Categories: Asia, Places to go, Russia, Siberia, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Romanian beauty

Beograd Petrosani

Click to enlarge

If we would make a list with the best countries for hitchhike, Romania would be clearly rounding the top. The waiting times decrease to an average around five minutes and the fun is assured. I could happen through many different situations with the people who gave me a lift: going to sell telephone cards to lost villages through mountain unasphaulted paths, help a man to repair his bathroom, bring a (heavy) pump from one house to the other, and more earthly activities like giving food to the chicken or keeping a car (with the keys in my hands) while the driver went inside the bank to attend some business.

To get out of Beograd, I took a train to Vrsac, and there, near the Romanian border, I began to hitchhike. An old car took me to the customs control. When hitchhiking, it’s very rare that a woman let you inside her car. They are afraid of an aggression or a pervert. But when I saw the first lonely woman of the trip stopped for me, I understood why. She was extremely ugly. Over her lips, there was a mole flooded by hair, and the face was rounded with fallen greasy skin. Her body was huge, exceptionally fat. She was from Kosovo, but escaped to Serbia after the political events that everybody know.

– Everything is ruled by mafia in Kosovo! – she said.

She took me to a road bar near the border. Then I crossed the line and it began the fun.

Entering from the Serbian border in Vrsac, the Romanian lands appear as a flat thing covered by sunflower and corn fields, and it’s not until Reşita that it becomes undulated like the sea surface, and keeps like this till we arrive in Petroşani. There the real Carpaty Range starts and the roads become abrupt climbs to beautiful mountains. And the beauty is an important point in Romania. The mountains are specially photogenic. Although they are not so high as in other places like the Alps,  the wet climate give an intense green to the valleys and the grass fields mixes constantly with dense forests to give it a very characteristic landscape.

My first lift in  Romania was an empty bus that  was going to pick up people in Timişoara. I went down in the road cross with Reşita, where a truck driver saw me. His name was Ovidiu, and he had been living in Catalonia. We talked lengthily about the towns he had been to,Tarragona, Lleida, and some more, and talked again and again about a disco he went to in Lleida and he was offered cocaine.

Jiet

Road outside Jiet

After some misunderstanding with him, I was dropped down in Reşita. I walked till the end of the town, where a policeman found it funny to ask for my passport. I was retained one hour there while the police was trying to figure out who I am and why I was there.

A car with a young boy who once was working in Napoli bring me to Caravansebeş through a road that was going wavy more and more. I asked the way to Hateg to a guy that was walking, and he said:

– You go hitchhiking, right? Come with me, I’ll take you!

He left me in a nearby town right in the road to Hateg, a fantastic spot to hitch the next car, a refrigerator van. The driver was very proud of his van, because he could keep his water and dinner cold. He explained me he went everyday to different cities to bring some meat, and today it was the turn for Hateg.

Outside Jiet

Sleeping place outside Jiet

After an easy way to Petroşani, I decided to go deep in the mountains. I wanted to arrive to the Vidra Lake and sleep there, but I didn’t know the road. Just out of Jiet it became just a path that made its way between the walls of the mountain. The cars completely disappeared, and the gorge didn’t leave any empty gap to place the tend. But after a long walk I could find a place to sleep near the river. It was a long day and I was tired; I deserved a bath.

Categories: Beograd, Europe, Romania, Serbia, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reaching Beograd

Doboj - Beograd

The rain wasn’t stopping. All over the Bosnian valleys, through the happy character of its people and their Balcanic enthusiasm, the rain satisfied the thirst of those green trees and bushes, and filled the rivers to its limit. But I didn’t give up. I kept hitching the road, thumb by thumb, from one car to the other, from a mechanic who went to buy tools to a wedding car all covered by shabby ribbons and bows of doubtful elegance. One Imam, orthodox Serbs, returned emigrants who made money in Italy or Switzerland and now where living an easy and wealthy life in their hometown… resuming, many singular people, all of them with their peculiarities, different and original, genuine as the country itself, talking about a better future or a sad past, and absolutely, all of them, funny and talkative and kind.

One of them was Stefano, a 64 years old man who lived in Switzerland for 35 years. Now he was back in Bosnia for the rest of his life. He spoke Italian very well and, encouraged by my Spanish origin, was saying all the time:

“Si, si, si! Si señor!”

It was a good time with Stefano. He talked to me about the war (which he had not lived), about his sons, one working in Italy, the other in Beograd. Happy for the meeting, he drove me 35 km further than he should, dropped me in Bijelina and I began to walk.

Bijelina, Bosnia

Bijelina, Republika Srpska, Bosnia

Bijenlina is right in the bordering region with Serbia. It seemed a richer place, full of colorful little houses with gardens all over kilometers of road, and I had nowhere to place my tent. Finally I found an abandoned house, and I slept on its backyard. Next morning the house was full of people. In the garden, inside the house… and around my tent. As I discovered, it was some sort of communal house that was burned some time ago, and the neighbours where repairing it. All of them looked at me as I was packing my things, and they didn’t say anything, as if I was a strange apparition. I said goodbye and hit the road with the feeling that something was wrong.

Although I had to wait a long time for a car, I crossed the border and arrived to Beograd in the early evening of a long day of June. That was fine enough. A new place to discover through the slope.

Beograd Caslte

Beograd Castle

Beograd caused me a good impression. Although it’s lack of some great monument (the castle is less impressing than the ones you can find in many places of Italy, France or Spain), and although the smallness of it’s center, it gave me good vibes. The Serbians are kind people, and the girls are really attractive. On the castle walls, groups of young people drank beer and stronger things inside the warm June nights. I could talk a little about basketball, Partizan and Bodiroga and so on, but I came back early to the hostel to wash my clothes. Something that was really needed.

Beograd market

Beograd market

Categories: Balcans, Beograd, Bosnia, Europe, hitchhiking, Serbia, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Bosnian experience

Bosnia is one of the last really genuine countries in Europe. There’s a great mix, but the difference between every of their cultures remains strong. A massive amount of mountains allows tiny roads that follows green valleys between the diversity of its people. And there are also the memories of the war, which are not funny, but interesting enough. Traveling is something we do mostly for fun, but there’s nothing bad in put a little bit of interest in the history, the circumstances, and the possibilities of the place we are visiting. And Bosnia have plenty of circumstances which can be interesting to know. Since the romans settlements to the slavicisation of the country and the Turks invasions, the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria –the spark that set off World War I-, the other war and the communist times. And then happened what we already know. Me, I don’t like involving too much in the politics of each place. I mean I like to know, but I don’t like to discuss. I better let people talk and talk to me, and expose their visions. It’s by listening that we learn more; the more you listen, the more you’ll have an exact vision of the problems on locals eyes, that can be so different from the visions we get in our houses. And this is important. The less we discuss about politics, the more we’ll learn and more friends we’ll have. Politic talks are discussions if we give our opinion, but are interviews if we ask the people to explain their point of view to us. So my recommendation is to make more interviews than anything else. Everywhere, but specially in a country with a past like Bosnia.

I had some special rides in Bosnia. One of them was Mustafa and his friend. They gave me a lift one day, and next day I found them again on the road and took me for second time. But more amazing was to find myself inside a school bus with a teenagers’ classroom on a three-day trip, where I felt abused with questions about my girlfriends, spanish football and sex.

Banja Luka orthodox church

Banja Luka orthodox church

From Italy I had rain in all my days. Not all time, but all days some rain at all. I was hitchhiking with my waterproof when Namir and Goran stopped and took me to Banja Luka. I have a great memory of them. Namir was the driver. He was a tall ex-basketball player who went to play in Poland, but had to go back to his country for the war. At his side, Goran enjoyed to play blues on the tape. They invited me to drink a coffee on a road bar, and then I went with them to buy things for their house, to pay the electricity bill in the National Electric Company, and to the bank to pay the bill for the water. Then, we went to their house (and mysteriously some slivovica shots came to our hands), and finally we went to a bar. They made me a present, a Bosnian t-shirt which I promised to take into China – and I did. Then, their friends (Zoran, Goran and Zoran) came and the fun increased. They began to explain stories of the war, joking about it and made toasts as the beer was accidentally falling into my stomach. And I limited to listen to them, admire the male ex-soldiers party and drink and drink and drink.

I was drunk when I met Senka at 1 o’clock in the afternoon. She was my host I found on Hospitality Club. We stayed in the same house as her father, a man who passed all the time looking at the wall. I didn’t see him making anything else. Jokes apart, he seemed a tired man, a man who had lived enough to understand things. But I’m saying this judging only his eyes (dark profound eyes), ‘cause I didn’t exchange any word with him.

Krupa na Vrbasu, Banja Luka

Krupa na Vrbasu, Banja Luka, Bosnia

We went to the center, and Senka showed me an exposition made by her in the center of the city. There were many photo compositions, and some conceptual disposition of elements and furniture. It all made me feel her need to do new things, in opposition of his father. And made me think a little about the differences between two generations, one who had to carry a heavy load and now finds relief in the flippancy of the new times, and a young generation who wants to fulfill their empty bag with something not coming from their complex past.

I left Banja Luka with the feeling that I could have tried something with her. She was a beautiful girl and I was a free traveler, so there was nothing to fear. Maybe her father in the next room. But there, under the rain, I was a little bit tired for hitchhike. I went to the station and I got into a bus to Doboj.

Categories: Bosnia, Europe, hitchhiking, The Sun in my Forehead, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Places to go II. The second largest aquarium tank in the world!

Before continue with the a places been and the things seen abroad, I want to share with you a new place to go. I always liked aquariums, but if you like to travel is difficult to maintain any of them. Instead, you can go to public ones. Some of them are really impressive, like this. It’s located in Japan, exactly in Motubu (Okinawa Islands), and it has the second largest aquarium tank in the world, called Kuroshio Sea.

It holds 7500 cubic meters of water and features the second largest acrylic glass panel. Whale sharks and manta rays are kept amongst many other fish species in the main tank.

So now it’s time for you to turn on full screen mode, relax and enjoy the smooth movements of the fishes. Can you imagine to be the diver?

Kuroshio Sea – 2nd largest aquarium tank in the world – (song is Please don’t go by Barcelona) from Jon Rawlinson on Vimeo.

Categories: Aquarium, Asia, Japan, kuroshio sea, Places to go | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment