Romania Roadtrip Part 1

It was the first unplanned country on our route. After some days in Ukraine, Romania seemed a good idea to continue our travels. My old, never-used guide of this country was lying on a shelf at home, as when we were leaving to Ukraine we were actually thinking of going north, to see Lithuania or Latvia. But on the way to Lithuania stood Belarus and we didn’t have time to wait for the visas. So why not Romania? One day before leaving Ukraine I wrote to my Romanian friend Corina  that we urgently need some recommendations for the north of the country. She quickly gave me a list of places worth visiting, and literally after a couple of minutes in front of the computer, we downloaded some maps and left in the direction of Romania.
After an incredibly long and bumpy Ukrainian road, we saw a bridge signaling the border. It was already late, and there was almost nobody on the border crossing. Customs officers welcomed us with “buona sera”, which made us wonder if he thought we were Italian, or maybe the Romanian language is similar to Italian. We already knew that Romanian belongs to the same language group as Italian, Portuguese and Spanish, so when we saw some information posts Renato had a blast that although he was somewhere in the east, he could still understand the local language pretty well.

Right after the border, on the verge of the first Romanian town –  Sighetu Marmatiei, we had our hotel booked. We chose it mainly because of the name ; Dupa Apa La Razvan (dupa means ass in Polish), this made me laugh until morning.

We came back to the town for breakfast, walked around the not really interesting center, and started looking for the Memorial of the Victims of Communism and of the Resistance. We thought it was only going to be a statue, but we ended up in a huge museum created in an old prison. It was officially called the “unit of special labor”, but it was simply a place to exterminate the then present intellectual elite of the country, who didn’t agree with the new regime. It’s an overwhelming place, but beautifully commemorated, especially with a small concrete chapel surrounded by a wall with thousands of names of all the victims. There is also an interesting monument on the other side of the yard.

The next places we visited were like something from a fairy tale. Far, far away, in the middle of nothing, between fields, village houses and horse carriages, there is a unique blue cemetery. No solemnity, gloomy gray tombstones or black metal crosses. Instead, colorful wooden crosses with a board with a painting showing the deceased and a short text about his or her life. The idea of Merry Cemetery (Cimitirul Vesel) was created in 1935 when a local artist Stan Ioan Pătraș made a funny epitaph. Since then the tradition is continued by the locals who carve the cross and write a short, sometimes humorous anecdote about the life or death of the deceased. One of the funniest talks about taking pleasure in drinking alcohol, hating a mother-in-law, lightning striking the top of somebody’s head, etc. It’s a pity though that everything is in Romanian and there are no translations, so in the cemetery I had to eavesdrop from some Romanian guy who was translating to English the text to a friend. All the graves make up a truly unique chronicle of the local people, with a drop of humour, but also a lot of respect and remembrance.

Magda

This blog was orginally published on eastwego.com