Hitching to Romania

As I vomited for the third time in the trendy underground bar it occurred to me that perhaps I had drunk too much of the strong Romanian beer on offer here. I exited the toilet and was immediately accosted by a pretty young girl and her friends who were convinced I was their best chance of a British passport. For the hundredth time that evening I explained that I had a girlfriend and was too pissed for a crazed love making session anyway. My lack of Romanian linguistic skills meant I had to mime this, the pissed bit was fairly easy, I just stood their (vibrating gently to the music) and stared vacantly (a skill I have mastered over the years).

So this was backpacking in Eastern Europe, I mused as I stumbled back to our table. To prove I could still drink, I bought another round of four drinks for four quid, at that point it didn’t seem like the worst idea I’d had all day. Hitchhiking to Bucharest in Romania had been an adventure, Hungary had been a disaster for hitching with almost no one stopping as the rain lashed down soaking us and our camping gear. Eventually a French gent in an empty minibus had stopped for us and dropped us on the Romanian border, we had set up camp and hoped to god it wouldn’t rain…

The next ten hours had produced nothing but heavy rain. We lay shivering in our tent occasionally playing ‘worm wars’ – a game where, encased in your sleeping bag, you try to hit your opponent in the face with your feet. Eventually we were forced to leave our tent and pack up in the pouring rain, we sat outside a service station looking dejected and, apparently, thirsty. Without a word a Romanian man went into the small service station shop and bought us both two liters of coke, each. Struggling to understand the full logic of this (had we looked very thirsty but not at all hungry?) we thanked the kindly gypsy and went back to our hitching endeavours. After a while an elderly Romanian bloke with no English skills screeched to a halt and ordered us in with brisk ‘come here’ motions. He drove us the one hundred kilometres to Romania but due to the road quality it took a spine jarring 3 hours. He spoke some German and so we conversed in that. He mentioned at least twenty times that ‘his wife gets the train every day to Bucharest’. His German went little further than that phrase and variations of it.

We arrived into Brasov late at night and were met by our couchsurfing host Bertie who put us up for three nights in his house (which was actually under construction, more or less a fully fledged building site in reality). Brasov was incredibly cold and unfortunately I had no cold weather gear; I had fucked up. I had packed a tank top, a fleece just in case and my old threadbare shoes… the temperature plummeted to minus 2 and I quickly filled my shoes with snow ensuring I would never again be warm. Frodo smiled at me smugly from his down jacket  a smile quickly removed by shoving my freezing hands under it and onto his gloriously warm back. Despite the construction going on around us I was ever so glad the couch surfing scene was alive and well in Romania, another night in the tent would have been hard to swallow at these temperatures.

Onwards we continued hitchhiking to Bucharest with a young toilet roll delivery man who babbled enthusiastically about England and Finland (this was to be a recurring theme). A really nice bloke, Mr toilet roll delivery man dropped us off before we got another lift with two gorgeous girls who were off skiing, they were international students in Swansea and were incredibly nice to us, driving us a good distance before depositing us in ‘the village of dogs’. I doubt that was the village’s formal name but this particular village had a ridiculous number of strays. Romania is rumored to have over half a million stray dogs, many of which have rabies, and I quickly adopted three or four, stroking them and feeding them pizza much to the locals amusement…

Bogdan Bogdan (first and last name) is perhaps the greatest man in the world. Our couch surfing host in Bucharest, he is currently making me some coffee after the nights antics. I awoke reeking of mint and realized that in my drunken state I had got half a tube off toothpaste over my face in my efforts to maintain my Hollywood smile.  Stumbling to the bathroom my head somehow managed to both spin and pound and I slumped to the floor with a whimper, amazingly all my stuff had made it home with me and I set about preparing for the gym… a keen bodybuilder Bogdan had been delighted when I had mentioned my passion for the most intellectual of all sports… picking up heavy things (preferably grunting in the process) and putting them down again. Knuckles still bleeding from the rough punching bag I can only assume was comprised of sandpaper I gripped the bench and attempted not to hurl, delving in my bag I located and swallowed a load of painkillers for my pulverized head, so far so good! Today we are heading into Bucharest to see the sites which include the second largest building in the world (the first is the pentagon) and the fascinatingly named ‘Museum of the Romanian peasant’ which has an entire section on why you should treat granny like a queen. “Tonight we go drink many beers and see Romanian chicks’ exclaimed Bogdan excitedly, whilst the first part did appeal my head angrily sprang into action proclaiming “seriously?”. Those pubs in Bucharest, they’re really something else .

Romania has been beautiful albeit bitterly cold (I have suffered from what feels like frostbite on several occasions). One of the best things about Romania is the people are very keen to talk to you, a couple of nights ago I wandered to the loo and Frodo found me an hour later sitting at a table being bought my second beer by a brilliant couple very much into their metal music and guns. We had an excited conversation about how when the world ends we should meet up and construct a eutopian community together, naturally I would be head of security.

And that’s it really, its been brilliant, we have hitchhiked across Europe from England to the furthest possible point before you hit the black sea, and been provided some unforgettable accommodation in Romania thanks wonderful couchsurfing members. We have traveled over three thousand kilometres in our quest for cheap beer, pounding music, underground bars, incredible architecture, free accommodation and Romanian castles…. lots and lots of castles. !

My advice if you are thinking about hitching in Eastern Europe? – GO FOR IT!

2 Comments

  • Avatar Luminita says:

    That was quite an adventure! I didn’t realize our beer was strong 🙂 Perhaps, I’m used to uit. But we do have some great pubs, each with its own “personality”. And the people are always talkative, even if they don’t know your language, that’s a given. For us, if we don’t know the words, we just use signs. We manage to get along with foreigners.

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