Romania 08/2012 – 04/2013
[dropcaps color=’#393939′ background_color=” border_color=” type=”]4[/dropcaps]20 days ago we were embarking on a motorbike ride around Africa. And before we knew it, we were back in Romania: you know how it is, good times end soon, the adrenaline rises fast and you suddenly wake up, drenched in sweat, with your head spinning… but you’re just in your own bed. Far from the lion’s jungle, from the crocodile’s delta, from the mud huts and dirt roads. Far from Africa.
After 14 months of wilderness (not to mention the white Tenere stage and the blue Tenere stage, resulting in another 15 months of zero contact with the hip and social scene of the city) I rode past the sign that said „BUCURESTI” (BUCHAREST). I was feeling nervous and frankly, a little… scared. We both registered the slightly odd traffic on the national road, the flatness of the field, the familiar smell of dusty continental summer. We felt more like tourists on holiday than returning vagabonds. The feeling got stronger as we progressed to the fringes of the city, where there was a madness of cars and people rushing to fulfill whatever they must do on a busy Thursday. I turned right on the street where I have spent a good part of my childhood, where I had the accident, where my grandparents used to live. Their apartment was still available, and I thought my mum must be waiting there for us. We had been fiddling with the idea of making a big announcement on the forum or our blog about our arrival but it seemed unnatural and before we could make up our mind we found ourselves in front of the gate.
„Open it,” I asked Ana. The gate screeched and squeaked and the metallic sound echoed to the back of the yard. It looked like little changed there since we had left. But as I opened the door of the garage, my mum showed up. Hugs and a spoon of tears followed. Then the garage opened as the mouth of an ogre ready to swallow us and the entire world. A Rabbit Hole into another universe. I parked inside, pulled the stand, turned the key, switched off the lights and locked the door. Hrrrum! It shut down together with the most important chapter of our life.
The apartment was almost unrecognisable, even though I am positive that was exactly as we had left it. It was just empty and white. We walked around and our steps and our chatter reverberated into the walls. In the living there was the couch and the table, and in the bedroom a bunch of cardboard boxes with all our belongings. Actually the boxes are still there. What’s in the boxes? I don’t care, really, our past lives I guess. But they make me feel deeply ashamed that I have ever dared to say to Africans that I was not as rich as the other westerners. Having gotten used to a nomadic life I had forgotten about the boxes. About the consumerist gluttony. At times I felt I shouldn’t be judged on the same level as my fellow westerns. Today I wonder why? In the end, what could I have more? T-shirts from a fancier label? A fridge with electronic display and an ice making machine? Seriously?
On our arrival night my mum the only person to greet us. But she soon revealed that Ana’s folks were on their way, too. They were arriving by train from her home town, 270 km east of Bucharest. We had not wanted to put them thru all the trouble, but soon we realised how foolish that was. After such a long time, who isn’t eager to see those whom they’ve missed and hug those whom they love? When they arrived, I could barely see Ana’s parents from behind an immense bunch of flowers. A couple of phone calls later our living room filled up with more people: Andrei and Cristina arrived with a funny „cup” that said: INTO THE WORLD FIRST ROUND COMPLETED!
… beer and gossip flowed till after midnight. And it was not all about Africa: Romania had been going through a bit of a political shakedown during the last few months and people were tensed. When we were finally left alone, we struggled to fall asleep. The bed was too soft and blobby; there were little street noises that made us throb: tires gritting, laughter, some music, a door slammed shut by the wind, a TV left on somewhere. I don’t know how, but eventually we dozed off.
The following months were packed with events. A RHCP concert, seeing all our friends, learning who got married, who had a child and who broke up with who. Ana started going to riding school. First day was quite unpleasant. Go figure: pillion for so many miles, and still not ready to rock it.
After the third hour she relaxed a bit and discovered the gear lever, turning and stuff like that and also started wondering what it had taken her so long to do this? By the end of fall, on a gloomy day and on a wreck of a bike that she was seeing for the first time in her life, Ana passed the exam. Then one afternoon our friend Stefan dropped by to recover a bag. He was supposed to be on his way to a hippie seaside resort and we started talking about having itchy feet. I don’t know how, but 48 hours later me, Ana and Stefan were sleeping on the beachfront across the port of Thassos. The next few days were our first Greek micro-adventure: sun, sea, good food and off-road drills up the mountain, on a couple of springy XT 600s. (pics by Stefan)
A marble query in the middle of a stunning pine forest
Back in Romania we took a short ride to Atra, a boutique resort in the Doftana valley. It’s not that we were involved in this project when we were working as architects and still dealing with clients and deadlines, but the place is stunning. It’s a tranquil corner to unwind and enjoy for a day. Actually, after we finished our tour around Africa by motorbike, the Atra people invited us to do a presentation at the resort.
This time the reason for our visit to Atra was food: we had been invited to sample the cuisine of a French chef who was recreating superb French dishes with humble Romanian ingredients: polenta with truffles in goat milk, homemade foie gras with homemade quince jam… It sure put our national cooking to shame :)
While we are penning down the next instalment, feel free to drool on the pics: