Tuesday, August 22, 2006

When In Romania, Drive Like the Romanians!

It wasn’t until two years after we met, that Dan and I got into our first major “I’m not speaking to you” fight. It involved a rental car, a Hawaiian island and me throwing the map out of the window. Fourteen years later, our relationship is still somewhat navigationally challenged, but, we have made gains. Given that we have not killed each other driving in Belgium (and they say that the threat is from the other drivers), we decided to spit in the wind and test the very limits of our relationship by spending three days driving around the Romanian countryside. A country, mind you, where all of the tourist guidebooks and websites refer to driving as a “challenge.”

Having driven over 800 kilometers (that’s about 500 miles for you Americans), I can say with absolute conviction that the word “challenge” does not even begin to describe the mind-numbing, life-changing, experience of driving in Romania. The fact that Hertz required us to purchase accident insurance should have been our first clue that we were embarking on what was sure to be a memorable journey, followed closely by the way the Hertz guy checked every square inch of the car, noting even the most miniscule scratch, ding and dent.

As we started out from the airport, with me driving, because, let’s face it, I’m the better driver, we really didn’t know what to expect. Our plan was to make it to Sinai to see Peles Castle before 5:00 pm. But, you know what they say, the best laid plans of mice and men ….

My first piece of unsolicited advice for driving in Romania is to roll with the potholes. While the major roadways are in fairly good condition, the country roads have holes in them that could rival the size of the Grand Canyon. Folks, you could lose a car in some of them!

Second, with the exception of Bucharest, the Romanian drivers are extremely courteous. They flash their lights to let you know that a police officer is up ahead (I love this. It reminds me of Texas.), they pull off to the shoulder, whenever possible, to let you pass (Again, Texas.) and they don’t drive with their horns. That being said, they are also the most courageous drivers I have ever seen! Apparently, the best way to pass a slow-moving vehicle is to do so in a blind curve. I can’t tell you how many times we rounded a curve to find a car headed straight at us. Brake, curse and shake your head. Brake, curse and shake your head.

Speaking of things in your lane of travel, in addition to the potholes and the oncoming traffic, we also had to dodge bears (yes, a BEAR), wagons, horses pulling wagons, cows being herded across the road, great mounds of dirt, as well as your run-of-the-mill pedestrians, dogs, turkeys, chickens and tractors. It was never a dull kilometer. The sights we saw out of the front windshield were so surreal, we had to start taking photos. C'mon, who would believe a bear?

Third, resist the urge to strangle your copilot with your bare hands if he utters, "pass with conviction" at you one more time. Little did Mr. I Haven't Driven Yet realize, the rented Ford Focus had about as much pick-up as a weed-eater.

Similarly, throwing a map out of the window when you are driving around the outskirts of a small Hawaiian island is one thing, doing so in Romania is quite the other. Resist the urge.

If neither of you speak Romanian, when navigating for the driver, do not, I repeat, do not pronounce the names of the streets in what you would think it sounds like in Romanian. Chances are, your jacked-up version of Romanian sounds absolutely nothing like the driver's jacked-up version of Romanian.

That being said, there is no better way to see Romania – the true Romania – without driving through it. It was absolutely spectacular. More pictures and posts to come!

©2006 by Cindy Lane. All rights reserved.
Photographs copyright 2006 by Cindy Lane and Dan Bradley. All rights reserved.


Blogger Manic said...

Picture two of the post, is that the Romanian version of a speed bump?

4:19 PM  
Blogger V-Grrrl said...

I'd never survive driving or riding in Romania. I'd have to take the walking tour--and carry a big stick to beat off the bears.

6:16 PM  
Blogger Elana said...

At least your hair is beige and not blond, so the bear didn't think you were Goldilocks.

Glad to hear you and Dan survived another trip that involved driving.

7:57 PM  

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