Thursday, September 15, 2005

FROM AMSTERDAM TO ROMANIA ON 1 EURO (A BANKNOTE'S KARMA)



I had hitched from Gdansk, in Poland, to Amsterdam, with the only duty of collecting my italian passport. Three days of road just to arrive to the Consulate, scribble down a couple of signatures, and hit the road back, direction Romania. My Dutch friend Stephen, to ease my soul, presented me a mate, a bombilla, and 200 grams of yerba (Argentinian national drink). So brutally distracted from my itinerary by a burocracy, proportionally brutal had to be the reincorporation, with Holland, Germany, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary to be crossed before reaching Rumania. And a 5 euro note in the pocket as dedicated budget. This is also the story of that banknote’s karma.
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After a first ride of 40 kms, my coordinates met Arkadius’ ones. Arkadius was Polish, had bought his Hyundai van second hand in Belgium, and was heading home. Home was in Lublin, in the East of Poland, 1600 kms away from the petrol station where I approached him. So togheter we left behind the Netherlands and slept in the van in a Rastplatz in Braunscweig, Germany. Next morning we headed for Lublin. The seat of the Hyundai was uncomfortable, but we were so sleepy that instead of entertaining my driver, as ecpected, I entered the sublime realm of Dream rather quick.

On Friday in Lublin I changed my 5 euro note for local zlotys, I used the equivalent of 1 euro in an internet café, and reconverted the rest into slovakian money. The woman in the exchange office handed me politely half a dozen of multicolor poets, whose mission would be to resist the trip trough Slovakia and Hungary, as asteroids dodging atmospheres. Slovakia delayed me a day (Icamped in a footbal pitch near a small village).
A car on Sunday drove straight from that village to Budapest, so there I changed the slovakian poets for two solemn magyar kings, whit nominal value of 700 florints. An old Trabant stopped for me after that. I was so happy (it was my first Trabbie) that I jumped in regardless destination. The guy was carrying a box with two dogs over the roof, and was in fact going 10 kms from the Romanian border. Just that he deviated me from the E60 that goes straight to Oradea. So I was left in a tiny road that also crossed to Romania, but into a real backwater. Excelent! In the road I even saw a kind of carriage, also moving slowly towards the border!
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With the last light of Sunday I made it to the border. I walked respectfully that no man land between the two countries customs, and received my stamp in the passport. I was in Romania, the country of Nadia Comaneci and Emil Cioran. On the spot I changed the magyar kings for Romanian money. I had done it: from Amsterdam to Romania with one euro. Can EasyJet top that up? The Romanian poets and polititians on the banknotes fought for space with the zeros in the banknotes: the smaller one was of 10,000. The first local I speak to is a street vendor who sell regional products in the gas station. We understand each other, no need to translate. Romanian os a latin tongue, which is even closer to classical latin than italian. The language took root here with the Roman conquest. Romania was incorporated in the Roman empire under the name of Dacia. In the 50s, in an attempt to deny the latin roots of th country, the communist government modified the ortography, slavazing some words. Only with the 1989 Revolution did the language recovered its integrity.

In the gas station, a hungarian woman was so shocked that I was trying to hitch hike in Romania that she offered herself to take me to Romania and put me up in a hotel. Everybody seemed to be sure that I was gonna be robbed in the fisrt town, and they succeed in sharing their fear a bit. When I find a truck that forwards me, it’s already night. As I don’t want to arriv to a big city bi night, I request to be dropped off in any village. He acceeds, warning first that a gang of gypses will eat me alive.In the village there are no lights by the road. Its seems to be composed of barking dogs and Dacias. Only light comes from a small restaurant. I order some food and when I say I come from Argentina the owner brings a couple of beers to the table and takes seat to drink with me. In that moment a Border police to whom I had previously asked where to camp “al naturale” comes in. He says something to the owner. As a consequence of this cconversation the owner invites me to his house.

When the following day I hitted the road towards Oradea, I still didn’t know what to expect. The rule in Romania is to pay for the rides a part of the oil expenses. 1o0 minutes later I was sitted in Alin’s car, he is a sales manager who takes me to Oradea an finds a free hotel room for me in a hotel that he frequents.

Before leaving he gives me 400,000 Lei (12 euros), and commends me to Christian. Christian is a student of architecture who works In a café outside the hotel. He offeres me beer and food. I cant believe his hospitality. He is a student and works 15 hours every other day, and still feels like taking care of me. I will personaly knock down the next person that tells me that Romania is dangerous.

2 comments:

sinnfrei said...

Romania is dangerous!
(If you ever come back again, visit me, and punch me. I'm ready, and will welcome our conversations afterwards)

MihaelaMatei said...

Beautiful words! Beautiful people, beautiful country!
Come back here this year, in July during The European Rainbow Gathering!
<3 Bless, Peace & Love my brother!