Miorița

Today is a sad day. Today, on my way from El Calafate to the Chilean border, I ran over a sheep. Today I want to tell the story of Miorița. I didn’t kill the sheep, but I must have hurt it pretty badly because it was shaking and tried frantically to limp away from me when I approached her on foot.

The tale of Miorița was related to me in Samarqand, Uzbekistan by a group of shady-looking Romanians who were running the Mongol Rally, their team was called Free Miorița. The views about Romania in this article reflect what they tried to convey with this tale. As far as I remember anyway.

Miorița was a sheep. She was very fond of her shepherd and when she heard that two other shepherds, envious, were plotting to kill him in order to steal his herd, she went straight to him and told him about the danger to his life. Despaired, the shepherd asked Miorița that, should the worst befall him, she should make sure that he gets proper burial and never tell that he was murdered.

The actual poem is much longer and has other nuances but the point is that this tale symbolises the conformism and tragic mood of the Romanian people. Their aim as a team, and in their lives was to fight against this and debunk the myth of Miorița as a foundational story for the Romanians. I wish them good luck.

On my bike I have two stickers that they gave me and the other day I was about to cover one with another sticker. Maybe now I won’t. I have been meaning to write about this story for a very long time but somehow I couldn’t fit it anywhere. Now seems to be as good a moment as any.

Miorița
Miorița

Of course the sheep I ran over has nothing to do with Miorița but I felt sorry for it as I felt sorry for the shepherd when I heard the tale for the first time.

The bike didn’t suffer any damage as far as I can tell but I did get a hell of a scare. After hitting it, I lost control of the bike for about 20 meters. I didn’t think at any moment that I would come off, though.

By the way, sheep are not usually that stupid. Most sheep run away from the road when they see you coming. This particular flock was having a cow day and decided to cross the road when they saw me coming at 100kph.

Natales, Provincia de Última Esperanza, Chile

Kronstadt

Brasov's fortress
Brasov’s fortress

Three days are not enough to know Romania but they may be just enough to fall in love with the country. Romanians are so kind that when you pull out your map, before you even finish unfolding it, there is already someone asking you “Unde something something?” or event better if they speak English: “Where are you going?”. Always ready to point you in the right direction. Not always ready to admit that they don’t know the place you are trying to reach, though.

That last “morning” in Brașov was an interesting experience. Needless to say I didn’t wake up early, after finishing that last post so late, I could only wake up later than before. It’s ok, I wasn’t in any hurry, the road to Bucharest is not very long. Only I didn’t count on the total randomness of life to slow me down to the point I didn’t have time to visit Bucharest at all. I did take a better look at beautiful Brașov though.

German couple
The first Germans of the day

I set off at noon, a good time to set off if you are looking forward to melting inside your riding jacket and you know I’m always looking forward to that! I wanted to take a closer look at the Black Church and was hesitating to go into the sidewalk with the bike to get closer to the entrance when I saw another travel bike with its bikers right by the church’s entrance. That was my cue so I got closer. It turned out to be a very nice German couple travelling around Eastern Europe. We talked for a while and they recommended me a monastery to visit in the Turkish border. I might just go if I leave early from Sunny Beach. I took a regular I-ve-been-here pic of the church and left for the other church in Brașov and the first Romanian school. There I was, lazy me trying to figure out how to get closer to the church without leaving the bike when the usual Romanian kindness pushed some guy on a bike to ask me where I was trying to get to and where I came from. He spoke French and was happy to speak French with me. t turned out to be a German-Romanian whose claims to fame were many, one I can remember was to have founded the Romanian ski school.

Nicolae Chibac
Nicolae Chibac on his smallest bike (he had at least 2 more in the garage)

His name is Nikki Chibac and he invited me to this house on the hill. Little did I know that it would mean my first fall with the bike, and the second one too. See, I said house on the hill and conveniently omitted to mention that to get to it the only way was a little dirt trail ending in a very steep curve. Yes, that was my cue to touch the floor. No harm to me or the bike apart from a scratch on the left pannier. In no time I was surrounded by 3 of his gipsy workers that were helping me to pick up the bike and asking me in broken English if I had ran out of gas. Shame on me, I answered “no, no, bad driver”, countering his broken English with my own brew of broken English. After showing me the property and taking me on a hike up the hill to show me the road to Poiana Brașov that I should take if I wanted to go to Bran before leaving for Bucharest, he invited me to soup but I had to refuse. It was already 3pm and with my proverbial slowness, I was never going to get to the capital before nightfall if I stayed for the soup. Pity, it would have been my first home cooked Romanian meal. On the way out, I fell again and this time, 4 of the gipsies and Nikki himself took me down the ramp carrying the bike with small steps of clutch release and brake. After a brief reminder by Nikki of how I should ride a trail, I was off on my way to Bran. The rest of the road was uneventful, beautiful but uneventful. The only thing to say is that I ran into a lot of bikers. With these roads, there had to be bikers. I got to Bucharest very late as expected. It was still day but not for long, time to go for dinner at a Romanian restaurant, my first since I hit the Romanian roads.

View from a hill
The view of Brasov from Nikki’s hill

PS: Kronstadt is the German name of Brașov

Sofia, Sofia-grad, Bulgaria

Warnings

I’ve been warned. Don’t sleep there said the hostel lady in Cluj-Napoca when I told her that I planned to go to Sofia by the shortest road and spend the night in Craiova. What about Caracal? No. Slatina? Maybe, why don’t you spend the night in Pitesti? Pitesti is only 140km away from Brasov, that would take me nowhere.

White Church
Cluj-Napoca’s white church behind the abundant aerial cabling

When I got to Brasov I asked a similar question to the hostel guy and he said about the same or worse, it was more like: no, don’t stay in Slatina either, that is the most dangerous part of Romania. If I were you, I would speed through it and get to Sofia, there’s no telling how the adjacent Bulgarian side would be.

Some biker
Strange biker in Cluj

Both times the reason was the same: that’s Rom region. Rom, gipsy, tsingari, egyptians. Who are they and why are they feared that much? I guess I will not find out by going into their region of the country. I have rearranged my route, heading another piece of Romanian advice: “don’t go to the beach in Romania, go in Bulgaria”. Really, what is it with Romanian beaches? I guess I won’t find out this time either. This morning I’ll head to Bucarest and then to Sofia from there. Pity to take such a detour but it will give me the chance to spend the night in Bucarest.

Today was a sort of short riding day but the day before was long. I’m starting to feel the road on my bones and muscles and I will welcome the shorter riding tomorrow and the rest days in Bulgaria and Istanbul. The road was even nicer than the previous days with trees on the side providing some shade but there was a lot of road work that slowed the traffic a lot. The fact that it’s a twisting single-lane road with lots of trucks that you can’t overtake without putting someone’s life in danger (the motorcyclist’s usually) doesn’t make it any faster but I’ve found a solution for taking pictures on the way. Actually, the camera was inside 2 layers of bags up to now and taking it out for picture taking was a drag. Now it’s just in my tank bag without any particular other bag and taking pictures is as easy as stopping by the side of the road, opening the helmet, opening the bag and pushing the shutter button. I don’t even need to open the helmet if I don’t care what’s in the picture and what isn’t :P. Or I could use LiveView. Hum, there’s an idea!

Somewhere along the road to Brasov I saw a sign indicating a fortified evangelical church and I followed the 6km dirt track leading to a small village (Valchid was the name), which must have been enjoying a collective nap to get them through the scorching heat of midday (Seriously, who rides in this heat? Me) because I couldn’t see anyone and of course the fortification was closed, that’s what fortifications are for. Out of the blue came a car with a Netherlands plate and the driver asked me if I was up to what I was up to and said he would ask the keykeeper to come open the church. Not even a minute later I was entering the fortification and the church. That was some sight! The church was not particularly beautiful or anything. It’s just that there was the walls and the church, very close to each other. Inside the fort, there was only the church, nothing else. Strange thing to build, I must remember to read why they did that. I tried to ask in what passes for Romanian in my head (it’s most certainly not Romanian) when was the church built. I didn’t understand the answer. Once at the hostel, I tried numbers in Google Translate and now I think he said XVI or XVII century.

Fortified church
The church’s outside shell

Today, I also chose the roads that were marked “of scenic interest” on the map. The map conveniently omits to say that they are not of asphalt interest, especially the road from Iernut to Medias but it’s alright. At some point the quality of the roads is going to start to fall, it might as well be now :|.

Bike in town
Some biker came to wake the town up

Brasov, Brasov, Romania