“Going to Romania alone??? Girl, have you lost your mind? Do you have any idea how many homeless dogs prowl on the streets? They’ll eat you up. The gypsies won’t leave a penny on you! Don’t trust any men or you will come back with a Romanian in your belly. Or not at all, cause they’ll leave you in the woods.”
The more I listened, the more I wanted to completely give in to Romania and to explore this “wild” space. What did please me the most?
I discovered a country even safer than Poland, friendly, clean, full of lovely, hospitable and open people (and only most cared for dogs).
Obviously it is a country still influenced by its history. It is easy to see discords, the most obvious ones in the architecture – quite old buildings from Ceaușescu times border with new ones.
I was quite sorry to tell my Romanian friends about the stereotypical image of them in Poland – however I didn’t hide anything, but rather explained how positively surprised I was.
Homeless dogs on the streets?
Homeless dogs did indeed prowl on the streets of Bucharest not long ago, but as a result of proper government decisions, and catching and displacing them, it is no longer a problem.
In fact I arrived in Bucharest reading a fragment of the Małgorzata Rejmer book “Bucharest. Blood and dust” in which she described cycling through Bucharest and being chased by a few dozens of angry dogs. A few dozens. Angry. Some time ago, angry homeless dogs would bite children at playgrounds or attack people in the streets – often biting them to death.
I haven’t seen them in the villages and smaller towns as well. Even though I set myself on radar “find dogs”.
I kept meeting the happy and friendly ones, like this:
In every Romanian city you will see old buildings. In Bucharest I found myself in a district full of such abandoned houses. Usually you can also find a bunch of new building rising up next to them. Personally, I love this kind of unobvious architecture. Despite those buildings, the streets are clean and well taken care of. No trash on roadsides, even in villages.
Well, see for yourself:
Those terrible Gypsies?
I have met one.
He waved at me and wished me a nice day as I was working sitting on the bench.
In Bucharest I have also met some Gypsy women in the streets.
And I have visited a couple of places in a couple of months! No Gypsies lying in the streets.
In fact, I guess that there are fewer Gypsies in Romania than in Poland. Do not confuse Romanians with The Romani.
You can meet sleazy people in any place in the world. If you go to a shop at night, you may get robbed or raped right next to your house. That’s the truth. In Romania I was putting myself into weird situations on purpose, to prove that it is in fact a safe country.
People in Romania are wonderful, very helpful and honestly good.
When bloggers found out I was coming to Romania, they started to organise meetings and accommodation for me.
All they did was ask: Do you have a place to sleep? And then, took care of it.
In Cluj Napoka I was staying at the friend of the friend of the blogger I didn’t even know. For five days, during which I got to know her friends and the friends of the friends of the friends.
They took me to Adrenalin Park / Adventure Park Cluj, on a trip to the lake and beautiful viewpoints, on concerts, party on the roof and to little cafes.
By the way, if you are in Cluj Napoka, make sure to check Cluj Greeters – there you can find people who might want to give you a city or neighbourhood tour.
And some story about stereotypes
I am walking an empty street in some village. Opposite to me there walk two guys, confident, sly. Tattoos, swarthy skin, heads up high and bulging muscles well visible in a sleeveless shirt.
And me, right opposite to me. In a t-shirt saying “Take me away”.
“Don’t smile, just look straight, Ilona, straight, Ilona, straight, confident step, eyes front. Don’t look, go, go, they won’t hurt you, they won’t hurt you, they won’t, ok?!” – I repeated my mantra while passing them.
I passed them. Phew… I quickened my steps, just in case. Nothing happened.
But I was angry at myself for losing my trust in people, even if just for a moment.
And something magical happened
Two hours later at the campfire I was talking to these guys about life, they were teaching me how to dance and covering me from rain like good friends. And the slyboot with tattoos started crying while talking how much he loved his woman and child, and showing me his hands, work-worn in forest.
However, I am going to tell you about that day when the magic happened and I met them in a separate story.
Just like you can judge a country by the stereotypes you have heard.
But believe me and go to Romania. It was marvellous.