Discovering the world on $20 per day ......................

Post 322: Transylvania ......

Sunshine, no rain and Transylvania is certainly not in black in white today. It’s a good day for riding. We’re heading away from Turda but it feels really strange. No map or compass, not a clue where I’m going so I just following the leader. The leader in question is Alain, he’s riding his own BMW 650 F and his wife Herta is somewhere behind us in the Transylvania Live support car. That’s something else that feels strange, I’m touring without luggage. It’s strange but it’s good, I could really get used to this.

Everything here reminds me of Russia. The roads, the traffic, the people, the scenery. It’s just all very Russian, right down to the charming state of universal incompletion . At the side of the road, two houses stand out from all of the rest. Alain informs us that in these parts such buildings are known as ‘Gypsy Palaces’. After the ‘Revolution’ in 1989, many Gypsy’s travelled to Western Europe in search of their fortunes and used it to build homes back in Romania. Unfortunately, being from the travelling community, many of the Gypsy’s understood little about the ongoing costs of property ownership and taxation. The Gypsy Palaces almost without exception, remain unfinished and uninhabited. Upon completion, property tax becomes payable and as all of the wealth had been poured into ’Out-Crassing’ their neighbours, they can’t or wont, pay the taxes. It’s also further confirmation that money can’t buy you taste. Quite possibly the ugliest pair of houses that I’ve ever seen.

Just outside of Turda, we arrive at the Salina Turda. A futuristic visitor centre on top of an ancient salt mine. In the bad old days, this is where the naughty folks were sent to serve their sentences. Thankfully today is strictly for visitors and the occasional rock band.

I’ve never really thought about where salt comes from, or what it looks like before it’s refined and packaged. It’s actually one of the most beautiful natural things that I’ve seen. Amazing patterns and contours are everywhere. Long corridors open out into vast underground halls where twenty centuries worth of salt have already been extracted.

At Lernut, we walk around the war cemetery from 1944. Romania had entered the war with the Axis Forces, but towards the end of WWII joined the Allies. I should have remembered the dates, but sadly I didn’t. The graves here are from 1944 and beyond the cemetery is the Lernut Sculpture Park. A number of Romanian artists were each given a similar block of stone and asked to create their own sculptures. The results are quite impressive, but the fact that such sculptures were allowed during communist times is probably even more impressive.

A little further along the road, we find an old house. It’s a house that was once very grand but today is just very dilapidated. After 1945, it was taken from it’s owners and given to the people. Sadly, people who do not own property do not maintain property. It's not their fault, it's just a fact. Following the revolution of 1989, the house was given back to the heirs of the original family, who in turn offered it for use as an orphange. No plumbing, no running water, no electricity, very few glazed windows and even fewer functional roof tiles. Once again, if you should ever here me whining, then please kick me.

Medias is a beautiful old town. Cobbled streets, old buildings and all around is an air of class. We meet Emile Muresan, a local artist who creates sculptures from metal and pictures from spiders webs. In the thirty minutes that we've spent browsing in his gallery, he's provided us with coffee, soft drinks and a table full of nibbles. He explains his conceptual sculptures through a haze a smoke from his ancient pipe. It's impossible not to like this man. As we leave the gallery, the clouds are begining to gather above Meidias, clouds the shade of night.

We head for a local restaurant that Emile is kind enough to show us. We eat ‘micci’, a local delicay similar to sheek kebab and watch as the rain begins to pour. It’s proper rain and as the road outside begins to flood, the candles come out and the electricity fails. A blue Dacia car comes past the window. It seems to be aquaplaning. On second glance it’s not. No driver ….. it’s actually floating.

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