Romania is a gem of Eastern Europe. The countryside is pastoral, the roads winding and epic, the women beautiful, and the beer mostly free. The accommodations are amenable though confusing.
Well. I say accommodations. Team Gobi or Go Home has spent the last couple nights sleeping rough, in a legal grey area. (This should come as no delight our parents, hopefully none of whom read this blog, lest they think all we do is drive around Europe drinking beer and dancing.)
Night 1: Romanian Fuzz
The Ursa Cotton Club in Sibiu, Romania had swung its doors wide open to ralliers and locals earlier in the evening. Although, due to spending a nice afternoon mucking about in Nuremberg, we didn’t arrive until 11.
We convoyed to town with two other teams. One had modestly more decent maps than us, and the other had an iphone with a cracked screen. The latter led us into the heart of Sibiu.
Since we had spent the day driving through small towns, we imagined Sibiu would be a town consisting of one pub with a campsite across the road. Instead, we drove into a sprawling industrial hub in the center of Romania.
And promptly got lost.
However, the fifth person we stopped, a cute local in a sundress, pointed behind us and drew a circle in the air. We obediently drove around the block, and then started making concentric circles outwards. On the second circle, we found a dozen rally cars and a loud nightclub.
Once inside, other ralliers excitedly pointed to some taps at tables that we could pull ourselves free pints of lager from. The elephant g’s were there as well, yelling out a jovial “Super Hans!” (a British TV reference that is lost on me). They happily explained that camping was at a roundabout twenty meters away. This was brilliant, since we had an exciting stretch of road planned for the next day that we wanted to be well rested for.
With a long day in mind, we retired early in the evening. Around half past three.
House music spun loudly below us, but we stoicly set up our tents. Or at least started to. Halfway in, I gave up, figuring it would be easier to sleep on the edge of the fountain. Provided one of team elephant didn’t push me in for a bit of fun.
Within minutes, the roundabout looked like Occupy Sibiu.
However, park occupations in Eastern Europe are not currently in the vogue with coppers. And our tent camp was no exception.
A black police sedan started doing slow laps. Probably confused by the entire scene. Confused and amused. Those were the two emotions in their voice when they spoke.
“What are you doing?” They asked.
It took a few moments while we looked among ourselves. There were over a dozen of us mulling around now. We thought the answer to their question was rather obvious. But, we were sports about it. “Camping.”
“Camping? No camping.”
This came as quite the shock. Our host, a French lady, who had hosted a similar party the night before had definitely mentioned camping in the roundabout.
Our host did, in fact, emerge and negotiate with the constables. One was happy to look the other way, but the other held fast, giving us an hour to vacate the roundabout.
“Sleep in car is fine,” they explained.
I considered sleeping on top of the car, since Shane and Roberta had taken up the entirety of our car to themselves. But I wasn’t sure if the police would take kindly to this.
In the end, I opted to wedge myself into the backseat of a Deawoo Matiz, which offered me about a centimeter on each side of my body.The elephant team was kind enough to lend the space so I didn’t have to wake the team.
The police did return at around six, rousing the one team that had opted to stay in the square. “It is morning! You must now leave.” They maintained a good deal of jovial spirit in their voice. Seldom do they get to kick Englishmen off their roundabouts.
Night 2: Romanian Beach Party
Theo, one of my mates from Amazon, spoke highly of growing up in Greece, spending long lazy nights drinking, eating, and people-watching on the shores of the Aegean.
After a night at a Romanian beach club, I understand his point.
The Oha Beach party was the chillest adventure party yet. Ralliers sprawled in hammocks and on bean bags underneath a clear and starry sky. We chatted about the epic drive of the day, which Shane will write more about. We discussed where we were going next.
This is it. The Romanian beach marked as-near-as-makes-no-difference end of the European stage. From here, teams head to Turkey and Iran, or North to The Ukraine. Some will even head West for a loop before driving to Mongolia.
I met up with Sarah, matron of the Dixie Chickens team, which consists of a dozen people on a school bus. She said that camping here was pretty illegal, but we were unlikely to be given trouble. After my last night, this was slightly dissappointing to hear. I was looking forward to not sleeping in the car, which is becoming an all-to-common occurrence.
And so, weary from beer, dancing, and mucking about in the water, James, Bones, and me made camp at shortly after four, as the sky began to turn light.
We tossed sleeping bags on lounge chairs facing due east, to catch the sun rise over the black sea. With a light haze in the air and house music thumping in the background, it was one of the most restful nights in quite a while.
The next morning, we awoke at around seven thirty. The club music still spun on, not ending until around eight. A few straggling ralliers danced and chatted in the morning sun. Others lay sleeping, getting tan or burnt in the morning sun.
I was glad that we had been left alone, to sleep laying on the ground instead of crumpled into a car seat.
But crumpled in we did, as the elephants and I left Shane and Roberta to sleep while looking for brunch on the Romanian Riviera.