Although I was welcomed to stay longer in Mihãiesti, I didn’t want to be a burden or pass on any bugs. Still not feeling 100% I thought it better to move on, hoping my stomach bug would go, if not at least I would be able to get to a pharmacy for some medication.
The plan was to drive the Transfãgãrasan Pass, something I seemed to have been talking of doing for the past couple of weeks, but I decided to take it slowly and stop for a night or two on the way. Not far off the the main E81 / 1 road to Sibiu, I drove into Gãrbona, where I found “Camping Poarta Oiler”, Dutch owned, it was a complex with a hotel at the front. It had a swimming pool and was used by schools as a sort of school summer camp. The children were accommodated in the hotel, but were noisily using every square metre for football, water fights and generally being kids away from home. One night was enough, but at least I was starting to feel a little better myself.
Knowing that to drive the pass would be a full day and not knowing if I would find somewhere to stop for the night, on the far side, I stopped in the town of Cãrta a short distance from the start of the 7C road that leads to the Pass, a town I could leave, drive the pass and return to if I wanted. Almost in the centre of Cãrta is Camping De Oude Wilg, you guessed it, another Dutch owned one, or at least the wife is Dutch, the husband Romanian. A really pretty, quiet site with well laid out facilities and very artistic, not surprising when I read that the husband is an art teacher. Cãrta sounded like a place to have a wander round, according to the campsite information board, so I decided to spend a couple of nights and go walk-about.
In comparison to many of the villages and towns I’ve passed through Cãrta seems quite affluent. It is in fact inhabited by a lot of Roma people. Many of the locals, particularly the women, wear the traditional costume of the Roma, long skirts in bright colours with matching headscarfs. A notice in the campsite explains that the locals will beg for whatever they can get, even asking for money to have their photo’s taken., but that you shouldn’t give anything as this just encourages them. They say that by begging they can make 3 to 5 times the average wage of a labourer, and doing nothing for it. I just think that begging is part of the Roma DNA. Reading some local literature in English I discovered that it was only in the 18th century that more became known of the origins of the Roma and Sinti. Language analysis has shown that their dialects have strong connections to northern Indian dialects, so the people often referred to rather disparagingly as ‘Gypsies’ (related to Egypt) came to Europe instead from India, starting as early as the 8th C ( some say as early as the 5th C). However cultural studies show closer affinity to early Hebrew customs and Jewish culture than to Indian cultures, so India was probably only a phase in a long migrational history starting in Mesopotamia. This apparently is not agreed to by all experts but it is clear that the Roma are a people with a very long history and deep cultural roots. The worldwide Roma population is estimated at around 12 million of which some eight million live in Europe. The numbers in Romania are anywhere between 500,000 and three million depending on the source.
Cãrta is a small town of about 1,000 inhabitants, and was built by the Transylvanian Saxons. Many of the buildings have texts and inscriptions in German on the walls. It’s said that Cãrta has the most beautiful ruin in Transylvania, the ruins of a monastery built by the Cistercians in 1202, the order’s most easterly monastery in Europe. The nave has collapsed, but the choir is still used by the Protestant Church for their services. It cost 5 Lei (€1.15) to wander around the ruins, but it was well worth it. Given a huge old fashioned key I let myself into the church, which had a large organ with pipes on both the side and rear walls. Later I climbed up into the bell tower which gave a super view over the town. In a small area in front of the church were a number of graves of German soldiers who had been killed in WW1. It must have been quite a battle as all the dates engraved on the headstones were the same, the 30th September 1916.
It seems I've been travelling all my life. For the past eight years I've been following a simple, nomadic lifestyle full time touring in a camper van and meeting with other like minded travellers.
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