To Doru M., Basel, December 1st 1998
I am sure that you were quite curious, how our trip through Rumania went, where Cathi and I had been and how we liked the places, we had visited! Well. Maybe Cathi has written to you about the trip, so that you already know our story. In case she didn't, let me give you a brief idea about it:
From Bistita we took the bus to Sigishoara (Schässburg). The bus ride was much longer than we expected, but it was very very interesting for both of us, because we really got to see "the Country": Small villages, many people in very simple cloth, who seemed to have lived around their villages for ever and ever. Very little signs of the 20ieth or the 21st century. Horses and horse wagons, two or three elderly women or men with very simple tools in the middle of big big fields ... It looked quite pieceful and (still?) in balance. People were obviously very poor in the material sense, but they didn't give us the impression of being lost. Somehow their small community still seems to hold together. There is structure and purpose in their lives. This was at least my impression as a passer through. I might of course be totally wrong, for I did hear about a level of material poverty which is really scary. Probably even more scary during winter, when the weather is cold and nasty! This I heart from a student we met on the train from Sigisuara to Brashow.
Sigisuara was very pleasant -, very German in many ways. The old city around the citadel and the citadel itself reminded me a lot of old middle sized towns in Germany, which I have been to. The little hotel near the train station which you had reconmanded ndad was the perfect place to be. We got a very nice room looking into a romantic court yard, with moonlight, grapes and chatter of children during day time. No noisy street or any other unromantic disturbance! We spent about two days in Sigisuara. One after noon we got an extended tour through the museum of the citadel by an old man, who has lived up there for all his life and who is now making some money as a guide to curious travellors like Cathi and me. - Cathi taped some of his explanations just because of the sound of this mans voice and because of the way he celebrated the Rumanian language! So this was all very nice and no problems what so ever. No money stolen, no language problem, no health problem. - The only problem we did have were the tensions between Cathi and me; somehow we just didn't get along very easely. Time and again we got into stupid argumends about nothing!
From Sigisuara we went to Brashov and straight on oblem to Bran, where we finally found two rooms in a small village off the main road. In a way this was almost exactly what we had been looking for, but Cathi wasn't quite confordtabel with the people renting the rooms and she also felt sort of sick and unhappy. Therefor we stayed only one night and returned to Brashov next evening. - Bran itself didn't really impress me too much, maybe because on one hand, I kind of know, what mountains are and then I was sort of disappointed of the structure of the place: Basicly just houses (most of them not very nice) along a long road. It may be a great place for hiking and skiing, if you really get into the mountains. But, since Cathi didn't feel too well, we didn't go into the mountains, we just walked along the road, looking for other places to sleep and for places to eat etc. - Again people were very nice: One guy even came running after Cathi once and brought her little pack, which she had left on his door step. So: No stealing, no negative experience. In the contrary! - I enjoyed the morning in our rural rooms listening to all the sounds of the farm next to us: The roosters screaming on top of their lungs, horse wagons coming and going, a pig venturing into the day and digging for food, the tinging ting of a goats bell and at last the cow going moo moo moo, wanting to be milked I guess! Of course there was no sleeping until ten oclcock -, but the whole thing it was like an very romantic audible film. - After an attempt to see Drakulas castel we got onto the bus to Brashov, where we spent another night with a family, who rented some of their rooms to tourists like us. Next morning we went to an orthodox service, which again was very interesting and enchanting! A lot of nice singing, very sweet and very different from the kind of singing you'd hear in Swiss churches! - However: After another fight with Cathi I decided to go back home. Cathi stayed for two more weeks, she went to Bukarest and to the monasteries and (from what she told me, when she came back to Basel) she had a very good time, again meeting many very nice and helpful people. Taking busses and all this was no problem. Even the monasteries were manageable without a car. - I took a night train from Brashov which brought me straight to Vienna, and after another 12 hours I was back home! - In a way I regreted the abrupt end of my trip, but on the other hand it just didn't feel worth it to go on with Cathi and I wasn't prepared to travel all by myself. - When Cathi came to Basel she was quite sick and exhausted; but she recovered quickly and the day after she took her plain to the states. I myself am again in the middle of my regular Swiss life: Friends, work and other daily routine!
So. Was the trip a success? Was it "worth it"? I am not quite sure. I am glad I got a first impression of Rumania, but it wasn't enough! If I do come back, I would love to really be out in the country, I would love to do some hiking, spend some time in small places ... I think Cathi enjoyed the trip a lot, and she was very brave in the way she handeld herself, the language and everything!
Well. This is my report! Now it is again your turn, to tell me, how things are going for you. Did you start moving into your apartment? Did the secretary of tourism, whom you met, when we were in Bistrita, come up with some help for your projects? Do you feel, that things are going the way you want them to? And how are your parents? How is your sister and Paul?
Tell them all, how much I enjoyed to meet them and be with them for a couple of days! The days with you and your family wer great! Eventhough I can't really say, that I understood your father all the time, I really enjoyed talking with him and I enjoyed the way, you mother just made Cathi and me part of the family!!! So please tell them, that I say hello and that I want to thank them again. And do not worry too much about Rumania: We met this one taxi driver (you know which one I am talking about), but we met also many many other people: Very nice, very helpful! - Only one more time, somebody tried to take advantage of me: When I left Rumania, I was in the train with a French guy and a few minutes before the border, two train police people came into our compartment and told us that we were not allowed to lie down on the seats of the train. It was about one o.clock in the morning and Jacques and I had all the compartment to ourselves, so we had spread out over three seats and slept! They said, that we had to pay of fine of - o, I guess something like 50 dollars each! - Well, after the experience with the taxi driver I kind of knew what to do. We just told them, that we were really sorry, but we didn't have any money and we didn't understand what they wanted. After 5 minutes of talking back and forth and after some serious investigation of our pass ports, they just gave up, they kind of smiled helplessly and left. That's all. They tried to make some extra money. Well, why not. That way, they get rich very easily, and they use the money to help support their family members or friends who are not as fortunate as they are, I hope anyway. So now you know everything and you know also, that I am really back home and safe and well!
When you get this letter, please write a short email to me, so that I know, that you got it, and so that I have your email address again. Just take two minutes, if you don't have the time to anwer all my questions. And if you ever come to Switzerland and you need a place to stay (in Basel or maybe in the mountains for some skiing?), let me know: My home is your home! Once again thanks for all your kind help and hospitality! – Martin