Posted by: Sheridan Flynn | February 25, 2008

Romania

We arrive at the Romanian border sometime after 2 o’ clock. I lay there comfortably slumped in my seat, relaxed, eyes closed, listening to Pink Floyd on my iPod. The bus comes to a halt and I sense the movement of people boarding. Two Romanian border guards make their way down the isle. Dark eyed men dressed in blue. The routinely check everyone’s passports. I open mine on the picture page and hand it over. Expressionless and without emotion, I am (for a split second) scrutinized. The guard hands me my passport with an air of disappointment. I thank him and wonder if he ever had a personality.

Borders and checkpoints are (of course) man made. Imaginary lines drawn up by politicians, economists, legislators, and military men. Crossing from Hungry to Romania dramatically illustrates the divide between old Europe and new Europe. This part of the world seems to be substantially colder, economically less developed, and in terms of infrastructure, far more weathered and bulkier than the west. Massive industrial plants slowly pump out grey smoke; roads are overloaded with square communist era cars, and large women in multi-coloured dresses tending to their gardens.

We pass south from Brasov to Bucharest through the vast and expansive Romanian countryside. We travel on a sturdy road built right through a mountain pass. On either side we are flanked by massive forests of pine trees. These trees have seen it all, communism, imperialism, dictatorships and now us. Tourists from the west. Change is slowly impacting on this part of Romania. A huge disused factory lies by a rushing river. Like a once powerful animal it’s now dead and lifeless. Slowly deteriorating into the earth. Old square buses stand on bricks, its body gutted for spare parts. Power lines and industrial piping that stretch across mountains and rivers provide heat, services, and energy to its people. To me, this seems like a tough place to live. A long way from the moderate Irish climate. The Romanians seem to be completely unperturbed by these conditions and effortlessly get on with their daily lives.

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