After months of solo roaming, I’m chilling in Romania when I get a message from a school friend living in London.
“How much longer till you fly back to New Zealand? I might join ya.”
A few days later Michaela and I are wining and dining in Cluj-Napoca the infamous Romanian hub of the young and reckless.
We start the night in true Balkan style, with shots of Rakija the local Brandy. From there everything is a blur of colour; from a surreal Bogan heavy metal underground club (the wrong sort of ponytails) to salsa dancing with a swoon-worthy Dutch man (good pony)
Fast forward a few nights and we’re trekking through Hoia Baciu deemed the world’s most haunted forest. Known as the Bermuda Triangle of Transylvania because of the harrowing tales of UFO sightings, disappearances, unexplained burns and feelings of nausea.
At midnight our group abandones us. Not because of eery happenings but as Google maps seemed set on us circumnavigating the forest only. Very suspicious.
Michaela, Dutchie, a Kiwi fella and I venture on, determined to find something remotely terrifying but after a few hours of lack lustre adventures we too make the long walk home.
Next day Michaela and I decide to Hitchhike east to Timișoara. I spend all morning crafting the perfect sign in my Rakija induced state. A Bla Bla car happens to be going our way, so we catch a ride with a few locals instead.
Michaela is a sales woman by trade – all smiles, laughs and charm. From the back seat I can see a situation developing. Our Driver keeps bestowing us with gifts of home grown fruit. He starts casually touching her arm as he offers the fruit. And the offerings keep coming. Her laughs become feigned. Next thing he’s trying to book into our Hostel.
I’m no Sales Women, but I’ve mastered the art of elusive behaviour. When we stop to drop another passenger off in town we jump out graciously, bid our farewells and head on our merry way with fruit for days.
R o m a n i a. I went there in search of Dracula, haunted castles and Gypsies. Yet Dracula and Vlad the Impaler were long gone. And Gypsies was apparently a politically incorrect term. Sigh.
Instead I stumbled upon a colourful place enchanting in its own right. Mystical mountain towns. A lot of city slicking. One too many sleepless nights. A slice of old school Europe pastures. Copious amounts of coffee’n in hipster cafes. A chance encounter with a dodgy puppy dealer. And most importantly an accomplice.