Only a couple of kilometers out of the mountain pass and the landscape was back to the usual hilly farmland we’ve grown accustomed to. After a little back and forth driving between villages we found the right road and headed north toward the UNESCO town of Sighisoara.
The road wasn’t exactly in the GPS, but we had reason to believe that was the right way so we decided to give it a try. A decent stretch of beautiful tarmac left us hopeful as we crossed a lake and then headed into some hills, but then turned to a pothole ridden dirt disaster once we hit our first town. We might have considered turning back since a Fiat Panda isn’t exactly an off road vehicle, but the village was so remote and so different from anything we’d seen, we just kept on going at a really slow pace.
The rental guy had warned us that we weren’t allowed to drive the car off-road, but then, as a weird disclaimer also noted that “roads in Romania can be very bad” so in the case that we were required to drive off-road anyway, we should just go slowly and we would probably be fine. I hadn’t really understood what he was talking about, but suddenly it all made sense. This road was a complete disaster.
As we swerved, bounced, and jerked all over the road, I wryly told Ben that I felt like I was on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. We worried a bit about our tiny car, especially when one stretch of road seemed to have the middle sunk out, an enormous mud filled crater filling the center. We watched an oncoming car pause, and then tentatively make it through before holding our breath and testing it ourselves. Success!
The road eventually turned into a somewhat drivable mix of pavement and potholes, requiring a particular amount of attention from Ben. All of this crazy however, was paying off in a huge way as we puttered through tiny villages buzzing with their evening activities. Old women circled up on benches in front of their houses, men with feathers in their caps riding bicycles, and gypsies walked home from the fields.
The towns were colored with bright plaster, ornately decorated with paint and designs and each town sported a lovely church steeple and occasionally a fortress or tower. In some towns nearly everyone waved (or stared) at us as we went by; there clearly isn’t a lot of traffic coming this way.
I can hardly wrap my mind around the fact that in a world that seems to be getting smaller by the day, places like this still exist, that huge communities of people are cutting grass with scythes and gathering it on the back of horse drawn wagons. I feel so, so lucky to be here.