Romania, Hungary

The Balkans - Part 5

Date October 2010
Posted September 2012
The slow journey northward through Romania
On a steep mountain road somewhere in Romania siologen's commitment to seeing this trip through was called into question when he nearly stacked us into the front of an articulated lorry. To be fair to him I can be the worst 'back seat driver' in the world, so it's no surprise that he was getting all flustered. By now we were comfortably into our first full day in Romania having arrived the previous evening, checked into a hostel in Bucharest and chalked-up our first Romanian bust. The manhole was wide open, you see, but we never expected there to be anyone down there...

Food and trains, somewhere, Romania (2010) courtesy of

To round off the night we hopped over the boarding around the huge unfinished Casa Radio (Radio House) building. This was originally built to host the headquarters of the national radio stations, back in the communist times, but never finished. Once though Ceausescu watched a military parade from it's balcony. The place was indeed vast, and particularly dangerous to explore. After pizza and a good nights' sleep we took off through the suburbs.

Street trader, somewhere, Romania (2010) courtesy of

The contrast between life in the capital city and life elsewhere was illustrated nowhere more profoundly than in Romania. In the centre of Bucharest you'd be forgiven for thinking you were in Paris, or some other affluent western European city. Out here in the sitcks and it was a different picture: horses and carts, lots of dogs, farming (sometimes using serious out-of-date methods) and a general impression of a popuplation just trying to get by. Wherever we stopped for road blockages or traffic lights people appeared on the roadside trying to sell us various wares. Some of them were friendly, others were not.

Ghetto, Calan, Romania (2010) courtesy of

In one small town someone yelled out to stop the car - something interesting had been spotted. It turned out to be a yard of disused-looking railway carriages. A small group of men in hi-vis vests sat around outside the gates so we indicated our cameras and pointed inside. They shrugged, which was taken to mean "Sure, go right in...", which we did. The yard turned out to be semi-active, in as much as the rolling stock looked rusted to the rails but the railway guard in his smart uniform and the little band of henchmen marching down the trackside towards us looked anything but lazy. Time to go. Incidentally, the guys outside the gate were just some road menders stopping for lunch...

Calan Works, Calan, Romania (2012) courtesy of

As with most of the other countries we had scheduled a 'main event'. This time it was of an industrial nature, nestled in the Jiu Valley. A colossal old steelworks in the small town of Calan echoed the discoveries in Bulgaria. Once more all that remained was concrete - a vast sea of the stuff interspersed with structures that either would not or were not needed to fall. A series of calling towers, a chimney, and so much rubble. It was late when finally the Seat rolled up to the gates so it was unanimously agreed to wait for daybreak. Another unfinished house provided ample shelter until the morning.

Calan Works, Calan, Romania (2012) courtesy of

Finding a parking space outside the steelworks wasn't a problem. We attracted stares (plenty of them, in fact) but I was fairly confident the car wouldn't be interfered with. I liked to think that we looked odd enough to inject just enough wariness into the minds of any wayward locals to make them think twice about screwing with us. The works itself was easy enough to access - we just walked on through the main gateway. Here and there were locals doing 'something' or other. Some were foraging for scrap (an ambitious endeavour, even in such vast wasteland) whilst others stood around battered Dacias. Dogs ran around, notably close to a small hut, the occupant of which came out to see what we were up to but didn't seem bothered. This environment was easily summed-up: no man's land.

Industries, here and there, Romania (2010) courtesy of

Across the road were more ruins, but apparently they belonged to someone who gave half a damn. We'd barely set foot on the property when two dark-clothed figures began to cut a bee-line for us. Armed with nitesticks these guys were obviously no-nonsense security. Quite what they were guarding it wasn't clear, but it made no difference - the game was over. Back in the car we pushed on northward stopping once or twice to look at other curiosities before finally arriving back in Budapest. The show was not over yet however, with Slovakia and a return to Vienna still to go.
Show a little love!