Farmer Hoggett knew…

Why I keep returning to Romania

People often ask me why I keep returning to Romania. To which the short answer is that I have simply fallen in love with the country; but of course that still leaves a lot of explaining to do. So here is an attempt; which will hopefully convince you that you need to go there and fall in love yourself!

“Farmer Hoggett knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be ignored, for in them lie the seeds of destiny.” – Babe

This is how it all started. When, back in 2004, a friend asked me whether I’d be interested in joining her on an EU-funded summer camp in Romania, I immediately said ‘Yes’. But it was a ‘Yes, why not?’, because I had no idea what Romania was like; I even had to look it up on the map because I didn’t know its exact whereabouts (beyond ‘somewhere in Eastern Europe’). I didn’t know I would fall in love with the place instantaneously, and would be returning almost every year thereafter.

I went on those summer camps four more times, then found myself a boyfriend who was into hiking after which we started exploring Romania together. Things kept getting worse: every time I had to leave Romania behind, I’d feel sad and experience Fernweh.

So Romania kept ‘tickling and nagging’; and at some point I realized that it wouldn’t do to just visit it during the summer months. So I started looking for work opportunities in Romania. But I knew I didn’t want to end up in an office or as a teacher; it would mean I’d still be stuck in between four walls. I wanted fresh air, and a lot of sky. I needed to breathe. I needed space.

So when I heard a campsite was up for sale, I went to visit the owners immediately – and thought this was my destiny. However, during my very brief ‘internship’ it soon dawned on me that this wasn’t what I wanted at all: sure, the campsite was in a beautiful place, but as a campsite owner, I wouldn’t be able to explore Romania. I’d still be stuck in one place, and feel locked up. Which was exactly what I was trying to avoid.

This experience made me feel a bit shattered, but I tried to use it to figure out what I did want. Because I was still fairly sure that I wanted to find myself something to do in Romania. I started to write my thoughts down and soon, the words ‘guide’ and ‘writing’ appeared on the page. So I set out on this new course, and here I am: writing a travel blog about Romania, and breathing in fresh air with the warm Romanian sun on my back.

So that’s how I got here. But you may still wonder why exactly I fell in love with Romania. In a way, that’s hard to explain: whenever you try to dissect a love, whether for a person or a place or a thing, it slips away from you: all you have left is the pieces it was composed of. Nevertheless, I will try to sum up some aspects of Romania that put a smile on my face every time I think of them.

The most important thing for me is that in Romania, people seem to know how to slow down and enjoy life. Where I come from (the Netherlands), life is often hectic and fast-paced, and everything is scheduled. Although no doubt this has its plus sides, I much prefer the slower pace of life I find in Romania. It seems so much more humane. We are not machines. There are speed limits, and if we speed up too much, we will break down, ultimately.

Need I say Romania is one of the most gorgeous places in the world? Mighty mountains, medieval towns, rolling hills, wooden churches, painted monasteries – the scenery is stunning wherever you go. This is paired with a great climate (in spring and summer, that is) – it gets pleasantly hot in summer, but the air doesn’t get humid, and the nights are cool. And Romanians are among the friendliest, most hospitable people I know. Whether they speak English or not, they will literally queue up to help you if you look remotely like a tourist. They will walk with you if you get lost, make sure you get off the bus at the right stop, feed you gogosi and offer you tuica (Romanian brandy), tell you stories and make you tell yours.

All of this makes that I am quite sure that Romania will never let me go. It’s hard to stop here because there is so much more I want to tell you. But I am trying to remind myself that the point of this blog is to… blog. To be continued!

La revedere! [See you!]

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