Romania is here (even when I’m not there)

Last week I asked for recommendations for must-reads on Romania on my Facebook page, and to my utter and pleasant surprise I got about fifteen people replying within the span of half an hour. All with great suggestions that made me expand both the Further Reading appendix to my guidebook (pub date Feb 2020) and my personal to-read list. What was more, two of these wonderful commenters, Ghent-based, suggested I could borrow some of their books. I thought I’d have to probably message them so that it would actually happen, but no: again to my surprise my boss pressed a book into my hands at work on Tuesday morning. ‘Someone dropped this off for you yesterday,’ he said, as I joyfully cradled Never Mind the Balkans: Here’s Romania by Mike Ormsby. I browsed through the pages and found a postcard from Tatiana, wishing me a pleasant read and with her number on it for when I was finished. No need to tell you this was a very good start to my day. I miss Romania awfully – autumn looks and feels quite forbidding here in Belgium and it inspires a sense of dread in the pit of my stomach. Whereas I know I could be roaming the mountains and feel perfectly blissful despite, or perhaps even because of, the season. So, suddenly getting surrounded with local Romanian love is the best thing that could happen to me right now.

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Mountain magic in Măgura

Yesterday has been a very full day – in the best possible way. I wrote a whopping seventeen pages in my (small) notebook – I brought only one because I thought that would suffice for a month in Romania. But by now I only have eight empty pages left. After only two days in the mountains my heart is full and my head is brimming with stories. That’s why I’m taking today off – or rather, have decided today needs to be a processing day. It’s pouring it down outside so that makes it easier for me to reconcile myself with the fact I’m not hiking today. Not that I feel bad about it – not at all this time. These past two days have brought me so much that I really need to sit down and think, write, sift through the stories, the images, the recollections, the conversations. It’s going to be quite a task, and a long read. If you don’t feel like reading, there’s pictures. I won’t blame you.

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Update on my life and my book plus the Ceahlău Mountains

Hello dear people. It’s been a while. This blog is turning into more of a quarterly than, well, a blog. I’ve been wanting to write a post for a long, long time, but finishing the manuscript of my guidebook to the mountains of Romania and handling the feedback has swallowed me whole. It’s not that I didn’t have the time – but I’m feeling so depleted that I spend 12 hours out of every 24 sleeping and am so tired that I can’t handle much in terms of cognitive and creative effort. But I do want to write. I don’t imagine any one of you wakes up in the morning thinking ‘When is that girl finally going to post again’ but I do feel some sort of duty towards you, and myself – mostly myself perhaps. I want and need to write, and share. So here is a little update on how things are going and I’m going to treat you to some more Romanian mountains – the Ceahlau. So scroll down if you don’t want any of the personal dribble or read on if you do. (You’ve been warned.)

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Seven things I learned in Romania in 2018

Oh dear. It’s March. In fact, it’s spring! This means I’ve been back for over four months and still I haven’t written my reflective 2018-post. Of course it is a bit ridiculous to publish it this late but since I kept a things-I-learned-list I would like to share these insights with you. Also it is a good exercise for me to get back into writing blog posts. It’s not that I don’t write; in fact I do little else. The deadline for my guidebook to the mountains of Romania is end of April and I have no clue how I am going to finish it in time. But I will. Besides that, I’m working on lots of exciting new projects that I can’t quite talk about yet – but what I can say is that I never dreamed the Roamaniac adventure would roll on like this after the guidebook part! In short, I’m juggling a lot of balls at the moment, so here is a little distraction from all these frightful facts for myself, and for you from whatever it is you need distracting from.

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The Iezer-Păpușa and Făgăraș revisited

Just a few days after I had come back from my hike across the main ridge of the Făgăraș, I went back: I wasn’t quite done with these mountains yet. During an earlier hike into the Iezer-Păpușa, I had planned to cross over into the Făgăraș via a connecting spur, but was prevented by the weather. This time round the forecast didn’t look too favourable either; 5-10mm of rain or more was predicted for every afternoon, so I resolved to go on short hikes and pitch my tent before the rain. But I was fortunate: I was much faster than expected (I suppose I’m getting the hang of this hiking thing) and there was less rain than predicted.

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First three months: come rain, come shine

I intended to write a reflective post after my first month in Romania, but then all of a sudden two months had passed – and then three. This doesn’t mean time flew – it didn’t exactly. Last year’s start was tough – this one was tougher. When I look at my walks list I am not impressed – I only managed one three-day hike in June, for instance. In terms of kilometres it looks a little better – I did about 240km which is almost half of what I did in total last year and the year before – so it looks like I’m getting somewhere. Although that said, I have no idea how many kilometres I have ahead of me. I can only hope that I’m about half way, since in another three months winter will force me out of the country.

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Something incredible happened to me today.

Something incredible happened to me today. I was staying at a friends’ house but felt very uncomfortable there for various reasons. Too big, not so clean, no internet, moderate to bad 3G reception, just one lousy shop, quite a long bus ride from Brașov, etc. So I panicked.

Fortunately, I didn’t just panick – I started listing alternative accommodation around Brașov. I also started looking at AirBnBs again even though I had already done that a few weeks ago.

Suddenly I found myself staring at an AirBnB which I hadn’t seen up there before – and it looked too good to be true.  Like a proper fata morgana: nine euros per night for a beautiful little two-bedroom refurbished house on the outskirts of Brașov, close to the Piatra Mare mountains. Bookings per week only – but that’s a good thing for me since I want a base I can return to without having to drag my luggage from one place to another all the time.

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Poetry for travellers: ‘Der Fremde’ by Rainer Maria Rilke

I’ve recently taken up the habit of reading one poem before I go to sleep. I started this after I bought a volume of poetry by Rainer Maria Rilke – a selection of his so-called ‘New Poems’. Last night, I accidentally read three (to calm my raging mind). Der Fremde, ‘The Stranger’, was the last one. I found it so comforting, and so relevant to my roaming adventure, that I thought I should post it on here. It also made me wonder why I hadn’t shared any poetry before. I write poetry myself (when I am under its spell – it comes and it goes) so it makes sense to share some poetry on here, too. One possible problem: it’s in German and I haven’t found an adequate English translation. I tried my hands on it but soon realized I couldn’t do it justice. So I will just post the original and then highlight what struck me about it.

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Five more things I learned in Romania in 2017

When we grow up, we learn to walk – but I am walking to learn. I’m a perfectionist, so I always want to get things right the first time round. But there is no way to do that with an adventure like this: I have to learn on the go. About my surroundings, about myself. About my limits, my body, my fears; about techniques, gear, the weather. In fact, I no longer even want things to go perfectly right from the start; I love the everlasting learning process. I’d probably feel very bored without it. These are some of the things I learned throughout my second hiking season in Romania.

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Recharging at a bar in Poienile de sub Munte – the art of doing nothing at all

This is an old story – but one that needs to be told. I have so many of these – but they keep heaping up and then I end up focusing on the ‘more important’ posts about routes and the like. But I like stories. And telling them.

31st of July 2016, Poienile de sub Munte. I have just arrived in this hamlet in the Munții Maramureșului, the northermost mountain range in Romania that borders on the Ukraine. I managed to sprain my ankle – badly – in the last 500 metres of my hike from Lacul Vinderel. I have pitched my tent near an abandoned and derelict cabana. Now I need a drink.

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Five things I learned in Romania in 2017

So, this is the post I intended to write before the end of last year – but although the clock doesn’t cheat, the way we experience time differs from time to time, person to person. Never mind –  January is still a fine month to do some reflecting. These are some of the things I learned in Romania last year. I haven’t read my notes for a while so I will probably do some re-learning while I write. 🙂

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On Learnedness and Wisdom, Envy and Limits

I was going to write another Things I Learned post before the end of the year, but that never happened – I’m still emerging from the (fortunately metaphorical) dust clouds that resulted from moving to Ghent, Belgium. So I was going to write it in the first week of the new year – that didn’t happen either. And then I wrote the following. I very much doubted, and still doubt, whether I should post these musings here – after all it is not directly related to Romania – but I did promise to also post musings here. And it is definitely part of the journey I’m on. So I’m just going to give it a go and see what happens. It’s all about attitudes to learnedness and wisdom. And envy. And limits.

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First Month: Ups & Downs (and two routes to Scăriţa Belioara)

By now I’ve spent a month in Romania, so it’s time for a review – and a post. Things haven’t been easy, and I’ve spent a considerable amount of time pondering how I want to use this blog. I feel a strong urge to write Real Stories – as opposed to Smooth Stories that may make my adventure sound like a dream come true (which it is) and encourage you, my reader, to come visit Romania, but don’t reflect the hardships that are also part of my dream project and of my life. It’s a lot less scary to write up an attractive itinerary and a cheerful account of all the beautiful moments I go through here, but the truth is that Real Life comes with Rough Edges. more “First Month: Ups & Downs (and two routes to Scăriţa Belioara)”

Five things I learned in Romania this year

It’s been a while since I last wrote. My computer had a breakdown and so did I. One word: depression. I’m still crawling out of the hole, shedding the lethargy, fear, fatigue and what else one layer at a time. Thought I’d gather some courage and write one last – and belated – post before we jump into 2017. Don’t expect anything profound – these are just some of the things I learned during those four months in Romania that kept me going.

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Breb revisited

Breb has got to be the most beautiful and harmonious village in Romania. I felt at home immediately when I first visited it in 2014, so I didn’t have to think long where I’d start my travels this year. A walk through the village is never the same. Here are some of yesterday’s encounters. more “Breb revisited”

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! more “Farmer Hoggett knew…”

So, who’s the Roamaniac?

Hi, I’m Janneke. I am a self-declared Roamaniac: I am utterly and completely in love with Romania, and I suffer from what the dictionary describes as ‘a strong desire for freedom’ (aptly called eleutheromania). Over the next couple of years, I will be hiking and trekking through Romania. I will focus on the various mountain ranges but will need to rest in between, so will also report on the joys of the Romanian countryside and its beautiful medieval towns. more “So, who’s the Roamaniac?”