Saturday, 29 October 2011

82 The disaster of Moldova

Final pic from the Ukraine....don't ask what it is.

Tuesday 25th Oct.
A quick drive to the Moldovan border. We arrived there at about 2pm and the wait was only about an hour. They inspected out passports with a magnifying glass - literally. We had to pay the usual 20 Euros for what we are not sure but the bank note was shoved under the keybouard of the computer. I was asked about my green card insurance (which they knew I would not have) and then I had to buy insurance from them. They did at least gice me a certificate but without a finish date on it but it was computer printed and they stamped it too. The cost if the unsurance was 4 Euros, making it even more suspicious. 
From the internet, I had, the previous night found a hotel in town and put the coordinated into the sat nav. Unfortunately, the sat nav did not have any proper maps for Moldova to we were "flying in the dark" to some degree. 
Anyway, we eventually got to the Town of Balti and drove around and around trying to find the Hotel to no avail. We then decided to get some currency before continuing our search only to find that the two cash machines we tried refused all our cards.
So there we were. No money, no hotel, no language skills and no will to stay in the country. It was a shame as the place seemed nice and friendly but with no money, and the prospect of not being able to pay for a hotel with our cards, if indeed we found one, we decided to pull the plug on Moldova and drive into Romania. By now it was getting late and the prospect of driving on pot holed roads  in the dark was not filling us with joy.
We set off for the border and the Romanian town of Iasi.
Its like something out of a film set.

We soon found out why the horse and carts have dodgy number plates on.....they are otherwise invisible in the dark and at this time of year they are scrabbling to get their harvests in. The drive was very scary.
This was a small truck towing another on on the main road. The second one only had 3 wheels that actually rotated.
We arrived at the Romanian border at about 8pm and queued up with about 20 cars. This border was a bit easier once we had gotten past the "what is this for", "what does that do" stage with Gromit. Our destination from there was about 20kms of absolutely blissful flat tarmac, terminating in a small town called Iasi.
We could no resist this...
We were in Transylvania. It translates to "Land beyound the Forest" or something like that.
We found a back street hotel which in itself was very presentable, we were on the 3rd floor and there was no lift. On top of that the local dogs (of which strays are a very real problem in this part of the world) decided to bark alternately at each other all night. In the morning, at about 5 am they were joined by the local cockerels in someones garden, 30m from our hotel window. Bliss.

Wednesday 26th - Friday 28th Oct.
Outside the local shopping mall was evidence of the previous communist, communal heating system.

 The Grand Palace of Iasi.

Another quick pack up and a visit to the local supermarket and a drive round so the only thing worth photographing and then it was off to the heart of Transyvania and the 'birthplace' of Dracula. A small town called Sighisoara. I say 'birthplace', in reality the place is famous previous occupant, Vlad the Impaler, more correctly known as Vlad Dracul, was the inspiration for Bram Stokers original version of "Count Dracula".
The journey was very spectacular and involved crossing the Carpathian Mountains.
A gorge through the mountains.

The residents do not miss a trick to make a few bob.
It does not look it but is is only a couple of degrees above freezing.

A small community on the watershed at 1280m. Life must be hard in mid winter.

Night was almost upon us as we drove down the mountain.
We elected to stay a couple of days to recharge our batteries, we have done a lot of driving lately and even we need to stop for a break now and again. What better place to do it. We struggled to find a hotel in Sighisoara having planned to book into Hotel Dracula. We were eventually pointed in the direction of the Citadel, a walled in area on top of a hill. As it was dark we could not see what we were heading for but when we drove up to it, having paid 15 lei (£3) to enter, we were in for a very nice surprise. The Citadel was not like going backin time. It actually WAS a place that time had forgot. All the buildingd dated from the 1300s up till the mid 1800s. We found the hotel we sought. The hotel Sighisoara and it was beautiful. Even the stairs were worn from centuries of use. There were churches and belltowers everywhere. Cobbled uneven streets, dingy passageways, old timber fortifications and of couse, souvenir shops.
One of the more spectacular bell towers.

Vlad Dracul's house. Also his son, Vlad Tepes Dracula's birthplace. (Tepes is Slav for Impale - apparently)

The plaque that Karen is pointing to in the above piccy.

Here are some piccys around the town.

Dracula, in reality, was a sort of father and son team. The father was called Vlad Dracul, the surname being bestowed on him by the Sigmund of Luxemburg in 1431 when he made him a member of the "Dragon Order". Dragon in latin is Draco, as in the film "Dragonheart" where Sean Connery played the voice of the dragon "Draco", and also the sneaky opponent to Harry Potter, Draco Malfoy.
Hence Vlad became Vlad Dracul. His son who was born in the house below, was then called Vlad Tepes Draculea, "lea" bit meaning "son of". Draculea in Slav language translates to Dracula in latin and "Tepes" translates to impale. How Bram Stoker conjered up his Dracula story when he has never been here is a mystery but as we all know, he has made Dracula a legend that he did not earn.
Vlads house in now a restaurant and his legend lives on within it.

An authentic wall painting of Vlad (preseved as far as possible) on the resataurant wall.

The lovely Karen eating in one of the Restaurants rooms. Check out the picture under the chandalier.

The picture from the above photo. Vlad doing what he does best...impailing !  Its not often you go into a restaurant and these are dead bodies on sticks adorning the walls.

Another Picture of Vlad.

An ancient covered walkway.

The back streets at night.

No comment.

The lady can be scary at times.

Our hotel with Gromit outside. At the end is a covered stairway the the main church and graveyard.
Dragons feature quite prominantly in Romanian history (as across the rest of Europe, as we have seen) but here there are still original paintings in the churches of dragons as can be seen below.

The inside of the main church. The sign said "No Photography" but of couse that did not apply to me because we are not tourists - we live wherever Gromit is, so technically we are locals !

A wall painting (in the church) of a dragon being slayed.

And another...

The graveyard.

And again. The graveyard is live (if that the right word) the last entry we could find was only in March this year.
All in Sighisoarhy! is an amazing place.

A better view of the bell tower from the village below.

Next stop, Bran Castle. The supposed castle that Dracula (Bram Stokers version) lived in. It is about 100km South West frome here.

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