I departed Bucharest as early as possible aboard the northbound interregional train to Brașov. Groups of teenagers filled sections of facing seats; older couples looked out the window while their young children slept, slumped sideways into their parents’ laps; someone brought a portable speaker on board which was playing electronic hip-hop music with English vulgarities scattered amongst the Romanian lyrics. I had no idea how to determine which carriage was which, so I sat down in a seat that happened to be marked with the same number as my ticket.
Mere minutes after the train started away from the station, the big rectangular apartment buildings suddenly stopped, giving way to vast fields, some grass for grazing, some wheats for gathering. Occasionally a dilapidated structure of bare concrete and exposed rebar would pass by, its original purpose unclear, perhaps unfulfilled.
Arriving in Brașov, I was met by Irina, previously a student of mine in the States, now an aspiring biologist and wildlife photographer in Romania. We took a bus down to the old town and explored for a while, finding something fascinating on every street. Knowing very little about Romania and Brașov, I indulged a touristic stop at the Brașov historical museum. Having spent so much time in Scotland lately, a country whose formative history was made long ago, it is interesting to be in a place where significant formation is still within the living memory of the population.
Irina and her associate Alex invited me to be shown around the towns surrounding Brașov. English is compulsory in Romanian education nowadays, so I took full advantage of their fluency to learn about some of the history and geography of the region.
Sizable flocks of sheep were spread throughout the plains between the mountains, which occupied the horizons in perfectly idyllic proportion to the almost imperceptibly graded spans of grassland across which we traveled. We arrived in Bran, decided that admission to the Bran castle (now a tourist attraction) was too steep, and searched for a path into the hills. An elderly farmer, slowly piling hay onto a pile at least three times his own height, greeted us enthusiastically from behind his timber fence as we turned down a road.
We soon returned to Brașov, where Irina and Alex left for home and I wandered around the old town until the sun had set. The mood of the place is captivating: the shops and restaurants are far from stuck in the past — in fact, I would call most of them completely modern — yet the neighborhood feels nearly medieval nonetheless. The architecture, all plaster in pastel colors, was friendly and inviting. With the day’s events still on my mind, I didn’t make many photographs, but the walk was all the more meditative for it. The sun finally set, and I headed back to the courtyard, greeting a few cats along the way.
Having retired to the flat, blessedly cool from having spent most of the day in shade, I am happily helping myself to a few biscuits while today’s images are backing up. Tomorrow, I am off to rural Transylvania — specifically, Sighișoara — and I expect that there will be much to see, as always.
More images from Romania can be viewed here.