Monday, March 30, 2009

Touring the Southwestern Frontier

The wide Piaţa in Calafat, with the War Memor- ial in the fore- ground

The next morning was Sunday, 22 March. Shirl and I proceeded south from Caracal to Corabia, then turned west along the Danube Valley. The weather was simply beautiful, with temperatures of a comfortable 14.5 degrees C. (about 50 F) in bright sunshine. The Danube's floodplain stretched off to our left, intensely farmed virtually all the way to the river, with the hills of northern Bulgaria visible beyond. For most of the ride along the frontier, the Danube itself was too far away to be seen, so at Bechet we turned left on the short road to Port Bechet, and paid a fee of 20 lei to get the right to cross over into Bulgaria, planning to drive the other side as far as Vidin, then to reenter Romania at Calafat. What they didn't tell us at the tax stop was that there followed a 90 Euro ferryboat ticket. Our weekend's supply of cash wouldn't support that price (of about 400 de Lei), so we reneged, and turned back from the ferry office, receiving a coupon rather than a refund from the border police on the Romanian side. (The price for Romanians was only 210 de Lei, but with an American passport and German plates on Klaus, I thought I had best not argue that my Permis de Şedere made me a Romanian resident.)

We continued west along the Romaniian bank of the Danube to Rast, where we again turned to the Port in hopes of dipping a foot into the Beautiful Blue Danube. As you can see, we found such a place immediately beside the Frontier Police boat station, where a number of locally-owned rowboats were also moored.

From Rast we contined to Calafat, the south-westernmost city in Romania, and stopped for a late lunch in this attractive city, which looks and feels almost Mediterranean. Though it was still only about 50 degrees F, the bright sun and clear air made it quite beautiful, especially after a long winter of rain, snow and grey days in Transylvania.

Not yet ready to call it a day, after lunch we looked at the map over coffee, debating whether to head north toward Timişoara, or east toward Craiova. The decision was made on the basis that we would phone Kerry the Fulbrighter/Playwright Glamsch in Craiova, and if he were able to have dinner with us, go there. Kerry was available until 8:00, so we drove the 90 minutes of Euro Highway (good two-laners) to Craiova. Entering the Craiova metropolitan area, we passed the following sign, and had to stop. (Frank, if you read this post, please call my friend Bill Cargill at CB Construction in Campton, and refer him to my blog. I hope he can help me gain access to this subsidiary to write a Harvard-style business case study. Romanian business students desperately need relevant and recent local cases to discuss in their classes. Please ask Bill to e-mail me. Mulţumesc! )

We met Kerry in downtown Craiova, and went out for a wonderful meal, at which our long-budding friendship came to be cemented. Shirl, too, had long wanted to know Kerry, having also followed his beautifully written blog, "Romania, Romania, Romania."

The day ended at a brand new Pensiune on the road toward Targu Jiu, as we had decided to head for Hunedoara in the morning.

30 March Comment:

From the content of the last two posts, you'd think I have had nothing to do of late but travel. The truth is quite the opposite, which explains why I have told this story over a week after the fact. There is presently too much going on in my life to allow time each night to report the day's events. Perhaps, I shall one day catch up. As this night ends, I face tomorrow, and Shirl's departure back to New Hampshire. Of course, I shall miss her. Shirl has bonded with Romania and the Romanians in her short month here more deeply than I could ever have hoped, and in doing so has bonded still more deeply with her husband.

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