By David Shoup
Summer is now firmly over the horizon, the sun rising above the Black Sea earlier each day (5:32am by my latest count). June is the first month when almost any weekend offers ideal getaway opportunities to experience the clean air and plethora of scenic vistas that rural Romania has to offer, from the quiet peaks of Moldoveanu to the booming beaches at Vama Veche. Don’t worry too much about your budget. Camping in Romania is not only amongst the world’s most beautiful, it’s also cheap. With quality tents available on OLX for as little as 200 Ron and priceless hospitality abounding across the country, there’s no excuse not to hit the mountains, seaside, or delta this summer and see the very best of what Romania can offer to even the most jaded of explorers.
The grand views aside, a wandering weary traveler in the Romanian hinterlands need never be lonesome. One can always meet friendly passersby in the countryside here, provided that one is not trying to pass them on the curve in the road at 80 km/hour. There’s an ancient Romanian legend about a class of sorcerer who live in the Carpathian Mountains that has intrigued me as of late. Descended from the high priests of the bygone Dacian Kingdom, these red-headed “Solomonar” may appear like a beggar if you encounter them on the steppes of Bucovina or the forest of Bucegi, but be wary. If you short them on a food or monetary donation they’ll curse you back to kingdom come. In addition to their arsenal of potential devious magical powers, they are said to speak every language known to humanity, and carry their knowledge in a leather bound book tucked under their arm as they wander through the mountains.
Romanian folklore is fascinating, but I especially like the message of this legend that power comes from knowledge (as has been demonstrated in the high turnout rates in last month’s dramatic European Parliamentary elections). Nevertheless, I’ll keep a few extra Lei and a cold Ursus tucked away on my next camping trip to Zarnesti, should a Solomanar appear. It’s always best to make a good first impression. And if a bear rather than wizard should appear, as may be the case should one travel out to the well trodden Bucegi forest, a nice big bottle of pepper spray can be found at Kaki Army Shop in Piata Unirii for a reasonable 42 Ron.