It may sound crazy, but I’ve been trying really hard to get lost on this trip. It’s something that I’m terrible at as I have a good sense of direction. I couldn’t for the life of me tell you which way is north but once I’ve been somewhere I will be able to find my way back. I have no problems with maps, and can remember them fairly well once I’ve seen them. So despite all my attempts to get lost, until this point I’d failed miserably.
Then I decided to head from Suceava to Sighetu Marmatiei in the very north of Romania. To get there, I had to take a bus to Gura Humorului and then another from Gura to Sighet. There’s only one bus from Gura each day. So I got in a minibus that was heading to Campulung Moldovenesc and went through Gura Humorului, buying a ticket to there and telling the driver that I wanted to go to the autogara there. All was looking good. I didn’t know where the autogara in Gura was but the driver, who spoke a little English, told me he’d stop there.
As it turned out, he decided not to stop anywhere in Gura and just drove straight through. When I reminded him, he told me that the Sighet bus goes through Campulung so I could get it from there. It doesn’t. It drives through the town but does not stop there. The bus from Gura leaves at 11.15, and by the time we got to Campulung and I confirmed at the bus station that the Sighet bus does NOT stop there it was too late to go back to Gura Humorului to get the daily bus. I was pretty annoyed as I’d done everything I could to get the bus, and I’d booked accommodation in Sighet, and I’d now have to wait until the following day. A woman in a tourist office directed me to a library that had free internet access and so I searched for somewhere to stay in Campulung or Gura for the night, emailing the hostel I’d booked to change the date to the following day. I couldn’t find a hostel in either Campulung or Gura and so searched for a cheap hotel to stay in. I had a few windows open and chose one that was directly opposite the bus station – a convenient location.
So, off I went to take the bus back to Gura Humorului. I chatted with some lovely old women in the back of the bus – one spoke a little English, the other about three phrases that she kept repeating with a big grin. It was a nice trip.
I got off the bus just before the centre of town so I could find the hotel I’d book – Hotel Villa Romana. It was about a three minute walk. Then I looked at the booking on my phone, and noticed that I hadn’t booked Hotel Romana but Hotel Ramona. I had the address, and the street wasn’t on the tiny and pretty average map in the Rough Guide to Romania I’d downloaded to my phone. Essentially, I had no idea where on earth the place was.
However, I soon spotted a big sign painted on the wall of a building, advertising Hotel Ramona with a line pointing straight ahead and then turning left. It looked like it wouldn’t be too far away and so I went in the direction indicated, checking the street signs as I went, looking for the right one.
After walking for what seemed like an hour, but was probably only half that [it was freezing, and I was carrying all my stuff], I found myself outside the town looking at empty paddocks. Clearly the hotel was not there. I didn’t know what to do with myself! I’d trusted what looked like a reliable sign and ended up outside the damn town. There was nowhere to go but back. I was very frustrated and was regretting that I hadn’t simply taken a taxi when I realised that I’d booked the wrong hotel. But I’d seen the sign, and it looked like it wouldn’t be too far to walk and I didn’t want to take a taxi to find it was only 400m up the road – that would have been embarrassing.
I turned around and started heading back into the town when I saw a round old woman coming out of her house. I asked her if she knew where the hotel was and showed her the address on my phone. She indicated me to follow her, and then there was two.
She shortly realised that SHE didn’t know where the street was either, and asked an old man who was working in his garden. He said that he thought it was right on the other side of the town, but he wasn’t sure, and suggested we check with someone else to be sure. So she asked the next person we saw, a man sweeping leaves from the footpath, and he didn’t have a clue whatsoever. We kept on walking into town. I’m not sure where this lovely old woman had intended to go when she left her house, but she seemed to be enjoying herself and I certainly appreciated her help and her company. She didn’t really speak any English and I was using every last bit of Romanian I knew [not much] and supplementing this with words I remembered in French and ones I found in the language section of the Rough Guide.
Then we came to the house of one of her friends, a woman as wide as she was tall with soft eyes, ruddy cheeks and tight silver curls. She definitely knew where the hotel was, and it would be another half an hour walk or so. She promptly pulled out her mobile phone and started dialling. My first saviour explained to me that she was calling me a taxi as it was too far to walk – she could see I was getting tired and promised it would be cheap as they would make sure he used the meter. Sure enough, about three minutes later a taxi pulled up and my little old ladies harangued him into turning on the meter. He took me to the hotel, which was on the other side of town to where I was. I was very grateful and just wanted to get in out of the cold.
I’d been desperately trying to get lost for five months without any luck, and I discovered that it’s not as exciting as I’d hoped. Perhaps because I knew where I was, just not where the hotel was, or maybe because I was too frustrated and cold to appreciate it. Maybe it would have been more fun had I not had my pack, or the weather was nicer. Success tasted bittersweet.
Still, at least I can now honestly say that I spent a hour or so being geographically challenged, and appreciate that it’s actually not that much fun. At least it doesn’t happen to me everyday.