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Everybody Gets Hit in Romania!

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The other day I pulled into the first service station we could find to investigate a check engine light. The mechanic happily tightened some hoses and reset the computer, then, after a cursory check of the rest of the car, asked me about the tail light.

From a distance it looks normal, and illuminates just fine, but up close you can see that the light is held in place by some standard packing tape, with just a few holes and slits in the colored plastic. I know I should get it fixed, but I kind of like seeing it as a souvenir from Romania, where a taxi driver made it possible. I explained the accident to the Turkish mechanic who just laughed and laughed. He had done a road trip through the Balkans a few years ago and got into a few accidents too: Everybody gets hit in Romania, he said. This is hilarious to me, because even though most of my American friends who visit Turkey find the driving here crazy, it’s got nothing on Romania.

Scenes from the 10th-14th c. wood and stone Corvin Castle:

Although we walked around some beautiful towns and even visited a Transylvanian castle while in Romania, it’s the driving adventure that we remember the most. On the Romanian road, the right of way goes to he who acts the craziest. The drivers make the most absurd decisions to pass when there’s clearly no space, or a curve coming up, or even a huge truck in the oncoming traffic lane. Out of my rearview mirror, I saw a tall white van somersault in the air several times then crash to the road, probably fatally, because it pulled out directly into an oncoming truck’s path. Woah!
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My accident was minor in comparison to a suicide van flipping through the air. At the same moment that our GPS led us to the wrong address for our hotel, it started pouring. Right after I pulled over to put the top up and find our hotel, we got clipped by a cab. Because nobody spoke the same languages, it took about ten minutes of pointing and shrugging at each other before the cabbie let on that we had to go to the police station. I think he hoped that i would give up and we could all just move on, which in retrospect, probably would have been a better use of time.

We had to wait for an English-speaking police officer, who really just spoke Romanian louder and slower at me. Luckily, with my Spanish background I was able to guess latin roots and mostly fill out the accident form. The cop took a bunch of pictures, did a BAC, then filled out a bunch of forms and handed us copies. “Finished,” he told us, then took the Romanian taxi driver to another room.

Since I had no idea what I had signed for, I took iPhone pictures of all the documents and sent them to the Romanian scholar, who sent them on for further translating. Eventually, we all figured out that the other guy was at fault, and I could get my car repaired on his insurance. Whew! I was relieved that I wasn’t at fault, or required to stay in Romania to work this stuff out. We decided to forgo the Romanian repair and hit the road the next morning – who knows what another day of driving would bring.

Some random Romania:


Besides crazy driving, Romania’s other claim to fame is great drinks. Not many people eat out, but they do meet for coffee or lemonade and enjoy it together for a few hours. So even though we had bad luck finding good food, we had all kinds of fresh, flavored lemonade and excellent coffees.

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