Post 51: More of On The Road To Romania
The Mad Gypsy
Soon it became too dark to see the fields and the beautiful Transylvania countryside. After the town of Sibiu, there was little chance for meaningful dialog because driving required both of us to concentrate on the road as we twisted and turned through the Carpathian Mountains. Road lights were nonexistent, and the road was poor, sometimes made of gravel with unmarked curves. Parked construction equipment, with no flashing indicators, as well as non-reflective curve and detour signs, would suddenly loom from the blackness. After several hours, near Pitesti, the road straightened and widened as we drove down into the Arges river valley. It was after 10 p.m. and we still had 118 kilometers to go, with more than an hour to drive before our next adventure began.
Around midnight, we arrived at the outskirts of Bucharest, a city of nearly two million people and discovered the streets were almost deserted. We noticed a lone taxi at a stoplight and asked the driver, a Roma (a gypsy) where a good hotel with secure parking was located. He enthusiastically agreed to lead us to a place he knew.
We followed him for what seemed an eternity through a maze of streets, passing roaming stray dogs as the street lights became ever sparser. At last, he stopped in front of a dark building and happily escorted Dr. G up the stairs into a meagre looking, dim lobby. We were obviously not in or near downtown Bucharest, where we assumed he was taking us, but at a seeming transient hotel in a very dark, dreary, unsafe looking area.
Seconds later, Dr. G came flying down the steps and hollered the ‘secure’ parking was on the sidewalk, right where we were parked. The security staff consisted of the desk clerk, another gypsy, who would keep an eye on the car. Brand new cars in Romania were high value items and stolen frequently. The gypsies were routinely blamed. We needed a well-lit, fenced in parking area with professional parking lot guards, not unlit sidewalks with a gypsy hotel clerk in charge of the security.
Dr. G jumped in and we took off with a lurch as the tall dark taxi driver ran after us yelling and shaking his fist. I prayed the man didn’t have a gun. His eyes, inches from my window, flashed with fury as Dr. G gunned the car by him then flipped a U-turn out of the dead end street. Our two-day old, red, shiny Skoda sped away as the gypsy driver frantically climbed into his battered car to give chase on a dark, rainy night somewhere in the cement jungles of Bucharest, Romania.
After several blocks, the taxi driver gave up his quest for revenge. Yes, we stiffed him, but he also failed to provide us with what we needed and requested. And the fact was, we couldn’t have paid him anyway; we had no Romanian currency on us.
After getting sworn at and chased by our no longer friendly hotel and parking guide, we somehow navigated our way to downtown Bucharest and found a hotel with secure parking. By two a.m. we were in a clean, 1950’s style room with heavy drapes and a white porcelain throne in the bathroom. Oh, what a relief it was!
Next week: Taxi – Bucharest Style