We enter a major European traffic route, with trucks speeding past us. We are stunned. Suddenly, on the same road, a horse pulls a carriage. The image is striking, as if two opposing worlds were meeting before our eyes. We choose the world of the horses and find ourselves in the heart of Romania.
Arriving in Craiova, we are greeted by the enthusiasm of Alex and Iulia. We meet them at an event, where new plans for the city are proposed to improve community life. We also discover the city's gigantic market. I love buying groceries in such a cultural place, discovering a page of the local life.
On the gravel tracks
Along a dirt track that climbs a pass, Nayla and Fibie help each other. They run back and forth between the panniers and the bike to get everything up. And they have fun watching us struggling down below, pushing the huge load of our bikes. Then we reach a gravel road that runs through a forest of golden yellow birch trees. Every day the temperature drops, although the sun is shining brightly and giving us a warm glow. We meet many shepherds with their herds of goats and sheep and their donkeys. The big dogs, gigantic for Nayla and Fibie, approach with a frightening bark. They protect the herd.
Moments of life
We ride through rolling hills and then vast plains, passing through small villages, with dilapidated houses and dirt back roads. Yet there is a light hearted atmosphere of the countryside, horses pulling carts carrying all sorts of materials, wood, straw, hay, sometimes even sheep. Many fountains appear in the centre of the villages, which often have no running water. The men and women are outside. They participate in the life of the street, in the life of the village.
The elderly sit on benches outside. They are also enjoying the warmth of a ray of sunshine, because most homes are not yet heated. The elderly women wear a colourful scarf on their heads, the orthodox tradition. The houses are never identical, simply surrounded by large fences that separate the inside from the outside. Outside, rubbish, plastics, pet or glass bottles, accumulate along the roads, inside everything is clean, tidy, surrounded by fruit trees. I see women washing their carpets in the centre of the village by the fountain. The houses are often colourful.
Many of the dwellings have columns on the front facade, almost all of them were built between 1939 and 1950. The further we move towards the capital, the more they have been renovated. In the small villages, however, there is a magic. The atmosphere and the welcome we receive are incredible. Along the road, everyone greets us and says hello! The children also greet us. They even ran to give Xavier, me and especially Nayla and Fibie a high five. The girls' smiles were radiant to hear the children's shouts, to be greeted. It gave us the energy to carry on in the intensity of the cold days. Jiji and his wife also came to bring us water and fruit. She then took Fibie in her arms, as if they had a connection, as if they had known each other for a long time.