The trip I had done 3 years before to
"Tomorrow it is not going to work, as it is a religious holiday". The other backpacker from the bus, a German buy, was very happy:
"I have come all the way from
Life is great and bad news always travel
in couples, one might say. So, we went back to the main road. Sometimes an
unexpected change of plans ends up well. Sometimes not.
But in both situations one gets up with an interesting experience and he/she
ends up drunk. After a brief coffee and after noticing that half of the Pipulation in Viseu was Italian
or had cars with Italian plates, we took a small van to
"Romanian border police, your documents, please"
Then the story started with things I had already known. It was forbidden by law that anyone but the border police patrols to walk on the neutral stripe. We were supposed to keep at least 20 m. from the stripe inside Romanian territory. Of course we should have, opening new paths through the junipers and clearing the forest. The answer was simple:
"As walking in the area except for the stripe is not
possible, you shouldn't have come here. There are laws. We only make sure they
are respected. Now you have to join us and you risk a penalty of ROL 1, 000, 000
- 10, 000, 000 (USD 30-300)." They had their side of rightfulness, and we
had ours. Yet our side was not protected by any law, only by the desire to hike
those mountains. So there was a need to backup our case, in order to have one
and not surrender. Blaming it on the map which showed, to our salvation, a
non-existent path on the Romanian side (which we had not even looked for),
playing the innocent and expressing our full respect for the law, we eased the
situation and made them - nice people, after all - a little more comprehensive.
After all, they were the ones carrying guns and not us. The orders they
received from down were clear though: we had to join them to their commander and
later on an inspector would come to see what and how will happen. Oh dear me...
But they were nice enough (thank you, men!) to give us a tour of the ridge
further before going down, also telling us military stories and alot of things about the wild herbs that grow in that area.
In the evening we reached Coman, their headquarters
and also the end of the narrow gauge train we were supposed to have taken the
day before...isn't life strange? Thank God we had not taken that train, for, if
we had taken it, they would have turned us back without having the opportunity
of walking on the ridge and...fighting that sea of
junipers. We camped in front of their building and a middle aged, very smiley
inspector indeed came in the morning and decided in 5 seconds that a warning
was enough. So we could pack and got on the...train that was to make 6 hours
over 50 km., with a steam engine, stopping every now and then from its impressive
10 km./h. speed to take wood or workers, to drop something or to be refilled
with coal. The railway was the only way to those places, with no road along and
therefore it was also used by families that had off-road cars or vans and
modified their wheel system to fit the rails (changing the tires with train
wheels). As there was only one railway, these vehicles had to move one at a
time, so the train had to stop for a few times and wait. It is good to know in
a standardized and globalizing world that some things happen when they can,
without a precise schedule. We finally reached Viseu
and found a guesthouse, as we wanted to depart the following day for Poienile de sub Munte, a village
next to the border in the northern side of the same mountains and a base for
hiking towards Peak Farcau, lying fully in
"The only problem was that at a certain moment we saw a car and we jumped into the forest." We weren't to be that lucky, but we were to be lucky anyway.
We hiked the peak, which provided impressive views towards
the Maramures and the area
we were coming from, as well as
"Can you see anything?"
The two meters that separated us from the Romanian pillar,
the few moments that separated us from their arrival and that God-given fir tree
sheltering us, as well as the fact that the soldiers respected the law and did
not make even one step in Romania, saved us from a certain fine and a long
deportation via ValeaViseului,
the closest legal border crossing. After their departure, we continued by going
down into Romania and then trying to keep the same altitude, jumping over
fallen trees, falling in mud and cursing bushes or nettles. Eventually we found
a very narrow and not always clear path probably used by sheep following
shepherds, by wolves following sheep and by sheepfold dogs following wolves,
respectively by bears chasing all of the above. The path stubbornly followed
the ridge and the border at 50-100 m. After a slow and painful hike through the
forest, we reached the border again and the - hooray, hooray - pasture: we were
at the bottoms of the
"How could you set a fire out of those wet pieces of wood?"
"Only idiots make a fire out of dry wood."
The evening faded out with Ukrainean songs, vodka and, more than anything else, with a big and mutual cheer meant to wash off taboo stories and preconceived ideas, as well as the language barrier.
The following day, after breakfast, we splat, as they were
going the way we came (hmmm, lucky people, they could follow the dust road),
while we had a peak to hike. It was very sunny and hot while we hiked along the
path (pretty clear now, as there seemed to have been more hikers interested in
this peak) that cross-crossed the border again. Fortunately, the dust road was
down at 1600 m. and we were in the open, so we could see the "enemy".
An hour and a half later, we got on Pip Ivan, with great views to the area.
Once again, the Hoverla was covered in clouds. We
continued on the border for about 2 hours, on a ridge that was rocky at times
and bushy at other times, looking very deserted and far away from everything.
Just when leaving the border, we met a signpost saying "Attention: state
border". Well, it was a bit late, indeed, but it was still nice they told
us in the end we had hiked on a border. We got off the ridge to the south and,
as I probably chose the wrong valley to go down, what seemed to be a narrow
path in the beginning, soon faded out and we had to fight through fir trees,
going down on a steep slope covered with a slippery dead leaves layer. After
about 2 hours, we reached an abandoned forest workers' hut and a poor dust road
that had not been used for many years. The heat, the vegetation that had grown
on the dust road and the few things reminding that this place was once probably
frequently crossed by people, made Dracula's crappy castle and legend look
silly in comparison to a real and unexpected life experience. One more hour and
we reached "civilization": the border police hut, where we had to be
registered and then we could go. It was getting hotter and hotter as we were
going down. We reached
Then we entered
A few hours, we got on the morning train towards Rachiv. Isn't life funny? Just three days ago we were in
The following morning we started towards the peak and were
lucky enough to be given a ride inside the park by a couple from
"We made 3 days from the Pop Ivan here"
That sounded a bit too long, but the weather conditions were
reason enough. After 3 hours of hiking (or rather surfing) through the weather
and - of course - no trace of any hut, we heard some voices to the left and
found a small lake and a tent. We camped there, cooked something and soon
another group of 3 arrived and settled next to us. They were coming from
"No tickets to L'viv until the end of the month" (which meant more than 2 weeks ahead)
"No way either, all trains are sold out"
Well, that called for an emergency pull, so we went to the
"Service Centre" I had previously used in
"To what destination do you have tickets this week?"
"Well, there are still a couple of tickets to
"Good, and what route does it follow?"
"OK, two tickets to Kyiv then"
The tickets were more expensive (USD 16 per person), as the
train was a charter of the Estonian railways. After a victory scream that made
some people (probably not as lucky as we were) angrily look at us, we dropped
the heavy backpacks in the station and got on a train to Balchihsaray:
we had 4 days to spend in
Four days which would be some memorable
ones. We started by an electrichna train to Balchihsaray, where a Tatar palace was located. Crossing
the dry and desert - like hills of south-western
Eventually we started towards
Things took a dramatic change soon: the coast was very picturesque
and the resorts, as well as the road, had nothing to do with my previous
As the following day we were to leave and I stubbornly
wanted to visit Aivazovski's museum in Feodosia, we went to the bus station in
"We even have a shower"
That sounded promising. Actually all they had was a not
finished yet house made of two rooms. The wider one, bearing a garage-like huge
metallic door, was made of a lower area which hosted a makeshift kitchen and an
upper area made of a wooden podium on which there were pillows and 3
mattresses, that being the sleeping area. The smaller room was
"normal", with two beds and some old pictures on the walls. The
"shower" meant an outside cabin made of wood, on top of which there
was a water tank which would be warmed up by the sun rays. Another wooden cabin
was meant for the toilet, just like in rural
Then we headed for
We reached L'viv in the morning,
the morning of the National Day. The city looked almost the same as the first
time I had been there and also as the very day Sovietics
took it from Poles., with old cobblestone streets,
aging tramways making everything shake, but also with those small shops that
looked so picturesquely. The centre was full of people even if it was pretty
early, and there was some typical communist propaganda music, very loud, in
some speakers all over the place. It was strange to see that type of
manifestation in a Gothic city and the worse was even to come. This time I
noticed a thing that I had previously ignored when visiting the city in 2000.
Of the once many Roman Catholic churches in the city, only one still bore the
same religion, while others had been turned into Orthodox or Greek Catholic
churches. Being a person that does not believe in religion, but rather in the
only God there is, this situation did not bother me, but the discordance
between the Gothic architecture and frescoes, respectively the Orthodox altars
was striking. At a certain moment an old and quite poor lady stopped us in the
street. She was Polish and all her relatives had been sent to
We rushed to the station and got on the bus to Przemysl on the last minute. Except for us and a guy
probably going to work in nearby
After spending a few days in
Eventually we left for the mountains, with a night bus to Berane. Then I entered an area with a very interesting
people. Next to the Albanian border and also not very far from Kosovo, we were
traveling between Berane and Gusinje.
Gusinje was a town inhabited mostly by Albanians,
where everything was settled around a living axis, a wide street bearing a
mosque at one end many terraces along it, separated by groceries. People would
just walk by or sit at some terrace, meeting up friends and relatives, talking
for hours as if nothing was going on anywhere, as if they were in the middle of
a desert, with nothing around them and with no restrictions, laws, rules, work,
worry or event to bother them. Life had stopped in Gusinje.
After registering with the local police, as we were going to hike in the border
area, we took a taxi and went to a mountain hut, where we dropped the backpacks
and headed up in very foggy and wet weather. At about 2000 m.alt.we got out of the
fog and could see the impressive scenery
Both I and Nenad froze, realizing we were in a mostly
Albanian area, just 35 km. away from Kosovo. However that man proved to be Serb
and he was actually happy he saw that badge. We started hiking and reached a
poor wooden cottage close to the main peak in a pouring rain. After doing some
more hiking in the Visitor through fog and rains, and after not succeeding to
buy some cheese from some Albanian shepherds, we returned to the hut and went to
sleep, hoping it would not start raining seriously, for there were many holes
in the roof. The following day, in a perfect weather, we hiked up the highest
peak, which was partly grassy, partly rocky, and then we went down, took yet
another taxi and reached the bottoms of