I am on my way to Ravensca, a remote village nestled into the Almăjului Romanian mountains, one of the five villages in the area that belongs to a Czech community who settled here almost two centuries ago. At that time, the area belonged to the Habsburg Empire, and the people, even though they are fluent in Romanian, speak Czech between themselves. I cannot deny that I was warned I was to have a hard time driving to that isolated village without a resilient SUV, but I risked drigint there myself in a fragile little blue Ford Fiesta.
I followed the GPS until I had nothing left to follow. I drove 408 kilometers feeling like the queen of roadtrips: a strong, independent woman who had no need of men to get herself wherever she wanted to be. I went above and beyond to prove trips (and life in general) are better when completed alone and I had even bought a tripod before-hand so I could take photos of myself in those beautiful rural landscapes. Just imagine: if one woman needs a man neither to drive, nor to take photos of her, for what else could she do without him?
These were my thoughts while the sun was sinking down in the sky and I was sinking into non-paved villages, tight roads and a weak signal until… both technologies let me down entirely. So there I was, slipping on one of life’s numerous banana peels: in the middle of nowhere, during a pitch-black night, trying to find my way on non-paved, slippery, unchartered forest roads.
How gullible could I have been to imagine it was possible to arrive safely in the back of beyond among these mountains with such a flimsy car? My hands are now trembling on the steering wheel and I have just reached an almost vertical slope which I am almost sure my car cannot climb. I cannot just turn around: there is not enough space. It would be better to reverse, but I can see nothing behind. For God sake, I hope I don’t fall into a ravine. I can’t figure out whether my stomach – which is assisting the helpless attempts of my heart to crush my chest and break free from there – will decide to give a hand and begin to bump in unison with my heart. Perhaps it could improve my bone’s resilience.
If only someone would pass by – I could at least ask whether I am heading in the right direction. And if anyone did pass, it would be a local man and I am alone in a car that can’t be locked from the inside. I should probably fall asleep inside of the car – in the morning things will look less scary. But how could I fall asleep when I almost feel the adrenaline running through my veins?
This debate with myself is interrupted by the emergence of a man from a shack. I have a look around and I see the place filled with bulldozers (the kind of vehicles these roads are made for).
”Excuse me, which way to Ravensca?”
”Four kilometers up. It’s close.”
”Oh, my Lord, but my car can’t climb over there – it’s too steep.”
”It cliiimbs, of course it does. If mine is able to…”, the man points me to what was probably the first functional model Dacia (the Romanian car model du jour of the communist era).
I am trying to convince him to do a godly act and take me to the entrance of the village, driving his car in front of mine. Him, on his side, is trying to convince me to leave my car down there (as if I would know exactly where I was and be able to find it ever again) and go with him in his car. I insist and he finally agrees, slightly irritated, as if annoyed at his own weakness. I am just preparing to exhale with relief when he goes back inside of the shack and steps out again with an axe, placing it in the boot. I freeze! My blood has instantly become pure ice. This is getting out of hand. Is it too late to tell the man I don’t need any help anymore?
I follow his car in the deepest dark in a way that seems never-ending. After ten interminable minutes he stops his car on the right side of the road and I am not sure whether stopping next to him is such a great idea, or whether I should take off at a gallop without saying goodbye. Courtesy wins the dispute.
”You can find your way from here, right?” he asks.
”Oh, Sir, please, don’t leave me here. How could I find my way? I have never been in this place before,” I begin to lament in the most plaintive of the voices, which not only convinces him, but makes him roll his eyes in annoyance.
He begins to mimic me in jest, insensitive to the terror in my eyes and I don’t know whether I I still pluck up enough interest to analyse his missing denture. Suddenly, he steps out of his car and gets into mine, motivated by what now, retrospectively, I interpret as a confusion of my suppliant tone of voice with a flirtatious one. I don’t know if the fear of contacting coronavirus or the strong smell of harsh alcohol that flows in gusts makes me grab my medical mask hanging on the rearview mirror. I ask him once more to deign to drive me a couple of minutes more, to the entrance of the village, as he has had to come up here anyway.
“My legs are trembling with panic, Sir. I swear.”
The mention of my limbs hurls his look toward them and, with a strong hand, he firmly touches my legs half unveiled by my short dress at the end of August. Did I say touches? Forget it. Slaps is much more appropriate. The heavy despair of a wild animal recently caught up in a trap soars and envelopes my whole being, and I can feel the terror reaching the top of my spine. My eyes and my voice must have instantly reflected all these states of mind because, hearing the terror in my voice almost howling Please, let’s go now, the man gets out of the car and agrees to take me to the entrance of Ravensca.
”But what is your name? Which village are you from? What are your working hours? I would like to invite you for a drink one of these days for having brought me here.”
”My name is Nicolae, I am from Sichevița village… But why do you ask? Don’t come to my place ‘cause I have a wife and kids.”
I wrote this story encouraged by the competition organized by Getyourguide and dreaming about a future trip to Sicily – the destination I am so looking forward to visit. A few things would make me happier than climbing the Volcano Etna while indulging my sight in the landscapes of this beautiful land.