Crappy Guides to Romania: Lea Lane

From here, which is mostly a review of a Romanian movie, comes this anecdote from Lea Lane, an American who brags about being a travel writer for over 30 years.

This is yet another example of the kind of thing I’m talking about when it comes to the quality of written travel guides to this country (in English).

Our riverboat stops at a small Romanian town on the Danube on a cloudy spring day, and we decide to stroll into the historic center. On this Sunday late afternoon, few people are out, and we wander toward a row of leafing trees with fragrant blossoms, passing an old church. We stop for awhile to watch a wedding ceremony. Roma beggars pester us but we wear no valuables or purses, and are dressed in jeans and a tees.

“Roma” aka “Rroma” (to be technically correct) otherwise known as gypsies, will not mess with you any more because you are wearing valuables or carrying a purse. They beg from everybody who isn’t a gypsy — that is their only criteria.

If you’re so pitiful looking that a gypsy will not beg from you, you have much bigger problems to worry about :P

We go on, peering behind to make sure the kids are not following, and after a few minutes fields appear, and we are at the edge of town. Nobody is around.

That’s because this person was clearly in a comuna, a tiny town (see my post here).

Suddenly we hear sharp barking, and see a pack of dogs in the distant fields, running toward us. There is no tree nearby to climb, no building to run into. I remember advice I may have heard in Wyoming about dealing with bears. Maybe the correct thing is to stand still, but the instinct is to flee.

We try to head back into town as the barking gets closer. Suddenly a beat-up car stops, and a young man in a grimy shirt leans out, gestures, and asks in Romanian if we want to get in. Merle does, to get away from the dogs.

Stories like these is exactly why I wrote this post so people know what to do around stray dogs.

I don’t. I imagine a headline: “Clueless Americans Running from Rabid Canines Raped and Butchered in Romania by Crazed Transylvanian.”  
Moment of truth. Which is worse, the pack of wild dogs heading our way, or getting into a car with a dirty, unknown man in the middle of a town I can’t spell, in the middle of Romania?

To begin with, the Danube doesn’t run through Transylvania, moron. Again why I write posts about geography, such as these. It’s a very long and interesting river but I think as a travel writer you should at least know what region of the country you are in even if you “can’t spell” the name of the town.

Secondly, it would’ve been better to get in the car, even if she were completely alone and not with “Merle”. Wild, aggressive dogs which might even be potentially rabid are a clear and present danger. The likelihood of a Romanian citizen committing a violent crime against a total stranger, especially minus the presence of alcohol, is literally almost zero.

Romania has a ton of faults and problems but violent crime is not one of them, dingbat.

As the barking gets louder. I gesture to the man that I’m about to jump on top of his vehicle, but then the dogs pass right by, perhaps with some other prey in mind, like a rabbit or a bird, or another hapless tourist. Perhaps we have over-imagined things, as privileged American women are prone to. Perhaps not.

Perhaps you made a big story out of a couple of dogs barking for half a second ;)

The man in the van looks annoyed, lingers behind, then catches up and drives slowly next to us as we walk with eyes averted. After a few minutes he finally speeds ahead, leaving us alone in the dust, safe for the moment. We hurry back to the safety of our riverboat.

First it was a car and now it’s a van? Which is it?

Hm, I wonder why the driver was so frustrated. Could it be because he started to talk to you and then you just mysteriously walk off with “eyes averted” for no reason and without explanation?

Ooof… and remember folks, this is an experienced travel writer. Goodness!

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