“The day I broke up with normal was the first day of my magical life.”
Tuesday September 13, 2016
–random, unedited rambling on my short time at gypsy camp–sorry it’s so long and all over the place-
The bus rolled along. Up the Transylvanian mountains. Around curve after curve. Climbing up. Cruising down. I looked around. Everyone was asleep. Their heads rested back against their headrests or leaning on the window. I looked out the window. Vast stretches of green. Mountainous hills. Stretching on and on. The road had the occasional pothole that sent people temporarily bouncing off their seat. The sides of the road, where the weary asphalt met the patches of grass were lined with garbage. Wrappers. Cups. Cigarette butts. Beer bottles. Soda cans.
We drove by sheep herders, taking their sheep to another pasture. Cow herders, ushering their cows along to a new greener field. One time, a cow walked up onto the road. The Shepard ran up onto the road with a stick and started waving it around, appearing very angry and yelling something at the cow.
We drove by a few gypsy camps. You could tell it wasn’t an actual village. The brick houses were falling down, patchy, missing bricks or even complete sides. The roofs were mismatched. Some were thatched with hay. Some had tiles. Some buildings were tilted. A few had little rounded grass-like huts instead of brick. There were fences. Most were made of rotting wood. Missing connectors. Missing slats. Garbage was littered everywhere. Clothes were hung out to dry on tree limbs or strung up rope. Little kids, completely naked or shirtless (both boys and girls) happily walked about or soaked in giant tin tubs in the sun or ran about in the grass. Goats meandered just to the side of the houses. Just beyond them were parches of uneven cornfields and other various plants.
I wanted the bus to stop. I wanted to enter their world. I wanted to see how they lived. I wanted to see how they loved. How they hated. What they loved. What made them laugh. What made them cry. What filled their hearts with joy. What broke their hearts.
I was at a hostel the past two nights. I brought up gypsies a few times, as well as in my travels in Croatia. Everyone stuck up their noses. “Don’t bring anything valuable.” “Never trust a gypsy. They just want to use you.” “They are dirty, sneaky, thieving beggars with sick hearts.”
It made me sad to hear all of this. Gypsy does seem to be a derogatory term. But I find them to be quite fascinating. All of the resistance and hard times they faced. The hatred for no reason except they were different
And struggling to survive. Most of them having nothing except family and their rich culture filled with traditions and music.
I told the bus driver where to drop me off. Valenii. The village where the Gabor reside. It was a string of houses. All of them long, extending back to side gardens where chickens roamed and flowers bloomed. There was a solid Stonehenge beautiful iron walls between the houses, lining the road. Making it seem as there was one huge wall connecting all of the houses.
I followed the directions… Past the tiny shop and to the corner house with fancy iron gate and a well in the diveway. I opened one side of the gate and saw some kids playing by a garage. I heard English off to one side and saw 3 girls there in there mid twenties. Two were sitting next to each other on a bench and one was behind a sewing machine. She was dressed with a colorful, sparkly head scarf and a flowy, flowery blouse and a long, pleated, colorful, shimmery skirt. I was in the right place.
The two girls were other travelers, from Austria. They had been camping or “tenting” as they called it the past long while, traveling about.
They had seen gypsy palaces on their journey through Romania and asked about them. The girl shook her head and sighed.
“No one lives in them. They are just for show. Because their neighbors had one, so they wanted a bigger one.” She explained that some gypsies had money and decided to build elaborate palace like structures. Most of these gypsies got their money from bumming in big cities. Pretending to be poorer than they were. Getting pity money. Then they would go home to their gypsy palaces.
We all sat and talked as the sun went down. The Gabor girl was chatty, even while dutifully sewing skirts and aprons. She explained she had two kids. Was divorced and living back with her parents, but she didn’t mind. She sewed to keep busy and make money. All of her cousins, and her sister, were trying to get her to see their clothes for free.
Her younger sister came a bit later, apparently she was the usual host. Both of their English was spot on. Not much of an accent at all. The younger one, 14, told us she wasn’t in school anymore. Most of her friends were married, pregnant, their childhood taken away as early as 12. Her parents were more lenient. She had a cell phone. She walked places alone. She didn’t start wearing the traditional dress until she was 12, while most girls started at 7. It was mandatory dress for women.
A pleated, wrap around skirt that reached the toes. They were colorful, light fabric and when you spin, they flowed out into a huge circle. I adored them. They were bright colors with lace, rhinestones, sequins, ribbons and shiny material. There was a secret pocket, a money pocket in the middle that was covered by an apron. Their clothes were worn loose, baggy, but fitted at the waist to show off a womanly, voluptuous hourglass figure. Young women had their hair in two braids, with a red ribbon woven through each one. Once they got married they had to wear a colorful headscarf over their braided bun. Even if they were divorced. I was entranced. I was enchanted. I wanted their skirts. They were absolutely gorgeous.
The men and boys worn more westernized style. Though they tended to still keep all their skin covered, it being indecent to show any skin. Where the ladies wore brightly colored, flowy dresses and skirts, the men dressed in dark colors. They also sported thick mustaches. The women were looked upon as a symbol of the family status and there more elaborate and beautiful her outfits were, the more wealthy and pure the family was.
The Gabor gypsies are in the upper caste of the gypsy caste system. They didn’t steal or beg. They were noble gypsies. Still very traditional in their ways.
The younger sister took us to our guesthouse. It was a bit away from the village. The Gabor are typically a closed society so it’s unique and cool enough we get to hang out at a locals house… Even have dinner!!
I hadn’t eaten since 8:45 that morning due to hiking in the morning and talking to people at the hostel and losing track of time and realizing the time and booking it to the bus stAtion. The Gabor family we were visiting had all their cousins over. Lots of kids ran around in the front. In the dining room, the men sat around the table, eating sausages, bread and pickles. The women gathered around the coffee table and ate the same. Their talking was loud. Animated. At times I couldn’t tell if they were arguing or just talking.
The smell of the food made my belly grumble and the sight of it, within reach made me dizzy with want. They were eating first though. Us three girls say on a couch and watched everything around us. It was quite like a theatrical production! I loved it! The younger sister explained that they were just having a conversation. No argument. And if Gabors did fight, they “maral le mosa”, fight with their tongue not their fists. They just say angry, mean things and that’s about it. The kids wandered in and out of the house, occasionally doing something to show off. They watched us with the corner of their eyes to make sure we saw. The ladies talked and giggled. The men talked and occasionally turned to stare at us.
There were pillows piled everywhere. They were huge, fluffy pillows. I was told they were a throwback to the times they were nomads. Easier to travel with and super comfy.
There was a big Roma alter that displayed all kinds of dishes and plates covered in silver, gold and delicate paintings. Beautifully painted ceramic pots lined and copper cups were in a line below. It reminded me of my mothers china cabinet where she kept her Moms fancy dish wear and trinkets. I was told this huge elaborate thing was an altar of sorts. It displayed the wife’s dowry.
Finally, the cousins filtered out. I was kinda sad though, they were very entertaining. The three of us were given a plate with freshly fried potatoes and five giant sausages. The potatoes were from their garden. The pickles were cucumbers from their garden. The sausage was from local pigs. It was delicious. It was filling. It was wow. I finished all of mine plus one of the other girls extra sausages. And my full belly and full day hit me hard. I was sleepy.
The three of us wandered back to our guesthouse, or wobbled due to our food babies, in the dark. The stars were glimmering. Dogs barked here and there. The geese and chickens were quiet. The stench of manure still hung heavy in the air.
…the next day…
And I walked up and up the path. It was lined with great green bushes and trees. Some sporting berries. Some flowers. The dirt and mud soon became overridden with grass. The path grew slimmer and the bushes grew thicker. And then I came upon a great vast clearing. A gently sloping hill, thick with grass. Wild. Untamed. Beautiful. I caught a glimpse of a another overgrown trail off to the side. It intrigued me. I wandered down. It rounded the corner of the hill and I looked up. There were graves. An old gypsy gravesite, high up on a hill. I was flooded with feeling. Intrigue. Cautiousness. Wonder. Awe. And a little fear.
I had spend the morning pouring through books on gypsy sorcery. It was filled with superstition. Legends. Beliefs. Charms. A lot of them focused on the dead.
I wondered if it was a good idea to be here. My curiously got the better of me and I continued. I saw crickets madly jumping about. Chirps and rattles all around me in the grass below my feet. I vaguely remembered someone saying snakes were rampant in the area. I continued, stepping a little more cautiously. Most of the graves were unmarked, overlooking the village high on a hill. Dead flowers were laid gently on top of mounds. I heard rustles in the bushes around me.
This would certainly be a good place for someone to jump out and end my life. Was I supposed to be here? Was I going to get cursed? Was this a stupid idea?
I tread carefully on. Hyper aware of the sounds around me. Dogs barked like mad in the distance. I heard the district clink of a bottle somewhere nearby. More rustling in the bushes. An uncomfortable feeling fell over me. I turned around. Slowly making my way back. I felt it was time to get out of there.
I went back to the clearing and walked along until the bushes cleared and I got a good view of the village below. I scoped out the ground for a place to sit.
It was peaceful. It was beautiful. The sun was shining. I took off my pants that I was wearing under my dress in respect for the Gabor’s conservative ways and let the sun warm my bare legs.
Bugs and spiders used my legs as a playground, crawling up and down and all around. I let them.
This village was rustic. Wild. There was bare minimum electricity, but no running water. Some roads wee asphalt. Some were gravel. Some were mud and dirt. Some houses were stone and some were crumbling brick. Some had balconies and some were tilted to the side, as though the ground had shifted below it. Some had cars. Some had horse drawn wagons. They all had gates around them. Some enclosed chickens. Some held back mad geese. Some held equipment. I saw very few people on my walk. A couple villagers came out to the road after I passed by to watch me walk from afar. It was bizarre.
After reading these books on gypsy sorcery, I was desperate to learn more. To hear from an actual person. What did these people actually believe? Did these people actually tell fortunes? I had read in the guest house that you could buy Tarot cards but they asked you to not bring them into the Gabor house. What does that mean? Do the Gabor look down on tarot cards?
Pixey-led. To be led astray by fairies. Like when you lose your way. Get distracted and take a less direct route. Story of my life. I suppose I’ve been led by pixeys many times. I don’t mind. I thank them, I don’t blame them.
As wild as a gypsy. That was how I felt most myself. In the woods. In the wild. Bathing in lakes. Sleeping, curled under a tree. Weaving crowns out if wildflowers. Munching on berries and wild fruits growing in the forest.
Puro romaneskoes (in the old gypsy fashion)
I have always been a believer in magic. In signs. In people and things coming together at the right time. Everything happens for a reason. In the moon. Live by the sun, love by the moon. That the sun loved the moon so much, it died every night so his lover, the moon could shine. Or that the sun was forever in love with the moon. And forever will it be chasing its opal glow, never able to touch it. I believe in spirits and ghosts. In things holding power or luck, whether it be a gemstone or a lucky pebble or lucky “I’m gonna get laid tonight” panties or a lucky guitar pick. I want so badly to believe that they are true… And most of the time it works out for me. I ask other people and they scoff.
“MAgic? Nooooo. I believe in facts.” Most say. “There is an explanation for everything.”
Facts. Yes. I believe in those too. But how can one not believe in at least a little magic. What a boring life that would be.
I went back to the guesthouse after a long while. Geese cackled and roosters crowed as I walked by. Gyspies in their beautiful outfits walked carrying big baskets full of vegetables. The rolling hills with hay and corn were far off in the distance. So much better than the city.
One older lady with a little boy stopped me at one point. The little boy had big sad eyes. His face smeared with dirt. His shirt ripped. She babbled on in Romanian. I had no idea what she was asking. I had two peaches with me. I gave them one. I gave the little bit a toy motorcycle I had in my bag leftover from a kinderEgg. She continued to babble, moving her hands around. I silently hoped she wasn’t putting a curse on me. I continued walking, apologizing. Eventually, up ahead I saw 5 people on the road. One in gypsy garb and 4 in pants and backpacks. More travelers. Perfect.
I spend the afternoon talking with the 7 other guests and playing with the 2 year old gypsy daughter of the older sister. Actually, most of it I spent with the little one. Coloring with markers. Face paint. Marbles. Glitter. Stringing beads for a necklace. I adore children. It we beautiful.
I went for a sunset walk with one if the travelers. A French dude. We talked of France. Or traveling. Of how happiness is only real when shared, but solo travel is essential and being lonely only makes the time with others even more special. We walked by huge dogs that were guarding a field. They looked mean. They snarled. They barked. The came at us. We walked back to the gravel road and sat in the grass. The colors of the sky changed as the sun went down. Off to the side, the sky flashed as lightning and thunder in the distance came closer.
We walked back to the guesthouse. Just in time. The beer had arrived and the rain started. There 8 of us total. Two Spanish (a couple traveling for 3 weeks). Two Austrian girls (another couple, from the night before). A girl from Chile who lived in Berlin (visiting here while her boyfriend hiked through the mountains) and another couple that met while traveling (the French guy and the girl he met, another German girl). 8 people from all over the world. All came together at a gypsy guesthouse in the middle of nowhere in Romania. Drinking beer out of a 2 liter soda bottle. With lightening. Thunder. Rain. All around. It was beautiful. I heard tales of far off places they had been to. Mongolia. Albania. Patagonia. Bulgaria. Russia. 20 days on the Transiberian railroad. Chile. Voting in Spain. My soul yearned for these places. These experiences. How little I know of this world.
I thought this trip would settle my soul. Help to get this nomadic lifestyle out of my system. Help me be able to settle down. But it instead fuels my need to see more. Experience more. Learn more. Meet more.
One last thought. Prost. People normally say that as cheers in Poland and other countries. But in Bulgaria abs Romania, “Prost” is “stupid” so here you say “cheers” or “noroc “… Good to know…
I am not ready to settle. I don’t want to settle. Not yet. Even at 30, there are still people traveling. Exploring. Learning. Experiencing. I am still young yet. Not as young as most people I’ve met, but there are plenty of people in their 30’s and older I’ve met that are still figuring things out. There is magic out there. In the form of people. In the form of experiences. In the form of nights and days and moonlight and secrets uncovered and discoveries.
The next day I had to go back to society. I decided to hitchhike. I had a cardboard sign saying “Barsov. Varong!” (Varong is please)Why not. The first car that went by stopped. A young man was at the wheel. He said yes he spoke English then demanded to see how much money I had. I showed him the 12 that I had. He waved me away, “Not enough. Sorry. Bye.” And he rolled up the window and drove off.
5 minutes later another car stopped. An older man behind the wheel. He spoke little English. But we were able to communicate on and off. He worked as an installer. He had a 6 year old daughter and was going to pick her up in Brasov from her mom’s house and take her back to Targu Mures. He was a sweet old man. He kept saying “I love America!” He gave me a beer and a pack of lemon wafers. I offered to pay him. He waved the money away. I left him with ten anyway.
The next leg was from Brasov to Bucharest. I found a ride from a couple that spoke little English. They were sweet too. They gave me a bottle of water and set me up in the backseat. I napped most of them he way to Bucharest. They dropped me off at the bus station and I made my way to my Couchsurfers.
People never cease to amaze me. I am a true believer that people are inherently nice and do care for others.