We landed to a rapturous applause by passangers as the shifty-looking Wizzair plane bounced off the runway at Targu-Mures municipal airfield. Emblazoned proudly on the side of the terminal are the words 'Transilvania Airport'. I feel rather cheated, having believed there is a 'y' involved. Bram Stoker, the Irish gothic writer, envisioned a medieval wild-west, inhabited by the vampire Dracula, Van Helsing, and all kinds of ludicrous creatures. Transylvania looks vast, dark and overpowering in much the same way today, except with more car dealerships. Many more.
With a group of six other teachers, we wait for another who hasn't come through arrivals. We later learn that he missed his flight entirely. Our driver from the airport only speaks when pointing out the odd prostitute (alleged) walking by the side of the road. That, and likening himself to Michael Schumacher as he drifts to the opposite lane at blind corners. Some, but not all seatbelts are working, and the ones who aren't belted-in uphold a vigilence to the actions of our driver; casually overtaking while he flicks through euroclub radio stations offering cheap but cheerful dance tracks- cacophonous in the lull atmosphere our driver seems to create. I think he's
having a bad day. Eventually he cheers up and pulls in at a hostel sunk in the hills that become, going northwards, the Transylvanian Alps.
Later, we're visited by Dorian, the owner of Camp Romania (our employer)- a jovial, chubby native Romanian with a big heart. He's very anxious that we be as comfortable as possible, and seems to give us free reign over the hostel's beer and sandwich supply. He explains that we'll be staying at the hostel for a couple of days, as the camp itself is full while the kids complete their course there and the next batch begin to arrive. As he continues, he offers us free access to all the camp's facilities, including a spa centre, swimming pool and jaccuzi, and tennis courts. He also emphasises that we shouldn't think of these three weeks as a 'teaching position' per se, but instead foster a laid-back routine. He goes on to say that he wants us to have lie-ins for the first two nights, to 'get used to Romanian time'. Some of us, including myself, believe all this is far too good to be true.
Our group consists of three boys; Jack, Tom and
myself, and four girls; Hannah, Katrina, Geeta and Rachel. All of whom are awesome. Feeling a little cooped-up on the first night we decided to head out of the compound and turn left walking down the main street of 'Sina', part of Bran, a region in Transylvania. The village of Sina is laid out linearly in a deep valley surrounded by forested peaks and grassy hills. A shallow river babbles under bridges to residences- each bridge is seemingly guardedby either a dog or a chicken, depending on the homeowner's own sense of security. Walking through the village, even at night, people still seem to be ambling about. Outside a local shop, a smoking Romanian greets us with a, 'Do you want to be my friend?' after he hears us talking. Judging by his tone however, it might have been a seedy attempt to pick up one of the girls with us. We duck inside the shop for a quick look at the Romanian products. I look for some coco pops. I realise I still have a beer in hand and leave its care to Hannah as she waits, bravely, outside with the smoker. We keep walking, and see a precarious
wooden bridge crossing the river. Someone makes a comment about its lack of safety, so I feel I have to cross it. Tipsy, I skid onto the bridge in my flip-flops and start running along it, only to be barked back, and subsequently chased back onto the main road by the guard dog. I swear that wherever I go, there's a dog out to get me. The manager of the hostel, Yuvel, is a friend of Dorian's, and mirrors his helpfulness.
Yuvel is also a talented painter, and we see that the hostel is adorned with scenes of mountains and waterfalls- all excellently realised. The village hall also displays Yuvel's work: a man in traditional Romanian dress, what looks like a native breed of dog and a few sheep scattered about, everything set against a mountainous background. I reckon you'll hear the word 'mountainous' quite a few more times, such is the nature of our immediate environment. Yesterday, after dinner, we head out to spend our first night at Camp Fundata, situated in a glorious position between the mountain ranges, and itself at an altitude of over 2000 metres. We meet Andre Puiu, an 18 year-old employee and a
reliable source of information about Romania. He takes us round the huge site, which is separated into three levels. On the first are chalets housing staff and students, the second is inhabited by the spa centre, and the third by the restaurant. Its a big climb to the restaurant three times a day for meals, but I'll appreciate the exercise in theory, if not in practice. Andre takes us to the resource room, where there are lines and lines of weapons. On racks to the right are boxes labelled 'combat shotgun', a crossbow leans against the wall, and a pistol lies casually on a stack of teaching books. The guns luckily are airsoft toys. The crossbow is not. So, if anything, it'll be an interesting couple of weeks...
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