Traveling alone can be a bit overwhelming sometimes. Finding out how a city works and especially finding your way in a new place can be challenging for some. Last week I went to Constanta (Romania) and I discovered what a rollercoaster solo travelling can be.
Early in the morning I took the bus from Bucharest to Constanta. As I already suspected the staff on the bus didn’t speak English, but I have dealt with that before when I was travelling the Balkans, so it wasn’t a problem at all. Besides, there’s not much that can go wrong. You pay, you sit, you ride. (And of course you participate on smoke breaks, as they are held even on 3 hour bus rides.) So far so good.
When we reached the Constanta station I had to gasp for air. There were people everywhere! As I tried to get off the bus some Roma kids grabbed my arms, backpack and basically everything they could get their hands on, their mum quickly stood in my way. While wiping the sweat out of my eyes I firmly pushed her aside and I can tell you, she did not like that! Soon she was shouting at me and innocent others, but lucky for me I reached the ‘safe zone’ fairly quickly: a café with a fence around it. As I sat there, thinking of what to do, they surrounded the fence, mumbling at me and other tourists. To be very honest I was a little freaked out.
As I sat there, searching for a route to my hotel, a little boy got inside the fence. He did his round at the tables, begging for money, but got rejected by everyone who sat there. I couldn’t help but feeling a little sorry for the kid, still I gave him nothing. When the waitress noticed him she grabbed him by the shirt and slapped his face so hard that I could see the red mark of her hand emerge on his cheek. I decided I had seen enough and left.
Soon I was on my own again, searching for a city bus or something that could bring me closer to my hotel. Just outside of the train station a big group of people got into a fight (I couldn’t really see what happened, but it looked ugly), and soon I saw everyone take a step back. I took my chances with the first bus I saw, lucky for me it went to the center.
On the bus I had no idea where to get off, but I kept my peace. Soon a man walked up to me and started a conversation. Due to the train station incidents I was a little bit skittish at first, but I soon got the idea that he was really just making small talk. Eventually he helped me off the bus and showed me where to go. I felt a little bit silly for thinking badly about something that was just Romanian hospitality, but then again you can never be careful enough!
Finally I got to a big mall and sat down with a coffee. There I came to the conclusion that I was indeed in the city center, but I had gotten even further away from my hotel by coming there. Now it was 50 minutes on foot, and it didn’t look like it was close to anything cool at all! (This was of course entirely my own fault!) I think we all have these moments where you just give up and book something that is a little bit closer, well this was mine. Unfortunately, there was no hotel available that was close enough, so I went to the final stage: asking others.
There, on the terrace of the shopping mall, I met Simona and her two lovely kids. She didn’t speak English very well, but she asked me to wait for her friend, who arrived shortly after that and spoke perfect English. She recommended me a hotel that she knew pretty well and she made sure Simona, who happened to live around the corner from it, drove me up there. At that very moment I felt like crying and hugging them, feeling so grateful for meeting these lovely people. In the car me and the two little girls sang Romanian songs and I cracked them up every time I tried to pronounce a word. When I finally reached my hotel I had no words to describe my gratitude, but Simona didn’t want to hear any of that. It was her pleasure.
If you were waiting for a religious story or a hint to God, then you have read this whole story basically for nothing, but I can say Simona fell out of the sky like an angel and she saved my ass! I must say that I am surprised by such hospitality and although I will probably never see her again, I think I will not forget her anytime soon! 🙂