EE2017 pt. 6 – Romania’s dirty (not so) little secret

posted in: Europe, Overland, Romania | 0

I must confess I did not plan on writing this entry, but today it felt like I must do it at all costs. Even before I post my views of our exquisite adventures in Romanian Carpathians.

I have travelled the world and I must say that there are few things that sadden me while travelling. One is human stupidity, but I can see plenty of that at home, without even attempting to travel. The other is human cruelty (most often in form of ignorance and negligence) towards animals. Especially in Africa, Middle East and Eastern Europe (from what I have witnessed) domestic and sometimes wild animals are abused beyond any comprehensible reasons and not so rare were the moments when I could only clench my fists in frustration of their agony. There were also episodes when my anger took over my better judgement, but that is not the point of this entry.

The point of this entry is the third thing that saddens me while travelling. That is littering. Throwing or leaving garbage, rubbish, leftovers, wherever it deems appropriate to some. I have seen the trash a group of overlanders makes daily. When you travel over non-populated terrains for a longer time, fire is the only thing that helps you manage the rubbish you make. You simply make too much trash to carry it with you. Good fire burns everything but glass and some very heavy duty tins, and what little is left after the burning can easily be burried underground. It is the best solution I have encountered so far. Because taking your garbage back to civilisation in those »not-so-environmentaly-aware« lands only means that after you dump your trash into the bins, happy that you took care of the environment, the locals just simply empty those bins back to the surrounding environment. Be it Lybia, Tunisia, Mauritania, Albania,… I saw that happen to many times. So fire it is.

When I went to Albania, I thought that there could not be a worse attitude towards your immediate environment. I saw people having picnic and throwing their trash literally over their shoulder, not being bothered that they will most likely have another picnic on the same location again in some days. But in Albania the trash dissapeard when you left the more populated zones, same like in the Sahara where immediate neighbourhood of the settlements is littered, but the vast expanse of the desert is basically clean.

Then I came to Romania.

I was quite surprised when I encountered plastic bottles and bags and tins over 2000 meters high in the Carpathians. However Romania should not be such a backward county, it is a member of the European Union, turism plays an important role in the developement of the country, so I let it pass that some plastic was left over where it shouldn’t have been. But then we took on the famous Transfagarasan road, epic DN7C from Courtea de Arges northbound. We found a good spot to spend the night at a picnic place near Poienarii Fortress. You get a trash bag when you pay the tax for using the place and there are trash boxes available, which is quite unusual for Romania. But there was again plastic and tins and gnawed-upon bones all around. I understood how that happens when way after midnight (after a visit from a bear!) there came two vehicles with Romanian license plates, started a fire, loud music was banging, they were drinking and shouting and couldn’t care less that quite some travellers were already asleep in their tents and campervans. Only after Polona lost it, opened the door of the car and started shouting herself did they quiet down. In the morning they were gone, the place was littered with plastic bottles and beer cans and leftovers of food (the trash boxes were only 30 m away!), but not only that – they even raided our trash bag, went through it… I don’t know why, but we found some of our trash quite some distance away thrown onto the grass. Maybe they were gypsies, or the Roma, as the politically correct naming goes, so I let it pass again. We collected our trash, threw it to the bins, and left.

But then we visited this place. It looks gorgeous, doesn’t it?

The place for our afternoon stop on the western shore of Lake Vidraru.
The woods at the place of our afternoon stop.

It is on the western shores of Lake Vidraru (location coordinates N45⁰ 24.951′ E24⁰ 37.099′), the lake that is passed by Transfagarasan road on its eastern side. On the western side of the lake there is a less frequented dirt road. Being overlanders of course we decided to take the dirt bypass. But by dirt we didn’t sign up for dirty. And oh boy dirty did we receive!

I read about Romanians and how they love their mountains and hiking and making picnic and generally loving to spend their time outdoors. Well here must have been an awful lot of Romanians, because the beauty of the place was literally covered with trash and shit. This was what we encountered…

Pile of smoking logs and trash. At least they could burn the trash till the end.
Some wood still smoldering. It didn’t cross their mind that they may cause a major forest fire?
The meat that didn’t make it to the grill. It was still fresh and edible, not gone bad.
Another pile of food, this time already grilled. Please don’t tell me Romania is a poor country where people go hungry. I understand that you can leave food leftovers for wild animals, but at least throw it into some bushes, not just leave it out in the open. And all this meat surely must attract some predator, this is bear area.
Whole loaf of bread. There were several laying around, not just this one.
The watermelon that didn’t get eaten just got thrown down the slope. No respect for food whatsoever.
Some older rubbish – cans, bottles, cigarette butts,… Many such dumps were seen around in the woods. Too many.
Just one of too many dumps, out in the open.   
I know that remains of fire stay visible for a long time. But there were at least 30 different fireburns, and all of them huge. Those were not campfires, but actual pyres.
I understand the need to dig a trench around your tent to keep the water away. But afterwards you could at least not leave the plastic bottles behind.
And for the end the pointless mutilation of the trees… Those two were not the only ones. There was a bold “Z” on one other.

And there was tons more of it that I didn’t photograph. I couldn’t take it anymore. So I spared you photos of (literally) tons of human shit.

I don’t think that foreign travellers could have contributed all that garbage. We barely met a few during our stay in Romania. We only saw a lot of cars with Romanian license plates and Romanian people inside. We saw many Romanians having picnic wherever there was a proper place, grilling, cooking, listening to their crappy music (I don’t mean to be judgemental but the ever-repeating only two bassline tones without proper melody and backed by some incomprehensible vocals is crappy music to me – and that was what we usually hear around when Romanians have their picnic!), furthermore those Romanians aren’t some unrefined youths but mostly adults and seniors that should know how to respect the environment! It saddens me that those Romanians pollute not only by noise which fortunately disappears with them, but also by much more persistent trash. And no, I do not accept to lay blame on the gypsies – I saw quite some of them, collecting and selling berries, and they seemed decent enough (with the exception of those partying in the camp in Poienari, if they were gypsies!), and because there are not nearly enough gypsies in whole of Romania to leave that much garbage behind as we saw during our stay.

And I know we all produce garbage and that we all have to pee and take a dump. But every responsible overlander, tourist or just visitor should take care to minimise his own impact on the environment. But what is too much is just simply too much, and today in Romania was too much.

So, Romanians, it is up to you. Your country, your enviroment, your trash. If it was up to me, such littering as seen on above pictures would be punished  with death by immediate shooting on the spot. No right to trial. However beautiful your country is, as long as it is so littered, I cannot say I am in love with it.

Big fail, Romania, epic fail.

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