David St Vincent is the author of the Romania blog http://www.enchantingromania.com and we came across the site while researching the dangers of bears to hikers in the Romanian mountains. His post on the subject begins:
‘By venturing into Romania’s Carpathian Mountains you are entering the food chain—and not necessarily at the top.’
It turns out that St Vincent had the enviable experience of a brown bear almost entering his tent while he camped up high in Transylvania.
As a National Geographic Society writer, St Vincent knows the nature of Romania well and also has valuable insights in Romanian culture and society and he was there in the 90’s helping set up a human rights association just as the country was going through a turbulent transition to capitalism after one of the most horrendous dictatorships in Europe came to an end. He notes, for examples, that while the Orthodox Church couldn’t say anything against abortion and contraception – these having been outlawed by Ceaușescu and thus back now back in favour – attitudes towards homosexuality remain firmly rooted in conservative tradition and prejudice, at least in the more religious rural areas.
We also learn why there are so many stray dogs in Romania; Ceaușescu forced people to leave their homes to take up collective living in brutally ugly concrete blocks where there was no room for animals. St Vincent recommends avoiding parks at night where the dogs gather in packs.
Enchantingromania.com is an eclectic collection of personal articles from a professional travel writer who has a deep love for the country and the people, whom he has found to be generous and kind even if they might have trouble understanding foreign imports like vegetarianism.
‘During the later Ceaușescu years, when the communist dictator decided that the best way to pay off Romania’s national debt was to export almost anything of commercial value, vegetarianism was to most Romanians a perverse creed. Outside Bucharest, you will struggle to find a vegetarian, let alone vegan, restaurant in Romania.
To this day, most Romanians would consider it odd at best to offer a guest a meal lacking meat or fish. It is common for hosts to sacrifice a chicken from the back garden in honour of a visitor.’
Especially in North Europe where the media strive to give Romanian immigrants a bad name, St Vincent’s blog is a refreshing perspective and essential reading for anyone planning to go to Romania.
http://www.enchantingromania.com – ‘A practical travel guide to Europe’s most enchanting, intriguing and occasionally maddening country.’