Csíkszereda Musings

My life in and around Csíkszereda, also known as Miercurea Ciuc.

Driving in Romania

Posted by Andy Hockley on 6 August, 2004

When you are driving in Romania you have three major things to contend with. The first already mentioned in these musings is the state of the roads, with pot holes everywhere. The second is the presence of rural life. By that I mean that the roads are occupied by a large number of horse drawn vehicles, slowly travelling between villages carting loads of hay or wood or on one memorable occasion a policeman sitting in an armchair. Another aspect of rural life is the herds of cows and sheep and goats and stoats wandering across or down the roads. I haven’t actually seen any herds of stoats, but I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.

The greatest hazard of all, though, is none of these, but is in fact drivers from Bucharest. Let me explain, lest you think I am being prejudiced against my new nation’s capital. There you’ll be, barrelling on at 90kmh along a country road, on the lookout for potholes or random livestock, when out of nowhere a large car will appear in your rear view mirror and before you know it zoom past you at least twice your speed. Or you’ll be in a line of traffic, crawling along behind a horse drawn haywain (is that what a haywain is?) when a car will start passing everything in the line regardless of how far ahead can be seen, beeping its horn to let you know to make room as he inevitably has to duck in to the line every couple of seconds. Or you’ll be driving along and ahead you’ll see a car on your side of the road but coming the other way, passing a lorry, or a reasonably paced car, or just in some cases for no reason at all. You’ll flash your lights, beep your horn, and he will be the one that gets upset at this. The one thing that all these cars will have in common, is the “B” at the beginning of their number plate indicating that the car is registerd in Bucharest. I feel that the roads would be much safer here if that discreet license plate “B” could in fact be a large neon sign placed on the top of every such car, just so you know that a lunatic driver is coming.

The Bucharest driving syndrome is not a rule that holds true 100% of the time, I have to point out.. Not all bad drivers are from Bucharest (a significant proportion seem to come from “AG” – Arges, apparently, though I have no idea where Arges is). And not all drivers from Bucharest are bad – but the number is so high that when you see a Bucharest driver travelling at a reasonable pace and overtaking others in sensible places, you feel like pulling them over and congratulating them for their concern for the safety of themselves and other road users. Except that then you’d almost certainly discover that it was a rented car, and that the driver was from somewhere else entirely. I know it sounds like this might be an exaggeration; but really, good drivers from Bucharest are like rare jewels. And this is entirely my own theory borne out of my own experiences and observations, not some Transylvanian prejudice passed down like folklore.

God knows what traffic is actually like in Bucharest where nearly all the drivers will have that warning “B” attached. The concept frightens the hell out of me.

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