(Part I Easter Holiday)
I had my eyes wander over the map of Europe, looking for a country I had not been to. Romania and Bulgaria were the answer.
People tell me I am nuts, because for every trip I go online to find locals I have never met, in order to crash on their couch. I am told I will run into freaks and psychos. So let me tell you what weirdos I really meet and you can tell me what attitude I should take. My very first host in Sibiu, Romania picks me up from the airport, then takes me to his parents' place, where his mum feeds us dinner. An opportunity to see how an average middle-class family lives (small place, could have been refurbished 30 years ago, but clean and tidy, living room also serves as a bedroom, tiger print bedspread, mini plates and cups in display in a glass cupboard, some religious pictures, old television blasting). We then go to his apartment, where we talk current living conditions in Romania and he downloads a T.V.-series of my choice. Host number two in Shigisoara is a family of three, and I am offered my own bedroom. I play with the little boy and stay up far too late chatting to her about gypsies and Ceausescu. This couple makes traditional decorated wooden spoons for a living, so I get a whole look-in into that after the dinner we share. They give me the key, so I can come back any time. Host number three in Brasov is also a couple with a baby. Over the dinners we have together, they tell me the whole story of how they met and about their trips through Europe on a motorbike. All these hosts provide me with the tourist information needed and tips. This system of opening both your mind and house up to others has restored my faith in people and makes me want to be nice to other strangers. It gives me the opportunity to look differently at countries;
whilst before it was about the tourist points and perhaps how friendly the staff is somewhere, now it has become for a great deal about the people themselves. What do they tell me about growing up here? What ideas do they share? What do I learn about the culture through them?