Updated: Jun 29, 2021
When I was still making an impression on Ana she was reluctant to let me see where she lived. Apparently her mom was (is) a little nervous and she was concerned that if she found out I was from America that I would take her away from Romania (foreshadowing much?) Naturally I respected her wishes but seized every moment I could get with her.
When I returned to see her following Nick and Roxi's wedding I stayed at this little place called Hotel Ovidiu. We met for dinner a couple of times and walked around town. On one particular evening we lost track of time and it got dark. This is her hometown so she felt safe but I insisted I walk her back as far as she would let me. We got just a couple of blocks from her place but the twisted roads and 5 or 6 story tall apartment complexes meant I might as well have been on the dark side of the moon.
She gave me quick peck on the cheek and wished me a good night. I had been so smitten I hadn't paid close enough attention to the roads we took to get there. I have an excellent sense of direction normally but this small town had not invested in street lights and when the sun went down it got eerily dark. Add to that a new moon and I was definitely in the dark. I knew the general direction to go and had the last few roads in my short term memory but with the last rays of sunshine disappearing I was running out of landmarks to reference.
Another notable thing about Romania at this time in history is the dog. Lots and LOTS of wild dogs all over the countryside. As I understand it when communism came to the country the mostly agrarian culture converted to industry jobs and folks were forced into towns. Rather than euthanize their beloved animals they couldn't take care of they set them free to roam the countryside. This resulted in a large population of previously domesticated animals, most notably dogs that weren't sterilization. The resulting generations formed into packs and could be found all over the places especially in cities and towns.
As I walked it was so dark I would bump into cars, fences, trash and other assorted items left out. I could hear dogs barking and this encouraged me to put some pep in my step. I kept in the general direction I knew I needed to go (more or less East) till I finally ran into the train tracks. This was both good and bad. I knew I had overshot but it was an easy reference point to follow and I knew they led me close enough to the hotel I could let them home. As a bonus I lost most of the dogs or at the very least they were quiter out on the edge of town.
Based on the angle I approached I knew I needed to turn left and follow them to the North. The tracks were set back a little from the town so they allowed some more natural light and I could see enough to careful step forward. I hadn't seen trains traveling at night in this area but was hyper vigilant of any signs of rail traffic. Finally I neared the train station and observed a large dark mass ahead of me blocking out the miniscule light coming from the boarding platform.
As I got closer to it I realized it was the front of a Soviet era tank sitting on a flatbed rail car with the barrel pointed in my general direction. Naturally I stopped and took stock of the situation. There was no signs of activity but this was certainly an unexpected site. I stepped off the tracks and slowly walked around it keeping my hand on the caterpillar treads to guide me. As I rounded the corner I saw another tank I had to pass, and another. Ultimately I found 14 trains and a handful of artillery all parked on the tracks... in the dark... unguarded.
Eventually I got onto the platform and walked around to the front where there was enough ambient light to make my way to the hotel. This most certainly was a memorable experience. I went back the next day to snag a couple of photos of the tanks and was a lot more careful to be back before dark.