Romania: Welcome to Gurahont (Part 1)

I arrived by train one afternoon at the agreed time and place in Gurahont’s train station in northwestern Romania, a town in the middle of nowhere. Upon arrival, my host was there waiting for me, dressed in a silver(kind of reflective) jumpsuit, a man in his forties with his head shaved, who greeted me in a very friendly way right at the platform and led me to his car, a very old red Dacia requiring several repairs.

We went straight home and on the road we were talking, as I usually do with my hosts, to break the ice and get to know each other a bit better, thus I noticed that spoke very fast and trampling ideas with others.

He told me about another Mexican volunteer he had hosted before me, who helped him paint some graffitis at the caves in which they were working, which we quickly saw on our way home and he offered me to spend the night if I fancied it, but at the moment was another guy living there, a homeless man who by misfortune had a big health problem in the lungs and required very expensive operations that left him broke and jobless due to disability.

The house was big, with an ample yard in which he had a small space intended for harvesting, an outdoor dry toilet, a shed used as a workshop, a garage and delicious dark purple grapes hanging everywhere.

The composting toilet was a small wooden cabin built behind the barn where he now stored wood and a lot of scrap stuff in a state of putrefaction. It was just like a latrine with some toilet paper rolls. The first time I went to the toilet it was already dark and I had a fairly large and powerful flashlight, since both in the cabin and in the garden, there was no lighting. First thing I did and regret was, that as a reflex, I pointed the flashlight towards the inside of the latrine, what I saw there was an indescribable mass of long time accumulated waste and the smell was “wonderful “. Lesson number one: do not look into the toilet.

The caves

In the cave there were five different entrances and a series of not very extensive and completely dark tunnels for he did not had the money to get some sort of electrical installation plus it was in the middle of nowhere and some other type of solution for an independent power source was needed. In this regard my host told me that he had bought an electric generator that had to repair and one of my tasks would be to help him transport it to the cave. He told me, these generators are incredibly expensive but he got it at a very small fraction of the price because it is Chinese and works just as well.

He explained that these caves were built in World War II by the Romanian army to take control of that area as there were no roads between the mountains and now the road and was a good defense. They were made by chisel which could be seen in the walls and the detail of the carved holes that served to have the lamps and give some illumination.

When he gave me the tour I had to light with my ipad and he used a small flashlight to show me the key points, like the place where there was a base of a bed and chains, according to him for sadomasochistic guests, which I did not know if it was a joke or not.

There were a few more “rooms” that were indistinguishable from the aisles in what would call his hotel / museum / art gallery.

In front of one of the entrances was a small table with an umbrella, a sign saying Museum-Hotel-Gallery, a well he had dug and, as he told me, while doing so he accidentally cut some underground cables from a Romanian internet provider with his shovel so they had to replace them and put them below the road.

The story of my host and his mom

My host told me the story of his misfortune and why he is stuck in that town he considers a misery (and I would not really say otherwise). He had studied naval engineering, worked for many years on ships going around the world and quenching his thirst for adventure so now he just wanted a quiet, simple and warm place to live. Turns out he had had three opportunities to leave his village and let all of them go so now he lives in regret.

The first one was when he was working on a ship and went to the Bahamas, after a period he had enough savings to buy a house there and according to the law (his words), if you owned a house there and a certain amount of money in the bank, you could become a resident, but he decided against it and to continue working on the boat and traveling.

The second time was when he went to America for a project and had the opportunity to apply for a job to stay there but didn’t take it.

The third was when his aunt died. A few days before her death, she called him to discuss the will. She told him she planned to replace the name of his mother and put him as heir because his mother would only be getting worse and lose her mind, but he decided to tell her not to do it, that her mother would be fine, so he convinced her and she left the will as it was.

Now all the inherited money and properties are lost because his mom had sold two departments in Bucharest at a ridiculous price as well as several pieces of land that lay they had all around Gurahont. She used the money to change her teeth, make big donations to the neo Protestant church she attended to, buy imported vitamins and other pills that are useless and many other purposeless things.

One of her feats was that one day, my host watched her go to the train station, when asked where she was going, she very calmly replied that to the next village and without further explanation left.

After that, while talking to a neighbor, my host learned that his mother had just gone to town because she was getting married. Turns out she was seeing a man for some little time and was supposedly very much in love and wanted to marry him, so she did and took him to live in their house. My host was furious, he came up to the guy, who was only taking money from the mother, and when he saw he had moved into the house, drew his gun, a revolver he keeps in his fanny pack, pointed to him and said, “if you do not leave right now I’ll shoot you! “and that was the last time that man was seen around.

Now all that remained was the house, the garden and his mom’s two hundred euro monthly pension, apart from a rather complicated project with the caves.


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