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January 09, 2011


Naomi Smith

Sounds like a heavy burden has been lifted off your shoulders, mind, and heart. Good for you, may you have peace all the days of your life.

Enjoyed the read.

richard siddons

you sound just like my mum!she's lived in turkey for the last 15 years, now she's moved to spain. she's english and also hates britain. very interesting reading, i'm going to forward your site on to her, she'd like it not to feel like she's the only one with your kind of experience. bye for now. good luck, and hope your future involves horses!

Walter Born

Hi Julian,
we ocassionally met in the beginning of your venture and you didn´t like to keep in touch by then, partly obviously because of my inclination for offroading. Anyways, inspite of your mistrust, I kept your services always as one of the most important and valuable within the region and recomended you, whenever somebody showed real intereset in horsebackriding or country life firsthand experience.
Information came to me only within the last days when we wanted to visit your and showing your location to an american couple here for social investment. They would have gladly used your services.
Well, a to late now. We travelled to your place, it will remain your place all the time as you left a somewhat important imprint, not only materialistically spoken, but also spiritually spoken.
We got shocked arriving at Lunca seeing what is left, many of it halfway finished, a lot halfway ruined. If you wnat to see the shocking pictures let me know.
Your story gets me to the brink of crying for the loss of opportunity the local population had with you.
But, there are more people like you are and to be frankly, I do not know a single one who is succeeding more than you did.
All of us immigrants to Romania seem to fail due to the saem causes.
But to that extend there is also our own heritage we bring into this country and we cannot expect that all our dreams we wnated to setup here would be fullfilled as well.
I am very sad to experience that you left and that you left after such a lot of investing not only financially but more of it spiritually and with a great will to turn things around.
Maybe you it already, but one of th egood things here is, that after a struggle or a fight with somebody or something, you can be friends again after a time. So I am positive that you might come back here once upon a time and check in to see wether things have evaluated.
One thing I can tell you already. The forest trail from lower Lunca to Sant will be disapearing in favour of an asfalt road. That was our second bad experience last saturday.

White Horse Pilgrim

Walter, thank you for the news and for your confidence in what I was doing. It did amaze me when I left that no-one wanted to persuade me to stay, not even the mayor who was generally quite a positive fellow. It would have served a number of them well to work with me, but no-one was interested. Maybe what I was doing seemed too strange to them?

The situation had been getting worse for a while. Once the company reached a certain size various other people decided that they were entitled to a share of the income. At the same time corruption prevented me from gaining access to EU funds. In the end all the work was giving me insufficient reward.

It's a terrible shame. I liked the people and the place, however it was not possible to make an honest living there. I do wonder whether, if I had gone to a Szekler area, whether I would have had more success.

I don't know about going back. Certain people had been trying to take money from me as I left, but I was too quick. I have been told by someone with connections that they created a dossier containing false acusations in case I did return. That is a problem with just a few individuals however the risk of problems means that I will not return anytime soon.

I've been told what state the house and land are in. Even the sale was stopped by a corrupt real estate agent and lawyer. I had thought that someone would take it and live there in no time. But within a week of my departure all was looted and stolen. Well I hope that the planks and pipes and whetever helped some people to improve their cottages.

Anyway for now I am working as a senior engineer on a large construction project. It's interesting, I get paid every month, and life is free from stress.

I wish you luck with what you are doing these days, in the village and elsewhere.

Walter Born

Meanwhile I read a whole lot of your texts and cannot express how much I would have liked to know you better and at the right time. If I could do something right now, let me know, maybe by mail.

I see on this and all the interent pages you have, that beside that you tellus you are well, you really liked being here for the reason of the beauty of landscape. Even people who cannot rerad english will understand that you still feel love for the land.

It is such a shame what happened to you and to others that left for good as well during the years I am here.

As it is, all of you that left, leave me even more alone in this place where ignorance seem to be the most common thing.

I believe from my own history, that for me it is no difference suffering here from ignorance of others or going back to whereI came from and suffer from restrictions and being unable to take with me my house and garden.

I can assure you that all you experienced had been and still is experienced by all other foreign people here, iclduing me.

It is a pitty though that we are not able to meet in the right place and time, talking honestly to each other when things coudl have been turned around maybe.

Sometimes I fel like giving up, going away, but then, I have run away more than once and this actually is the frist place inmy life where I stayed that long.

I think it is because here I found what I think are the memories of my childhood, when life was simpler and easier being a child. At least I can keep these memories alive in this place.

The most rewarding things that happen here is getting out into the mountains, not asking for access permit, not being plundered by anyone asking for entry fees. That is pure life.

And yes, there are many good people oout there as well, you just don´t need to expect that they have the same experience and point of view than you or me. For those few, for nature and for the good of my own family I will stay here.

Even the people of your village, have lost all they traditions, they actually seem to even hate traditions, which is visible in the colour of their houses and the fact that what they did not steal from your property are some traditional items that any westerner would take away firsthand.

White Horse Pilgrim

Sorry that it's taken a few days to reply. Work is busy and I'm doing some studying too.

By the time that you arrived in the village I was feeling a bit of a 'siege mentality'. I had a quite destructive Romanian first wife whose behaviour reduced the chance of the business succceding. Then the usual obstacles continued. A lot of the time working there wass like rolling a large stone uphill - a pity as the scenery was nice and many people pleasant. But yes I should have formed some clever alliances and worked with people who might have become allies. I'd have had a better chance that way.

It's worth explaining that, for historical reasons, I was suspicious of people promoting off-road driving. Back where I lived in England we had a great 60km hiking trail that was destroyed by vehicles in the 80's and 90's - it took a new law and ten years work to make it decent again to hike. Then in Romania groups we encountered some problem groups of off-road drivers - Italians coming for illegal races (these put my tourists in danger on occasions) and Germans with camouflaged vehicles and paramilitary uniforms (who we believed to be neo-Nazis). At the time I saw anyone else promoting off-road driving as a threat, not so much because of them but because of who might follow. Yes I should have found out more about you, and I am sorry that I did not.

In many ways the village was a nice place to live. It was only the need to earn money that made life difficult. Just to be able to explore freely was great, there was so much space and many things to see. Still I think about trails that I wanted to explore and photograph, and would still like to return to record. I used to find historical signs and relics that the locals missed or did not care about.

It's a pity about the loss of traditions. Too often the attitude seemed to be that buildings or machines were left by Hungarians or Saxons, not Romanians, so they had no value. But I remember the doctor's wife telling me how sad she was that the peasant women had no longer any interest in traditional things - they preferred to sit about watching TV when not many years before they'd have been keeping cows and chickens, making clothes and growing food. Now they sit about, buy their food at the shop (where they have a big credit written in the book) and are bored.

I've met some others who left too. Some are really bitter, one even has nightmares still at night. I'm glad not to be angry or bitter, just sad at the opportunity which proved to be an illusion. I do wonder how much different it might have been if I'd gone to the Szeklerfold. Perhaps not much different.

I set foot in Romania first in 1990 and had a lot of experiences there before I settled. Most were good, otherwise I would not have moved there. I am glad to have travelled in deeply rural areas in the mid-90's when there was still an innocence that is lost now. I suppose now I have a Romania in my heart that no longer exists, and that is the fate of an exile.

Meanwhile I feel quite out of place also in the West, which is crowded, full of restrictions and not spiritual as Romania was. I suppose that now I an exile here too.


How similar the experiences are. As you had a wife that seemed to get you in difficulties, I had within the first years some business partners that made me loose a six digit sum, until I learnt to be able to be independent.

From then I tried several ways to promote excursions into nature by dracula-tours.com which had not been very sucessfull. Actually I had 4(four) parties of tourists, which hardly made me any money, but a lot of work.

The day, when one of them threw out an empty beer bottle in the midst of nature, believing that while in Romania he can act as many do still here and back in the fifties as well in western Europe, I called it the end of the idea. The very same day i asked the whole group to leave and do their own thing, without me as a guide.

But since then, you might imagine, some romanians took over with that group and I am sure they left what they could. I have deleted all the public content on the internet concerning offroading since then, no longer encouraging anybody to come here for this reason.

Anyway, I can hardly step back, from this activity myself, I agree. From time to time, maybe 2-3 times a year I take on my family and we go on country roads explorations. No longer is it the offroading that it had been, but for us this is the only time we get into nature, as we have no more time. Well, you had your chance to convince me and others that maybe horsebackriding would be a good alternative way to get out in the wild :)

Tell me about being an immigrant! Nobody of those who came here and left again, stays without influence, even back in his old life. Experiences here are sometimes so strange, but always intense in the godd and in the worse as well. I am sure that we loose lifetime spending in this extreme place but as well what would I miss, living in a german city or well organized society.

It is very exiting, both ways, good and bad, to be here and It is very clear to me that once I left my place of birth, I would become a stranger just everywhere else I go.

So why leave, where I have a house without a mortgage, with a view to the mountains, with the possibility to get out. And all this on a reduced budget.

Who would hire an over fifty year old craftsman at a wage in good old Germany at a wage that would enable us to have the same freedom there? That is just the same illusion than the illusion that during my lifetime there will be some changes here that satisfy our desire for some more civic movements into the right direction.

I rather stay here and clean up after my neighbours, than staying there, working day and night to make a living in somebody elses place on a lease and neighboirs telling me when I have to cleanup the place or how, when and where something has to be renovated.

I recall talking to a bulgarian, living in Boca Raton, Florida, back in 1995, about his neighbourhood asociation that presses him to paint his roof shingles in a certain way and how he handles the problem, by making akward, balcanic proposals, that would make the commission work and decide upon. He managed for years in a row to avoid any changes, giving them more work and ideas to decide about.

I believe now that you are back in the UK, there are some skills that you learned here, you are using for your advantage and thus educating some of the people there, that they are not the centre of the universe, as I sometimes have the impression when talking to my fellow germans, taht this is the main stream idea of west europeans that did not get out of their place except on vacation.

BTW, is any of your books available somewhere as an e-book? Take your time to answer, we still have some time ahead, its not a matter of immediate need of action:)

White Horse Pilgrim

It's good of you to be so honest about all that has taken place. Something that I realised about Romania, and have written about, is the way that history gave people certain strategies for survival. These were sucessful for centuries but now conflict with the expectations of people from the West. My first wife, your business partners and the people who take bribes, all are a product of a difficult past.

I did find some tourists who wanted to treat Romania as a place where it was possible to behave in any way possible. Usually the British just wanted to drink a lot of beer and palinca more cheaply than at home. Some behaved badly when drunk. However I had some real problems with French and Belgian tourists who thought that any pretty Romanian woman would sell her body for a few euros. There was quite a scandal up at Hotel Castel Dracula and I had to send these tourists away because of their behaviour. Probably in the West they would have been arrested and charged.

Fortunately most visitors were civilised and just wanted to experience nature and culture. I know that I gave some people real insights into interesting and good aspects of the rural life.

I think that one can move to a foreign place to become an exile. Then one is in exile everywhere and anywhere. Finally one comes to a self-knowledge that makes one feel secure in almost any place. That is my position now. Probably living in the village was an essential step.

I know also that I needed to move on in order to make some new connections from which I have learned and continue to learn from. That is a personal thing. One person goes to a place and finds a folk wisdom and tranquility in which they can flourish. Another needs after some time to find an intellectual input in order to move them on, and that is my position. But life in the village and travel in the mountains gave me the self-knowledge that is my new foundation.

Living in the West again also gives me a new respect for the self-sufficiency of the people in the village who could make and repair so many things, grow their food and work hard to take care of themselves. I miss living amongst those people, and in fact often see them in dreams.

I do like your account of the Bulgarian. That way of making odd and awkward proposals is a useful skill. Life in the village taught me some skills, one being a more sociological approach to human relationships, another being that way of asking questions that stop people and processes. Also it taught me to ask whty people do things - 'what is in it for them?'

Also I sympathise with your position. Craft skills are not rewarded well in the West. People just want cheap things from China. Over here we are creating millions of jobs so badly paid that only immigrants will do them. The biggest store chain recruits workers from Slovakia now because their wages are so low that British people are better off taking unemployment benefits from the state. Probably it's the same in Germany. How have millions of people simply been forgotten?

Thinking of that kind of thing puts places like Romania into context.

As for educating people - well, yes, those who will listen. One difference between the West and the Balkans is that there are more intellectuals in the West. (One might say that Romanian intellectuals are in Chicago, Paris, etc for historical reasons. Just to remind me of that, I've been reading Mircea Eliade.) So more people over here will listen. But, yes, a lot do think that their countries are the centres of the world. I think that concerns about 'Islamicisation' are polarising nationalist thought. People worry about a new conflict that threatens the Western way of life - without understanding what their country stands for.

As for my books, I am working on one about a horse ride from Cluj to Iasi in the 1990s. It is written but needs to be edited. I hope to issue this as an e-book within the next six months, not least because I would like it to be read in Romania. (It is a sympathetic and honest account of what I saw in 1994. It should interest people.) The longer book about my life in the village will take another year or more to complete.

Walter Born

Surely, once you got something out as an ebook, you will have at least one customer:)

It took me some days to respond to what you wrote last and I hope I am not a pain in the neck with my writing.

Last night I dreamt about horsebackriding, can you imagine! Well this just reminded me that I wanted to comment on your comment :)

Besides our seamingly common view of the west I believe now that the essence of what can make any of us happy here in Romania, you have written down in your last comment.

It is something that even romanians should miss but don´t.

Intelectual exchange within a group of people with similar life experience and education, or origin.

For myself I found two french artists that I meet regularily and with them I have the occasion to feed not only on nutrition, but also on cultural level.

Actually I find it hard to find romanian friends that are not into pure making money or the lack of it and constantly begging for support or keeping in touch for opportunistic reasons.

This, I find is not necessarily a personal defect of them, its is just their partly desperate situation they are in which I do not like to be confronted with at every occasion.

I tried to found a Group called "Bistrita talks" that woudl meet once a month and just talk about topics like culture, literiture, music or philosophic topic. No success. Two meetings only and it always ended with complaining about politics.

We are just so fed up being asked for help and then getting ripped of by the so called "smecher" who afterwards calls us "fraier". You surely know what I mean.

This is very exhausting and besides living in a romantic and remote place where we wanted to be in the first hand, we also need some culture, at least some people that understand our feelings and comunicate on teh same level.

I am sure the lack of this possibility of human interaction on at the end and a feeling being exploited by a large number of your customers made you leave more than any of the very odd things one can still experience every day anew here.

I would not be here still, if I would not have my french friends or find out about new or other people like Phillipe Coupe, the belgian, who runs an organic microfarm and ecological venture at Malin close to Beclean.

It is very fascinating also to see that those people that come here are not the typical guy you would meet in your homecountry. All of the foreigner that I know, who came here or who still live here ,including myself, bring in their own, sometimes as well difficult and very interesting past.

This colourful past makes us so different from the ordinary guy who is here just on vacation or on a business trip. And I feel somewhat proud of it as well, even if not everything is an example of good and positive.

We like to try to understand what is going on and makes us feel like pioneers in a way. It is rewarding to follow the small steps of change that is taking place anyhow, even if it does not seem to be enough for us.

As long as we have friends we can talk to on a similar level and be understood, life is good anywhere to my opinion.
The greatest reward I have is getting to know or having the possibilty to talk to people like you and other immigrants here in Romania. Then reading theier mail, once they left.

I would badly miss this experience more than anything else. I am content with few contacts but those being very intense and personal.

Rugged Maniac

I was so thankful to have this story, it sounds good to you guys. Thanks for posting this great adventure.

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