Unexpected Encounters

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Endless fields of sunflowers rush past us in the last evening light, while Steve carefully steers our motorhome along Romania’s bumpy country roads. Neo has been sleeping peacefully in front of me for an hour, leaning against his soft pillow. In the distance, violet weather lightning flashes silently over the horizon. Zoe, who is still awake, cuddles up to me in the back seat. “Will it be much longer? I’m a little scared, Mama.”

I check the GPS on my phone. With the help of one of our apps, we have selected a place to park our motorhome for the night: An abandoned field in the middle of nowhere. It is located at a narrow tributary of the Danube near the small ferry crossing at the Rumanian-Bulgarian border. I can’t help but having doubts, too. Although we have been driving for over two hours now through tiny villages and never-ending fields, I have not yet seen a single suitable space to stop for the night. No parking ground, no forest road, just nothing!

Every minute it gets darker and darker and the bright headlights of our motorhome are the only light source in the black night. Illuminated insects are buzzing past our windows like fen fires. Where are we going to arrive? Can we even drive onto the field? The GPS doesn’t help me much. I see a green area next to a river and a brown road, otherwise: nothing.

I’m suppressing my rising insecurity. “Don’t worry. Twenty more minutes and we’ll be there.” After I cover my tired daughter with her blanket once more, she finally falls asleep peacefully on my shoulder.

A little later we reach the chosen position. Carefully, Steve enters the dirt road covered with potholes at walking pace. We drive a few dozen meters to keep enough distance to the main road. The engine stops and Steve opens the door to go out. In the dark, we can see little but the path, but everything seems peaceful and deserted. I carry our sleeping children to bed.

Suddenly, I hear angry barking coming closer and closer. Shepherd dogs! I am in shock. Worried about Steve, I rip the door open. Indeed: a few meters away, I hear some sheep bleating quietly and an indeterminate tangle of bottles clinking and rough laughter. However: No fire, no lamps. I can see nothing but impenetrable blackness! At this moment, thankfully, Steve comes out from behind the motorhome, slips in quickly and says, in a dry tone: “If I were you, I’d rather use the toilet in the motorhome”. We are not able to see the dog, but I can hear his growling quite clearly.

I would really prefer to sleep somewhere else now. Unfortunately, it is not a good option to turn on the dirt road in the dark and look for a new location to park. With an uneasy feeling, I finally fall asleep. In my mind I see huge shepherd dogs with sharp fangs and drunken men, creeping upon our motorhome in the dark. Only the thought of our alarm system and the well locked windows calms me down.

The next morning Neo wakes us up. He is freezing and still tired and searches in the closet for his sweater. I take a look out of our window. A wide field, behind us the glistening river in the morning light and hundreds of swallows chasing through the air. A small barrack stands a few meters away from our parking spot. Two horses graze peacefully on the meadow, otherwise, no one to see.

 

We have breakfast and the children and I climb down the bank to play on the long sandy beaches of the river side. After a while, we hear bells ringing softly. The herd returns! In the distance, we see the shepherd directing a mixed herd of sheep and goats back to the pen.

  

Once there, he separates the sheep from the goats and begins milking the animals with the help of a woman and a man. We are greeted friendly, but otherwise not of further interest to them. The growling shepherd dogs turn out to be friendly, shaggy crossbreeds who happily feed on our food leftovers and are soon dozing off in the shadow of the motorhome.

Steve grabs the camera and the children and walks with them to the barrack to watch the milking. The children discover a few sweet puppies, are allowed to taste the sheep’s milk and I am amazed at the silence of the deeply relaxed herd. A little later, Steve and the shepherd drink coffee together and try to communicate despite the language barriers. Unfortunately they don’t get far. We can’t even find out the name of the shepherd!  Where do we want to go, he gestures? “Bulgaria!” He understands and smiles. With hand signs, he assures us that we are very welcome. We may stay at his field, if we want to.

Spontaneously, we decide to prolong our break this afternoon and cross the Danube to Bulgaria only the next morning.

 

Wenig später bricht der Schäfer mit seiner Herde erneut auf. Die Kinder laufen ein Stück nebenher und er nimmt sich noch einmal extra die Zeit, um mir ein kleines Zicklein in den Arm zu geben, damit die Kinder es aus der Nähe sehen können. Das weiße Fell ist ganz weich und die Kinder streicheln entzückt über die samtige Nase.

 

A little later, the shepherd leaves again with his herd. The children walk a bit alongside and he takes the time to hand me a little goat so that the children can see it up close. Her white fur is very soft and the children are delighted to gently stroke over her velvety nose. Then, we put the little goat back on the ground and the shepherd shouts out a loud command. The herd listens without exception and starts moving again. Only two dogs stay at the camp and guard us and the barrack. The rest of the day is spent on the beach. Only the wind and the swallows are our constant companions this afternoon; otherwise, the river banks remains deserted.  

The next morning, Steve and the shepherd have another cup of coffee together. Then we sit in the motorhome, wave goodbye at the shepherd and thank him for his kindness. Thank you, Romania, for this wonderful, unplanned encounter!

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