Back in the country it was as busy as ever. Every village appears to be populated by hatchet faced little old ladies, often all in black, dress, apron and head scarf though I was delighted one day as I approached one old crone when there was unmistakeable ring tone, she tutted, reached into her apron, pulled out a smart phone, yanked her headscarf back and thrust the phone to her ear in order to have a conversation with her grandson in Dusseldorf or wherever. Interestingly I cannot remember a moment on this trip when my phone has registered less than five bar strength. In the front of every garden fence is a bench. They come in every shape and size, some with elegant circular nouveau style end supports, some could have come from Bromley Station circa 1950, some are all metal, mass produced communist, and some look like a drunk with a squint has knocked them together. Is the world ready for another coffee-table book on Balkan benches? Late in the afternoon the old ladies come and sit and watch the world go by (me). They chat to their neighbours, they chat to anyone who passes, they fuel village feuds by disparaging their neighbour's cabbages and the morals of that neighbour's daughters, the two are often related.
There are dogs everywhere in Roumania, at least two thirds of them are strays. Mostly the strays skulk at the side of the road. Occasionally they get sufficiently bored to charge after me snapping at my rear mudguard but I just pedal on. Sadly I see at least ten a day lying freshly dead by the roadside, no road sense. It would be an interesting study in natural selection to see if gradually a breed of Roumanian dogs evolve that look left, look right etc and don't cross when the Green Man is flashing.
Ghirgiu is a biggish town or perhaps a city and I know that my hotel is out somewhere north. A local cyclist offers to guide me through the centre and as it is now pitch dark I am grateful. Eventually he peels off indicating that I should head north for a further 5 Km. I fall in behind an elderly cyclist who has a large plastic bag dangling off his handlebars. Every time he sees a stray dog, roughly every fifty metres, he throws them a chunk of bread from his bag.
My hotel is a garish blaze of light nestling between two petrol stations on the main road to Bucharest. I think that I may be the only guest, a normal state of affairs on this trip. After my little 'lie-down' and a shower I go down to the restaurant. I am the only customer, it's a bit chilly and the waiter looks pissed off that I have interrupted his evening watching football out the back. Worst of all is the muzak which not only is awful but faulty and jumps back and forth. I insist that the waiter turns it off, he turns it down a bit, I insist until the volume is low enough to drown it out with my I-Pad. Over dinner (spicy chicken, pretty good) I listen to Charles Lloyd's 'Forest Flower' an album that I bought (only because I liked the sleeve) during my brief stay up at Cambridge. It was recorded live at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1966 and has never failed to give me pleasure. After that I listened to Miles Davis's 'Kind of Blue' which must be one the 'Ten Best Gramophone Records Ever Made'. What a great dinner, I really enjoyed it.