The Muddy Volcanos are quite a phenomenon. Short but pointy peaks pop out of a plain of bad lands spitting a gray lava of mud that creeps down its slopes. In their craters bubbles of gas push out a bubble of muddy thick liquid at a constant 5 degrees centigrade all year round. I planned to go and see them and shoot around this interesting and unique phenomenon in Europe. A major attraction for sure in any place of the world that normally would be highly advertised and monetized. But in Romania, in spite of the fact that everybody heard about the, it is absolutely no advertising and getting to the volcanos becomes a trip of connoisseurs.
” It needs only a little bit of marketing and the tourism would explode”. This is the mantra that I heard always in Romania in reference to the tourism industry, in a country that has a lot of interesting sites. From the Black Sea, the Danube Delta towards fortified cities of Transylvania and the majestic peaks of the Carpathians few countries have such diversity of landscape and beauty. Unfortunately the lure of tourism is still a dream stuck in politicking and theft of funds, the same after 50 years of Communism and 25 years of “original democracy”.
Even renting a car proved to be a challenge. In the end Avis proved to be as reliable as everywhere but at the beginning they told me, “we don’t have too many cars this time of the year”. I was wondering if I should come in the rainy days of November to be sure that I can get one. In any case I got a larger and way, way more expensive than needed car and drove out of Bucharest taking the road to Buzau, a backwater town of Romania. The villages I encountered on the way were remnants of the old regime where the only sign of “progress” were banners of CocaCola that adorned the stores. This is America in Mizil. I saw the same in the Guatemalan highland villages, places frozen in time closer to the Maya civilization but who drink CocaCola. In Buzau’s villages gypsy women dressed in long skirts were mulling the streets and horse drawn carts driven by standing gypsy men were riding its roads.
I kept looking for a large sign and advertising for the Volcanos but nothing came along so I had to get off the car to ask around and I was pointed in the right direction by a bored bartender who was checking his Facebook profile while she explained me the convoluted road. In the end a small sign showed up and a kiosk with touristic information attended by an enthusiastic girl who advised us that the roads are extremely bad and we will not be able to get in many other places because of that.
There are two locations for the volcanos and the largest one that I visited first is really impressive. I was walking the deserted gray badlands like in “Zabriskie Point”, descending the slopes covered in flowing mud in a landscape as desolate as Death Valley. The bubbling was fascinating changing the rhythm and the volume of flow continuously. There were active craters with a wet hole on its top and close by other craters with dried holes that once poured the mud down its slopes. All located on a sort of a mesa made out of this mud lava that dried out and was broken on impressive shapes. Every twist and turn brought a different view of the valley. I walked the mud lave hill looking for shapes and formations, with many other people who were checking the volcanos and some who even tried to step inside the cone only their shoes to be entrapped by the mud. Bad idea.
The second set of volcanos is smaller and has less active peaks but it flowed on a large area that slopes down toward the valley. At both locations the explanations abounded and the organization that manages them make a great effort in preservation, probably with meager, if any, funds from the local government.
We left the volcanos on the same winding and relatively unmarked road looking for another place of beauty almost unknown in Romania. During the 70s the Romanian Government sponsored a creative sculpture camp in Magura. Every year a number of sculptors were invited to do their work in a designated meadow where a plate displayed the works’ names and the artist. Each year another meadow was getting filled by sculptures. I visited in the past this absolutely magic place of exquisite beauty and tranquility and I felt apprehensive to see what happened there in the last 30 years. But to my utmost surprise I found the location almost as I knew it with the same sense of serenity and refinement with meditative cows grazing the tall grass between the sculptures. To get to this place there are ZERO signs and if you happen to drive the correct road you literally stumble upon it. So the beauty is there but find it if you can.