The world above the world

         Mountain … and immediately we write/see/hear this word we feel that something is happening in our stomach, mind, and heart. This elevated portion of the earth’s crust higher than the hill, usually rocky, makes us happier, calmer, more lively, more meditative, if you will, depending on the goal proposed before meeting with this poem of nature, how said the mountains adventurer Guido Rey.

         Although this valuable attribute for our life is missing from the Balkan space between the Prut and the Dniester, here we find enough lovers and connoisseurs of the mountains. Among them is Andrei Cirlig, a Moldovan army officer who has been hiking for 7 years:

– Mountain tourism is a lifestyle for me. At the first opportunity, I walk towards the hills and/or mountains. For the holidays, there is no discussion about anything other than the mountains. Usually, I divide the vacation into 2 parts: winter and summer tours.

– Do you have summer and winter mountains, or do you visit the same mountains in both seasons?

– Landscapes are different, so I can go in the same place at different times of the year.

– How did you actually discover this passion?

– It all started in the summer of 2014 when I was a student at the Military Academy of the Armed Forces. Being an adventure man from my childhood, I don’t let the possibilities of exploration pass me by. In that year, having 2 months, I decided to trip to the mountains for new sensations. I immediately fell in love with the mountains and thought they were beautiful only in summer. I lived with this conviction until I went to Ukraine for a winter tour and changed my mind – I understood that each season offers a specific charm to any mountain, no matter where it is located.

– So the mountains are for mountaineering?

– Not exactly, I usually try to combine rest with train climbing skills. Moldova doesn’t have mountains, respectively no specialized organization. There is only a group of alpinists who have joined the Mountaineering Federation of Ukraine, and together we decide when to organize an outing for qualification. 

– What qualification do you have and how often should it be updated?

– 3 out of 3. Then comes the master in sports, but these stages are more complicated: more massive mountains, more difficult routes, respectively you need a larger budget, the equipment is expensive – knowing that your life depends mainly on what you carry the mountain with you, you can’t save in this regard. Honestly, I don’t run by category, by grade, I don’t aim to perform; my goal is to live the moments with pleasure among the mountains. The degree must be confirmed every two years.

– Why Ukraine and not Romania?

– There I got the courses and the group of climbers from Moldova, whom I met initially, had connections with Ukraine. That’s where I got my mountaineering card, and I go more for qualifications. I admit, however, that I traveled much more in Romania, in Europe in general.

– As a member of a group in Ukraine, are you limited to being part of another group in another country?

– No, there are no such restrictions. Opposite, you are encouraged to participate in more places, get more experience, and develop in the field.

– Which mountains did you test?

– I think I tested all the mountain ridges in Romania. My favorites are Fagarash mountains on a length of 80 km from east to west, the ridge of the Piatra Craiului mountains, with captivating landscapes, but quite dangerous, if you do not have the experience, and the most spectacular mountains I have seen are the Dolomites, from the Limestone Alps. Cortina d’Ampezzo, the birthplace of many world-class climbers, is an exceptional place. Initially, I saw it in pictures, but believe me, the photos do not show these mountains’ splendour; they do not convey at fair value what the human eye sees on the spot.

         I have been visiting the mountains from four countries: Romania, Ukraine, Austria and Italy.

Why do you go hiking to conquer the mountains’ height or experience their specific obstacles? ..

– The simplest answer would be – because they are, the well-known climber George Mallory was very right, when somebody asked him: Why do you want to climb this MOUNTAIN (Everest)? he replied: Because it exists!

         In fact, the mountain is not conquered; it either allows you to reach its peak or not. Much of the ascent depends on the mountain’s weather, the mountain itself and your attitude towards it. For example, the slope of Piatra Craiului … if you don’t take its specifics seriously, then don’t dream of a good result.

         In general, if I reach the mountains, I have obtained my goal in the proportion of 75% for that holiday, and if I reach a mountain peak, then I am delighted.

– Do you usually travel individually or in a group?

– I only travel with my girlfriend. I’m not too fond of group trips – a team means more responsibility and the misfortune to do the tour. I myself plan routes, choose the points of visit, camping, menu, equipment – everything.

         For my first trip, I worked on Saturdays and Sundays on night shifts to make money. And the next day of vacation, I was already at the south station, getting on the bus and … to Sibiu, Romania. So, if somebody wants, there are no serious obstacles in the realization of desire.

– Accommodation at hotels, chalets or camping? ..

– I’ve never stayed at a hotel and I won’t. The most magnificent on the mountain is the refuge, the cottage is more of a commercial thing, but 98% we use the tent. Just recently I had a tenting trip through Codrii Orheiului, Moldova.

– What is the emotional difference between the hills and mountains?

– It’s not a big difference; it matters that you are in the bosom of nature. I have the same pleasure in our country and abroad. The emotions are different when you visit the mountain for the first time, the feelings are more intense. Sometimes, the emotions in the forests are deeper than in the mountainous places already known to tourists.

         I have friends who consider going out in nature a luxury when it should be something normal and as often as possible. It’s the easiest to organize your outing in nature, that’s why I don’t understand the hesitations, questions like: but what will I do, how will I manage, etc.

– The wild environment also involves some dangers from either humans or wildlife, maybe that’s why these hesitations occur.

– The dangers are human. That is why we chose to camp farther, in the heart of the forest, away from the peoples’ eyes, in less accessible places. Some people appreciate what you do, but others are malicious, and as you do not know what is in everyone’s mind, it’s better to avoid eye contact with them.

         To be honest, tourists in Romania, for example, are completely different – travelers greet each other, help each other, are more receptive, guide you, and are really thankful that we visit their places, being aware that this means the money in their budget. It is still early in our country to talk about such an approach, but I believe that over time the perception of compatriots will change for the better.

– Because you prefer virgin places, did you happen to say „hello” to wild animals?

– Yes, many times. For example, in the woods, we saw many deers or wild pigs, which came to our heads while we slept and without touching us, they looked for away. Once, we met a brown bear just 100 m away, without any wire mesh or other barrier between us. Sure, I had emotions, fear, but I was amazed that after he looked at us, studied us, understood that we were not in danger for him, he went back to the valley. We were on the ridge and, as a rule, in summer it doesn’t climb much on the rock because there is enough food in the forest and that’s why I was anxious, I thought it was hungry, and it could attack us, but we were lucky.

– It is said that you can pretend to be dead when you see the bear …

– No, the bear also eats dead meat, and if you climb the tree, it can walk around it for 2 weeks, waiting for you to come down. The mom bear, having the instinct to defend the teddy bears, can attack; the injured bear or the one that did not fall into hibernation can be dangerous, or a sudden encounter at a short distance can be dangerous, but know that over 90% the bears doesn’t attack humans.

         Anyway, it’s good to follow some rules. For example, you don’t keep food in the tent – it attracts not only the bear; you leave the leftover food away from the sleeping places because it doesn’t come for you, but for the smell of food you can choose a bear paw.

– Let’s go back to the characteristics of the mountains. Some voices say that the mountains, although beautiful, are somewhat the same. Do you compare them?

– It depends on your goals: if you want to reach certain peaks, to train certain climbing skills or techniques, then yes – the mountains are perceived differently, and you can do a comparative analysis. For example, the Alps are more interesting; they bring you brighter emotions than the Carpathian mountains in Romania.

         However, know that tourists from Switzerland or northern Europe come to Romania because they can admire a spectacular panorama with less effort. The highest peak in Romania is just over 2500 m altitudes, while in Switzerland it is over 4000 m, which requires special equipment, it is difficult, and you have to carry it uphill.

– From what position do you like to look at the mountains: from the bottom up or opposite?

– From the mountainside because I know that only beautiful images follow. We move from east to west, about 10-15 km per day, depending on the relief. When it comes to walking, we travel shorter distances in favor of photos, taken in different positions and heights.

-And how do you feel when you get upstairs?

– I have a principle confirmed in time: the higher I climb, the deeper I descend into myself. Up there, for 10-15 days, I feel freer, much more comfortable than down. Surrounded by the enchanting silence at the top, I love to read. Reading is my second passion after hiking in the mountains.

– Do you read something specific or enjoy the process?

– Usually documentary books or travel diaries, such as Cătălin Vrabie’s, my favorite being Lost in Nepal and Ladakh.

– … or Tiberiu Usheriu …

– Yes, of course, I read him too, but he is less of an adventurer. He chose the mountains for sports, to show himself and others why the human body is capable of extreme mountainous conditions and to prove that, in fact, we have limits only in our heads.

         Speaking of barriers, I feel happy that I managed to help my parents in this compartment. All the lives they stay close to home, and my friend and I organized a tour of Europe through the mountains, through cities like Milan, Italy and they were amazed. He was on my vacation as a young lieutenant in 2018.

         Everything you have read up to now it’s a small percentage of what Andrei Cîrlig represents. Beyond hiking and reading, he masters the land through athletics and cycling. He conquers the sky by parachute. He dominates water through kayaking and diving. He fondly collects memories from everywhere in photo albums. Is it really real? Yes, because he does it all according to a well-established schedule and just for fun.

         Obviously, the temptation to know the subtilities of the officer’s other passions and I reserve the right to return to another article writing about all of them or maybe in the meantime the military adventurer’s diary becomes a public book?..

In Romanian:

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