My dad called me when we were in Hungary to wish me happy birthday for my 30th Birthday, he asked after our new plans, wondering if we were going south to Serbia or East to Romania. East I said, to Romania-the land of Dogs and Gypsy's! This was the stereotype of Romania since everything we had read before tended to recount the terrors of one of these two folk devils, along with tales of Dracula! Well I am pleased to tell you, you do not have to worry. Cycling through Romania is so much fun, the people are super friendly, the wildlife is abundant, the scenery is beautiful and yes there are dogs, but generally they will leave you alone.
We crossed into Romania from Hungary on the crossing between the towns of Battonya and Turnu. This also marked the first time we had to show our passports since although Romania is now part of the EU it has not signed up to the Schengen Agreement. This was very exciting since it was the first time we had to do this since leaving the UK!
Once we crossed the friendly looking border guard we were headed for the town of Arad, a very large city just 15km from the border. On this road we had to stop to a pack of unruly sheep cross the road followed by a Shepard, this really was different from the rest of Europe. We then followed the Mures River eastbound towards the town of Deva, we passed small and local villages, each with a catholic church and just a small shop called a magazin mixt (mixed shop) and each house was essentially a small farm. Each person produced different crops which they would all sell by the side of the road. This made for healthy, Delicious food which was good on the budget, and our money went back to the pockets of the community rather than the larger supermarkets so thats always good :)
Romania was our largest country crossing to date and we cycled for over 1000km, and whilst a large amount of this was along the rivers, this all changed once we reached Transylvania. This famous land of Dracula is also known for the being found along the Carpathian Mountains. This meant hills and our highest climb of the trip to date, following the D1A from Fagaras to Brasov to Ploiesti. And we slept at the top of this at about 1250m. Transylvania is also know for being on the Dracula tour, and we indulged visiting the original count Dracula's birth house (now a bar/restaurant where you can see the room he was born in for 5Leu, we didn't!) This is located in Sighisoara, a beautiful 13th century town in Transylvania, keep an eye on the clock town as it looked like it would fall at any minute. From Sighisoara you can continue south to visit the town of Bran. In Bran, there is a Gothic castle and it is said to look most like the vision Bram Stoker had in his book. It is a good looking castle but avoid the tour inside it is not worth the money, and the town itself is just tourist town selling all manner of Dracula goods.
The people we met in Romania and the hospitality we received were second to none. Everyone was so friendly and was waving at us, kids would try cycle faster than us, people would give us food/water if we looked hungry/thirsty and people would always try to help. This is were we met Dan , Anna, Felix and Adriana. We were in the town of Fagaras, a small mountain town of about 30,000 between Sighisoara and Bran. We were looking over the old town, maps in hand trying to work out where to camp when we met Dan and Anna two 30 years from Bucharest asking if we needed a hand. We explained our story and that we were looking for somewhere to set up camp, and they told us not to bother they would find us somewhere to stay. They called around their friends and family and we were invited into the house of Felix and Adriana and their 5 dogs. We eat and drank and had a good time with our new friends, leaving the next morning with hangovers and promises that they would also be able to host us in Bucharest which they did for 3 days!! Everyone we met was so friendly and all the negative stereotyping of Romanian people is untrue-please go visit this country, the people are warm, the dogs are not as aggressive as you will read and if you every get stuck you can sleep in the monasteries. Just cycle up to them state you are a foreign traveler and they will let you sleep there-all for about 10 Leu (4 pounds). Please note we only did this once on the instruction of a local man but give it a try, a few hail marys as you walk in also might help ;)
Romania, the land of Dogs & Gypsy sure but that is not a bad thing! Go there before everyone else finds out!
Tim & Fin
Buy me a beer!! Thank you
This blog follows my cycle ride from Reading, Berkshire to Reading, Pennsylvania.