route N. Romania
route S. Romania
Tuesday 17 June,
I'm now in an i-net place in
Sighetu Marmatei, a small town 15 km from
Sapânta, close to the Ukrainian border, where I
stayed in a guesthouse.
It has been a very long ride from Nyírbator, 170
km. As soon as I crossed the Romanian border it
started to rain, after the hot weather the last
days have been pretty chilly and overcast. In
Satu Mare I couldn't find a bank machine, so i
had to go to an exchange office and changed 50
euros for 1,8 million Romanian Lei $-)
On my way to the Huta pass i noticed the houses
in Certeze (a small mountain village) became
bigger and more luxurious the more I went higher.
Very big mansions, almost little palaces and they
are still constructing more... It's remarkable to
see more expensive Mercedes and Audi than Dacias
on the road. I wonder where the money comes from
in this poor country...?
On top of the scenic Huta pass (587m) i met a
couple of cycle tourists, the first since I met a
Czech guy near the Tatra mountains. An American
guy and a Hungarian girl from Romania. The
American guy was a recumbent rider in disguise as
well ;-) he had left his recumbent at home and
was now touring on his Bike Friday folding
bicycle. In Sapânta I'd found a very nice room
for 8 euros just across the famous "Merry Cemetery".
Today I cycle along the Iza valley with its
remarkable wooden churches towards Borsa.
|Wednesday 18 June,
Again in an internet place, this time in Vatra Dornei, a pleasant Romanian city with a
campground, crowded with Dutch caravans. This
morning I cycled from Borsa over the Prislop pass
eastbound, a very scenic ride through the
forested Rodna mountains. It was quite cool up there,
Yesterday i cycled from Sapânta to Borsa through
the Iza valley. On the way i passed beautiful
wooden churches. In every village local children
greeted me with Bonjour, Ciao, Hello etc. One boy
on a bicycle kept company for a few kilometers
and we had a small talk in German, he'd picked it
up from German satellite TV channels and spoke it
In Borsa I started to search for a place to stay
or camp. In Borsas winter sport resort i was
allowed to camp in a meadow behind a pension. I
offered the owner some money for using the shower
and toilet. For 10 euros I could stay in the
pension but i opted for my comfortable tent. The
owner invited me to join a BBQ with construction
workers who were building a hotel in the resort.
The workers were very interested in my bicycle,
not because of greed, they were just interested
in the technical details of my bicycle components.
Had a good
conversation with one of the workers who could
understand English but couldn't speak it ;-)
So he answered me in Romanian and with gestures
we could communicate very well.
I gathered that lots of his fellow countrymen
could easily get a working permit in Italy, from
where they send money home. This explained the
big mansions i saw in Certeze. By the way, the
more i cycled inland, the less the poverty seemed
to be. Houses are well kept here and villages
seemed pretty much self contained. Only the shops
here don't offer all the luxury we are used to in
the west. Tomorrow I will head northeast, where
the famous painted monasteries of Bucovina are located.
Thursday 19 June,
From Vatra Dornei I cycled the very strenuous and
tough route over pasul Rarau to Câmpulung-Moldovenesc. On my map it
looked like a nice shortcut instead of the busy
highway. The road turned actually out to be in
deplorable state with the pavement nearly washed
away. On my way up it became better and better,
with terrible steep grades up to 20% though. On
top of the pass beautiful Dolomite-like rock
formations called the Pietrele Doamnei (Ladies rocks). The descent was a
horror, the paved surface completely eroded. It
started to rain heavily so the road turned into a
wild streaming river.
Often i had to walk with the bike so the downhill
speed was as slow as uphill.
Finally I reached without troubles Câmpulung
where it -luckily- was dry. After visiting the Moldovita monastery I missed the turn to the
campground. It started raining again so I decided
to stay in a small hotel. Got a room with all
facilities for 10 euros, not bad.
Rarau, Moldovita, Sucevita monastery
|Friday 20 June,
The next day I did a tour along the
Moldavian painted monasteries, starting with a
not too difficult pass.
Sucevita monastery was even more beautiful. From
there I continued east to a bigger town, Radauti,
to find a bank machine for a few millions of cash.
Via Solca I reached Gura Humorului. Met a group
of German cycle tourists. Near the Sucevita monastery I found a nice place to camp
at a B&B farm. I insisted to pay for this and
for the use of the sanitary facilities and the
host accepted my offer of 5 euros, which is a
crazy amount for a simple camping spot. For this
amount he invited me to sleep in a bedroom inside,
but I refused politely and opted for my tent with
nice views on the village road. My host spoke
good English, teaching American sailors in Brasov
and staying at his parents farm during the
|Saturday 21 June,
toured along the impressive Moldavian monasteries
for the last two days, I started this morning
from the farm in Manastirea Homorului and went
south. First a small detour to visit the Voronet monastery, which unfortunately was
being renovated. My initial plan was to cycle
then south through the mountains, but the
approaching thunderstorms made me choose for the
easier eastern, less hilly, route around the
mountains. Quit roads and rolling hills from
Targu Neamt to Piatra Neamt. I met a Austrian
"Frank van Rijn" type of guy who was making a big
cycle tour though the Balkans.
Piatra Neamt, in the Lonely Planet guide described
as a "picturesque town" turned out to
be a ugly city, dominated by concrete blocks from
the Ceausescu era. Luckily there was a good
campground and the centre was very lively and
full of people, because of the fair with live
music. And the local internet place charged me
only 25 cent/hr to type this account. ;-)
Soon I will look for a good place to eat, for 5
euros or less you can get here a 3 course diner,
so i don't cook very much :-P
Plan for tomorrow: the Bicaz gorge and into
bus to Franeker
Sunday 22 June,
This morning I cycled from the impressively
beautiful gorge of the Bicaz river (Cheile
Bicazului) and over the Bucin pass (1259 m)
to Gheorgheni. Gyergyoszentmiklos in good
Hungarian - in this part of Transylvania the
Hungarian are a big minority.
The road from Piatra Neamt climbed constantly,
about 70 km. I suffered from a head wind and a
not so good physical condition.
I'm thinking of taking a small break to recover,
maybe in Brasov in a few days.
By the way, in the area of Piatra Neamt the
regional buses were quite remarkable, the yellow
old Dutch buses. On the destination plates on the
front they left the old Dutch names of the
destination towns, its a weird sight to encounter
bus 93 to Surhuisterveen in this mountainous
country :-))) On Piatra Neamts bus station were
buses leaving for Bucarest, but also places like
Joure, Steenwijk and Emmeloord!
Just had diner in this internet cafe / restaurant
for 100.000 lei (2,5 euro). After the i-net
session back to the campground, a large meadow
next to a motel, 4 km outside of town. Sanitary
facilities are in disrepair, but the showers are
hot, unlike the campground in Piatra Neamt.
Tomorrow further south towards Brasov.
beautiful Bicaz gorge
||Monday 23 June, Sfântu Gheorghe
today in very good weather from Gheorgheni to Sfântu
Gheorghe, 130 km, through the flat Olt valley.
Panoramic views on the surrounding mountains.
This part of Transylvania has a completely
different architecture compared with the Northern
part of Romania, more a Middle European style
instead of Eastern Orthodox. In Sf. Gheorghe I
stay at a place in a typically Eastern European
apartment. My bicycle is stored safely in a
garage box. Unfortunately the apartment has no
warm water, but my host has made some tasty soup
for dinner. Tomorrow I'm planning a visit to
Brasov and the mountains.
Tuesday 24 June, Brasov/Busteni
Yesterday an exciting day to Brasov
and the nearby Bucegi mountains. I'm still
staying in the apartment in Sfântu Gheorghe. To
witness the life of ordinary Romanian people so
close is a good experience. The people living in
the apartment are a bit alternative, vegetarian,
yoga practicing and have to survive with little
income, as most Romanian people do. Yesterday
Judith, who studied ethnography and working as
text editor, a day free and joins me on my day
trip to the mountains.
Because inefficient public transport we were
travelling the Romanian way, hitchhiking. The
Romanian are used to pay the driver, about 1,5
euro until Brasov (35 km). Judith is a
experienced hitchhiker, we got a ride to Brasov
in no time. The ride to Brasov was quite an
experience. The car driver turned out to be a
policeman in daily life. In a typically Romanian
driving style (ignoring all the rules) he raced
over bumpy roads to Brasov. In Brasov we didnt
had to wait long for a next ride to the mountain
resort Busteni. This time more
relaxed in a luxurious space wagon. Busteni is
beautifully located against a huge wall of
Busteni and the Bucegi massive
|The beauty of the Bucegi massive can be
compared with places like the Spanish Picos de
Europa or the Italian Dolomites. Our plan was to
get a cable car up to 2400 m and walk from the
mountain hut to the Sphinx, a scenic rock
formation. Unfortunately the cable car was out of
order due to maintenance.. :-((
After having spend a while in the vicinity of the
resort, we hitched back to Brasov, to visit the
historical town and enjoyed :-P a not so very
fresh pizza. On the way back to Sf. Gheorghe a
heavy thunderstorm started. Just in time we got a
ride from a small van. The driver ignored the
severe weather conditions, but luckily we
survived the ride ;-)
Wednesday 25 June,
Today a resting day, doing the laundry, checking
e-mail, shopping for the coming days etc.
Tomorrow i continue my cycle trip, first to
Brasov-Rasnov-Bran (Dracula castle). Thursdays
destination is campground "de Oude Wilg",
on the base of the Transfagarasan Highway, the
highest paved road in Romania.
I hope to tackle this road on Friday, weather
permitting. If the weather conditions are not
good, I head further west to the Saxon town of
Dracula castle, Bran
|Thursday 26 June, Sfântu Gheorghe-Rasnov-Bran-Rasnov
After saying goodbye to the people from the
apartment in Sfantu Gheorghe i cycle along a nice
and pleasantly quiet route towards Brasov.
Recommended by the girls from Sfantu Gheorghe, I
had the opportunity to tap mineral water from a
source in Vâlcele. In the village there were
many people tapping water from the source. The
natural carbonated water was quite tasty, once
getting used to the slight iron taste :-P
35 Kilometers further I enter busy city centre of
Brasov, where I had to take a few photos from the
old city centre. On a busy narrow highway I head
to Rasnov, with a nice fortress high on top of a
hill. I pitch my tent on the empty campsite and
continue my bike trip to Bran. In Bran the castle
of count Vlad Tepes, better known as Dracula, is located. The
route along the impressive Bucegi massive became
very scenic again. After a quick stop in the
tourist trap of Bran I return to the campsite.
The water supply functions only after 19hr til
midnight. Unfortunately cold water only, but I'm
already getting used to taking cold showers. I'm
looking forward to the next campground, "de Oude Wilg"
where I'm hoping to find a nice hot shower.
The Trans-Fagarasan Highway, a
fantastic mountain route
"de Oude Wilg"
Saturday 28 June, Curtea de Arges
I'm now in a crowded i-net cafe in Curtea de
Arges. Left Transylvania and are now in the
region of Wallachia
> Minko's mail from "de oude wilg"
> where does the name come from? Is it a Dutch
Yes, a small campsite "at the farm",
owned by Romanian/Dutch couple, located in a
small village (Carta). I was received with a warm
welcome, all other campers were Dutch (mostly
senior, on a long journey in Romania). Finally I
could take a warm shower. All in all a good
starting point for todays ride, over the Trans-Fagarasan
highway, with the 2000 m high Balea-pas. The climb is long,
about 30 km, not too strenuous though (avg. 5%).
Very impressive! On top of the pass I met a Dutch
couple from the campsite. They were amazed I did
it all on a bicycle. After passing a long dark,
unlit tunnel I started the long and beautiful
descent. I met a cycling couple from Freiburg,
Germany. Romania did remind them very much of
their trip in South-America. They brought a few
extra copies of a Romanian map with cycle routes,
and gave one to me! After we exchanged e-mail
addresses our ways separated, they went uphill
and I continued my way down. A long ride along a
lake followed, up and down. At the end of the
lake was a dam and a very scenic canyon, with
high above on the rocks a ruin of one of Vlad
Tepes (Dracula) castles. After 130 long kms I
found a campground in Curtea de Arges, a pleasant
city. Had a good meal at the campground
restaurant (only 4 euro for campsite, including
diner!). Tomorrow I travel further west.
|Tuesday 1 July, Baile Herculane
The last days I had not too interesting rides (Curtea
de Arges-Horezu, with a nice monastery; Horezu-Baia de
Arama), and finally I ended up in this spa resort
of Baile Herculane. Not far from
the Serbian border and situated in a very scenic
canyon of the Cerna river. The weather changed
since I left Transylvania, its now sunny and hot,
35 c. Here in the internet room its cool though.
My plan for tomorrow is to cycle down south and
take a ferry across the Danube, leaving Romania
and entering Bulgaria at the bordertown of Vidin.
Too hot at the campground...so now i'm back at
the cool internet room just across the street ;-)
costs are only 50 ct per hour. This evening i
went out for diner, Ciorba as starter (a rich
soup of meat and vegetables), then a schnitzel (as
usual fried with a thick crust, too fat) french
fries and salad (means a few slices of tomato and
cucumber) and bread. A meal like this cost about
3 euro. The campsite has hot showers, hot mineral
water, which smells a bit like rotten eggs (sulphuric).
Today I could practise my dazzer for the first
time. A few nasty dogs bothered me and one push
on the dazzer chased them away, so it does its
job! Besides this incident most dogs don't bother
you, although there are many stray dogs.
Since a lot of people use their bikes here, dogs
are not interested in chasing cyclists. When you
camp somewhere, sometimes dogs coming to your
tent to beg for food. And at night they all start
barking, a concert that can continue the whole
Tomorrow a flat ride (I'm glad, climbing in this
heat isn't fun) through the Danube valley. The
coming days I head down to Sofia, where there are
more mountains to climb.
Continued in Bulgaria