Note: In some cases you will find a second photo if you move the cursor on to the picture.
Our route, elevation profile (pic. 2)
We have calculated five weeks to explore this big country. From mid June until the end of august we want to cycle across Romania. We fly with Wizzair from Dortmund to Timisoara in the west. From there we ride northbound (Maramures, Bucovina) through Moldavia to the Danube delta, a short way across Walachia, pass Bucharest in the north, across the carpatian mountains into Transylvania and back to Timisoara. Wizzair tells us in the guidline for luggage, that we need to take off the wheels and that the maximum lenght of a pice of luggage may not exeed 1.70 m. Whether this applies to sport luggage as well, we cannot find out. There seems to be no one on the airline’s telephone hotline and mails take up to 30 days before there are replied to. We should have asked earlier. At the airport in Dortmund we meet a couple, who fly to Timisoara as well, but who have renounced to wrap their bikes at all. Their bikes shall arrive in Romania without any damage. We wrap our trailer and the bike bags into a so called big bag, which is normally used to transport stones and other building material. These bags are strong and cheap to buy. After arriving in at Timisoara airport we manage to grab a taxi big enough to get all our stuff on board. We drag our gear into our hotel room, buy some cans of beer at the near by filling station and assemble everything within the next two hours. Romania we are coming!
Campingsites are very rare in Romania. Nevertheless it is not difficult to find a place to camp. The farmers let us willingly put up our tent on their grounds. We get fresh water from the well. We bought a 10-litre-water-bag for this journey. Duschvorsatz (Ortlieb).It is light and has a little pack size. And with a kind of shower head, we can enjoy our daily shower as well. The roads are rough and very often we have to ride gravel surface. Our Santana Fusion tandem and the suspended Bob Ibex trailer have already passed their suitability test in Corsica earlier this year. Here in Romania we will learn how good they really are. They will not let us down. In Poina Horea a farmer offers a place to camp on his ground. Inbetween the house and the privy we make ourelves comfortable (pic. 2).
We are being followed by a race biker on his carbon race machine. He is on a seven-day cycle trip with his friend. After about an hour heavy pedalling he catches up with us. Although he has no bags to carry (his friend carries the bags for him), we are often faster than him. Our heavy bike gets pushed downhill quite rapidly. But uphill we face the downside of the weight. The guy on his racebike comes close. We have a little chat and he invites us to contact him, when we reach Suceava. Nice chap. We will stay with him for a night in his hometown. Later, in a little village an ice-cream dealer donates some ice-cream to us. And we get a litre fuel for our cooker for free. As if this was not good enough we are even invited for a beer in the local pub. Asking for the best route, the guys start a lively discussion about which way to go. We do not understand very much, but watching them is quite amusing. Outside the village we camp with a very nice family behind their yard on a litte field (pic. 2). The farmer’s wife supplies us with hot soup, fresh milk and bread.
We have left Maramures with the typical artisically carved wooden gates behind us (pic.2). Now we are in the Bucovina, the region in the very north of the country. You can find a lot of monasteries here, some of them elaborately restored. Like the convent Bursana. Although we get the impression that this complex is a little bit too much focused on tourism. We are glad that we find a second example, which is situated very remote. The monastery Rohita, a small, original convent is the branch of the famous convent Rohia. To get there, we fight our way over a 7 k long hilly gravel path scattered with huge river pebbles. As reward we meet a German speaking girl who explains the history of the convent to us and even invites us to have lunch in their large refectory. The beautiful little wooden church in Plopis (world heritage) is lying on our route. We are allowed to camp in an orchard with exclusive view towards the curch.
By now we decide about sightseeing also by means of the road conditions. Therefore we skate over the one or the other touristic attraction, because the way towards it turns out to be too step or rough. Anyway, the roads up here in the north are in bad condition. The decent from the Prislop pass is no fun at all. We are luky that the road to the Voronet monastery is good. You should not miss the visit. The church is the only surviving building of the monastery. It is called the Sistine Chapel of the East, because of it’s numerous frescos on the inside and outside walls. In Suceava we meet the race biker Florin again. He hosts us for a night, invites us out for dinner and shows us around his town. We need to drag all our stuff up to the forth floor into his flat (pic. 2).
On our way into the Danube delta we pass the towns Galati and Tulcea. Both of them we would rather have avoided. In Tulcea we need to take a boat into the delta to the Black Sea. There are no roads. It is said that the delta is a paradise for ornithologists. If you take a boat into the lateral brances of the delta you can watch many different bird species. We are a little bit disapointed, because Sulina, the town on the sea gives the impression that ripping off tourists is the most popular business here. We ride a bit further south on a dead bad road and then take the boat out of the delta. As we do not want to take the road back to ugly Tulcea we ride a short cut on endless sand roads through a deserted area. The scenery reminds us of Ennio Morricone’s film “Once upon a time in the West”. Fascinating. Even our GPS gets lost here. Back in civilization we find a place to camp in a corn field. Spaces with grass are not available. So we take what we get.
We are heading to Transfaragasan pass through Walachia north of Bucarest. Farming in XXL. Corn or sunflower fields up to the horizon. The landscape is not very exciting. On a campsite we are the only guests. Apart from the wedding party in the restaurant of the campground. They torture us until five in the morning with deafening horrible Romanian music. The next day stage is accordingly weak. Curtega des Arges, the last bigger town before climbing the pass, is literally packed with historical monuments. The Nicolai church, a Byzantine church with a cross vaulted dome is one of the eldest Romanian churches (pic.2). Also the monastery with the mighty church is worth seeing. The evening is frustrating. As our cooker does not work, due to the fuel, which seems to be clogging the nozzle. So we feed one of the dogs around with finest beef, whereas we ourselves eat the rest of nuts and raisins which we wash down with luke warm beer. We had a different idea of recharging our batteries for the mountain stage to come.
The highlight of the trip is due to come. Our friend Florin from Suceava warned us: “You cannot make it over the Transfagarasan pass on a tandem. That is suicidal!” By no means we carry suicidal thoughts in us. The pass is in a fair conditions. No reason not to cycle it. Whether on a single bike or a tandem. During a heavy rain shower we seek shelter under a bridge. Another cycling couple stands up against the weather passing us. If they can do it, we also can. Further down, Fritz had checked the front wheel, as it made a crackling noise for some time (pic.2). The panorama is spectacular. Although climbing the mountains with the bicycle is always quite hard you get a fantastic view from the top in return. This is what is always makes it worth while. The sky turns into blue again. This is going to be our downhill ride! We enjoy every centimeter of it, even though we need to stop now and then to let the rims cool down.
Made it: View back on the Carpatian mountains
The most romantic campground is situated on a small hill behind the village Ohaba. A farmer from the village recommended this place (pic.2). In the middle of a group of little trees we set up our tent. Wide view back onto the Carpatian mountains. In the evening the shepards drive their lifestock back into the stable. No one takes any notice of us and we are in no one’s way. The church bells in the village ring to the melody of Big Ben. Bizarre. A sheep dog waits patiently until we have packed all our things and left the place, before he searches for something to feed. But, as always, we tidy up before we leave. Bad luck.
East of the Carpatian mountains you find Transylvania, home of Count Dracula. Of course we need to see castle Bran, where he is said to have committed his monstrous deeds. But we are not the only ones. The town is packed with tourists, the queue to the castle seems to be miles long. And there would be no place where we could leave the bike, so we leave it to the distant view and head on to inspect some of the fortified churches around. There are hundreds of them in Transylvania. In Viscri, where Prince Charles is said to have a cottage, we may camp in Horia’s field (pic.2). The Transylvanian Saxons however are a bit reserved and not keen to meet Germans. Maybe they meet too many of our fellow countymen here. Unfortunately, Prince Charles was not around. We would have loved to have tea with him.
Transylvania - Sighisoara
Negociating with a Roman family
Almost 5 weeks we cycled throughout Romania. We have seen forgotten towns, where there seems to be no jobs for anyone left. We have visited neatly restored places like Sighisoara, Brasov and Sibiu in Transylvania and we hurried through ugly industrial cities. On our route we also found very basic villages where the people obviously are poor but do not seem to be indigent . But the Roman settlements often looked very bad. The beauty of the landscape in the Apuseni mountains, in Maramures or the Carpatian mountains often made us forget the bad roads. If you travel by bike it is easy to get in contact with the locals. We camped in their garden, they let us take a shower in their bathroom and supplied us with hot food. Meeting the people and the intensness, with which you explore a country due to the slow pace, are important arguments for travelling by tandem.