Nearly 4.500km done… what a ride…
After the Black Sea we were heading back inland. Still some of the most spectacular Mountain Passes were waiting for us but before we wanted to visit Gavin and his wife Andrea living next to Brasov, who invited us to stay with them. On the way to them we stopped at the Mud Volcanos at Buzau County which were formed from the eruption of gases; an unreal lunar-like landscape. The gas pushes the water and the clay to the surface and creating small cones. Gavin is British and living since many years in Romania and was travelling with his motorcycle diverse countries. We had some real nice evenings together while we were exploring the surroundings of Brasov on day trips such as Transbucegi or the area of Bran Castle.
About our next destination we heard and read a lot already and it is probably a must for any motorcyclist visiting Romania: The passes of the Carpathian Mountains Transfagasrasan and Transalpina. We ready ourselves and reckon with a lot of traffic. Not sure if we were just lucky or if it was because of the time of the year but it wasn’t much traffic at all and we really enjoyed the riding and had several stops to relish the beautiful views. The Transfagarasan is 91km long and passes through the highest mountain group of Romania, the Fagaras Mountains. At the initiative of Nicolae Ceaucescu this road was built while using 6520 tons of dynamite and 40 workers died during the construction. The highest road is the Transalpina which reaches the attitude of 2145m at the Udele Pass; both mountain routes have a charm of its own and are closed during the winter. Apropos weather – we had sunny days only so far and even up here still around 25°C.
One more destination we really did not want to miss: The Danube´s Boilers; located south west of Romania at the Serbian border. Gavin highly recommended driving along the Danube on the Serbian side. But for some reason the decision was to stay in Romania (we need a reason to come back and travel Serbia as well :) One of the first attractions from the banks of the Danube River is the Statue of Decebal, the last King of the Dacians. The route is really scenic, fantastic landscape with caves and stone carved shapes and again we were surprised how little traffic we had, often it was just us on the road.
One day of rain: on the way towards north again we had a grey sky and stormy wind. But we continued. Partially it was pretty uncomfortable but nearly as a return we caught a sight of a curious looking house in the middle of nowhere and we stopped. An old man and a dog were coming out, talking to us and making inviting gesticulates. His name is Achim Emilian and he founded his private museum. A collection of incredible many things lovingly displayed relicts of several centuries and each single piece accompanied with a story by Achim. About 2 hours we spend with him, listening to each other and laughing together. A MUST TO SEE and TO MEET! Don’t be shy: Achim Emilian, Loc. Almasu Mare Nr. 109, COD: 517030, Jud. Alba
As a closure of the journey we wanted to visit the Turda Saltmine close to Cluj-Napoce. The mine being first mentioned in 1075 and it was renovated and it reopened its doors in 2010 and is now a history museum of salt mining. Clearly it was time to go direction Vienna and for the way back we chose little roads winding along the north of the Apuseni Mountains close to where we started about 3 weeks ago. That was where “our muddy dog story” happened which you might have heard about already (it was posted on Facebook, RTWbyBIKE.com).
Romania is a real beautiful multifaceted country and it is not easy to recommend any specific place as there are so many – and probably still many places nobody talks about. Just follow your nose and take time for stops and chats. There are wild dogs, yes. They are not pleasant towards motorbikes and you should pay attention – but it is definitely not a reason not to go.
On the way back to Vienna we thought it could be nice to have a stop at the famous Balaton, Hungary just for the sunset a jump into the water and a nice dinner. But hey, EVERYTHING was closed, the camps and the pensions. For an hour we were looking around and if they offered us a room it was completely overpriced and a muggy stinky place. It turned dark and so we decided to continue north direction Vienna and looking for anything along the road. In the end we stayed in a Hotel which was not cheap but as well not run-down and therefore worth the money. Our last day was reserved for BigTom who travelled 4 years with on his bike and settled now again close to Vienna. We were pleased to see him again and spend a wonderful relaxed time together.
Thanks to everybody we met along this trip. Again we met only friendly open people who made our little journey to another great experience!
The largest of the Balkan countries is rich in cultural heritage has a dramatic mountain scenery, the unique Danube Delta and a stunning coastline at the Black Sea. We had 23 days to explore Romania´s various areas and once more we started with the car-sleeper train to get from Hamburg to Vienna to save the time and the German highway for the first 1100km. We past Hungary within one day to have as much time as possible to discover Romania. It is a large country with intense contrasts: some cities are truly Western Europe; some villages can seem to have been brought back from the past into the NOW. And all over the country you will find horse carriages… and behind the next turn on the gravel maybe a Lamborghini or Ferrari…This time we will not give you such a detailed report as it would be too much to read. You can look up the route we took under the `route section´ (going to be ready later though). Here you can read the first of two parts with a couple of pictures and a slight show at the end.
Touring Romania with the motorbike is just fantastic. Meanwhile most of the roads are in a pretty good condition, many are renewed others are still under construction and we discovered that we prefer to ride the little roads and we avoided the national roads even when they were marked as `scenic´. You have much less traffic especially trucks and you pass idyllic landscapes, picturesque villages with haystacks on the surrounding hillside. Romania is full of opportunities to drive your motorcycle in various conditions and all kind of sceneries: high altitude mountains with deep gorges and incredible beautiful alpine roads on and off road as you prefer, plains with wide views, river valleys with cascades. The mighty Danube River flows 1,788 miles from its springs in Germany’s Black Forest to the Black Sea ending in the wonderful Danube Delta. It has a rich cultural heritage; you can visit historic places, castles, monasteries and listen of course to all the mysterious stories of Transylvania and Dracula. The fact that Romania is known for its wildlife with a high population of brown bears and grey wolf is maybe pricking up your ears thinking of spending the night in your tent somewhere outside – wild camping is allowed everywhere except inside the natural parks – we haven’t seen any bear or wolf nowhere. Probably you are more afraid of your fantasy which goes wild as it happen to Sascha who was sitting a full night with a head torch in the tent absolutely sure a wolf or bear is creeping around our tent. I was sleeping mostly and when I woke up I was wondering what Sascha would do against the `beast´ with a head torch on his head J If you prefer a more protected overnight stay there are several affordable options such as camping areas, wooden huts to rent on camp grounds or pensions. Last but not least: Romanians are very friendly warm and hospitable people with a good sense of humor and always open for one or two Palinka! ;).
We entered Romania close to Arad, which is about in the middle of the western border line. From there we head inland passing the Apuseni Mountains and continuing then north to the Ukraine border to the famous `Merry Cemetery´, Maramures County. This region is dominated by extensive wooden gates and houses and the cemetery from the village of Sapanta is famous for the brightly colored crosses with paintings representing scenes from the life or the habits of the deceased.
From now on we were zigzagging south east until we reached the fantastic Danube Delta. The best preserved of Europe’s deltas includes 2,200 square miles of rivers, canals, marshes, tree-fringed lakes and reed islands. We really recommend spending a full day to explore this beautiful area on a boat tour. We were lucky to meet Cornel in Murighiol. Actually he picked us up when looking for a spot to camp. In the end he found us a wooden hut for 50 Lei on a little private camp which was rented by one family (partly from Bosnia, Romania and Serbia) for a one-week-coming-together-party. Shortly said: we had fun drinking eating dancing… But as well we agreed with Cornel a one day trip on his little boat for the next day starting at 6am. Just fantastic! We enjoyed this mystic spirit, the sunrise, to discover the little old channels with their wildlife the laces, seeing herons, pelicans, sea eagles… and entering the open Black Sea; it’s hard to describe this experience with words – therefore just do it! Cornel was born in that village, speaks fluent English and even some German. He loves the area, takes pains not to disturb the ecosystem and knows some old, hidden channels and stories about the villages and areas. Just ask for him: cornel.uncu AT yahoo.com, or just give him a call at +40763260176
Along the Black Sea we visited some of the archeological excavations for instance the Greek Citadel, the most ancient city attested in Romania. The most south coastal point we visited was Constanta; an ancient metropolis founded by Greek colonists from Miletos in the 6th century BC. It is the fourth largest port in Europe. Of course we took the chance as well to jump into the sea before the sunset.
… Coming up: The Carpathian Mountains, Transylvania at full moon, Brasov and great time with Gavin and Andrea, spectacular alpine roads such as the famous Transfagarasan and Transalpina