Really rural Romania…

20 September 2018

Not your average Monday…it has been a story of different roads in more ways than one! Initially we started out from Buzias on what we thought was going to be a busy road towards Lugoj. Turns out that the traffic wasn’t too bad and only started to become a bit of a pain the nearer we got to Lugoj itself. The road was good and the scenery rather plain, though we did get to climb our first small hills for a while.

We stopped in Lugoj for a coffee in the centre of town which was okay, but not somewhere we really wanted to stay for too long. Then we took a country road that skirted to the southwest of some larger hills. Very nice scenery along a really lovely smooth, quiet road that took us through a bunch of villages. There were a few people along to way to wave and say hello to which made it all the more pleasant. We noted that the houses in these villages are surprisingly big, even the older ones, many of which were decorated with tiles on their outside walls, which as Martina put it “made them look a bit like a fireplace” …maybe they think our fireplaces look like houses?!

Taking this country road meant we were keeping off a major trunk road. We did have to suffer the main road for a bit but it wasn’t as bad as we feared. However, we still pedalled pretty hard to make sure we weren’t on it for too long – 20 minutes was enough!  From here we went on yet another beautiful smooth road at which point I obviously gave us the kiss of death by saying “these roads are great”….100 metres later the smooth tarmac just ran out and we were on a bumpy stone track, which the GPS classes as a ‘secondary highway’ – and it lasted for the next 20km!

We passed through a few villages, which were really clusters of houses, along this stoney track road but apart from these houses, we were completely in the wilds – although we did see a few people along the way, mainly in the fields, and a few cars passed us. At one point we had to get off and push as the track was steep and pretty slippy, and we were also ‘shepherded’ along by some farm dogs as we were pushing.

I have to say we both felt a little vulnerable, for no other reason than we were properly in the middle of nowhere in Romania and no one really knew we were there. I hasten to add that this was all in our heads and at no point did anyone actually make us feel uneasy.

Having rattled our way to the end of the track we came back to tarmac and unfortunately yet another reasonably busy road. Romania is a largish country with 20 million people, so although it’s relatively sparsely populated for the size of the country, everyone gets funnelled onto to the few roads that they do have. And the road numbering is difficult to understand; for example we were briefly on a red shield number 7 which is also the green square E70! I can only assume one is European numbering and the other national, but either way on the GPS it comes up as something completely different, which is all very confusing…but we know to avoid secondary highways where we can from now on!

Our pensiuena (digs) for the night was at the side of a pretty busy road which boded badly for a good night’s sleep. We were both knackered as neither of us could be arsed to cook we just stayed on our room and had sandwiches.  Surprisingly we got a reasonable sleep in the end.

Back on the road in the morning for a ‘short’ 60km day to Hateg. We had to take the busy road, which rather nicely turned out to be far less busy than anticipated. It was, however, a gradual but constant ascent….for 32km! But a plus is that it took us through a gap between a hilly national park to the north and the southern Carpathian Mountains to the south, so there was some spectacular scenery along the way.

Lunch was on a sunny bench by the side of this road, outside a house with trees laden with peaches in the garden. The little old lady who came out to pick a basket of the fruit kindly handed us a big handful over the fence, which we happily chomped for desert!

15km out of Hateg we unexpectedly came across the Roman ruins at Samizegetusa, which neither of us had heard of. As it was still early we stopped for about an hour to have a mooch around the museum, which wasn’t that good and looked like they hadn’t finished it, but the ruins themselves were extensive and well worth a look. In particular the amphitheater and forum were very impressive, if you like that sort of thing, which we do.

Down a gradual hill into Hateg and arrived just after 3pm which is very early for us. It’s a small town with some nice old buildings intermingled with some stark communist era concrete blocks (more about this in a later blog); that sounds worse than they actually are! We had a coffee whilst taking it all in and decided we liked Hateg! Booked our accommodation online and headed off to find it, looking forward to a late afternoon snooze…or that was the plan! The pension was on the outskirts of town and finding it was a right pain as it had no signs –  and then when we did find it, no one was in so we sat in the garden for over and hour before they arrived…snooze time well and truly gone!  But it was nice accommodation and had a decent kitchen so a home cooked dinner and an early night with our new Netflix favourite – Breaking Bad.

The next part of our journey was an absolute joy…the road we took was definitely one of the best for a long while. Easy cycling along a quiet back road through stunning mountain scenery and a few small villages, and in perfect cycling temperature.

We stopped for a coffee in a tiny village and watched early morning life saunter past. Then through  Straeisangeorgiu and up into the hills, which continued to be stunning all the way. Even the main No7 road into Sebes wasn’t very busy, so all-in-all a lovely cycling experience.

We were booked into an AirBnB in town, which we found to be in an old communist era block – looked a bit of a fright on the outside, as did the rest of the area, but inside the apartment was really nice.

Whilst de-robing the bikes outside we started chatting to an older couple (early 60s) who were hanging out their ground floor apartment window smoking cigarettes. They invited us over after we’d washed and changed, so we joined Adriana and Serjo who were on holiday from Galati on the Danube near the coast. We spent about an hour or so chatting to them drinking beer (for Martina, as women drink beer in Romania apparently) and white wine with fizzy water (for me as the men drink wine in Romania apparently). The wine wasn’t exactly white, more of a pinky brown, but tasted okay. We were also fed some home baked apple cake (strudel-like) which we tucked into and took another helping for our travels the next day, and very nice it was too!  They have invited us to stay with them when we’d travel more east, which we are likely to do. Our plan wasn’t to go to Galati, but now it probably is! After our drinks, which we had to extract ourselves from or we would still be there, we had a short wander through Sebes, which we both rather liked.  Saying that we were both a wee bit merry by this point, so it may have been alcoholic-based feelings!

The next day we were up and out and off to Sibiu, cycling some proper tough, long hills through moorland, but it was only for 55km, so a short da for us. Luckily a motorway has been built alongside what I assume was the old main road, so our road was relatively quiet and at one point we had a dual carriageway all to ourselves with the motorway on a viaduct above us!

Points to note: we have taken advice from a few people not to wild camp in Romania as it’s ‘not safe’. We’re not too sure why it’s not safe, perhaps it’s the brown bears, wolves, people or Dracula, but we’re not taking any chances! So, we’re finding accommodation as we go, which has so far turned out to be good quality and cheap.

The weather continues to be really warm, especially in the afternoons when it gets up into the low 30s. However, the mornings are noticeably cooler, which is really nice to cycle in.

We have been chased by quite a few feral dogs so far. There is no point in trying to outrun them on a loaded bike as they will win! Our defence is to slow down and almost stop – they want something to chase and when it’s not worth it they generally get bored. So far their barks have been the most they’ve given us, but should they get closer I have a BIG stick and Martina has some ‘dog off’ spray!

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