After crossing the border into Romania at Borș, I stopped for a breather and discovered that all vehicles need a vignette. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to buy online and within a few minutes I was legal. The vehicle’s chassis number is needed to complete the transaction.
I spent the next couple of nights behind the Auchan hypermarket in Oradea before driving north across flat open land to Satu Mara. It was late by the time I arrived and after buying some bits and pieces in another branch of Auchan I stayed in a quiet corner of their car park.
The following morning I paid a brief visit to the city centre where there are many fine buildings. The only thing that spoils the view are the power cables on posts. It seems they have yet to bury them in underground pipes as most countries have done.
Looking around, I discovered I’d parked in Strada Alexandru Ioan Cuza outside a tanning salon. I’m not sure the name “Chocolate Brown” would go down too well in some parts of the UK.
At the end of the road is a large square with the Central Park in the middle. In pride of place in the park is a statue commemorating Vasile Lucaciu, a leading campaigner for Romanian rights when the country was a part of Hungary in the 19th century.
Continuing eastwards, I passed through Baia Mare along the Bulevardul Independenței which has parkland between it and the Săsar River. A convenient car park provided a stopping place for lunch.
The road to Sighetu Marmației climbs into the Carpathian mountains, rising steeply for several miles with numerous hairpin bends. The descent is much easier.
I was planning on heading for the coast before heading back to Ploesti to meet some friends. When I discovered it was over five hundred miles away it didn’t take long for that plan to be revised.
Instead I headed south passing through Vadu Izei. The gate and entrance to St. Andreì Greek Orthodox Church caught my eye and I stopped for photos.
Further down the valley hay ricks and shepherds watching their flocks, with mobile phones in hand, can be seen. Nor surprising when there are wild bears, wolves and lynx looking for their next meal.
Straddling the road at the boundary of many villages are carved arches, presumably reminders of fences protecting them from marauders in times past. The one at Oncesti is particularly grand.
The wooden building is a pension/hotel. The other building shows the more common form of construction; rough block laying which is then rendered.
While travelling south through Transylvania, I happened across Mosna. It’s a fairly relaxed sort of place although there’s plenty of people going about their business.
Brasov gave me an opportunity to catch up with some domestic duties, the first being a visit to a laundrette followed by some shopping. Auchan supermarkets in Romania have a system I’ve not seen before. Instead of paying at the checkout the operator gives you a ticket with a bar code printed on it. You then take the ticket to a machine and wave the bar code in front of the scanner. It tells you how much and you pay by card or cash. The machine then spits out the usual receipt and confirmation of card payment. So much for reducing paper usage.
Next stop, Count Dracula’s Castle.
One of the more interesting aspects of driving in Romania is that one can be clipping along quite nicely at 100 kph (the legal limit out of towns) then have to reduce to trotting speed. Farmers across Romania still use horse drawn carts for local transport.
Eventually, I arrived in Goth Heaven. Bran Castle was home to Vlad the Impaler upon whom Bram Stoker based Dracula. The town is now a tourist trap, I hope her estate is getting a cut.
Carrying on towards my destination meant a short backtrack before turning off towards Busteni. Unfortunately I hit the Friday afternoon “getting away for the weekend” traffic and spent a considerable amount of time in slow moving traffic; nearly as bad as the roads out of London on a Friday afternoon.In Busteni I turned off onto a local road and found myself in Valea Cerbului.
The valley is utterly unspoilt with a large area available for camping. I was given to understand that some people spend weeks there in the summer. The only night time disturbance is a few cattle guard dogs barking, possibly at some scavenging bears.
The spring fed water fountain is in a lay-by heading southwards out of the town
Continuing south one comes to Sinaia. The original railway station is somewhat grander than most as it serves Peleș Castle which was originally built for King Carol I and completed in 1914. The present ceremonial station is somewhat more functional externally.
I was feeling a bit emotional one particular morning. It was the moment I’d been dreading; I was about to use my last English teabag. I now had to rely on what I found locally. Fortunately Lord Nelson’s English Breakfast Tea is widely available. Although not as good as that made for the UK it’s passable.
I eventually arrived at a friend’s house in a village near Ploesti to pick up some parcels he had kindly agreed to receive for me. Not all had arrived and so I spent a few days waiting.
Stuart kindly dragged me off to some of the museums in the area. The Wine Cellar 1777 local history museum stands in a vineyard with an excellent display of wine making equipment. Other exhibits include traditional costume, domestic and archaeological items including coins from the Ottoman empire.
I was also taken to a couple of museums in Ploiesti. Firstly the Muzeul Ceasului clock and watch museum which has an excellent display of timepieces from various periods and countries.
From there we went to the National Petroleum Museum. Romania was once a world leader in the industry and Bucharest was the first city to have gas lighting.
We returned home where Stuart’s good lady Gabby treated me to some home made pheasant patties and soup for lunch.
Several days after the last date it was due one parcel still hadn’t arrived. However the snow had so I moved on heading for the border crossing at Giurgiu. Part of the route included the Bucharest ring road. In contrast to the main roads approaching the city, it is a single carriageway with major junctions having no traffic control, is poorly maintained and is heavily used.
The Romanian – Bulgarian border is formed by the River Danube and the crossing at Giurgiu is a toll bridge (€14) where they check that the vignette has been paid.
Neither Romania nor Bulgaria have customs or immigration facilities on the border..
My only night in Bulgaria was spent in a lorry park “Haci Baba” (€5) just south of Ruse, Bulgaria.
In the event, I couldn’t sleep so I was on the road at about 6 o’clock with a stop for shopping and breakfast in a local supermarket in Gurkovo.
Next stop, Greece