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Africa Tour August 2011 - August 2012

01/06/2012 Romania

When I crossed from Bulgaria to Romania - it was just fantastic! Sunshine on the first day! What a difference that makes.

The border crossing was easy. Pretty much just crossing the bridge across the Danube river. They checked my passport for a few seconds on either side and I was ready to go. Praise to the European Union!
Romania is famous for three things: Gypsies, Dracula and the Carpathian Mountains. Those apparently having the highest population of Brown Bears anywhere in Europe. Do these three things sound like a god place to spend some time in? Well...

I picked a route to cross Romania within two days, a route travelling through as much of the Carpathians and the Transylvania region as possible. Sleeping one cold night in the town of Voineasa, right in the mountains and one night in Oradea near the border to Hungary.
Lots must have changed in Romania lately. There are no more Gypsies. I could not find any vampires either. And even the Brown Bears hid from me. Instead I found a country completely covered in saturated green. The lowlands green from wheat and sunflower fields. But much more impressive the Carpathian Mountains. Up to 2500m high they are cold. But awesome. The mountain range seems to be entirely covered in extremely dense pine forest. Even the steepest mountain slopes. The ground plays host to all sorts of green stuff: grass, moss, small bushes. Everything in the healthiest shades of green imaginable. A big Brown Bear would just fit perfectly into the wildness of this picture.
The mountains were by far the most impressive part of my journey through Romania. Mostly the road follows a river as it cuts it's way through the ranges in deep shady gorges. One side of the road is a sher rock wall. The other side a fast flowing clear mountain river. On the other side a steep rock wall many hundred meters high. And so you wind your way through the mountains, side by side with your new mate the river. Sometimes the gorge gets to narrow and the road has to climb up to a mountain pass. Which then offers you wide views into the wilderness and you see the huge scale of the landscape.
The climate as you can imagine in this sort of area is cold and wet. I had to ride through two thunderstorms today. Once you are in the mountains, there is no shelter. You have to ride through. However, they were not intense enough to penetrate through my rain gear. Which is good. Because it was so cold. Being wet in these temperatures would be a nightmare.
Once through the storm the sun came up and the mist rose out of the forest like big white clouds. The air smelled fresh and crisp. And my little Suzuki and me, we were just riding along the winding road in awe. She seems to like this style of environment and is running as if she was brand new. Her decent age of 44000km still does not show.
Compared to Bulgaria the roads in Romania feature less potholes. But more construction sites. Where the asphalt has been removed. And the surface is often turned into deep mud by the rain. But nothing my brave little Suzuki and her Africa trained rider could not manage.
Romania seems to be a lot better off compared to it's South Eastern neighbour. The houses are in top shape. There is a lot of tourist infrastructure. Starting from Tourist Information Centres, lots and lots of Pensions, Hostels, Hotels, Motels, Campgrounds. And souvenir shops.
There are also a lot more people. Apart from the mountains the roads are usually flanked by small villages. All side by side to each other with only short gaps in between. The speed limit in settlements is 50km/h and is enforced by quite a few radar equiped Police cars. Which makes travelling off the freeways a very slow affair. But a scenic one. You see a lot of people. But not many young ones. There is this stereotypical image how an old grandma with her headscarf sits right next to the old grandpa with his hat. Just on a bench outside the fence of their home. Watching the world go past on the road in front of them. This picture is so common, any given time, any given place. When you stop to ask for the way people are very eager to help. They talk and talk and talk. In Romanian language. Which is quite similar to Italian. No one speaks English. They dont seem to care and keep talking to you. And somehow you get the idea of which direction they send you. Very popular is also to draw little sketches for you. I've got quite a few to keep as nice souvenirs.
Along the road kids often greet you, waiving their hands. And young guys often shout something and give you a military style greeting. Mostly as a visitor you will feel very welcome in Romania.

There are only a few days left in this journey. Traversing the rather small countries of Hungary, Slowakia and Czek Republic into Germany. This really comes down heavily on me. The last few nights I did lie mostly awake thinking. Thinking about the journey. Thinking about the people along the way. And what happens after. How to go on from here. How to get the most out of the experience of the trip. It's strange how a journey of this nature has an effect on you. The journey has been my life. All day every day. For ten months. And more counting in the preparation phase. Finishing it feels like breaking up with your girlfriend. Deep sadness about the end of the 'relationship', the great times past. And just a bit of excitement about the new life ahead. Two or three more days is all that's left. Hard to believe...

01/06/2012 Romania pics

A typical village in the Carpathian Mountains. There is a river. There are houses, very nicley looked after. And a lot of mountains either side.

Churches of this kind of architecture can be found in most towns and villages. Mostly two or more church towers. And often a colourful painting over the front entrance.

Riding into the clouds. As the moisture of the recent rain lifts as thick mist from the forest.

'Four' seemed to be my little Suzuki's lucky number today. Kilometrewise it's more than once around the world. But she is still in perfect shape. Lovely bike!

When I took this picture the temperature was around 10 degrees Celsius. I was completely wet from the thunderstorm I just had to ride through. As the wet road still shows. I was cold. But the air now was perfectly clean. It smelled of a mix of wet pine trees and the typical wet smell of a landscape after rainfall. I love this sort of conditions. Pure crisp nature.

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(c) 2012    marco hoffmann