We have just reached Braila, Romania and have finally managed to find an internet cafe! Tomorrow we leave for Moldova.
We left Budapest and drove directly to Sibiu, Romania. At the Hungarian-Romanian border we bumped into the first Mongol Rally team we’ve seen since the French motorways. They were 5 guys from Cambridge uni, driving a 7-seater Scenic Grande. We had arranged to meet up in Sibiu, though that fell through because of mobile reception.
The next day we attempted to find and drive the famous Transfăgărășan Highway (driven by Top Gear), the highway is 90 km of ridiculous bends, running north to south across the tallest sections of the Southern Carpathians. I say attempted as we accidentally took the DN7 road, not the DN7c, so spent the a good part of the day anticipating the highway to start over the next ridge...
On the plus side, we saw Bran Castle (aka Dracula’s Castle) on route to Brasov. The Castle itself doesn’t really have anything to do with Dracula - just it looks like it should. The locals obviously cash in on this as the whole town is full of useless ‘Dracula’ merchandise and ‘Dracula’ cafes/restaurants.
I should add that before leaving Sibiu that morning we visited the ‘Museum of Traditional Folk Civilisation’, which is basically a park full of traditional Romanian houses that have been relocated from all over Romania. Though it appeared that some of these houses were still inhabited, as the park was full of ‘elderly’ Romanians tending their ‘properties’. In one house we walked into a room to find a Romanian hastily getting dressed...
After some research in Brasov we worked out where the Transfăgărășan Highway was and drove it the next morning. It was awesome! and the views were stunning!
After the highway we headed for Mamaia, a town on the Black Sea coast. The drive took us on the ring road surrounding the captial Bucharest, where the roads and traffic were horrendous and at least every 30 minutes you got an overwhelming smell of human feces...
Today we drove up to the Danube delta. The mighty Danube is 2,872 km long and passes through or touches the borders of ten European countries. Being a UNESCO World Heritage Site and considered one of the most beautiful deltas in world, we obviously expected it to be stunning... Either we saw the wrong part, or all the guidebooks say it's amazing because it ‘should be’, but we were thoroughly unimpressed... Maybe it’s best viewed by boat or helicopter instead of a car...
So these are a few of the things we have observed in Romania:
- Romanian roads are not ideal... they will suddenly change from new tarmac to gravel tracks and back again without much warning
- A lot of buildings and infrastructure projects are being funded by the EU. Which is good as it’s helping to rapidly develop the county. The Romanians are also VERY proud to be in the EU, with the EU flag always being flown next to their countries flag, or just randomly on telegraph poles.
- The inner part of every town is often run-down and very blatantly communist in architecture. As soon as you drive to the out-skirts there are completely new buildings, houses and warehouses that wouldn’t look out of place in western Europe.
- Romanian drivers are ridiculously crazy! Some of the maneuvers we have seen are unbelievably dangerous... Like trucks overtaking other trucks on a single carriageway road while approaching a blind corner... We commented on this to a Romanian we met in Sibiu and he simply replied “Good luck in Russia!”... great!
- No one seems to abide by the speed limits, although there are so many ‘speed cameras’ (rusty boxes) and traffic police on the roads. As we haven’t been driving above 70mph (to prevent unnecessary damage to the car) we often get stared at while people overtake us - so Simon has taken to waving at them as they pass.
We’ll leave you with one final thing: we received an email today from a English man who now lives in Bucharest. He emailed after we waved at his wife, and said that we looked like we were having a great time, and wished us good luck for the rest of our travels.
Thanks all for now! - Although we have now uploaded loads of photos to the Gallery.
Simon, Sean & Scott