I could do with a bit less excitement these days, especially Wednesday was a day like birthday, Christmas, a pay rise and a lottery win at the same time. There was so much happening that I wasn’t only tired from all the cycling but the excitement as well.
Finally we’ve been able to experience Romania in a nice way as well and we feel a bit more welcomed every day. We are now in the heart of Transylvania. After about 1.5 really needed rest days we cycled from Orastie to Alba Iulia (Karlsburg) which has a beautifully restored fortress with seven bastions in a stellar shape from the early 18th century and two cathedrals. Finally we did some sight-seeing again after all the cycling.
The following day (Wednesday) we continued early to be able to reach Sibiu (Hermannstadt) before dusk. We faced our first challenge when we had to cross a river on a plank bridge. The planks did not look very promising and had been repaired a hundred times. So I took all my courage (after Johan checked the bridge halfway) and stumbled over it.
An old man, dressed like a French, told me in Romanian to only step on the good planks – great – and what about the bike? To distract myself from my fears I asked this guy in the middle of the lightly swinging bridge for the direction to the next village called Ciugud. He told me he was French, so I asked him again in French for the way. “Ciudad de Mexico?” was his reply. Great, this guy is making fun of my pronunciation while I am scared as hell on this bridge, but he waited for us on the other side of the bridge to tell us the right way. In the end a nice guy with a sense of humor.
When we reach Ciugud we need to ask for the way again, the villages we are crossing are so small that there are no signs at all anymore. We ask another friendly looking man on a moped and he proudly tells us that we are on the right road and that is all asphalt (while our map shows unpaved roads). And indeed it is great cycling, no traffic at all, except the little man on the moped. It is a very hilly road and the man’s moped doesn’t really like it, so we pass each other at least five times, smiling and honking at each other and trying to talk with our hands. This nice little man, Johan would say ‘aardig mannetje’, arrives in his village first, the road has become extremely pebbly again and he makes us stop in front of his house and invites us for his homemade schnaps which we happily accept. We slowly get used to these early morning drinks :-). When we leave he says goodbye with a hand kiss and accompanies us on his moped to show us the right way, another nicely paved road over a few more hills. A nice surprise and continuation of the day.
On our way people start waving at us and greeting us in various languages: we’ve heard ‘hallo’, ‘ciao’, ‘bonjour’, ‘hello’, ‘hola’ and of course the Romanian version (bon dia or something like that) so far. All in all, people are much friendlier than at the beginning.
As we avoid the national roads we mainly take the white roads on our maps which are most of the times unpaved roads. We are passing through villages that are so poor, you cannot imagine. Actually you cannot call these places villages anymore even though they have a dot and a name on the map, these are the slums of a close-by city. Cars can hardly drive there, even though there are a few standing in front of their houses. The streets are one big mess, the garbage is just being thrown everywhere and the local waste deposit is just at the end of the village, where everything is being thrown on a heap and burned down every once in a while. The wind is blowing the garbage everywhere, for the next few hundred meters you only see and smell waste and dogs are looking for food in the smoldering litter. However, the children are wearing clean clothes, there are satellite dishes at the houses, which look more like sheds or ruins and nobody seems to suffer from hunger. In one of these villages a few children stop us and want to get money. We continue cycling and they are hanging on my bike, trying to get off the things I am carrying loose on top of my panniers, one is even throwing something on me. They only stop when their parents intervene. I am glad they did, since the children stole my gloves which were given back to me by a parent. Aaardig mannetje!
Another fun event of that Wednesday is our cycling on a motorway which is currently being built between Timosoara and Sibiu. Hopefully a project to get the transit trucks off the main roads through the country and out of the many villages alongside. Parts of this new motorway are already fully paved, and if not, they are still in better condition than the white roads we usually take. Nobody tells us not to take the newly built street, so we just hop on and off if there is no alternative other than the national road. This is really convenient, but of course also a bit weird. Every few kilometers we pass a major work site (which means two or three excavators, some back loader trucks with sand, a crane and 10 workers or so). They all greet us and wave at us as if it was just normal to cycle on a non-finished motorway.
The last part of our journey that day we cycle on a path that is marked as a street on our map but cannot called a street at all. Sometimes we don’t even know if there is still a street or if we are now cycling on the fields. The landscape is just wonderful, we cycle through a forest, through fields and there is even opposite traffic from a horse carriage.
Dog attacks by the way are still on our daily agenda and we are not getting used to it, so this adds to all the above excitements, but all in all we start enjoying the beauty of this country.