Romania part 1 VW T25 1981 campervan

Well well, the much anticipated journey into mainland Romania is here. Border crossing and this will be the first time there are border checks, checking our passports and license we are all clear to drive through. Now driving through there are a bunch of men in scraggly clothes waving me down asking if I have a vignette, Karen telling me I should stop. Back of my mind I would of kept driving but I slow down and he asked “vignette?” I casually pointed to the peice of paper we have it’s clear he was going to do us a rough deal for one. So I drive on making it clear we are not stopping for no one unless they are uniformed or police. Again within one minute another man waves down, I speed up and drive past, scammers ! But that would be the end of any such thing so far.

Heading our way in land the Sat nav is being a pain in the ass and not picking up the roads we want to take, Now reading previous blogs and reviews of people who have been here, the number one concern and generally only one is the state of the roads. Pot holes galore! So we wanted to make sure where we can take motorways and main roads and not take short cuts, and we know how mr sat nav wants to take us through some country rugged roads for no god damn reason. So we carefully scan the Romanian map we bought in Hungary and keep an eye out where we are going. So far the roads and motorways have been immaculate and no pot holes thus far, Romania has been as far as I know part of the European Union since 2007 and it’s clear there has been exstensive work on the roads.

So we are heading to a city called Timişoara and our journey through farmland has been one of surprise, how so vast this country is, fields after fields of agricultural and horticultural land. Romainia as known to many export alot of vegetation and meat because it’s cheap, one Euro is about 4 Lei and it’s ridiculously cheap to buy things here. But one thing happening here is, they are doing well new farming equipment factories all looking up to date. Most people think of a couple horses pulling along a cart, well indeed I have seen that in the lower parts of Hungary bordering near Romania but yet to see here. There’s been an influx of money here and they are making the most of it, BMW, VW, OPEL, Audi and many other latest vehicle release they are driving around in mint condition. So why is this? Romania is such a vast landscape with such fertile land its no wonder they do well and good on em.

So looking for our LPG station we couldn’t work out why we hadn’t seen one yet, just keep an eye out and I’m sure we will find one! Approaching Timişoara it’s very noticeable the houses and apartments are run down, with not alot of care, but the people themselves again as in Hungary all wear top of the range clothes attended gardens with vegetables and flowers and keep their cars in clean immaculate condition, no wonder! because its actually illegal to have a dirty car! So that means car washing stations everywhere, how smart is that? What a way to increase jobs and just plain people having pride about a nice shiny vehicle. The other is tyre shops, everywhere. I wasn’t sure if that was a sign of things to come! Anyway we head into the middle of Timişoara and find an information centre to get to grips of Bigar waterfull and the area surrounding it. Glimpses of the central city made us look forward to what we would be checking out the next morning of Timişoara city. Adament as I was, we had bought turtle wax for the green machine from a Tescos extra in Szeged in Hungary, yes you read right a Tescos in Hungary! and I wanted to get the car washed at a station near us. Find one and directed into our wash bay only to have to reverse out to straighten up, crash! What the hell was that, well I’d put a little dent in the old bike rack. Secretly in the back of my mind hoping it’s poked! Oh thats a bugger lets take it off and get rid of it! Karen laughing “you wanted to get rid of this for ages!” she was right I hated the damn thing. So car washed and we make our way 50 metres down the road to the campsite. In the shade and the Green Machine gets a beauty treatment, she deserves it we are nearly as far east as we can go. BBQ burning away steaks had settling down after our first day into Romania.

Timişoara awaits us on clear blue skies, oh and forgot to mention its hot over here. Low twenties and it wasn’t that long ago coming from snow fall in Austria! Not complaining and I can get rid of this pasty white skin.

Busing in we head central and make our way to the city centre, basically it’s a big square like street with gardens that run from The Opera house and National Theatre all the way through a couple of fountains to The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral. In between would see lots of little food stalls and markets selling crafts and all sorts restaurants and cafes decked out with chairs and tables, it’s quite a spot..

The Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral is designed of old Romanian Moldovian architecture, without realising this church has a service for Easter which on their calendar is a week later than usual. This church was very elaborate and such a different style to what we had seen, no benches it was one big open space for people to stand or kneel at their wish. Romania is a very religious country and we have thus far have seen absolutely no beggers or homelessness on the streets. Taking a walk around the architecture of the buildings is second to none, amazing craftsmanship and just keep stopping to look at it all. Next stop was the square, Uniirii square, now the paving is undergoing intensive work of repaving the entire square so it was very messy, but saying that when this is done this will by far match the squares in Brugge, Plzen, Vienna and Dresdan. What was so stunning in coming to this square was the chruch bells ringing what must have been at least 20 minutes from the The Roman Catholic Dome, it was such orchestrated spine tingling sound, you take it all in and just admire. Mark my words come here in a year or two this place will look stunning and they are redecorating the buildings too.

Took a look in The Roman – Catholic Dome the paintings on the ceilings are impressive, said to be painted and sculptered from Vienna. Now time to make our way back, if ever you get the chance to come here. Local food, architecture, language, sunshine and culture if you want to feel so far away yet feel you’re not far away at all, this is a place we could not speak more highly of. And to think originally this was not on our list of things to see, we were very much glad we came and paid a visit to Timişoara.

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On the road in Timişoara, a bloke with his partner pull up in a real nice looking Mercedes tinted windows in perfect Romanian accent English said “Awesome Machina! Looking it sideways up and down, we had a brief chat at the head of the traffic lights exchanged pleasantries and moved on. Pull in to a service station we need to get to the bottom of this LPG…. So, all along there was LPG they just call it GPL, thanks to a driver filling his car with fuel he comes over to offer us any assistance. “Gas Petroleum liquid, next station up” we felt kind of silly really. Next station and that was somthing, this pump must of been something out of the 60’s with a big tank behind it visible. This is common and have a picture for you the next time we fill up.

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Time to hit the road south very near the border of Serbia, “Make sure you take this next left turn Jonny! ” in a very anxious voice. “Don’t you want to go to Serbia?” laughing it’s clearly not on Karen’s to do list.

Into vast country side again we start to see some really old run down homes with some shoddy roads, pot holes left right and centre it’s not even worth trying to avoid them as you lead yourself into another one! Karen holding on for her dear life. Cars over taking generally the Romanian ones as ballsy as they are, over taking on bends and blind spots they are somewhat adventurous. The rest quite content sitting behind us watching me avoid the next pot holes to follow suit and these were generally the German folk, lots of them over here! Well soon enough we are on better sealed roads and that would see us not drive any rough roads for a long while.

Heading towards the Semenic-Cheile Carasului which is a national park has the much talked about Bigar water fall, that’s where we are heading to. On the way through there are such old looking towns with elderly casually sitting in their benches or chairs outside their house, such a peaceful life here what more do they need? The Green Machine gets some amazed stares, whatever they were doing put an immediate stop to that and watch the graceful chug waltz by their eyes. Heading into the National park we drive to Bigar waterfall and you begin to realise how many stray dogs are wandering around and they all make eye contact and look so sad! I want to home one but Karen won’t let me! Evil I know.

Bigar falls…. Is this it? Right on the road side, people parked to see the same thing and taking photos of what we recognise. I mean it’s impressive and cool but just not the walk into bush or up a hill you would expect, the surrounding wasn’t glamorous and we came away feeling somewhat disappointed. Well that’s the trickery of good photo shop skills and we were had, if your travelling for the falls and not much else inbetween and after I suggest don’t bother it’s a long long way away to drive for this fall.

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We drive through some vast country side making our way more inland and further away from civilization into the villages it feels like we are driving back in time. The country side here is amazing, beathtaking. Stacks and stacks of tempee like hay stacks srewed all over the fields, shepards minding there sheep causally walking with them all day. They feed right by his feet not even bothered he is there, old men picking up pieces of wood and stacking it on the back of their bikes. A man biking along with a gas tank attached at the back, horse and cart their main source of equipment, men women and children walking with their tin cups in the early hours of Sunday morning as if someone has made a brew at their local church. This was life in deep country Romania. Stunning.

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We been keeping an eye out for a patch of grass off the road to freedom camp but having no such luck, 7pm and we have covered a fair distance 182km to be exact and come to small village called Prigor. Driving through there’s a done up property with cabins and a swimming pool, couple of old unoccupied VW T25’s and we thought to ask if its ok for us to park here tonight. Luckily to the kind lady she accepted our request.

Early start we head for a campsite in Samizegetusa with a cheap campsite in mind we stay at a place called Zamolxe camping, heading here we are in national park area and that was as much as we knew! Well arriving in scorching sunshine we base ourselves for the night maybe two, problem is we didn’t account for Easter Monday and food supplies are low and shops are shut. Making meals of what we had was interesting and in the end was actually good tucker. Now we drove past a sight that look like old roman ruins in this village, nothing that caught your attention but knew we wanted to take a look. Well what a find, this place had me and Karen in complete awe of this fascinating site, an archeologists dream.

This is Ulpia Traiana Augusta Darcica Colony, dating as early as 4th & 5th century b.c if not earlier. The information on this site depict the actual buildings of how they would of stood if still standing to this day. This ancient town covered 33 h.a population accounted for was between 25,000 to 30,000 individuals. Walking towards the amphitheater this would seat 5,000 spectators and was dated back to 4th century b.c. They would watch various shows of gladiator fights, drama, mime and sports. You could see in the middle the trench they built from one point into the middle men or animals would walk up into the centre of the amphitheater, just absolutely unreal to be standing in the middle of something so historic and it’s all so well preserved after 2000 odd years of time and weather. Walking on 300 metres up is the Forum in which was the cross roads in this country, this is along the Roman Emporers route, here with sign written carvings on the stone still so visible its astonishing how well this had all kept. This area desired as trade from the Danube river and surrounding area, the agriculture of the fertile valley of Mures and last not least the profits brought by the gold mines in Apuseni mountains. They say it was to build basically first with wood and sandstone, limestone and one moment switched to marble.

The forum with a monumental entrance was the civil and political administrative centre which included a public square, a basilica, trial court the platform with judge seats and beneath the platform was the prison. So on and so on I could write so much more but you get the jist of this, this was an amazing find to stumble accross and not on our list of things to do. This was all done with minimal tourist roaming around making it a much more pleasurable experiance. Another thing was they had such good underground sewage and fresh water systems that they also built two fountains for the poorer people who could not afford fresh drinking water for them to collect.

It was very sophisticated and as we all know very smart people. Technology nowadays has advanced incredibly yet funny that craft and manual skills in society nowadays has dumbed down to those of 2000 years ago. This is a journey in a small quiant Romanian town called Sarmizegetusa.

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Heading in the direction of Hunedoara is the old 15th century Corvin Castle, on our way we encounter some strange and ornate steel work and guttering. Kind of like smack in your face showy pieces, we didn’t know what to make of it or why they do this. Some showing the symbol of the dollar sign, whether it’s rich people or Mafia showing off we don’t know. But here are the pictures and you make your own mind up.

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Corvin castle is heaving with tourist, no surprise it’s Easter monday and a public holiday. As said before being Orthodox religon everything is a week later. Alot different in terms of style of the castle to what we have seen, impressive and imposing for where it is built. Across the mote bridge into the entrance and it opens up with forecourt in the middle, here we take alook into the different rooms and stairways to different compartments. I will single out a few things that we really found interesting, 1. There was a well cut deep into rock at one part of the castle where 3 turkish men had dug for 15 years eventually reaching water source. Promise had it been the men would be set free once this was achieved. Well the king at the time died (Ioan of Hunedoara) and his wife decided not to respect the wishes of her husband and once water was discovered sentance them to death. The Turks ask of a final wish before their death, to write on a stone in the well which read. “You may have water, but you have no soul” the letters of the inscription place it in the 15th century. That was quite chilling what a task to cut through rock for 15 years! Next one was the Bear pit where prisoners were chucked in and eaten alive and the other the pit of hangings! We think about it now and think thats so medieval but in some countries it wasn’t that long ago this was actually happening! And finally drum roll please, the torture chamber. Down the bottom of the castle is basically a set of torture methods that were used, to sitting on a chair with spikes all over it, hanging from a rope arms behind your back, a stretcher that stretched you till your limbs came off unless of course you spilled your info! And finally the most gruesome thing I’ve read with a detailed picture, a sharp spike stake that went up your Hmmhmm rectum through your body up out your mouth. It was said people died quickly but most of the time could last days in agonising pain and vultures would come while they are alive and have a meal or two, hungry and thirst it was definitely a cruel way to die when you know there’s no way back from that. Hunedoara castle that concludes our venture through a medieval castle.

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We are off to a man made lake just outside of Hunedoara which was made by a politician that everybody hated and unpopular due to his independent foreign policy, Nicolae Ceauşescu. Theres was a revolution and on Christmas day Nicolae and his wife were executed by firing squad in 1989, 1990 saw the first democratic elections but internal disagreements hampered economic reform.

So this lake surrounded by forest and an empty campsite was the perfect spot to recharge and camp for the next two days, and with the pictures you will see why. In countryside again we catch up on jobs and odds and ends and do a walk around the surrounding area. Next day would see us head to a city called Sibiu.

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Sibiu being the capital of Transylvania Saxon towns, we take the Green Machine into the town and park up. This town was voted “capital of culture” in 2007 by the EU, and you can see why with its cobbled stone roads detailed architectural buildings, cafes and bakerys sprawlled out onto the cobble stones. Sibiu is a very romamtic city with wide open sqaures with jet fountains spirralling upwards out of the cobble floor, we take a walk and we see the Evangelic Church from here we walk into the main square several towers looking out are from the medieval times. Walking around some more and we come across the main Orthodox Cathedral and when you walk in you just become speechless with the art work that is painted on the entire ceiling down to the walls was quite breath taking. From here we walk back into the square and was time for a drink, Moustache cafe adorning a great big moustache, this place was simply comical and awesome. Qoutes all over the walls and drawings of people with all sorts of moustaches. Favourite qoute on the wall we read was “We can’t be lovers because we both have, Moustaches. But since you’re a lady and I’m a gentleman. I’ll shave mine off!” this cafe served the perfect spot for some hot drinks. The owner clearly sporting a Mo that’s been groomed for yonks, great effort!

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We move on for some food and stop at a bakery for a pastry fix next we are off to our next campsite in the middle of nowhere called Cârta.

Campsite sorted we are flanked my Romanian gypsy’s, warning not to give money to them as they earn 3 times the average labour worker here, greeted by the owner she gives as some little info of the area and hands us a little gift in a hand crafted pottery jug that has her homemade brew. She is Dutch and met her man who is Romanian and settled here 15 years ago, this campsite being their business. Surrounded by old run down buildings and in clean country side air with farmers attending their fields with hoes, chickens and ducks casually walking around the field we park, off the main road occasionally hearing the trotts of horses pulling along a manned cart. You can’t get much more rural than this. In love with Romania she said, it’s easy to see why.

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That concludes the first part of the Romanian blog, I hope you enjoyed and feel you have a better insight of Romania and gives you an urge to come an visit this amazing place.

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