Romania · 21 Days · 173 Moments · May 2016

Roaming Romania

8 June 2016

Tah-day! Across the river is Serbia. Hello Serbia!! Tonight we're staying over in a teeny weeny German run campsite, our last night in Romania. Tomorrow we head for Belgrade and a new country! Hurrah. After a long day of driving much lazing has ensued - and much catching up of blog! We really enjoyed Romania - we expected it to be challenging but it was quite kind to us (apart from that road in the apuseni mountains and that bloke in the Bucharest campsite). It's a beautiful country that was fairly unknown to us before. But now, onto Serbia and for the first time on this trip... Time to leave the European Union. (Which scares me slightly haha).
There aren't many lay-bys on this road that you don't share with prostitutes sat in their 6inch heels. This was our view during lunch. The poor camera angle means you can't see her lace thong proud above her jeans (aren't jeans a little impractical too?!). We probably saw 5-6 today. I have to say though we'd be the perfect customers if we were in the market - curtains and several beds on our vehicle! I hope the ladies are doing this on their own accord and it's properly regulated. The choice of venue however suggests otherwise.
Today is a boring driving day - 394km to tick down and only 90km is motorway. Yawn. Not much to say really other than the first hour we had a great radio station. Oh and as a sweeping generalisation Romanian drivers are idiots. But I understand this is a warm up for the Balkans. We even had to check the indicators weren't broken because so many people seemed to ignore our signalling... Ha!

7 June 2016

An extraordinary setting, such a beautiful space. The recital was excellent and listening to piano music for two hours was actually rather relaxing. A bit like meditating. Bloke behind me fell asleep and snored for a bit of it but quickly stood up at the end and shouted "Bravo!" Whilst clapping like a lunatic. Splendid evening. We're proper adults now. A great way to round off our time in Bucharest and pretty much Romania. Bucharest has far more culture and diversity than it lets on. It really is worth a visit!
It doesn't get more refined than this. Tonight we went to watch a piano recital at the Romanian Athenaeum- get us!
After a series of two buses (and seeing the same man with a horrendous combover that we saw yesterday) we found ourselves at the main Bucharest market - name. It was HUGE! And very much a locals market which was great. It certainly wasn't the pretty Budapest market that's for sure. We decided to stock up on some meat and veg. We weren't sure how much in weight of sausages to buy... Turns out 1kg is quite a lot (probably ended up with 30 sausages). Woops! It's so cost effective buying in the market and the food is so much nicer than the supermarkets. The photo of the covered market is probably about 20% of the whole place!
"They see me rollin..." Casual tractor bombing it down the streets of a capital city.
The rubbish museum called for a coffee break. Oh yes look at Jon suit his new Euro-metrosexual-style and loving the coffee. πŸ˜‚ The cafe sold all sorts of fancy coffees and teas but naturally we chose a Tall Latte-macchiato. Felt quite Shorditch in there!
Talking of good old Stalin, here he is! The first and only exhibition I've seen (not saying there isn't one...) on the communist era in Romania. Sadly it wasn't translated but I got the gist of Lenin and Stalin being bastards and having stupid ideas. Bizarrely this was in the basement of the Peasant Museum! Very random.
I was amused by this artefact entry paper that had been defaced 8 years ago and not replaced. Not quite sure what the Stalin reference is about.
A bit more learning today on our last day in Bucharest. The Peasant Museum could be described as a bit of a damp squib. The artefacts were interesting but lacked in any really useful information. A lot of museums haven't been able to get past just presenting an object. "Romanian peasant dresses". Yes very good but where in Romania? Why this style? Did they wear them everyday? Or just special occasions? Do the patterns mean anything? What can this tell us about Romanian culture and how women are treated in that society?... Ok ok sorry I did a history degree and bad history is annoying! I did wonder if the two women per room sat on their phones could consider typing up the answers to these questions... There were some signs mind, like this one about the chair collection... lol.

6 June 2016

Another day of exploring Bucharest and it was time to go back to camp. This evening we got some very very sad news. My family dog of 12 years, Tui, had to be put to sleep after suffering an illness. My Dad rang to tell me. For me, loosing a family Dog really is like loosing a member of the family. We got Tui when I was 15, just after we returned from living in New Zealand. She had a loving personality, was hilarious and loyal. She saw me through my school exams and always went mental when we returned home from uni then our lives further away. Both of us cried a lot this evening, not gonna lie. I think seeing the dogs suffering here makes it worse somehow too. There's a poor chap chained up in this campsite. He looks so sad. He needs a pack. Like we all do. Beautiful Tui, we'll miss you lots x
All in all it is a fascinating building. Interesting to visit but I don't think I could ever see past it being a show piece used in an evil dictatorship. It's also ridiculously under used - apparently on 30-50% of it is actually used. What a great waste! By the way I look bored in all the photos because Jon told me I wasn't allowed to smile...
This balcony was added so Ceausescu could approach his adoring people. Amusingly the first person to speak from the balcony was Michael Jackson who apparently said "it's great to be here in Budapest!". Ha! We heard that story in both tours today - obviously stuff of legends!
The rooms really are quite over the top. It's a weird building, it feels cold and a bit pointless. I can see why people dislike it. I quite dislike it. Those no heart or warmth. No history and no pride. It's a bit like "SOOO our formal evil dictator built this bloody expensive building and now we don't know what to do with it". I guess that's quite a tricky situation to be landed in..!
This painting by Balasa for Ceausescu supposedly pictures the idealism of communism. Everyone is the same but two - a lady and a girl. It doesn't take too much imagination to think of Elena and her daughter...
Once we were in we were guided around the rooms. Our guide asked us if we knew who Nicolae Ceausescu was. One bloke shouted "he was supreme leader of Romania!". Unusual way of putting it I thought. 5 mins later the same bloke had collapsed in the hallway... Not saying it was related but you never know... This was Ceausescu's project and he got 70% of the way through before the revolution. He was filled with bullet holes on Christmas Day 1989 and never got to use the building. The parliament is now a source of some contention. Some Romanians love it - it is built almost entirely with Romanian resource. A lot of Romanians hate it - it serves as a reminder of Communism to them.
It was time to visit the Parliament Palace! Getting in was a performance in itself with a rather disorganised system of checking passports and security control. Jb only lost his temper a few times...!
Having seen this old coaching inn on the tour, we had lunch there. And I went for a failed jumping photo.
This morning I went to see the campsite manager to extend our time. Me: "morning! How are you?!" His reply: "I am eating". Haha. Classic. Today we started our day by joining a free walking tour - it was brilliant. We met in the large square that Ceausescu built. This grand boulevard, along with the Parliament Palace, displaced 50,000 people from their homes so it could be built. It destroyed a tonne of old architecture and generally pissed a lot of people off. The tour worked chronologically from there on. We looked at the Vlad The Impaler statue and learned about how he was a bit of a sadistic bastard but a Romanian hero. We retraced a little of what we saw yesterday but it was great to get more information on it from a local.

5 June 2016

On our bus route are these large lakes. Having seen quite a few people wandering about there we thought we'd get off and explore. It was great, again so many people about enjoying the day. There are heaps of bars and restaurants along the way and food stalls. We enjoyed the atmosphere over a tipple. A fantastic day in a great city.
All of this wandering meant an emerged ice cream and bottle of water from the local supermarket. Probs not one of the best views I've had so far!
Back to the nineteenth century and a good look at the Romanian Atheneum which looks rather grand!
From regency to ruins (and a nasty bit in the middle). This building with the glass box is what is left of the communist Securitate (Romania's KGB) head quarters. A harrowing reminder to the revolution of 1989 - it was destroyed by protesters. Ceausescu made his final speech here before he was met with chants calling for his removal. He apparently fled via a helicopter whilst the army sprayed bullets into the crowds. Their memorial is here as a lasting reminder to what happened.
As we're young intellectual types (LOL) we visited the Romanian national art gallery - both the Romanian artist collection and the European collection. It was really interesting but I do also get bored reasonably easy. Romanian art is very religious it seems and i have to admit there is only so many ancient paintings or carvings of Jesus on the cross one can take in a day. The museum is in the old Palace - that's as much as they tell you really. The interior doesn't seem to match too closely to what the Royal palace would have been but was beautiful. Of course - no photo.
Continuing to be back in time to a day of promenading up and down we visited one of the city parks. I was mostly impressed by the number of kids who can so confidently roller blade. Do we even still do that in the uk? The place was full of families enjoying a Sunday out in the sun - delightful to see. I found the park to be quite elegant, well kept and one that wouldn't look out of place in the likes of Vienna or Oxford!
Bucharest aren't quite there yet of course. We encountered quite a few buildings declared historic monuments that are in a pretty shoddy condition. It'll take time of course. That said I enjoy the rough and ready look of a city. It shows the real-lived-in-ness of the place.
The old 19th century city has been beautifully bought back to life by cafes and bars spilling into the street. It really does have a young and hip vibe - obviously we fit in...
Across the way is this little old church that managed to survive. On a warm summers day it feels almost Spanish or Italian! Really not what I expected in Bucharest at all.
Bucharest is quite large so it was soon time for lunch after seemingly not doing much. We had a sausage sharing platter (of course) at the famous Caru Cu Bere restaurant. Bucharest's oldest beer house and it's really rather pretty. We actually went yesterday to try the beer which was delicious. Keeping off the lunch time booze today. The atmosphere is epic especially with live music from 2pm! Feeling rather bourgeoisie...
After we "nailed" the bus system (by that I mean we got on a bus that took us to where we started and then started again!) we embarked on our famous "city wander". First stop was at the Parliament to book in for tomorrow's tour as we had be warned the booking process was challenging. It involved having a time scribbled on a piece of paper...! We got a real good look at the Palace / Monstrosity (depending on the view point) from the outside. It really is ridiculously huge.
The bus appears to have a special obesity seat... πŸ˜‚
Every day Jon gets a bit more European, today I think especially so. Dapper man in salmon shorts if I say so myself. The beard has returned but I understand this time it's to be kept neat. After all he did spend 20euros on a beard trimmer.

4 June 2016

After our ordeal and wondering to ourselves if we were actually part of the next Sacha Baron-Cohen film without realising (nope, this guy is for real) we did what was sensible. We hit the Bucharest bar scene for a couple of evening beverages. I had pretty low expectations of Bucharest, we were considering skipping it out all together, so I was pretty surprised to find a really vibrant and cool city centre. The old city is packed full of trendy bars and spilling out onto the streets. We found a fun pop up bar which was made up like a beach with hammocks (none spare sadly). I was really rather (pleasantly) surprised! It seems almost as cool and collected as Budapest or Vienna. The atmosphere was buzzing on a Saturday night and we were a bit annoyed we hadn't planned to stay out a bit later. We also had to contend with the mission of finding out how to buy a damn bus ticket which was quite a challenge. But nothing compared to checking in to a Bucharest campsite πŸ˜‚
It became fairly clear that the man is on the spectrum and we needed to do a bit of damage control to calm the man down. We spent the rest of time being stupidly nice which is all rather ridiculous since we're paying this bloke to stay here. I don't think he's ever heard of customer service in his life. I wouldn't be surprised if he had voted "life was better pre-1989" in some deranged opinion poll. He would have done well in a good solid communist role. The comedy of the sign outside reception was not lost on us. After setting up camp, and having felt like we had checked in as inmates, we had to ask him to order us a Taxi into town (as that's the only place to buy a bus ticket, how ridiculous). He seemed happy to do so but liked to inform me "see I am not rude. It's not my problem you can't buy bus tickets outside the city but I order you taxi anyway. Still, you called me rude". Hashtag awkward as they say...! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ Weirdest campsite check in ever.
We arrived in Bucharest in the afternoon and headed for the only campsite anywhere near the city. The campsite has terrible reviews but... There is absolutely no choice if you want to visit Romania's capital. I instantly learnt why. The manager is an utter fruit loop. Think of a Romanian Basel Faulty crossed with Borat but with Hitler's sense of humour (yep..!). We arrived at a "busy time" (ie there were two other vans also checking in). My "hello" was met with "you must wait!!!" Spat at me. Ok..! Patiently waiting I was told "wait. Please!!" Another two times - I hadn't said anything. He seemed to be taking down every single detail possible of each person.
When I finally got to the front of the queue I was thrust the usual check in paper. He wanted our IDs so I handed them over and he photocopied them. Suddenly he slammed (seriously this happened) his fist onto the desk and flung our driving licences back at us "THIS is a drivers licence!!! I said ID or Passport!!" Whilst he screwed up the check in paper and hurled it to the floor like a grenade. It reminded me of that scene on the film downfall when Hitler realises there's no Germany army left... Apparently me telling him he's the first campsite in the whole of Romania not to accept our drivers licences as ID was a bad idea. Also me saying "there's no need to be so rude" didn't go down well either. "I am not rude!! You arrive at camp with no reservation! Why did you not make reservation???!!! There is no room for you but I am now trying to make you reservation but YOU MAKE MASSIVE MISTAKES!!". Jon went and got the passports... I checked for the TV crew incase this is a joke...
Their enclosures were immaculate and the dogs looked waggy, well kept and healthy. Still. They're in a cage with no family and no cuddles. I felt sad for them but I guess they're the lucky ones. We've seen so much dog cruelty here. Many places (including campsites we've stayed on) will have a dog that is chained up, the dog will have an outdoor house it lives in. As far as we can tell the owners feed it daily and give it water but that's it. It lives it's whole life chained up with no love and affection. Its sole purpose - for it to bark at people in the night. They're "guard" dogs. Pointless guard dogs, everyone knows it's chained up anyway because so many do it!!! Those poor animals - they're used to living in pack, as part of a family group. Disgusting. I've said it before but it's true - humans can be utter bastards sometimes.
This morning was time to go back in land and leave the Black Sea. Having scooted around it previously it was time to check out Bucharest before leaving Romania. First stop was unexpected for me. Jon had researched an animal rescue centre on route for us to visit. Having seen so many stray pups and, tragically, dead dogs on the side of the road we really wanted to see some support for the Romanian hounds. Footprints of Joy was in the middle nowhere. We rocked up to a chorus of probably 100 barking dogs! The signs were in English and the visiting times printed with a large "Welcome". This ended up being in a slight juxtaposition to the somewhat bemused staff member who immediately panicked that we were English and quickly phoned a colleague who spoke English. I spoke to her on the phone "are you open?" "Yes" "great, can we visit?" "Yes". After some kuffufle a they eventually understood we just wanted to say hello to the doggies.

3 June 2016

This was the end result a few beers later.
We had been told there was a rock concert on the beach tonight. There's a stage set up and people have arrived but no entertainment...! Never mind, we thought, we'll buy a beer and sit on the beach. As soon as we bought a beer the heavens opened and a torrential downpour ensued. Some ran from the beaches to the shelter of the bars - others striped naked, flung their arms to the sky and ran into the sea in a fit of laughter. I mean, why not? Once the rain had cleared we wandered the damp beach with a beer in hand. Bohemian rhapsody was pumping out whilst we sung along watching the rainbow form across the sky. Nearby an elated naked woman frolicked in the sea whilst others chilled in their tie dye trousers and set up a shisha pipe. A fairly random moment to say the least.
Here are the gorgeous stray pups having made the campsite their temporary home. Ohhh the temptation to take one with us!!! Poor things. Our doggies don't know how lucky they are!
After the sun sadly went in it was back to camp for dinner. I have been terribly amused by the appearance of these little creatures. Turns out they're European land squirrels. Loads on this site popping out of the ground. They reminded me of Prairie Dogs (the animals that shout "Alan Alan Alan" - Google it and you'll see what I mean πŸ˜‚).
After a morning work out (oh yes!) we decided another day enjoying the Black Sea would be the order of the day. Time to top up the tan and get some more important chilling done. Jon even put his thug life hat on for the occasion.
Ahh, it's like being back in Africa! Warm sun, blue skies and waking up with a cup of Rooibos.

2 June 2016

It seemed sensible this evening to have a beer in a beach bar. Somehow this one ended up with the Vama Veche sigh which is quite cool. There are a few characters about, again it's fairly quiet but certainly not dead. A few dreadlocks and loose Cotten based garments knocking about. This is much more our scene than Mamaia - not sure how many more perfectly coiffed women I could take (to look at I mean..!). The chilled atmosphere here is us - a few beers, waves crashing on the beach with Queens greatest hits playing. Oh yes! Give me that any day over club anthems and some sweaty DJ shouting "Mamaia makes some noiseeeeeee!!!" And watching mostly nude teenagers neck a pint of vodka, stumble about and spend the rest of the night snogging (or usually, worse) some 30 year old loser down an alley way. Yep, it's not about that. Although, I did enjoy Mamaia in the off season πŸ™‚
Our campsite appears to have an incredibly skinny dog that has several puppies. The campsite owners were quick to tell us they're strays. It pulls quite on the heart strings when the mum sits looking at you hopefully whilst you eat dinner. Wagging her tail and showing us her rib cage. Horrendous!!! I gave in and gave her half a sausage and a potato.
Vama Veche is a known "hippie" haunt - starting off as a place where cool intellectuals would chill and chat about how things could be different. I joked that if one of Ceausescu's cronies had turned up they'd quickly light a spliff. "What's going on here?" "Nothing man we're just taking in the green" "Vell. That's ok. But as long as you're sharing it out and you give us the rest of the bag". Maybe that happened. Who knows! All I know is with our clothes picked up in Pushka (India) we fit right in. The sun is back and we appear to be in a campsite which apparently is costing us Β£5.50 a night. Nice!!
On our way down the coast we took the opportunity to do our every few days Lidl shop. I was astonished to find Rooibos tea here! Something I drank every single day in Africa (and a little longer as I had a packet from Joe!) Feeling nostalgic (yep January was that long ago that it's now nostalgic!) I had to get some of course. We've made our way to Vama Veche, a tiny beachside town in the very southern-eastern crevice of Romania. Bulgaria is down the road and Turkey isn't far either.
And that was Constanta. The rest is mainly high rise flats and retail parks with quite a bit of traffic. A city with much potential and much more to give.
The archeological park was somewhat laughable. I was saying to JB that it's always fascinating to see how a country or city displays its history. Remembering how much of India was notoriously bad at it ("Old Pot" labels etc!). At some point in Constanta's history somehow has proudly displayed bits of Roman pot and buildings around this park... On large concrete plinths. It's now overgrown, a bit graffitied, and on its way back into the ground to be potentially rediscovered in years to come.
After lunch we strolled into one of the central city parks. We were fascinated to see this 1960s victory memorial still proudly standing - albeit without its plaques. It's the type of statue that wouldn't have been out of place in momento park in Budapest. It just screams communist propaganda. Absolutely fascinating it's still here. Romania feels as though it hasn't come to terms with its communist past as much Hungary (where they mention the "bad old days" every moment possible). Perhaps it was because the suppression of Ceausescu was a far worse force than what the Soviet Union stood for - therefore a dead Ceausescu is a free Romania. I don't know. *Goes off to find some further reading material*
Next door is a huge Roman mosaic floor. Quite an impressive relic from the 3rd century. Old! Sadly though, like a lot of Constanta, the centre is in dire need of funding and regeneration. It appears it was built in the 70s and nobody has updated it since.
Next stop, a little bit of learning at the museum. Mainly lots of very old pots but very interesting to see the Roman history and artefacts.
The drizzly weather calls for JB to continue is coffee education. So here he is in his hippy shirt enjoying a Vanilla Latte Macchiato. He loves it. The blaring music choices of the venue were questionable - including the non radio edit of Thrift Shop by Macklemore... Which features the crude lyric "what up I got a big c..." You get the picture. JBs reaction to the line is pictured.
Parts of Constanta are beautiful but a lot of the city is run down and a bit sad. This project either started or set to finish in 2002 is a prime example. Recessions suck.
The sun shied away today and the sky decided to be a little drizzly. It's still warm mind. And probably our skin could do without much more roasting today anyway! Today we left Mamaia and parked Jonah up in Constanta for a little look around. Constanta is rather old and dates back to Roman times when it was called Tomis. We wandered the pretty sea front promenade which has been beautifully restored. The old Casino is a little sad mind and desperately needs restoring.

1 June 2016

After a day of being suitably cooked in the sun we cycled into the "centre" of Mamaia for a beer and some ice cream (separately of course, I only once tried them mixed when I was 13... I pretended it was delicious but I can assure you it was foul.) We got a good people watching spot and were surprised at the number of people out and about. In the height of season this place is probably pretty evil! We're about 4km from the centre and forgot about the fact the sun goes down after 9pm. The cycle back was reasonably stressful in the pitch dark - yep, we are pretty stupid sometimes. We got a jump when several dogs shot out at us barking. We then realised they were cute little puppies and balls of fluff. Not quite vicious killers.
We found a comfy spot on the beach in a oh-so-cool bar with giant bean bag cushions. We lazed with a beer in hand and I took this photo to be smug. The beach is busier than yesterday and it looks like the season is well on its way. The music is pumping and there are several pairs of beautiful bronzing breasts dotted along the beachfront! You know what they say 'when in Rome...ania'...
Ahhh.... The time we had been looking forward to - eating breakfast outside 😍 Today is set to be a lazy beachfront day. As the sun is so warm this morning we also took the opportunity to do some laundry. Turns out I was the first person of the season to ask to use it as the receptionist knew it existed but didn't know where it was! An overly friendly security guard led me to its secret location, making small talk in Romanian and determined I'd understand if he did actions. Bizarrely the camp has filled up this morning with many many teenagers having bbqs. No idea why ... Maybe because it's Wednesday? Or 1st June? They look like they're having fun anyway. The boys are all on bbq duty whilst the girls sunbathe - gender roles developing nicely... Interestingly these kids don't appear to be glued to their cell phones so maybe they know how to socialise here? Good on em.

31 May 2016

Then we chillaxed at camp, sat on top of our India Sari rug πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ
Mamaia is Romania's answer to Bulgaria's Sunny Beach resort (Think Magaluf - Ayia Napa - Malia etc). However we're a good month away from the start of the season here so a lot of the bars and all of the clubs (particularly on a Tuesday) are still setting up. Still that didn't stop us from having a pleasant walk along the beach and back - stopping for a beach pint. I think we ended up walking about 8km... A slightly different scene from yesterday! It is rather nice getting some warmth on board. And reaching the Black Sea is quite a land mark - we're almost at our furthest point from "home". (Technically our home moves every day with us 😊).
As Mander (guide on our African overland trip) would say - today, long day of driving. We were up early to beast the drive over to Constanta, or more specifically Mamaia on the Black Sea. Just short of 380km. The drive took us over 4 hours and we arrived in time for lunch and to set up camp... In 29 degree heat! Hurrah!

30 May 2016

Our route back to the cable car involved quite a bit more of snow crunching and few laughable falls. We had an amusing moment where a guide was leading a bunch of inappropriately dressed teenagers (I'm talking jeans, shorts and cheap trainers) around a small patch of snow not far from the cable car. As we approached he said to us "you cannot go through, you'll have to walk around". Slightly confused we waited until he was out of sight and continued. Turns out he had been referring to small patch of snow. I mean bloody hell he is about to get a shock if they're walking where we've just been!!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ We obviously look pathetic. I heard him say he thought we were Americans... By the cable car are some interesting rock formations - most tourists seem to only get this far! This is the Sphinx (looks Egyptian no?!). A few rumbles of thunder and crashes of lightening in the distance looked rather threatening and we endured a 30 second hail storm. Otherwise it stayed dry all day! Winner!
Our lunch spot was below the "summit 1.5hrs" sign. Pretty sure it'd take a bit longer than that today!! Looking ahead you can see it is most certainly not open - a LOT of snow. Time for some piccies and a bit of infectious Romania Romance aye?
The scenery is just incredible and actually I think we're quite lucky to see all this snow - all the more dramatic!
As we walked further up the path became, in places - ok many places, quite snowed under. In general is was easy to shuffle through with the snow coming up to our ankles but every so often one of us would fall in and go up to our knees. Usually accompanied by the other laughing hysterically at the other. πŸ˜‚ The sun is warm though so it's all good and our shoes are mostly water proof.
We made it out to the cross easily and posed for some epic pictures. The view is, as you can see, stunning. Great place for a wee too. πŸ˜‚
Our original plan was to climb to the peak - usually a 6 hour round hike. However yesterday we were informed there is still snow up here and it makes the pass impassable. Bummer. So basically the only loop we can do is a 4 hour one on lower grounds which is still absolutely gorgeous. We didn't quite anticipate seeing snow so early on our walk mind but it's fairly thin here.
Today was the day we put on our staunch faces and go climb around some mountains. Met with another glorious morning we drove to the local cable car to ride up into the Bucegi Mountains. The first leg of our journey will be walking out to the Cross (war memorial) on the edge of the cliff. Woo! The cable car fits in 20 punters. That included a smug kiwi (they get everywhere) who felt he knew everything about the mountains as he went up yesterday. Turns out we knew more due to our Romanian contacts! Ahuh! Nice enough bloke though - he's flying back down on a parachute apparently. Typical antipode nutter.

29 May 2016

Another castle selfie...
Peles Castle (up the hill) was well worth a visit. Completed in the early twentieth century it reminded me more of a rich persons mansion than old stately palace. It was built by King Carol I who was German born and liked to mimick home in architecture. The inside was insane. It was actually fairly similar (but on a more regal and expensive scale) to some of the decor in the hotels in Las Vegas. Insane. The decadence inside is just unbelievable! Sadly we couldn't take pictures inside but I'll try and Google some. My colour matching outfit today and Jons glowing tan has made us look native as we've been spoken to in Romanian several times by people who speak perfect English. Once they realise we're English speakers we get the usual question - "America?" Not sure whether this is a compliment or not...
Today was a little slow to start from last night's boozing. We did, however, get in an hour's work out on camp. Which I think was pretty impressive according to my headache. We moved on from Vampire Camping and turned towards the mountains. Jon had found a campsite online in Busteni and we popped in to check we would be OK for tonight before driving into Sinaia. I'd probably describe the campsite as more of the back garden and carpark of a tyre garage... But it's very cheap and we will be the only ones staying πŸ˜‚ After a parking kuffufle and walk around Sinaia we had enormous cakes and felt quite pleased about it. Good thing we did a work out this morning...

28 May 2016

There was a full intention of taking some lovely "at dinner" photos. I put a dress on and everything! We dined at the local Italian and had delicious Pizza. Jon wisely ordered a 1 litre carafe of local white wine and we promptly forgot to take any decent photos. Here we are on our way back into camp. Not gonna lie, pissed as farts. Cracking day and evening. The write up of the day should and will end here!
Today is not the day for wine out of a plastic bottle. We're fortunate enough to have several bottles of champagne knocking about. Like one does. Planning ahead the MoΓ«t has been chilling in the fridge all day. We even have champagne flutes. Our collapsible bucket made a fantastic little table for our glasses too. Cheers to five years! This really is glamping.
On the way back to Jonah we stopped off at a local wine store. We tried some of the local brew and ended up buying a 2 litre plastic bottle of white for less than Β£4...!
Castle selfies ❀️
We parked Jonah back up at Vampire Camping and headed up the road on foot to Bran Castle. Bran Castle is nicknamed Dracula's castle for no real reason other than people drawing conclusions and parallels with fiction. The castle has an interesting history but most recently had been Queen Marie (One of Queen Vic's grandchildren - but weren't all the royals in Europe?!) of Romania's summer house. It obviously became a museum and was nationalised in the late forties when the Royals were kicked out and the commies came in. Romania has since gifted the castle back to the Royal descendants who now reside in America. This has meant in recent years the castle has had a revamp and has been restored to how it would have been in the 1920s. It's an excellent place to visit albeit rather busy on a gorgeous hot sunny Saturday! Just a comment on JBs salmon shorts. Today's their first outing, he purchased them in Budapest H&M. I think he looks cracking in them. Just saying. So tan...!
After having the warm fuzzies from the epic bears we clattered down the road for a coffee and white hot chocolate. We were over taken by a rapidly moving farm vehicle πŸ˜‰ This weather though!!!
What a lovely activity for our anniversary. The sanctuary was truly wonderful and a very worthy cause. They only show around three groups a day so after midday the bears aren't disturbed by gawking tourists. If they don't like humans they're able to hide in the trees of course! We certainly did not see anywhere near 83 bears that's for sure. One chap asked our guide why they castrated the male bears, "in a few years, you won't have any new bears for the sanctuary" he said. Our guide replied "yes, that's the idea." Some people still don't get it! For all the EU Union bashers out there we were glad to hear that EU laws are reportedly extremely strict around the issue of animals neglect. If someone is caught with a bear today the punishment under EU law is very harsh. Apparently this has gone a long way in preventing people from trying to "domesticate" or abuse bears. Too bloody right. Wonderful place.
This beautiful boy is Max. Max was rescued from a family who used to sell pictures of him standing on his hind legs next to tourists. His "owners" blinded him at a young age to make it safer for people to approach. We watched him sniff around for food and waddle about - he also has arthritis in his back legs from standing on concrete for years. Humans can be such bastards.
Today's first stop was at the Libearty Bear Sanctuary. The biggest in Europe with 83 resident bears. The sanctuary was set up to house rescued captive bears - bears bread in captivity for the tourist or entertainment trade. When we arrived we watched a heart wrenching film on how the founder discovered some of the inhabitants. All of them have their own sad stories - most were kept in tiny cages and had been starved in order to perform tricks for food. Some lived in restaurants, some were lead around by a leash for the tourist trade, others were forced to ride bicycles in the Romanian circus. Desperately sad stories. The sanctuary is a huge 'open' enclosure mimicking the natural habitat of the bears. The fence is obviously there to protect us and them - the photos might look like they're in a cage but the place was huge! The bears were beautiful creatures and clearly had a marked improvement in quality of life. They're so cute!
The gods of love were shining down on us today - we awoke to stunningly beautiful blue skies and bright sunshine. I had to stop to take these photos en route this morning as the scenery was just breath taking. We hadn't even seen the mountains around us before due to the cloud coverage!
Today is... Dun dun duhhh... Our 5th Wedding Anniversary! Hurrah. On one hand I can't quite believe it's been that long and on the other so much has changed in 5 years. There has been so many highs and many lows - the same with every marriage I'm sure. But without any avoidance of doubt this year has been our absolute high. Seeing the world and travelling every day has changed us both for the best. We're so lucky to share the daily journey with each other and we really have become proper partners in crime. Here is to many many more years together! We were so grateful to receive some lovely cards and gifts from some uber organised friends and family. Especially Harriet who got us a customised spoon!! Of course - 5 years is symbolised by wood, sure you all knew that!

27 May 2016

One imagines that this chap hasn't quite got a strong enough grasp on the English language. Interesting choice of cap.
We gave ourselves plenty of time to work out how to get back to Bran and our campsite. We worked out which outer city bus station was required and caught a bus to it. To our delight the Bran bus was a coach this time. And beautifully decorated in thousands of air fresheners.
Our last activity of the day was riding the cable car up to the Hollywood-esque Brasov sign on the hill for epic views. The views were epic. The B was big. The cable car was ... Old! And rickety and probably in need of a serious service. Nobody died!
Oh wait sorry... This could be random sighting of the day. Topless man using a swing as gym equipment. Random.
Brasov main square - this warm sun called for an emergency ice cream, obviously.
Random sighting of the day goes to these ambulance drivers kicking a football around at the back of the hospital!
The sun unexpectedly came out - the forecast had been exceedingly pessimistic. Lucky really as the views from the towers on the side of the hill were outstanding. Sadly the two towers that had been lovingly restored only a few years ago appear to be closed to the public once again. Brasov gives the impression that it had a make over 10 years ago and since then nobody's spent much time touching it up. Hope someone will soon! Still beautiful mind. Jb looking mighty fine here too.
Another interesting church - this is the black church. Gothic style that was mainly built to tell the Turks to do one. The bloke with the pointy finger is a famous scholar named Honterus who wrote the rules of the reformation. We connected.
Brasov is a delightful town to wander and we set off ticking off the lonely planet's must sees. This is apparently the narrowest street in Europe. It's quite narrow.
Today was the perfect opportunity to have a day off driving. As there is a bus stop just outside the campsite we decided to catch the bus into the city of Brasov. The bus (a mini bus) turned up ten minutes before the schedule but as others were getting on we did too. We paid the driver and then found we were to share the front seat as there wasn't any others left! An old woman did her best to give me her seat but I insisted she probably (definitely ) needed it more than I did! Maybe she was gunning to sit half on JBs lap. Have to say a bumpy ride with half a butt cheek on the seat wasn't ideal. We also discovered it only took us to the outskirts of town (a bus station) so we had to then catch another bus. But we made it!

26 May 2016

This evening's a "shut ourselves inside" evening. The rain is pouring! It's times like this I'm thankful for buying such a large van. To be honest the size hasn't really inhibited much - a few low roads avoided and parking is a bit more of a performance (barely though). The benefits, such as stretching out on the sofa whilst I watch JB cook, have really outstripped the potential negatives. And for those interested, our bed above the cab is very comfortable! We've both got used to the ceiling being close to our heads (I have only headed butted it a few times!) and using a ladder to get up and down. It's a lot easier than making a bed every night for sure.
We arrived in the rain at Vampire Camping in Bran (cracking name). It's supposedly in view of Bran castle ("Dracula's castle") but the torrential rain cloud has hidden it. We carefully chose our pitch on this sodden site after driving around a few laps - we're slowly becoming wise. With the rain pouring on down we made use of the wifi and washing facilities. We did laugh at a Dutch van getting stuck in the mud. An American guy kindly went to help but got mud flicked up his trousers! The campsite owner kindly pulled the Dutch out and washed the American's trousers (who also had to have a shower!). Campsite owner found it all rather hilarious and has proceeded to tell the story to everyone that walks into reception. Hehe. I also had a lovely phone call from my sister to discuss plans for when she joins us in 2 weeks time. Hopefully in the sun...
On we drove towards Brasov and Bran. The rain persisted it down but never mind - we are in Transylvania and that's quite cool. As we drove back out onto the main road we spotted this monster castle on the hill in the town of Rupea. This part of the world is full of medieval towns and fortresses which we plan to explore! And of course home to the famous Dracula. Which made me think of Dracula's Cabaret in Melbourne - this is kinda different to that! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚
After elevensies another little wander of this funny little town. We found a shop and bought a rug for the van. We then watched the horse and cart drive by. Some random horses were chilling by the van on the way back too! Virtually all of the cars are visitors. On the first photo you'll see a hollowed log, it's an animal trough we found out. We initially parked in front of it but then had a knock on the window by a lady telling us to move!
After the church we wandered in the drizzle and tried not to slip over in the mud! We thought we'd try find a cafe, if possible, for a hot drink. We noticed the sign for this place but couldn't tell if it was open. Before we knew it a lady stuck her head out of the window and madly waved us in. We walked into what seemed like someone's kitchen under construction and sat on some home made benches. She made us a pot of coffee on the stove and microwaved up some delicious cake (the light turned off when the microwave was on πŸ˜‚). Both coffee and cake were delicious. Jon's been "getting into" coffee this year as its what all the Europeans drink. He thoroughly enjoyed the coffee and is now a fully fledged coffee drinker. Great news! A totally random and unpolished little place but perfect in every way. The lady was lovely and charged next to nothing. Great find.
In the church walls is the Lard Tower. Which I take offence for being asked to pose by JB - although apparently innocent. Incredibly this room was used up until the early 1990s (yes 20th century) as a cool storage area for the towns lard as nobody had fridges. Each family would come up every Sunday to collect a piece of lard from their respective pile for the week. Totally amazing this was still happening in our life time!
As you can see it's rather drizzly today. Bring back the sun!!
We climbed up the tower via steps in utter darkness then a dodgy wooden structure that felt like it would snap any minute. We laughed at how the EU health and safety regulations really had spoiled the fun... Not! JBs height doesn't mix well with low bars. Although this was even too low for a short ass like me! Great views over the rural town.
The rickety old church was an absolute delight inside. The wooden structure creaked as we wandered around and the peasant paintings were amazing. I find these buildings so much more impressive than the polished cathedrals in the cities.
First stop today was the village of Viscri. A village a 8k off the main road (semi tarmac!) that is an excellent example of peasant life and culture. Our lonely planet book from 2011 sited that this village really was off the tourist track. Times have changed a little since and we were pleased to see a few more tourists clattering down the road to join us. The main road through the town is dirt. First stop was the charming 13th C church - unbelievable building that I can't believe is still standing. It also had a bizarrely good local museum inside.
A drizzly morning turned to sunshine and a last opportunity to admire the view and laugh at our camping pitch! The showers had an interesting arrangement where there were no doors (just shower curtains) that opened out onto two huge Windows. No split for men and women so we showered next door to each other. Luckily there are only two other campers who have left already!

25 May 2016

This evening the sun reared its head to shine down on Sighisoara as we sat from the restaurant/campsite with a beer in hand. Between us we had 6 pints and it cost us no more than Β£6. Ideal.
The tower from the road, complete with fluffy stray posing for us. Wish I could save all the doggies 😩
The rumbling sky and incredibly architecture
Turns out we've come fairly far!
Where there's a tower and view point we go! This rickety museum tower was almost Indian-esq in its labelling "model cart". The views from the top were very worth it though.
Dracula was born here and as a result there are quite a few vampire themed things knocking around. There's a vampire film festival this weekend and everything! We enjoyed his bust here - complete with 1980s porn star moustache.
Classic Romanian wheels πŸ‘ŒπŸΌ
This old medieval town is beautiful and ever so colourful! We even managed to sit and have a drink in the square as the rain stopped.
After settling the arrangement with the restaurant (to be fair it's extremely cheap and has showers, toilets and electric) we drove back down to explore Sighisoara. Lots more wandering and marvelling at old buildings - like this 13/14th century church. It's all very Harry Potter!
On the downside it is certainly not a walk into town. On then plus side... The view is incredible! (Once you walk around the marquee!)
Today we decided to poodle back down to Transylvania and specifically the town of Sighisoara (Dracula's birth place). We stopped at Lidl on the way. I had found a central campsite on my campsite app that we headed towards. Reassuringly there were giant yellow signs pointing us to our destination. However when we arrived there were construction workers everywhere digging. I tiptoed in and managed to find the owner. He explained he had problems. Don't say... And shook his head and said "try Vila Franka". Luckily I had seen the sign for this place so we followed the signs! It turned out its actually a restaurant with a "bit out the back" to camp on. Our view is the back of a marquee πŸ˜‚

24 May 2016

Our journey out of the national park was the "long way round" but on seemingly bigger roads that seemed a safer bet. Romania is clearly unpredictable however and once again someone stole the road for a km. But only a km... So we're all good. It's hilarious that they just let you drive on down essentially a construction site. We've ended up tonight at the same campsite just outside Cluj Napoca as there really isn't many sites in Romania. It often means longer driving days and little / no choice. At camp JB cleaned Jonah as it was rather over due! The rain then joined us so we cooked a curry.
There he is! Looking grand and majestic 😊 And a seriously dodgy looking sky above!
Another amazing cave. However... Several crashes of thunder and an extremely threatening sky called for a turn back and get the f out of there!!
Another walk this morning into the Hot Summers Gorges. Lots of amazing caves and dodgy terrain to cross!
We slept well in the silence of the mountains and awoke to the sun shining through the mountains- not a bad view from the kitchen. However it did drop to 2 degrees in the night so I found it challenging leaving the bed (then again I usually have this problem regardless). We had a bit more fun leaving the campsite. With wet dew on the grass and us being parked on a slope, we slid when we tried to pull away. After several attempts of slipping around on the spot we attempted other means. After poking around we found some planks and gradually bit by bit got Jonah closer to the road. We were there after 20 mins or so... Every day is like a team building exercise! We're getting good at these things now!

23 May 2016

Today was definitely a day for spare ribs and a bottle of red. Well deserved driver!
Our hour walk had turned into three hours and closely resembled an assault course akin to tough mudder! A brilliant trip though, very worth while. Whilst we relaxed with a cup of tea (I can hear my dad from here accusing me of being middle aged!) a herd of sheep was driven past for grazing. Idyllic.
After tarzaning our way down we stopped for a rest and for photos. With the go pro I could get the line trees above us all joined up. We're basically sat at the bottom of a huge pit - look how tiny the trees look! The other side of the "fortress" had a ladder to exit which I preferred over pulling myself up a rope with - so we went that way. This lead to another huge pit. As we walked around this one I suddenly hit an icey blast. The entrance of a cave was blowing freezing air out into the hot summer's day! Was bizarre, never felt that before.
Having clambered through the forest and over all sorts of rocks and sheer drops we came out to The Fortress of Ponor. A bloody massive cave! Absolutely incredible, I've never seen one so huge that doesn't have a ticket kiosk at the front (!). You can't tell in the photos but to get down to the bottom of the cave involved a climb/abseil essentially down. The "pathway" has chains and ropes to hold onto.
As these things go the "lets just see what's over the hill" scenario leads to a longer walk. We discovered we weren't far from a big cave that was recommended to us so we ventured on! The path snaking us into the forest and the terrain becoming more challenging. We're quite expert at jungle trekking mind since Malaysia and Australia! Bit colder here though, even some snow! Which is weird because it certainly doesn't feel cold enough for snow.
This clearing is called Poiana Pona. It's essentially where this river flows and floods in times of high waters. What's interesting though is there are two whirl pools that suck the water underground and the river disappears at the end of the pool.
What better way to de-stress than to get right into the thick of the national park? We decided to follow a sign and do a little walk. Obviously we decided to bring a selfie stick as that's one of the most useful tools in the mountains. I did imagine some staunch hikers coming round the corner to see two Brits using a pink selfie stickπŸ˜‚ See the caves behind us! Scenery is mad beautiful, the photos don't do it justice.
Thankfully we arrived at the Glavoi camping ground fairly easily with just one gravel road to contend with (in comparison was a non issue!). Glavoi camping is actually just an area people are allowed to camp in - it has no facilities. So in all it is wild camping (free!). There are a few huts that turn into bars in the busy season mind - currently deserted. We joined the one tent on the site and admired the remote and beautiful surroundings.
Jon had a cup of tea and spot of lunch to get over the exhausting hours driving. Time to de-stress! And laugh at how ridiculous it had all been!
Then. As randomly as it ended, the perfect smooth Tarmac returned. So bizarre. Or it would be bizarre if I hadn't seen the sign behind us (so for oncoming traffic) that said (in Romanian of course) "closed 2015-2016" with a big no entry sign above it. Ah. Well that explains why nobody's filled the holes then. It's been closed for well over a year and probably endured 2 winters. You know... A sign the other end might help...!
I would say that no picture can explain how awful this road was. But this is probably quite close! The hole was just narrow enough for our wheels to fit either side. I got out and guided us over and a snails pace. The hole was probably 3-4feet deep. Our average speed was around max 10miles an hour. To say this road was unsuited to our vehicle is a gross understatement. You'd feel pretty staunch on a 4x4 expedition. Twice we "hit" something or heard a bang. We're hoping that hasn't damaged anything significant...
Then essentially a small lake materialised in front of us. I had to get out and leap from log to log to check our exhaust wasn't going to go under. We were good. The road basically deteriorated from there. But we got to a point where it would have been just as stupid to go back as it would be to carry on. And hope the other end of the national park wouldn't be so horrendous.
With about 20km left of our journey today with warning they took away the road. And I mean.. Not just stopped the Tarmac. Oh no. I mean a holey, muddy, bolder filled track took its place. We hoped this may be for a small stretch only...
Turns out it is virtually new as we soon came across them still working hard on bits. Of course this meant having to wait for a bit whilst they fiddled around. Getting more and more remote I think the right hand drive and gb plate is quite novel. We wave but usually get a stunned look back.
After yesterday's fiddling about day today was a doing day! We're off to try our first spot of "wild camping" (ie camping with no other facilities but our own, although it is a designated ground). The road up into the Apuseni mountains snaked through glorious views in stunning sunshine. We were pleasantly surprised by how smooth and fabulous the road is, it looked virtually new!

22 May 2016

The oh so exciting moment of truth. Today our lives have only been focused on breathing and completing our quest to find a gas bottle. Jon, after not much fiddling, fitted the new European bottle successfully to the van AND managed to squeeze in our UK bottle into the locker. This is what success looks like people. I'd like to apologise to everyone who has just wasted a few moments of their lives reading this boring story. I can reassure you, living it felt just as much a waste of time πŸ˜‚ Tomorrow: we head for the mountains.
Petrol station number 4 since leaving the DIY shop had gas bottles that looked appropriate. Trouble is the pump attendant had no idea what we wanted. Once again a chain of around 4 people and much gesturing and confusion (first it was thought I wanted a bottle for petrol..). Finally I managed to convince them to let us pick up a bottle and see if it would fit. And it bloody did! And guess what? The regulator fits too! As boring and sad as this story has been to read you can not underestimate how happy I am we finally sorted this. We probably visited around 10 shops and asked over 15 people to get to the stage.... Haha! On the way back to the campsite we saw this sign stuck up. Cora is the family dog. It's not relevant to the story... But maybe links to many dog references of the day.
We arrived at camp. I had a feeling this campsite would know all there would be to know about gas bottles and regulators. The feeling was unfortunately inaccurate. Let the saga begin. The campsite recommended the petrol station. They had no regulators (so could buy the bottle but couldn't attach it to our van). So we returned to camp to use their wifi. This time a search for camping shops or stores that potentially sold regulators. We settled on a trip into Cluj Napoca 14km away. First, Decathalon.. Utterly useless, only sold hiking gas and had a deal on polarised sunglasses. Second, I found a DIY store that's logo is a dog wearing a hard hat - a brand you can trust, hopefully. The drive there was classically kerfuffly and involved making last minute turns to avoid "max height 2.5m"(!) The store was utterly enormous. We found nothing by the bbqs and nothing in the plumbing section. We started to think we will never be able to cook again!
Determined that this darn shop would have what we wanted I set about asking various people "hello, is a little English ok?" Seems to do the trick (and to be fair they all speak pretty decent English! Lucky us!). After a chain of about 6 different staff members all asking each other we found the right chap who nonchalantly produced the regulator. He didn't understand the excitement and joy on these random Brits faces..! Sorted. Next, a gas bottle that will fit in the locker.
A quick stop for lunch in "Turda" and a chuckle over the name. The outskirts of Turda live up to the name but the centre was quite pretty! It's not very touristy so we had a few number plate pointers. I wave. Also in the course of today's journey we have seen a box with around 6 1 week old puppies in abandoned at the side of the road AND (at a different location) a dead dog splattered across the road. 😭 I was so sad 😩
We're pleased to see they're clamping down on thugs. Oh wait... Or are they protecting thugs?! Or... Maybe they are thugs...
A longish day of driving today which means more "laugh at names of foreign towns that sound vaguely like a rude English word" moments. Ha.
First stop this morning was a mission to find a gas bottle and new regulator. We already knew that our UK gas bottle couldn't be refilled or exchanged and had prepared to buy a European bottle when the time came. Potentially, it turns out, it may have been easier to have done this in Hungary. The Internet and the people we've spoken to seem to be unsure on the matter and most petrol stations we've come across only have provision to refill refillable bottles (ie have no bottles themselves). On our way out of Sibiu I spotted this petrol station with a line up of bottles. We pulled in and started the fun. They're all too big to fit in our gas locker (don't say chamber...) but the guy at the station was very helpful and is set about googling for us! Unfortunately we aren't really able to buy anything online (lol) and he couldn't seem to get past the fact we weren't after a replacement UK gas bottle. But friendly and helpful none the less. We will keep on trying...

21 May 2016

Before getting back to camp we dropped by the supermarket to stock up. Foreign supermarkets are always entertaining for its different foods but this one was a first. Sounds like a right delicacy! Of course I did use google translate and crap is Romanian for Carp.
The museum is enormous, you could easily spend a day here if you're into old architecture. We looked around a few last bits before heading off. When we got back to the van it appears most of Sibiu had arrived and were all fighting for spaces. Not quite sure what's happening this evening but it sounds like quite the event!
After a while we decided to move on and followed these blokes instead.
It appears the crowds were gathered to watch millions of children dressed in traditional costume take part in some sort of dance recital. We watched for a bit and it was quite cute. A bit crowded though and full of Romanian dance mums. It reminded us of a kind of folk style cheer competition without glitter...
As we walked along the lake we saw this horse and cart coming clattering down the path. Jon noticed a pushchair abandoned in the middle of the path up ahead of us so quickly ran and push it to the side so the horse wouldn't run into it. Not sure if it got lost in translation but it appeared the guy on the cart assumed the push chair was ours and shouted at us (obviously in Romanian) and waved a hand in our direction. We were kind of expecting a thank you?!!
Just outside the city Sibiu boasts Romania's largest open air museum. It's a bit like Singleton in the uk but bigger... And Romanian. It was a great place to wander and look at the old peasant buildings albeit without much explanation. The museum started in the communist era. Something we've notice actually. A lot of historical sites in Eastern Europe cropped up in soviet times. I think it was there way of saying "SOOO this is the OLD way, ancient history, not for now".
I posed by the lake in park and we wondered why so many people had gathered on the other side...
Jon and I do a lot of people watching. This bloke wearing micro shorts and hiking boots walking a fluffy dog was a particular highlight.
It was an absolutely spectacular sunny day today so it would have been rude not to buy an ice cream. Ice cream is also delightfully cheap here! Don't be fooled by Jon's jumper. It was warm. I think spending most of the year above 30 degrees has amended Jon's warmth threshold.
Now we're right into Romania I am starting to notice the ever increasing number of one coloured track suits. Classic Eastern European attire. It appears that fashion here follows around 20 years behind the UK.
On the way up the tower there were several photo exhibitions. Because I secretly have the personality of a twelve year old boy I found this photo particularly amusing and had a little snigger. If you don't know why, don't ask.
The old council tower was worth the climb with stunning views over the old city. I have to say though the various Romanian families who were climbing the tower were particularly rude and unfriendly (barging past, not waiting on the stairs etc). Which seemed to be a contrast to the Hungarians we have met. But hopefully they were an anomaly! The clock in the building is 15th century - and still going! That is rather old. Talking of rather old, it's my Dad's birthday today - happy birthday Rob.
Today we took it easy and drove the 13km into Sibiu city. We did our usual roaming of European city thing and I made my usual comment on how Walt Disney definitely based his fairy tales on these sorts of European medieval towns. Sibiu was the European capital for culture in 2007 and you can see why. It's a picturesque city with cafes and bars spilling out into squares. Today there appears to be "some kind of auto-vintage meet" (a Bates brothers catchphrase) of old fashioned BMW cars, bit random!
We started the (very sunny!) morning off with a jog into the local village and our usual circuits by the van. Once again we were interrupted by a hound, this time this one just wanted to lay down next to us during floor exercises!

20 May 2016

Quite the view from my lounge 😊
This was definitely a day for Proseco πŸΎπŸ˜‚πŸ˜‰πŸ‘πŸΎ
We thankfully arrived at Ananas Camping mid afternoon. The campsite is in the running for "favourite" so far. The owners are a lovely friendly Dutch couple who were extremely welcoming and gave lots of helpful advice. The views are outstanding - snow capped mountains in the distance, amazing!
The driving fun didn't end there. Today we had our first "crash". Whilst following a slow lorry a van decided to overtake us on a blind bend! We saw him as he was alongside and then also noticed the car coming the other way!!! The van cut in quickly, Jon swerved over into the verge and slammed the breaks on. Low and behold the van was bloody towing a trailer! The trailer swung into us and smacked into (thankfully only) our left hand wing mirror and side. Jon hammered on the horn but he obviously didn't want to stop to see if we were OK. Amazingly we had little damage, a small dent - very lucky! There are names for people like him (sorry grandmothers) and that's DICKHEAD! The van in the photo is innocent in this story but his back door kept swinging open and we were worried a child's bike would fall out. Haha oh Romanian drivers!
And on! In fact, that was a 6km queue of stationary traffic! All stopped due to the tree cutting. Not that these people would have known that!!!
And on...
As we drove on the queue went on...
About an hour into our drive today Jon said "it's almost disappointing that the drive has been so easy. I was expecting Romanian driving to be more difficult". So because of this statement we came across a stoppage in the road. It appears they're cutting down trees, oh well we thought we will make it a "wee stop". We were stopped for... An entire hour. No warning, they just shut the road without diversion! It actually would have been longer but the lorry in front of us made a mad dash for it at the end and we accidentally-on-purpose followed. A police man jumped up and down as we drove past looking confused. The traffic following us was stopped but we managed to sneak through. Good work Jb.
We made an early start of it this morning as we've got a few Ks to knock down to Sibiu. Romania is happily building away big roads but aren't quite there so some of the motorways stop and lead you through the villages. Then in the villages these are the types of vehicles to overtake! Reminds me of India..!

19 May 2016

Back at camp Jon made a magnificent Brit-Euro meal. Hungo-Romanian Toad in the hole (Hungarian sausages and the meal was prepared in Romania..) We also endured a gigantic thunder and lightening storm. The heavens completely opened and we were once again pleased not to be in a tent or a silly small van. Great time to cook a toad!
Timisoara's most picturesque square is one that has clearly had a cash injection as many of the buildings have been beautifully restored. It seemed only right to sit and enjoy it with a beer - from Timisoara no less (although reading the label it looks like it has been bought by SAB Miller πŸ˜‚). Ahh ideal.
Timisoara is mainly famous for and proud of the fact the 1989 revolution started here. Famously the city was apparently hated by the hideous dictator that was Ceausescu. This plaque on the Opera house apparently reads "so you, who pass by this building, will dedicate a thought for free Romania". I won't do the history lesson but it's an interesting topic to read about or even just YouTubing Ceausescu's trial and subsequent execution. It is morbidly fascinating.
Snapped this champion - the pigeon whisperer...
Boom. We're in another new country. To be honest, we haven't been sure what to expect with Romania. I am kind of expecting it to be like Hungary but more dodgy. And my first impressions let me think that those suspicions are reasonable. Crossing the border was fine, they're not open borders so we did have to show our passports. The scary (but kinda hot, can I say that?!) policeman wanted to look inside and he stuck his head in to have a look at the mess. He seemed satisfied that we didn't have any reverse illegal immigrants..(!) We arrived in Timisoara just before lunch and set our clocks forward by an hour. We're set up in a very European campsite 4km from the centre. After some cheese we cycled into the city (which was reasonably terrifying for the first 10 minutes before the cycle lane appeared!). We cycled past the eastern block concrete towers and found ourselves in the historic squares of the city which are quite beautiful if not sadly in need of some TLC.