We crossed the the mighty Danube and, after a couple of strange questions from the border officer like where are you going... Bucharest, do you have a hotel reservation..... arghh we are in a campervan!! We entered Romania.
Romania is a pretty big country so we planned to see the west and north of the country on a return visit, that would include Hungry, Ukraine etc. For now it was Bucharest and the south east corner on the way to the Black Sea.
We headed straight for Bucharest and, not having a hotel reservation, we found a campsite about 30minutes out of town, it was quite new and basic but had electricity, and hot showers. A group of Irish families we met had been staying there for 5 weeks! It was peaceful sitting by the lake having dinner, that was until the band started up at the function centre next door, belting out Romanian hits until about 2.00am!!
Being a Sunday I decided to treat Bea to a bacon and egg breaky (reality was we had eggs, bacon and mushrooms left over from other meals and they needed using up, just don’t tell her)
It was 20kms into town so we took an Uber (first time in taxi for 9 months, well since the 280km ride to Lake Baikal) super cheap, and convenient.
After visiting a local market on the fringes of the CBD, where we scored a lovely marinated lamb belly for the BBQ, we headed to Primăverii Palace, the palace of the former communist dictator Nicolae and Elena Ceaușescu.
Funny how quickly the hero’s of the workers become the people they revolted against, funnier still is they were surprised when the working class revolted again!
The BBQ lamb dinner was nice despite it being little cold and a little drizzly, but at least no loud band!
As I noted the plan was to head south east to the Black Sea, so the next morning we turned West! Bea had just realised we were close to Transylvania and wasn’t going to wait a year to do a Dracula road trip. Now obviously Drac never actually existed however Bram Stoker is said to have based his character on this legendary 15th century Voivide of Wallachai, Vlad the Impaler, so we did the same. It is noted at several locations that Vlad the Impaler wasn’t all that legendary, and in fact wasn’t all that brutal for the time, he actually only gained infamy through Mr Stoker. We first visited Curtea de Arges, saw the cathedral that Vlad may have seen, walked down some streets that he may have walked and bought a pastry at a shop that, I’m certain he didn’t.
The final destination was the town of Bran whose castle and (one of) its notorious(ish) inhabitants had first inspired Bram Stoker Dracula’s. As night fell we wound our way, in the dark, up over a treacherous pass in the Carpathian Mountains and into Transylvania. We reached Bran well after dark Bea would just have to wait until the morning!
The castle didn’t open until 9.00 so we had a coffee and perused the souvenir stalls out the front, Vlad may have only lived in the castle for a few years and it was actually an Irish writer who put it on the map, but that wasn’t going to stop the locals wringing out every last Lev from it!!
The castle is unusual in that it is still privately owned by the kin of the last queen of Romania, who actually lived in the castle until 1922
We now finally turned east again climbing through the dramatic Carpathian Mountains and down onto the fertile open plains of rural Romania. This was the Romania of my imagination, undulating farmlands, rustic villages of half built houses, horses and carts and lots of very large cabbages. And I mean lots, truck loads for sale every few hundred metres. Nona’s carrying several back for supper, they must know a few more cabbage recipes than me!
We stayed that night, close to the border, in a hotel car park, (haven’t slept in a hotel parking lot for a long time... sober!) The hotel had good internet, so we went into the bar for a drink and catch up on several things - including our Turkish visas which we had let slip. You have to allow 3 days for processing and we were cutting it fine.
Our plans changed slightly. Initially we intended to catch the ferry across the Black Sea from Varna in Bulgaria to Poti in Georgia. However we found out that the ferry was going to cost nearly $1,500 - ouch! And given the time of year wasn’t leaving until the 24th. We checked the map, if we drove to Georgia it would take 3 days and we could leave a week earlier. So we were now driving around the Black Sea, through Bulgaria and Turkey, to Georgia. Spending some time in Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan then slowly back through Turkey. With the plan agreed, the next morning we once again crossed the Danube, this time by ferry, and on to Bulgaria.