Entering Romania

Lots of castle ruins in Romania

As I write this, Mike and I are once again driving in our RV. We have just left our first campground in Romania after spending more than a week there. The first great thing that we learned about Romanians is that many of them speak some English. There seems to be more English spoken here than there was in Hungary. Remember that all my comments in this post are based on our first week in one area, so they could change as we travel the country. The second thing that we noticed in Romania is that the drivers are extremely aggressive. Knowing that we are going to be on smaller, bumpy roads, that isn’t a pleasant thought.

These driver’s make the thought of bicycling around an area unpleasant. Bicycles are not common here and the closest large town only put bike markings on their roads last year. Most of the drivers ignore the bike lane, including our host. In most areas there is no bike lane, the roads are narrow, and the drivers are fast, which isn’t a great combination. That said, we did do a little biking. We wanted to see some fortress ruins on a hill top. We started up the hill and Mike quickly decided that our bike motors weren’t made for this. Even if they could haul us up, which was unlikely, he was afraid that we would ruin the motors. At that point we turned around and returned the next day in the car. We are now heading into the Carpathian Mountains, so I am guessing that our bike riding won’t be extensive until we get to Croatia.

The castle the bikes didn’t make it to

We did get back to that fortress built on the highest hill in the area the next day. WOW. The fortress was in ruins, but you could see why it had been built where it was. You could see forever. I could just picture the warriors riding up to the castle. The lookouts in the castle would be able to see an enemy coming from anywhere. You could easily see all the villages in the area below. The view was absolutely spectacular.

While biking we rode through the village of Covăsânț. How unusual. It is full of huge mansions, all on tiny lots. Many were unfinished, and I couldn’t tell if they were going up or coming down. Most of them had turrets, which to a tourist looked really interesting. According to the internet these mansions were built by Romas or Gypsy families. The Romas were not at all popular and many years ago they abandoned most of these mansions or palaces to go to Spain and France. For some reason, unknown to me, the turrets are especially disliked. The area won’t approve any more building plans with turrets and they want the existing owners to remove the turrets from their homes. I liked them! The internet implied that these gypsies were poor and lazy. There is something wrong somewhere. No-one can build this many palaces or mansions without some money. You might get away with not paying your bills for a while, but this doesn’t happen on 30 mansions all at different stages. Here is a picture of one of them. There are a couple more in the photo gallery.

Some of the many Gypsy mansions in Covăsânț

While we were biking and driving around we noticed a strange mixture of homes. You would see one fancy house, then maybe 10 regular homes and then a falling down, decrepit place and then it would start all over. Strange.

A very pleasant surprise when we arrived was the cost of internet for our phones. We took advantage of a promo and we both got about 100GB, plus normal phone calls, for $12 Cdn each. That is almost as much data as people have in their homes. I have never heard of that on a phone before with no reduction in speed based on your usage. Together we have somewhere between 160 and 220 GB. We have stopped watching our news on really low quality and have gone to HD. We certainly aren’t conserving at all. To put this in perspective, the most data we could buy in Hungary was 4 GB at a time. We are going to have a reality check when we leave Romania I am afraid. This much, good quality internet, certainly makes a difference to us.

While wandering around the city of Arad we saw a flag with a hole in the middle. We had seen this same effect at the Parliament Buildings in Budapest. I checked on the internet and found out that during the revolution that started in Timișoara in December 1989, the protesters began waving flags with the Communist coat of arms cut out of the middle. The coat of arms was perceived as a symbol of Nicolae Ceaușescu’s dictatorial regime. Apparently Romania was the only Eastern Bloc country where the Communist regime was overthrown violently.

Notice the hole in the flag

Canada needs more ornate plasterers! The plaster work on the exterior of the buildings in the cities is lovely to see. We have been in two cities in Romania so far. Many of the buildings are old and in need of repair. They are still in good enough shape to be attractive to look at. One of the cities, Timișoara, appears to be undertaking some major renovation and giving its historical area a face lift. The town is full of large squares and parks in the pedestrian area. There is more graffiti and signs of less money in Romania than we have seen so far in Europe. The graffiti is still less than what you see in some areas in North America. Although the country has less money that much of Europe you can see infrastructure spending happening. Mike and I have just this minute left an old bumpy “highway” for a modern, smooth one. It doesn’t go very far yet which is too bad. My computer has finally stopped rattling and bouncing as I type.

Meals are less expensive here and the daily specials are usually very cheap. I remember writing last year about McDonalds using the term Menu to refer to a combo meal. In the last article I said how surprised I was that Mike got soup and a meal when he had asked to see the menu. I now realize that asking for the menu must have been the same as asking for the daily combo special in the restaurant. We live, and we learn.

We met a German couple in the campground. They were younger than us and still working. At one point they both took a year off work, shipped their camper to Halifax, and travelled around North America for the year. They would like to do that again when they retire.
A few days ago, I slipped and twisted my ankle. It wasn’t broken or badly sprained, but it did keep me off it for a day or two. It still hasn’t recovered completely but I can walk on level ground. I think I might wait a while before I try hiking in the mountains. I had a relaxing day off that I spent inside the RV working on computer and AV stuff. Mike decided to give the campground owner a hand with building a brick patio. He isn’t used to 10 hours of physical labour these days and I thought that he might be in worse shape than me the next day. Actually, he wasn’t and when we returned from visiting Timișoara Mike put in another few hours working on the patio. I didn’t get to see as much of Timișoara as I would have liked. I was walking very slowly. We stopped first for lunch, walked a little, then rested in a café a short while later and walked a little more. Altogether we didn’t get far from the pedestrian area.

Timișoara: nice even with some plaster work needed

We were unsure of whether or not to come to Romania. Mike has just commented on how pleased he is that we did, and we haven’t even got to Transylvania yet. One problem is that people keep telling us about lovely parts of the country that we don’t think we will get to. It would take many months to see everything that is recommended which is too bad. I anticipate us easily spending one month just in Transylvania and that doesn’t get us to the Danube Delta or the Black Sea or the eastern portion of Romania, all which have been highly recommended.

We are hoping for a little more sleep at our next stop. Who has ever heard of dogs that bark throughout the entire night, including at 2 AM each morning. In addition to the dogs there was a rooster that crowed for hours.

Next note from Transylvania.

Left another tight campground with fewer blooms than before we arrived

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