Mike and I love Transylvania. It is a mixture of the Swiss Alps, Bavaria and New Zealand 50 years ago, but much less expensive.
In my last article I mentioned that Mike and I were going to go back to the forest road that we missed before, through the gorge and up the mountain. This time we took our electric bikes. The first part of the ride was lovely and then the mountain got steeper and the path got rockier. Mike’s bike quit a couple of times. It has done this before and it starts right up again. It is like it overheats just a little, stops and then is fine. My bike just keeps on going. We knew that we were going to get have to get off the bikes at some point and continue on foot. We met up with some rock climbers and decided to stop and leave our bikes near them. Just as we were stopping I thought that my bike might have quit but I wasn’t sure and didn’t worry about it. We hiked further into the gorge which was fascinating, and then back to the climbers. We talked to them for a while. They knew our campsite host Constantin, who had been the champion free mountain climber in Romania for many years. We got on our bikes to leave and my bike wouldn’t start. I was surprised because, if it had overheated a little, there had been lots of time for it to cool down. We decided not to worry about it until we got to the bottom of the mountain. It was brakes, not a motor, that I needed going downhill. We coasted down the mountain and I biked into the nearest village. At that point Mike had a good look at my bike and couldn’t find any problem. He took his bike back to the campground to get the car and left me in a café with my cappuccino. Mike spent most of the following day trying to diagnose the problem. It helped that he could switch parts back and forth between the two bikes to see what worked and what didn’t. He eventually diagnosed a controller with a million wires in and out of it (or so it seemed) as not working. We called Solo Rock in Toronto, where we purchased the bike and they said that they would try and rush a new controller to us. They could either ship it from Toronto or China, whichever was faster. We were leaving in two days for a destination about a 2 ½ hour drive away. We said that if the part could arrive within 10 days to have it sent to the campground we were currently in and we would drive back in the car to pick it up when it arrived. I wasn’t looking forward to 5 or 6 hours in the car but I did want my bike working again. The other alternative was to ship it to a campground that we know we are going back to, but it could be over a month before we would get there, and I didn’t want to be without the bike the entire time.
On the morning we were leaving the water filter in the RV exploded and the bottom of the plastic case shot off. Mike drove to the closest town, about 25 minutes away, to look for another filter. Around lunch time, Mike was in the car returning to the RV when I had a knock on the door and the part for my bike had just been delivered! It was ordered from Toronto, shipped from China and received in a campground in rural Romania in just 2 or 3 days. My thanks to Charles at Solo Rock for arranging everything (all under warranty). If it wasn’t for the filter problem, Mike and I would have already left the campsite before the parcel arrived. Who knew that an exploding filter would be a good thing. Mike fixed the filter and we left that afternoon. We didn’t arrive at our next campground until 7pm that evening. It was an extremely tight fit to get the RV in past the gate and the wall of the house. I think that if it had been earlier in the day I would have given up and suggested that we go elsewhere. Mike did get in and we settled for the night. The next morning, my great husband fixed my bike. I am looking forward to a sunny day tomorrow and a nice ride through this new area.
Bike problems or not we had a great time in Alpin Ranch and actually stayed there 10 nights. On two different occasions they had a group of people spending the night and Constantin and Otilia prepared a grill or barbeque for them as part of their package. Mike and I were invited to attend both times and enjoyed a great meal at no charge. Have a look at the picture of the grill. It isn’t your typical North American barbeque. While we were staying at Alpin Ranch our hosts came around a few times with things to munch on. Twice they brought us warm crepes and jam which are very popular here. Once they brought a basket of fresh bread, meat, cheeses and vegetables to make sandwiches from. They were great hosts and we had a super time.
It is just fascinating what you see when you drive around. You can be driving down a rural road and if you look off to the side you will see an old castle or fortress on the hillside. Things are so different than from home. One castle that we did stop in and see was in Rasnov. The picture at the top of this article shows it from a distance where it looked like one of the nicer complexes. When we actually got into it, the entire place was in ruins. That was quite surprising.
We spent this morning touring around a small village that has one health spa. The mud and the waters in the area have long been known for their restorative properties. There is one couple in the campground that go every day to the spa for a few hours. The woman is in a special two-week program for a problem with her shoulder. When she started she couldn’t raise her arm above waist height. She can now get it above her head.
In the communist era this village was known as Bazna Baths. During this period, people in the USSR couldn’t leave the Soviet Union to travel but they could go anywhere within the USSR. This area was quite the tourist destination in those days. Once the communist era ended, tourism almost dried up. The buildings in the village are all owned by private individuals, but they have been allowed to fall into ruin. This photo is of some of the mud baths from days gone by. It is really too bad to see what has happened to some lovely buildings. There was a theatre here, hotels, restaurants and more. Actually, there is still one restaurant that is supposed to be quite good. Mike and I will bike over to it for lunch one day this week. We toured the fortified church in Bazna. Our scale of time is so different from Europe’s. This church was originally built 500 years ago, about the same time that explorers were discovering the Americas. It underwent large restorations in the 1800s before Canada was even a country. It was restored again in 2004. We were told that the school was often placed inside the church’s walls since it was one of the important buildings that needed protection. The villagers would often store their food in the defense towers and just take what was needed to their homes. This was so that if or when they had to flee to the protection of the fortified area, they would still have food to eat.
Here is a picture of a carving that was in the village. It basically shows life starting in the womb and then the baby growing older and older. We all thought it was quite well depicted. It is thanks to Wilma, our current campsite owner that we visited this village. On a side note, this campground is owned by the Dutch couple Wilma and Hans. What is it with Dutch campsites in Transylvania? Wilma knew that they were hosting a special Romanian food tasting and a walking tour of the village. She invited us and an American couple who are house sitting, two doors down to go with her. Bob and Fara, from the US, quit their jobs after 20 years, sold their home and are touring Europe. They started almost a year ago. At the moment they are house sitting in a home with chickens and dogs, while the owners are away for about a month. Apparently, there are multiple web sites where you exchange your services for looking after an empty home, often with animals, in exchange for somewhere to stay. That would be an interesting way of keeping costs down and living like the locals do. Bob and Fara will be visiting us for drinks this evening, I am sure that they will have some interesting stories to tell.
There are times that I miss things from home that we don’t have in the RV. I have had a nasty cold and cough for the last week. At home I have an electric bed which I can raise for sleeping when I get all stuffed up. I do miss that at this moment.
We will be taking out the bikes for the day tomorrow. After that we will be visiting the town of Sighișoara. I have heard great things about this town and I am looking forward to our visit. I will let you know if it lives up to its reputation.