We’re not in Western Europe anymore and we love it!
So we’ve crossed into the sixth country on our journey and some of us managed to get the first stamp in our passports since arriving in France five weeks ago.
Not only could we actually see the border posts when we entered Romania, the changes all around us were more evident than ever. Though every previous country had its own personality, the changes up to Romania didn’t feel quite as dramatic. But the moment we crossed that border, you knew you weren’t in Western Europe any more. The roads aren’t as smooth as we’ve become accustomed to and the cars not quite as shiny. The buildings are a bit drearier, dogs a bit scruffier, hay bales look different and every now and again you get to overtake a horse-drawn cart. Free range takes on a different meaning as not only chickens roam everywhere and anywhere, but also dogs, cats, turkeys, pigs, cows and sheep.
However, despite the apparent poverty that surrounds us (or maybe because of it?) the people have been welcoming, helpful and friendly. Shopping might have turned into a new challenge as most of the small villages we pass through have no big grocery stores but only small corner shops with owners who can’t really speak English, but it is much more fun seeing the owner giggle at us as we try to explain “olives” or “fish” than it is walking through just another Lidl. One of the riders even had a truck driver hand her a fresh loaf of bread on the road, just to welcome her to the country and bid her farewell on the rest of her journey. And keeping lunch stocked is no longer a challenge when fat, juicy tomatoes, watermelons and plums are for sale next to the road at least three times a day. A personal highlight has been the help at the hotel we are currently staying at when four men helped to unload everyone’s bags and to refill all our jerry cans with water and carry them to the vans… never has this happened before!
And then of course there are the hills. We’ve gradually been climbing more and more every day as we approach the Carpathian Mountains. This coming week we will be well and truly in the mountains as we head up one of the highest paved roads in Europe, the Transfagarasan mountain road. While some dread the climb, others are chomping at the bit to get there. Add to that, the factual and fictional history that will surround us in the next week and I think it is safe to say we are about to have one of the best weeks on tour.
For a quick clip on the Transfagarasan road check this out.