UPDATE FROM BUCHAREST
I ended my last update pre-empting the obstacles ahead and saying “the greater the challenge the greater the reward”. Now I’m eating my words as Romania has taken its toll. I sit here reveling in wonder at the resilience and healing power of the human body. I took a pretty hard spill last week on our way into Baile Herculane. I’m not sure how fast I was going but I was outta gears on a downhill and having fun so probably 45 km/h or so. I narrowly avoided a telephone pole, drainage culvert and piece of rusty sheet metal but hit the sidewalk hard.
Apparently I went ass over tea kettle several times and I was still clipped in for the first couple. Luckily I didn’t break anything or suffer any internal injuries, even though I broke my handlebar with my stomach. The worst part of a road rash is the cleaning process, scrubbing all the sand and dirt out while bathing in hydrogen peroxide.
Slowly but surely all the raspberry jam is falling off and I’ve managed to regain my strength and mobility. I wasn’t the only one to have an accident either. Ginny one of our Aussies actually hit a cow. Not quite sure how, but it was head on and hard enough to snap her front fork in half. The cow walked away startled but unscathed, Ginny however has developed a few bruises since the collision. Last night we were comparing wounds.
The riding conditions here have been quite rough. Very poor road surface, giant man-eating pot holes, no shoulder and insane motorists.
If there is driver instruction in this country the first lesson must be how to use the horn in the most obnoxious manner. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention the Carpathian mountain range, wild dogs and the heat wave. I must say though that this has been the most beautiful country we’ve traveled through. I’m a lover of wilderness far more than anything built by the hands of Man. And day after day we’ve passed incredible mountains, streams and forests. The hills have made the days seem longer but I’d rather cross a mountain pass (or three) over a hundred km of bike path any day. Most of the literature I’ve studied on Romania forewarns about the theft and crime but I’ve found it to be completely untrue. The people here are ultimately kind, friendly and helpful. Their English is far superior to my Romanian and they always go out of their way to offer directions or whatever assistance is needed.
Logistically this has been a challenging part of the tour as Romania has several unknowns in terms of routes and accommodations. So there have been several long days of scouting missions for Jon and I. But we did manage to find some great roads and new places to stay. One of our rest days was in Baile Herculane (the baths of Hercules), a spa/resort town tucked into a river gorge in the mountains. Hot springs and thermal baths everywhere. And this place has been visited by nobility throughout history. Emperors would spend their holidays here; apparently Alexander the Great was a regular. Last weekend at both of our destinations, Targu Jiu and Gaesti, we shared our accommodations with local weddings. It’s just not a cycling tour if you don’t crash at least one wedding. Is a great way to experience a foreign culture, the music, the dance, the food, but unfortunately the festivities lasted till the wee hours of the morning, leaving the riders a little deprived of sleep.
Bucharest seemed to be an interesting city but I didn’t get to see much of it. I was busy dealing with the organization of our convoyed departure. However, the Parliament Palace was quite impressive. It seems like everything there was designed to be huge and exaggerated. I had a great meal in a restaurant that was built in the 1870s. I originally thought it was an old refurbished church, but it has always been a restaurant. Articulate woodwork, paintings and tapestries, a balcony, spiral staircases and cathedral ceiling, created quite the ambiance. And the lamb dish was to die for.
We depart from the Romanian capital en route to country number seven, Bulgaria. The border is defined by our old friend the Danube that we will cross one last time. There we will visit some medieval towns as we make our way to the Black sea and from there it’s only a short distance to Istanbul.