ROMANIA: by car 3500km, by bike 100km. part I : THE MONASTERIES & MORE

Biking across the Mediterranean  I was constantly warned about the troubles of traveling in Albania.  At the end of my journey, I picked Albania as the best country to travel through.  The people, history and nature were all top notch.  I heard similar stories about Romania, the Romas, crime and corruption.  Of course all that did was spark my interest even more about visiting Romania.  I remember when Romania was accepted into the EU, the shouts from the UK were “they’re coming to steal all our metal.”  No need need to worry about that now with Brexit.
We watched  National Geographic’s 3 part series “WILD CARPATHIA”, about Romania  I wanted to know more, so I watched it twice.  At the end I told Natasa “I want to go tomorrow”, her response “Maybe?”  She wanted to go to Belgium, no Belgium for me.  I said I’ll go to Romania alone.  She went into her computer room and found a blog that raved about Romania, then she was on board (finally).
I made an AIR B&B accommodations tour.  We like to camp, but the places we wanted to visit were mostly towns and accommodations in Romania, are a great bargain.  We weren’t sure how far we could drive the first day, so we opted to find a hotel.  When we first crossed the border, Romania was just as I had envisioned.

      We saw  lots of storks on top of the telephone poles.   By the end of the trip all my preconceptions of Romania had changed.
      We found the  great Hotel Romanita whose receptionist told me it was her dream “was” to go to America someday.  I made some small talk with her and went to move the car. Like a lot of people in foreign countries, she said she learned English from watching cartoons.    She upgraded our 50 euro room, to the 3rd floor overlooking the spectacular solar heated pools.  It included a great breakfast too! Right after breakfast I went swimming and Jacuzzi hot tubing.  Both receptionist, Silvia & Cristiana were super fun and funny to talk with.  Cristiana told me about their mayor who was in jail on corruption charges.  While in jail he won the June election with 70% of the vote.

Driving the next day we passed lots of street sellers: tons of watermelons, buckets of forest blueberries & wild mushrooms.  Natasa drove first and I took pictures.  We quickly learned  how CRAZY Romanian drivers are.  The roads are mostly 2 way highways, so Romanian drivers are trying to pass all the time. It’s 2 lanes, with horse carts, bicycles and pedestrians too.  When someone passes (on curves too!) Romanian courtesy is to move as far right as possible and the on coming cars must do the same.  It works fine, as long as everyone plays by the unwritten rule, one F   k up and all beats are off.  I saw lots of cars with 1 meter plus antennas on their cars.  I learned that they radio warnings about the presence of police speed traps. They also flashed their lights warning drivers of the police ahead.  The best was the plywood cut out police cars, I saw a couple of them.
There were many road side tourist shops, no plastic flamingo’s but they had plastic storks.  People young and mostly old were often seen hitchhiking.  We went through one town where they produce apple juice.  The town’s parks are decorated with Giant Apples.
It was really fun taking photos, enjoy.

Our first Air B&B reservation was in Sucevea , starting point for visiting the World Heritage sites of the Painted Monasteries.  We had a car but also had enough driving, so we opted for the 3 monastery guided tour. The Voronet monastery had a painted  blue color made from the stone Lapis Lazuli. The blue hue is now named Voronet blue.  The walls were painted with the story of the bible and the road to hell for the sinners & non-believers.  After 3 monasteries,  I felt I didn’t have to attend church for at least a year.

The next day we strolled around town relaxing some trying to psyche ourselves out for the next looonngg drive to the largest Delta wetlands in the EU.  My phone data service didn’t work in Italy last month or in Romania now, so my google map disappeared.   But have no fear; Romania has the best password free internet in Europe, everywhere including gas stations and grocery stores.  France, maybe you could take a lesson here.  While camping near St. Tropez, in the middle of a vineyard the internet required 26 letters and numbers, really?  Who is really driving all the way out there to steal free the internet?
Romanian’s know their coffee,  there was coffee everywhere including coffee vending machines on the sidewalks.   Sometimes there would be 2 coffee vending machines right next to each other. The church next to our hotel had a 3D embedded colored band that wrapped the church, nice touch.  Another church had these interesting metal sculpture hand railings.  The bottom photo was someones house.

We brought our bikes with us (of course), but it started to become obvious that there wouldn’t be much riding.   The local riders I did see were all wearing bright safety vests, for a good reason. So we spent our last day in Sucevea walking around.  We went to the farmers market.  We bought some garlic, peaches, I also saw mountains of wild blueberries.  I bought some socks & bike mirrors (to give away). Then we walked to a moved and rebuilt traditional Romanian village of houses and workshops.  There was a rebuilt fortress next door too. All the exhibits were being worked on at the fortress, we still paid full price, it should have been free, but whatever.   I asked someone to take our photo on the stone chair. He was there with his family, he’s a Romanian, living in Chicago, who was there visiting family.

Together Natasa and I took 1300 + pictures, I gleaned them to 237 pictures.  So I have to make Romania into several parts.  I hope you enjoy the Romania experience as much as we did.  Please comment and let me know how you like the blog.
Ride Your Bike,

NEXT:  The Romanian Delta Region where the Danube River meets the Black Sea






6 thoughts on “ROMANIA: by car 3500km, by bike 100km. part I : THE MONASTERIES & MORE

  1. Fantastic pics, and fun blog. Won by 70% in jail. Not far from what we deal with here. Sad about the depiction of the road to hell on the monastery. I am so over that picture. You have the sweetest wife. I wish I could hear her laughter. I am sure it is a treat to the ears. Ciao! Lori

    1. I’m glad you like the photos, I had to look at A LOT of them to pick just these. I wish America would appreciate Obama, they all wish they had an Obama running their countries. America has no clue how bad it can be. In the big picture of things, Obama has done pretty good, for me personally? I’m a little more liberal, but I still like him.

  2. Jeff, the way you described your trip to Romania is so funny and the pictures are everything! You captured so many great shots just by observing small things on the road. You and your wife certainly know how to enjoy travelling. 🙂

  3. Hi Jeff, I hope you like Suceava and come again here soon. My name is Marian and we talked at the telephone shop in the day before you go to the Danube.
    I hope that the restaurant I recomanded to you was ok 🙂

    1. I had the pizza, like you suggested, it came with a “free” beer too! I really loved Romania and plan to return to the Delta region in May. I still can’t get my phone data to work in other countries, but thanks to the free WiFi nearly everywhere in Romania, it was never a big problem. I’ll be back, thank Jeff

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