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"Romania: simply surprising"

 "Students of European history know the scene well, an image of the continent as it once was: a bucolic paradise of rolling fields tended by lonely shepherds, horses’ hooves on cobble-stoned roads; a pace of life as unhurried as a farmer chewing a piece of hay. … Romania and Moldova are among the last bastions of Europe’s traditional heart and soul. Here the pastoral heart beats on in unspoiled countryside. Isolated villages nestled in lush valleys carry on traditions long relegated to tourist attractions just a few hundred kilometres west: yes, gentle shepherds tend to their flock – only they’ll be talking on their mobile phone as they do."  Romania & Moldova, Lonely Planet, July 2004

Wed 28th July, Left home at 5.30 pm odometer 63190, a nice evening, arriving Dover just after 9 pm, MSF (Miles so far) 190. Spent the night on Dover seafront. Only Andy, & Rosemary this time.

Thurs 29th July, caught the 0700 P&O ferry Pride of Aquitaine, arriving Calais slightly late, 10:00 local time. A lovely day and a smooth crossing. Drove North then A2/E314 via Genk to Brussels. The Genk road has proved quieter than the alternative route we normally take. Holland at 14.30, MSF 392, 14:45 Germany MSF 411. 16:10, Cologne ring road, 452 miles. A45 > Frankfurt. Stopped overnight at service area near Wurzburg, MSF 676.

Fri 30th July. Left service area at 0800, crossed the Danube at about 800 miles, travelling via Nuremburg, Regensburg, entering Austria at Passau 12:30,  MSF 892, Linz, reaching Camping Wien West (Vienna) at 17:00, MSF 1058. Site cost about £16 p.n. inc. electricity. Just below the site is some amazing architecture, a museum dedicated to Ernest Fuchs. We think he was a psychologist, but we aren't sure!

Sat 31st July. Spent the day in Vienna. We were rather confused with the bus timetable, thinking the buses went into the centre. In fact the buses only took you to the train & tube station, so we then had to catch  a train. Even then we didn't twig, assuming we had just caught the wrong bus. 

Vienna is a beautiful relaxed and open city, rather a cross between Prague & Oslo. It was a hot cloudless day, but luckily there was a strong cooling breeze. Rather than spend the day inside - there are masses of museums and galleries, we walked the streets admiring the sights - and Vienna is full of them. Walking the streets is easy, as there is very little traffic, considering Vienna is the capital. The only downsides are the pedestrian crossings - crowds build-up waiting for the green light to cross even if there isn't a car in sight, and being pestered by touts dressed as Mozart trying to sell concert tickets. We especially enjoyed the shade of the botanical gardens adjoining the Summer Palace.

The confusion about buses continued on the return journey - it took us an hour of searching for non existent buses to work out the truth, aided by some Turkish shopkeepers. However, we got back to the site eventually - we were fortunate to remember the name of the locality- Hufflepuff? Hutteldorf.

Sun 1st Aug. Left Camping Wien West at 9.35, and headed for Budapest. As we thundered along the motorway we suddenly ground to a halt 3 miles from the border - the end of the queue to cross the border. It took us 2 hours 40 minutes to reach the border, change cash for Forints, and buy a 4 day vignette. 100 Forints is about 33 pence, making a litre of petrol about 80p. Thence on into Budapest (1223 miles) - taking the M1 in and the A3 out means you need to follow right through the centre of the  city. Whereas the motorways are brand new, smooth straight and fast, the city roads are like we remember from our visit 7 years ago - ruts, deep potholes, cobbles and very uneven surfaces. There may be 3 lanes, but they are narrow and the local traffic leaps from lane to lane with hardly a glance. Then onto the M3 - again fast, smooth, and probably paid for by the EU. At  Gyongyos we turned off on the A24 to Sasto, heading up towards the highest Hungarian mountain (not terribly high!) and stopped at the local campsite in Sasto (Matra Camping) (small, slightly tacky, untidy little shacks, and cold showers - but more than adequate). the area round the campsite is obviously the local tourist spot - a little lake, boats, children's amusement rides, refreshment cabins.  MSF 1294.

Mon 2nd Aug. Paid up, ( 2250 Ft ~ £7.50  ) and headed up over the mountain route to Eger. Many hairpin bends, but the road was wide, and the slopes not at all steep - 3rd gear all the way. (Once you've done the Trollstiggen in Norway, everything else is easy!). After Eger we picked up the M3 to the end at Polgar, then A36 Nyiegyhaza, unclassified road to Nagykallo and Nyirbator, where the campsite we were aiming for was now closed! Hmm! So a frantic search in Lonely Planet turned up a site at Turistvandi, North East of Fehergyarmat. This turned out to be a lovely little site, beside a restored water mill. The owner (Mary) and her son (Gabor) spoke excellent English, and there were 2 Yorkshire born teachers were spending a week teaching English to 30 Hungarian children of various ages. We had stuffed cabbage, which was very tasty. The evening was spent drinking beer with Barbara & Chris. They have been in Hungary a year, as English tutors to 2 small boys, whose parents intend to send to boarding school in England when they are a bit older. MSF 1483

Tues 3rd Aug. A lazy day on site, catching up on chores, including the washing. Walked into the village for a spot of shopping, and strolled in the wood beside the river.

We ate again at the camp restaurant - home made plum brandy (Polinka), goulash  with home made bread (delicious, and nothing like goulash at home), and a very nice cake. Then more beers with Barbara & Steve, round  a fire that Gabor eventually got going.

Wed 4th Aug. Left the site, and crossed the Romanian border at 12.30, at Satu Mare, and followed the A19 towards Sighetu Marmatiei. Changed some cash - there are 60,000 Lei to the pound! The roads are APPALLING! In one section, descending from a pass, max speed was 10 mph because of the size, depth and frequency of the potholes. Reached   Camping Poleni at Sapinta, near the Merry Cemetery at about 4 pm. A tiny and relaxed campsite, with no formalities at all - no interest in names or passports. 1 night, with electricity, and an evening meal of excellent trout cooked over a fire, plus beers, cost £10, inc. tip (600,000 Lei). 2 Dutch motor caravans arrived, 3 German bikers and another German family, and a convoy of 4 Italian motor caravans. MSF 1585

Thurs 5th Aug Walked 3 Km to the Merry Cemetery. This a remarkable place - almost all the closely packed graves have brightly painted carved wooden boards depicting the departed, and a poem about their life & death. These are all modern, beginning in 1935, and continuing today, and sometimes quite graphic - someone being knocked over by a car; a housewife in her kitchen, a shepherd with his sheep or a tailor with his Singer sewing machine. Romanian coach parties arrived regularly, and there is a very small cost to go in. A little way away is the museum about it - actually the home & workshop of the original carver, and where the work still goes on. Nicolai Ceausescu  visited here, and there was a carving of NC & the Romanian politburo. There was also a copy of a 1991 book, with full colour plates of some of the graves, and an English translation of the poems. We later saw this on sale by a street trader or £9, and bought it. We had been intending to try to find it from Amazon.

We then attempted to walk to the river that forms the border with Ukraine, but were defeated by flooded footpaths. However, we did picnic near the local monastery, and visit the newly built wooden church (in fact building is still in progress). This is beautiful, and very reminiscent of the Norwegian stave churches (but very much larger). There is a glorious smell of new wood, and a small boy presented us with a wooden roof shingle.

Returning to the camp site, the Italians had left, but some French & Polish campers had arrived. It was all very international, and we all conversed, in English. The Poles were from Krakow, and were pleased when we told them we had been there. It looks like the Dutch are following a similar route to us, so we are likely  meet again. There was also a group of English travelers, stopping only for a meal, who had been bringing relief to a Romanian town for years, and working in a hospital there (repairs, painting etc). Now there is a new hospital, with better facilities than the hospital the Brits had come from. A large & noisy group of Hungarians were using the barbecue facilities, before moving on. One of them wore a shirt with "Digital" displayed. I enquired, and he has worked with Digital Hungary for many years, now HP of course. He had an English Basset hound, and said that this was now a fashionable item in Hungary, and was effectively his 4th grandchild. He had heard of Barclays Bank (a big Vax user), and was surprised to come all the way to Romania to find another  IT guy.

We dined on steak, chicken snitzel, red wine, and beer, and again the cost came to about £10, inc. camp fee.

Fri 6th Aug. We eased our way out of the camp at about 10:00 - it was fairly tight - and made our way further into Romania. Visited Barsana (on the A19) - a new and spectacular monastery there, where we saw a priest blessing a car, scattering murky looking "holy water" onto the seats. Further on the A19 we turned right looking for the oldest wooden church in the Maramures, at Leud. We found that wherever we went, 2 Dutch motor caravans were never far behind. We finally all settled up at a pension in Leud, all in a line up the drive. The Dutch all speak English (just as well, as my only Dutch is a few swear words!), we also discovered that quite a few Romanians speak French, which is useful. In fact, many words are quite similar to French. We have found that we can partially understand some written Romanian, unlike Hungarian, where there are no recognisable words.

Leud itself is remarkable, and probably typical. People sit outside their gates on seats built in to the wall, or wander the streets, because there is little traffic, and includes cows, horses, & carts. Older ladies, and some of the young ones, wear traditional costume. It is like I imagine English villages were before WW1 - tranquil and idyllic.

We were introduced to the family, all teachers. The father, Ion, and his wife spoke fluent French, their daughter, Celia, spoke fluent French & English, had a masters degree in both languages, and taught French. Then we all ate a merry meal together - 4 Dutch & 2 Brits, provided by the pension host & his family, under a vine in the garden. We started with a fiery polinka, home-made, double distilled to 52% alcohol, or a sweeter & fruitier one at only 25%. A delicious vegetable soup, main course of veal, small egg & vegetable burger things, and deliciously cooked potatoes. Finally, a home made banana gateau. Peter had retired from the Royal Household, his wife Rijt  was a secretary, Heinrich & Monique had their own garage. They were all jolly good company, I was persuaded to sing (?) Wild Rover & they all joined in the chorus. MSF 1620

Sat 7th Aug. Rosemary's birthday, and she was given a bottle of wine and some Dutch biscuits by our companions. After a few photos, and fond farewells, we set off alone (but not for long!). Along the way we stopped at a local market in Sacel to buy food. Fresh local produce, but a narrow range of  fruit and vegetables. We were fascinated by the gypsies dressed like something out of our children's story books - women with long colourful skirts, blouses and headscarves, girls with flashing eyes and  long dark braids plaited with bright ribbons. Celia had said that the travelling Roma caused problems wherever they stopped, but although they begged us for money on  many occasions, we never found them threatening.

On to Viseu de Sus, where we found an Internet cafe to pick up email, but failed to find the steam railway. Then back along the A18 through Borsa to the pass Pasul Prislop, 1416 m. The road through Borsa was the worst yet - badly made concrete, very rough with large gaps between slabs, and potholes as well. Even 20 mph was too fast. We were fearful it might extend to the summit, in which case we might have given up, but it was only in Borsa. Interestingly, all the towns and villages are long and thin, so our concrete road torture went on for a long way. At the pass, which was a very easy climb - wide road and 3rd gear all the way, we found Peter, Rijt, Heinrich & Monique already parked up. Preparations were in hand for tomorrow's folk festival. So having settled in beside the Dutch motor caravans, we walked a track up into the hills for an hour or so. On the return journey, as we passed a church under construction, we asked if we could have a look. A very proud foreman showed us round, including several flights of unfinished stairs. He explained that there was a lot of fighting here during the war, and after the battle the soldiers came here to pray. and the dead buried here. Over the course of only a few hours men arrived with logs, constructed a bell tower, and hung the bells. Very  impressive. MSF 1685

Sun 8th August. Well, having parked neatly in a small car park by the road, we were all woken at 06:00 by knocking on the windows. We ignored it, because we thought they were the gypsies that had been doing the same last night, but it turned out to be the police, who needed the space for police vehicles. So after much to-ing and fro-ing, we settled in a spot near the building site of a church.

Meanwhile, stalls were being erected, and in some cases built from scratch, up the hillside. There must have been 100, in all, from food - skinless spicy sausages were the most common, and we had some for lunch. 3, with bread & oodles of mustard cost 30,000 Lei - about 50 pence! There were also stalls selling tacky toys, clothes, tools, silver, even bolts of cloth & suits. From 13.00 to about 18.00 groups of mainly children, but some comprising quite old people, all dressed in exquisite national costume, sang and danced. As one group left the stage another entered, so there was none of the enormous gaps in performance you sometimes get. 6 very brave French scouts from Rouen also performed, singing 3 songs to a very appreciative audience. There must be something in the air or diet that gives Romanian girls perfect complexions - just look at the photos to see what I mean!

Afterwards, and before we cooked our tea, we joined the Dutch in  a drink or two outside. We were shortly joined by a German couple, and their Romanian travelling companion (Mihaela). There opening words were: "What language are we using this evening?" On hearing it was English, Mihaela said that that was her only language other than Romanian (and she spoke it beautifully). A nearby French camp was getting a fire going, so we went to join them, as it was getting very cold. More French arrived, and we found we had quite an international party going on. We all drank far too much, failed to get an evening meal, stayed up far too late, and got bitterly cold, but we would not have missed it for anything.

Mon 9th August. We were awoken at 0700 by church bells only 50 yards away. We could all have done without that! There were several delicate looking individuals around that morning! One by one we all went our separate ways, after many farewells.  After a walk up into the mountains, we returned at lunchtime to find a number of gypsy children making a nuisance of themselves again. We would have given them something, but we had seen from experience that that didn't stop them pestering. So we moved on ourselves, arriving at Vatra Dornai mid afternoon. A reasonable campsite, for only £4 inc. electricity, and we wandered back into town to do some shopping, and use an Internet cafe to check email, before returning to eat at the site. Whilst eating we got into conversation with a French couple who were travelling round Romania using public transport - "An interesting social exercise" they said, "but frustrating and slow". MSF 1729

Tues 10th August. On the site we met some Italian scouts, taking Romanian orphans camping, and some Czech scouts from Prague. Their common language was English. This follows the meeting with a group of Slovak back packers yesterday. We left the site at 10:00, heading for the painted monasteries. Immediately it started to rain, and we found the windscreen wipers wouldn't work. Not only that, but  the indicator lights and headlights were doing strange things, which rather points towards a faulty earth connection. Then suddenly, it all worked again. Worrying, really, as faults that "just go away" are likely to "just come back again". The rain had stopped by the time we got to the first monastery, at Voronet. These painted monasteries are so called because they are painted on the outside with biblical scenes, as well as the inside. They were built and painted in the 16th century, when Moldavia was threatened by the Ottoman Empire. They were intended to educate and entertain the troops that gathered inside the monasteries' defensive walls whilst they waited to do battle. The colours are quite vivid, with lots of blues and red. Lunch, then onto the second, at Humorului. Here we bought a hand made "runner" to go on our new chests of drawers, 400,000 Lei (~£7.00). With some trepidation - I was worried my card would be swallowed -  we drew 3 million Lei from a cash machine. These holes in the wall have transformed holiday cash. The petrol stations here don't take credit card, so more cash is required than usual. Then on to the third monastery at Vatra Moldovitei, where we spent the night in the car park, between the old monastery and the new, joined by a convoy of 3 Italian motor caravans.. MSF 1810.

Wed 11th August. After breakfast, a tour of our 3rd painted monastery, before driving 24 miles over a pass to our 4th, at Sucevita. This mountain road is being extensively re-laid, and there were miles of road works. The new surface was excellent, but bizarrely, at a hairpin bend, there was no real road at all, just a steep muddy track. On the way out we were going down, but I worried about the return journey in case we got baulked on the hill, and had to take it in 1st gear (the wheels would have spun). Luckily, in the event we got through at a reasonable speed, continuing on down the E576 to Bistrita, then A15 via Reghin, & Targu Mares, & A13 to Sighisoara. We took a wrong turning at Targu Mures, and a kind Romanian English speaker stopped his car to help. He ended up driving in front of us to show us the way. We noticed a novel and useful feature about the traffic lights - it counts down the number seconds before the light changes, both red and green. At least one village, Petelea, every house had a shadoof in the garden, to lift water from their wells. Along the way, a bang, clatter and tinkle came from the back of the van, and one of our spring assisters broke into 3 pieces, and fell away, a victim of Romanian roads. This held us up for a short while as I collected the bits, and we arrived in Sighisoara as it was getting dark, 230 miles from Sucevita. As  we approached Targu Mures we noticed that the villages looked like the Hungarian villages we had driven through earlier in the holiday. We were in Szekely Land, settled by and claimed by Hungarians. The villages all have Hungarian names, and speak Hungarian. Recently Hungary relinquished its claim to the area, in return for improved rights for Hungarian speaking Romanians. The relationship continues to be an uneasy one. Actually, the road from Targu Mures was pretty good.

We failed to find the poorly signposted campsite, and spent the night beside a municipal building on the main road - and we didn't get a lot of sleep. MSF 2050

Thurs 12th August - an early start, and into Sighisoara. We found the campsite - not at all impressive. The morning mist burnt off, and it turned into one of our hottest days. Sighisoara is a charming citadel town, with some nice squares, old streets, towers, and currently, few tourists. A few French, a few Germans, a handful of Americans, and 2 Brits. (In 10 years time it will be horribly touristy.) There is a fascinating covered staircase of 172 steps, built in 1642, that leads up to a Gothic church and a school. Sighisoara is also the birthplace of Vlad Dracul, "Vlad the Impaler", the inspiration for Dracula. Far from being a tyrant, he is a local hero, as he defended the country from the Ottoman invaders. Until 1991 this was in the heart of the Saxon, German speaking area. They had been invited to settle in the 12th century as a bulwark against the Turks. In exchange they were offered land (in the days when most of the population were serfs), freedom to worship and organise themselves in fortified villages and cities. In 1991-1995 most of them up sticked, and went to Germany, where their ancestors came from 900 years ago. Only 500 German speakers remain, and one little old lady was asking tourists if they spoke German, presumably so she could have a conversation with someone. An American charity ran a cafe, & Internet cafe, and we checked our email. We had a late anniversary lunch at Casa Wagner, reckoned by Lonely Planet to be Romania's best hotel, run by a Dutchman & his Romanian wife. Very nice, and 3 courses each, & 3 beers, cost £18 including a tip.

Late afternoon, we made our way to the camp site we failed to find last night. A strange place - most of the facilities seem to have been destroyed, and water is provided in a bucket from a pool inside the cafe/bar. Time to use filtered water for cleaning our teeth! MSF 2066

Fri 13th August. Moved on a short way, to some of the Saxon villages - Biertan, where there is a grand fortified Lutheran church, and a lovely village to boot. It is interesting how different the Saxon villages are. We filled our water tank from the fountain in the square, and paid 30,000 Lei each to visit the church (and 50,000 Lei to park!), followed by a stroll round the village. Then up the road to a less touristy Richis. We didn't stop long here, but carried on up the road, which turned into a dirt track, becoming steeper with hairpin bends. With some trepidation we carried on for 3 Km before rejoining a metalled road. There followed a long drive through lovely scenery, spectacular views, and farm scenes not seen in Britain since the 1920's- horse drawn farm carts, hay making with scythes and rakes, boys and girls tending flocks of a dozen sheep. Like a scene from Beethoven's Pastoral symphony! Rejoining the main road at Seica Mare, we failed to find the fortified church there, or at nearby Seica Mica. So we carried on into Sibiu, a large and now industrial town, and on to Orlat nearby, looking for a pensiune recommended by Lonely Planet. We eventually found it, but they were unable to take us, so we carried on south, and wild camped on large expanse of grass below a dam. Here we watched goats and cows being brought down from the hill pastures back to the village for the night. MSF 2168

Sat 14th August. Drove into Sibiu, via a look around the fortified Saxon church at Cristian, and a foray into one Romania's few modern hypermarkets. The contents were pretty much the same as any French, Spanish or Belgian equivalent. Many customers had trolleys overflowing with goods, but there were very few checkouts in operation. It looked like we would be in for a long wait, so we decided against shopping there, and made our way out.

 We parked on the edge of Sibiu, and walked in. Sibiu is to be the "European City of Culture 2006", and a great deal of renovation is in progress. The have a long way to go, but when renovation is complete, it will be similar to Prague. It architecture is gloriously Hapsburg, but dreadfully neglected. Our hope is that they don't overdo the restoration, but restore sensitively. Time will tell, but we will certainly return to see how they get on.

Over lunch, in an Italian pizza joint that sold only German & Belgian beer (why not Romanian? - it is pretty good.) we met an oldish German lady, on her third coach tour of Romania, who spoke excellent English, and who joined us at our table. She was very knowledgeable, and very talkative, and we had a very enjoyable and learned lunch.

We returned to our wild campsite, to discover that the village festival was taking place very close to there. Nevertheless, we camped in our usual spot, and went to see the festivities. This much more of a local village affair, but much more organised. The stage appeared to have been made on the spot, from trees felled nearby. Indeed, this has been one of the big surprises of the trip. You want a stage? No problem, we'll cut down a tree and make one. You want a table? no problem ..... All evening horses and carts were bringing villagers to and fro. Later in the evening, a village meal was in progress, cooked in cauldrons over fires, served in china on white table cloths. It was interesting to note that national costume here was black & white, whereas in Maramures it was much more colourful. MSF 2197

Sun 15th August. The festival continued today, but we needed to get to Timisoara. We followed the E68 via Sebes, Orastie & Simeria, then turned left to see the castle at Hunedoara. This is supposed to be the loveliest castle in Eastern Europe. It is 14th C Gothic, and largely complete. Its Hungarian origins angered Ceausescu, who surrounded the castle with ugly, and now derelict, factories. Rather than return to the main road, we continued south along a country road with glorious views, to Hateg, where we picked up the A68 to Caransebes, thence the E70 to Timisoara. The campsite was on that road, about 5 Km out of Timisoara, which saved us a battle in the city centre. We were keen to come here because this is where the 1989 revolution started. The campsite, Camping International, was by far the best we've been on in Romania. The site is set in tall oak trees, with stacks of shade. Each pitch has a small wall around it, electricity supply, its own water tap, and electric lights, but on one side is a busy road, and on the other side, a busy and noisy railway. Alongside us was a Dutchman taking a long sabbatical, a Belgian motor caravan, a young German family, an Italian motor caravan (that left very noisily at 6.30 the next  morning), and a few Romanian tents. MSF 2410

Mon 16th August. The site is on a trolley bus route, so we caught the No 11 bus into the centre. Return fare was about 30 pence each. We decanted at the market - one large covered space full of fruit & vegetables, another smaller hall purely of flowers, This has to be the best flower market we've ever seen, with artistically arranged bouquets of exquisitely perfect blooms costing only £1 or so. There were 3 squares, and numerous cathedrals of various denominations. The architectural style, like much of Romania, is faded Hapsburg. The fading colours add to the beauty and grandeur, rather than diminishing it. In a few years these squares will rival Prague (but without the King Charles bridge). We visited the Hungarian church where the revolution was sparked, the square in front of the Opera House where the first demonstration took place, and the first deaths. There were many more swish pavement cafes than we have seen elsewhere, and in 10 years or so Timisoara will be a very smart destination indeed. And again, we found ourselves talking to Romanians keen to speak English. This included one chap who had studied in Aberdeen for 3 years. We had a very interesting conversation. His view was that the Romanian rich would get richer, and the Romanian poor get poorer. We returned to the market to top up on fruit & veg, before catching the trolley bus back to the site.

Tues 17th August. Left the site at 8 am, to break the back of the journey home, spending the last of our lei on petrol. It took us half an hour to get into Hungary at the border crossing near Kiszombor (H) & Sannicolau Mare (Ro), even though the queue was short. Both Romanian and Hungarian customs were being very thorough. A Hungarian looked into quite a few lockers, but I'm not sure what he was looking for. We wondered how we would explain the home made Hungarian polinka  we were importing into the EU, but he didn't find it. Then a long slog across flat and straight Hungarian roads. We mostly avoided motorways, because we didn't have a vignette, and because all motorways lead to Budapest, which wasn't on our route. (and now I can’t remember what our route was.)

The southern side of Lake Balaton is almost completely given over to holiday makers, and the eastern end was very busy with traffic. A number of lay-bys had young ladies standing in them, presumably waiting for lifts. We spent the night at Castrum Camping, in Keszthely, at the western end of lake Balaton. MSF 2690

Wed 18th August. Saw us heading for the Austrian border (2760 miles, & 2 hours from lake Balaton). Although there were only few cars, it took us half an hour to get through. An Austrian customs official insisted on coming in and opening a few lockers. Thence via a 10 Km tunnel underneath Graz, to Liezen, & Grindelsee. We squeezed unto the last remaining pitch at a campsite, with a glorious view over the lake. Just 20 steps, and we were swimming in pristine water, just what was needed after a long hot drive. MSF 2927

Thurs 19th August. Another glorious day. This is such a lovely site we have decided to stay on for another day. We walked along the shady and quiet shore, and back the same way, returning mid afternoon for a refreshing swim. We ate in the restaurant by the lake - beef goulash, simply delicious, and were joined by an Austrian couple, with whom we had a long and lively conversation. All in all, a very enjoyable day.

Fri 20th August An overcast day. We left the site at 8 a.m., to slog across Germany, via Saltzburg, Munich, Stuttgart, Karlsruhe, to Germersheim. We went through the Alps without seeing any mountains because of cloud & rain, and there were numerous hold ups  on the autobahns. At Germersheim we looked out the wohnmobile platz we had discovered  last year, which costs €3per night.  MSF 3310.

Sat 22nd August. Left Germersheim at 8.30 am, topped up with more wine, German this time, at the Real supermarket at Dillingem, near Saarlouis (J10 on the A8). We reckon that it is better for wine (German) but nowhere near as good for food as our usual Cora supermarket at Dunkerque (French). But note, the motorways in this areas do not have fuel facilities! Then to Calais via Luxembourg, Namur, Charleroi, Mons, Lille, & Dunkerque, arriving Calais Aire de Camping Car  8 pm. MSF 3737. This route is shorter and quicker than the outward journey via Genk. As we crossed from Luxemburg to Belgium the odometer clicked over to 66,666 – satisfying.

Sun 23rd August. Caught the 10.15 a.m. P&O ferry Pride of Aquitaine, coming ashore in Dover 10.55 UK time. For the first time we were checked by the UK Immigration Service before we were allowed on the ferry, and specifically asked if we had any stowaways. An uneventful run home, to a mountain of mail and email, and a lawn to mow. Overall distance travelled, 3932 miles.

So an overall verdict on Romania? Absolutely brilliant, despite the roads. A beautiful country with charming and resourceful people, and a great deal of potential. We shall return.


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