Thoughts and tales from the saddle - on my own in Europe.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Day 196 - Timisoara - North-West Romania

Romania has surprised me, I have to admit. I was given a lot of 'advice' from various people, as has often been the case throughout this trip, before I arrived. It ranged from a modest 'It's quite a culture shock' to a number of people who didn't say anything, just sucked their teeth, shook their heads and looked grave when the 'R' word was mentioned.

If I'm honest, I didn't know what to expect, but that is, of course, the reason I'm here doing what I'm doing and not just taking other people's word for it - because I wanted to find out. And what I've found is a beautiful country. The Carpathian Mountains, who's foothills I cycled through two days ago, are stunning. The countryside all around here has a very natural, pure quality to it, unlike any other countryside I've cycled through.

The poverty I was told to expect is evident, as it has been since Turkey, but it's different here. There's not the desperate air to it that I witnessed in Bulgaria and Serbia. There's a certain pride and dignity in Romania that is both endearing and inspiring.

I mention Serbia but realise that you, dear reader, would not know that I spent three days there, on my way up. It's much like Bulgaria but they have bigger houses.

Spiritual (and meaningless) observations aside, here's a few highlights since my last posting:

I reached the Danube and followed it for a few days. Serbia, as I mentioned, was reminiscent of Bulgaria - dirty hotels, shabby towns and a general feeling of neglect. Cheap, though. I got rained on in Serbia too, the first time properly since the West coast of France, if your memory stretches back that far. A 65 mile day two days ago took me most of the way through this part of Romania. I will be in Hungary in the next two days, meeting up with a friend who is planning to catch a train while I cycle. We plan to relax in Budapest for a few days before I turn my sights on the route home - likely to look something like this: Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Austria, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, arriving back in the UK before Winter really sets in.


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