Thursday 13 August 2015

The Black Sea to Bucharest: Roaming Romania

Bulgaria and Romania, 11th – 13th August 2015

On our last day in Bulgaria, we went a little wild and allowed ourselves the luxury of a 10am lay in.    At our spot in Rusenski we were sheltered by trees and rocks on both sides, which meant the morning stayed a little cooler and made sleeping in very appealing.  I have never been able to call myself a morning person, and when we started this trip I was a little worried we’d end up spending a lot of mornings lazing about in bed because we didn’t have any schedules to be sticking to; so far
this has not been the case, with either sunlight or heat having me awake somewhere around 8/9am on most days.  How this will change when winter surfaces and the days grow shorter remains to be seen!

Leaving Bulgaria

From Rusenski we were unsure of where to go next; we knew we were going to cross the border into Romania, but the majority of the motorhome websites and blogs we read make their next stop at the campsite in Bucharest.  We knew it was likely we’d visit Bucharest during our stay, but hadn’t really made the time yet to find out anything about the city (the WiFi problems at Camping VT set our research back a bit) and didn’t fancy paying for another campsite so soon after we’d just spent two nights on one.  The nearest main border crossing was Ruse, but we decided instead to keep heading east towards Silistra, with the intention of checking out the Black Sea.

As we drove past Ruse, a couple of cars gave the usual headlight flashing warning for police ahead.  When we passed the police they flagged us over for a spot check, presumably as we were close to the border.  The chap we spoke to didn’t speak any English, but after saying some things in Bulgarian he said “Documenti”, so Matt got the V5 registration document and insurance paperwork out.  He looked them over and made a card gesture whilst saying documenti again, so Matt handed over his driving license.  The policemen turned it over in his hands several times, possibly not really understanding it and trying to look like he was doing something productive with it.  When he walked down the side of the van he seemed intrigued by it, pointing at the back window and making a sleeping mime (to which Matt said yes), and then pointing at the bike rack cover with a motorbike gesture (to which Matt replied with a cycling gesture with his feet).  Motorhomes really aren’t that common out here, so perhaps he picked us for a spot check because of the novelty of the vehicle (as well as the foreign registration plates).

Onwards to Romania

After spending our last 37 Lev at a fuel station in Silistra, we pulled up at the border.  There was a long queue of cars that didn’t appear to be moving anywhere; we were worried that something was going on that meant we’d be stuck around for a while, but then another queue opened up for EU cars, so we swapped lanes and got through with no problems.  Directly beyond the border checkpoint was a blue portakabin selling Rovinietas, the Romanian vignette.  Unlike the Bulgarian road tax system the Romanian system is electronic, so the vehicle’s V5 is needed to take details from (or at least it was in our case) to buy the vignette.  We were charged at the <3.5T goods vehicle rate, which was €6 for 1 week.

Immediately after crossing into Romania, we were struck by how green everything looked.  Most likely this was a result from the land’s proximity to the river Danube keeping the land healthy, but there were lots of green trees and fields of fruit plants which were possibly grapevines, judging by a few stalls we passed selling grapes.  As we moved further from the river the land quickly descended back into sunflower field territory, with lots of yellow fields full of the dying flowers.

The roads were a little better than Bulgaria, with tarmac that was just a little bumpy in places other than a stretch through a village that was cobbled, but there were horse-and-carts everywhere.  We passed our first not long after crossing the border, and kept seeing them on a regular basis from there, in much higher abundance that we had in Bulgaria, presumably due to the arable land that surrounded us.  The villages were very rural and antiquated, with lots of children out playing in the road and numerous old ladies sitting on benches at the front of their properties chatting at the roadside.  A few people gave our vehicle the usual curious looks, but a few others smiled at us as we passed, including a couple of policemen and an old chap with a toddler in a pushchair who gave us big waves.

We parked for the night in Adamclisi (via Camping Car Infos, GPS: 44.10043, 27.95664) in the parking area for the monument Tropaeum Traiani, which is a monument to commemorate the victory of the Roman Emperor Trajan in the battle of Adamclisi, 101-102.  The original monument has long since deteriorated, but a reconstruction monument was built at the site in 1977.  It was a very calm overnight spot, with the only real noise problems being a barking match in the morning amongst a stray dog who slept near the van and a couple of other strays who had wandered into the area.

Our overnighting spot near Adamclisi
The Tropaeum Traiani monument

The Black Sea

We’d heard that the Black Sea was a bit overdeveloped, but decided to give it a go anyway so at least we’d know what it was like for future reference.  We drove to the main city of Constantin, where we stopped at a big shopping centre in pursuit of a cashpoint.  The centre was very clean inside and had a bit of that generic shopping centre feel that I associate with Meadowhall or High Cross or any other UK shopping centre, but thankfully it had a cash point, so we got stocked up with enough to hopefully last us through until Hungary.

The crowded beach at Vama Veche
An interesting design on one of the nearby campers
We drove south along the coastline and saw the Black Sea for ourselves, and suffice to say we weren’t really feeling it.  As a place for a cheap sun and sea holiday it might do the trick for some, but given the fact that it’s a relatively small coastline for the size of Romania, the warnings of overdevelopment ring true.  We passed unappealing blocks of concrete hotels and manoeuvred past the usual array of shirtless tourists with no concept of road safety.  We stopped in a field/parking area at Vama Veche (GPS: 43.75832 28.57403), which is the last coastal town before you hit the Bulgarian border.  The beach appeared to have a higher concentration of sun loungers and tents than sand.  The area we were parked in was being used by a lot of tents and caravans as a freecamping area (we’re assuming it was freecamping as we didn’t see any prices on the entrance to the field and no-one came to collect any money from us), but the rubbish strewn across the area kind of dampened the appeal of wanting to stay somewhat.  Maybe it’s different out of season and maybe we just weren’t looking in the right areas, but from our experience we’d probably recommend giving this section of the Black Sea a miss to anyone in a van.

It would appear that someone at Vama Veche had all the ambitions I had as a
child combined with all the willpower I lacked!
A pulley system at Vama Veche for getting
 boats out of the water
We returned inland and stopped again at Adamclisi for the night, once more with no company spare for the same stray dog who this time had taken it upon itself to bark at the fields for hours on end.  I don’t know what exactly it was barking at, but it was at it when we went to sleep and when we got up this morning.  Maybe fields are just a lot more exciting when you’re a dog.

The park next door to the campsite - the local area here seems
to be very clean and well maintained
We’ve now moved on to Camping Casa Alba (GPS: 44.51757 26.09283, 80 Lei / approx. €18 per night) which is on the northern outskirts of Bucharest, the capital city of Romania.  We’ve been talking to Colin and Ro, an Australian couple who are parked up next to us; they’re also on a year travelling Europe, having bought a van in Germany, and have just spent several weeks in Turkey.  Colin showed us a card that compares the size of Australia against the size of Europe, which really puts into perspective just how big a place Australia is; all of the countries we have visited so far easily fit within its borders.  They also kindly gave us a map of the city centre of Bucharest, and warned us about their experiences on the bus system (you can’t buy a ticket on the bus, and once you have a ticket the validation instructions are confusing).  Given that the fine for travelling without a ticket is only 50 Lei (that’s about €11/£8) it’s not so bad, but I’ve not ruled out the possibility of just getting a taxi into the city centre just yet.  Watch this space!

Tomorrow, we tackle Bucharest itself.

- Jo

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