Wednesday 26 August 2015

Sighisoara and Northern Romania

Romania, 21st – 23rd August

Our overnighting spot at Sighisoara was pay and display parking from 7am.  In preparation we set a 6:45 alarm, at the sound of which I promptly rolled over and went back to sleep.  Thankfully Matt has a more sensible attitude to alarms, so we succeeded in equipping the van with an all day ticket (5 Lei – about 80p/€1.10), and rested up for a couple more hours before going to see the town.

We walked up the nearby hill in pursuit of a fictitious castle that existed only in our imaginations (forgetting that the signs had actually specified Citadel and not castle), and found ourselves in the old town of Sighisoara.  The citadel/old town was made up of lots of cobbled streets and painted houses, and was altogether quite an attractive
place.  There were still the usual stalls selling general tat, but the place itself was more well maintained and appealing than the blocks of flats and crumbling stucco we’d seen so far in other towns and villages.  When we returned in the evening there was some kind of music festival going on, which we discovered purely by wandering into the old town and following the sound of deafening music.  There were dancers dressed in traditional attire on a stage in the middle of some kind of dance routine with a few members of the public joining in.

One of the town’s main claims to fame is that it is the town where Vlad the Impaler was born and lived in a house here for several years of his childhood – the house in question is now a restaurant/inn by the somewhat cheesy name of Casa Vlad Dracula.  We considered eating there as the menu promised traditional food as opposed to the many pizza/pasta places on the main street of Sighisoara, but we weren’t really feeling the options (possibly we should have researched a little on Romanian dishes in preparation so we had a rough idea of what we might like to order as we had done in Bulgaria) so gave it a pass.   Instead, after much traipsing back and forth between menus we gave up and stopped at a pizzeria on the main street, where my initial intentions of renewing my depleted spirits with a glass of wine somehow ended with me ordering a 1/2 litre to myself while Matt stuck to the Ursus (Romanian lager).  We weren’t expecting much but the pizza turned out to be surprisingly good, and at 62 Lei pre-tip (£10/€14) for two large pizzas and drinks you can’t really go wrong, and we had enough left over to take home with us for a lunch as an added bonus.

Camping Aquaris
For our second night in Sighisoara, we stayed at Camping Aquaris (GPS: 46.22290, 24.79651, 50 Lei inc. electric and WiFi), which is a small grassy area that is part of a swimming complex with some basic camping facilities.  While I gave the interior of the van a clean-out, Matt took the opportunity of being on a campsite with a nearby hosepipe to give the outside of the van its first proper wash since we left the UK; in Romania it is illegal to drive a dirty car, and after all of the dust and debris we picked up driving in the rain we were probably veering dangerously into ticket territory, especially considering the number of police we’ve driven past parked in laybys in Romania.  It seems the bulk of the police we see are more interested in catching speeding motorists than a couple of foreigners with a bit of splattered mud, but better safe than sorry.

After we moved on from Sighisoara, we started making our way to a spot we found through Europe by Camper near Sangeorgiu de Padure.  After travelling through the nearest town to our destination, the tarmac stops abruptly at the town’s borderline and is replaced by a dirt track.  We followed this for several kms until we reached a lake/reservoir, where several tents were wild-camped in the surrounding grassy areas.  We drove around the lake until we reached the north side, where we found that the access path had unfortunately been washed away significantly, to the point where cars may be alright but a van like ours would most likely get stuck.  We instead found a path on the south side of the lake that looked a little less precarious, and found a fairly level-ish spot to park up for the night (GPS: 46.40873, 24.88170).  It would have been quite an attractive spot were it not for the abandoned rubbish everywhere.  We’ve seen a lot of rubbish in Romania wherever tents have been wildcamping, but the spot at Sangeorgiu was particularly bad during our stay.  We do a lot of overnight stays in a lot of different countries, and we stick to the rule that most other campers we know follow of leaving a place exactly as we find it.  It’s respectful to the environment and the local people, and it leaves a good impression that makes it less likely for parking there to end up being banned in the future.  I’m trying really hard to accept the fact that this is a different culture to the one that I was raised in, but I can’t for the life of me understand why some people here consider it acceptable to just leave rubbish behind rather than bagging it up and binning it.  Even the remains of campfires make no sense to me; we’ve seen burnt circles on the grass from campfires less than a couple of meters apart; why not just use the sight of the old fire rather than wreck another patch of grass?  That annoyance aside, we had a very quiet, peaceful night.

Our original intention from Sangeorgiu was to visit the Bicaz Gorge, but we realised it would be travelling 120km in the wrong direction, so we decided to give it a miss and continued west towards the Hungarian border.  We still had Romanian currency to burn, so we detoured through the town of Targu Mures, which looked to be another town made up of blocks of flats, but was endeared to us for having not one but two Kauflands and Lidls.  We stocked up on all the essentials (which in our case generally means raiding the bakery and the beer aisle, as well as getting some cheap Mars bars), and continued on along our way.  It was a driving heavy day (200 miles, our most in a month), a lot of which was through 50 km/h towns with steady cruising in-between, bringing the van’s fuel economy reading up to 31.6mpg – the best we’ve had so far.

We've seen our fair share of storks whilst we've been in Romania - it seems that perhaps this one sensed it was being photographed
Typical example of roadside stalls in Romania - dozens in a
row all selling the same thing - in this case, red onions
One of the last horse and carts we saw whilst in
For the night we stopped at a spot overlooking the Crisul Repede river near the town of Suncuius (GPS: 46.93312, 22.54853, officially 5 Lei/person but no-one collected during our short stay), which was a spot near a river at the end of a long dirt/gravel track.  On the approach we first thought we’d got the wrong road; the track appeared to end at a building site, where a few stray builders looked on at us with bewilderment.  Daisy the Sat Nav showed no further road, so we sheepishly turned around and looked for an alternate way in.  We found nothing, so went back up the track, where Matt got out and went for a look whilst I stayed with the van.  Tucked out of view behind the building site was another single track not on our satnav, ending with a car park with a designated camping area where a couple of tents were pitched (no rubbish this time!) and a few people were swimming in the river.

With one day left on the vignette and 80 minutes to the border, it was time to move on.  Next stop: Hungary.

- Jo

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