Saturday, 30 July 2016

The Twenty-First Week

Sunday 24-7-16

So today we decided we'd seen enough of grey Bulgaria. We grabbed one last fried breakfast at the campsite ran by Brits at Veliko Tarnovo and headed North. We crossed the Danube at a town called Ruse, leaving Bulgaria on one side of the bridge and entering Romania on the other.

The border wasn't that busy and after showing our passports we were through. At the first petrol station we saw we bought a vignette for 7 days which cost us 6 euro. The difference in house styles and the tidiness was immediately noticeable. It seems the Romanians take a bit more pride in where they live than the Bulgarians. We had a long drive north over flat boring countryside then just after a town called Ploiesti we started to climb into the mountains. The scenery was alpine and the towns had the alpine chalet look you get all over Europe. Along one road we came across lots of cabins selling plastic tat. We later asked a Romanian about this and she sighed and said yes, Romanians like plastic, the brighter the colour the better.

At Tre Brazi we found a campsite with a very energetic owner who ran around sorting us out and then showing us the river and all the facilities. It was a nice site with great views of the hills. They'd even built a beach at the side of a pond.

That evening we had a lovely sunset to watch. We decided we liked Romania.

Camping Cheile Rasnoavei, Romania. N45.54705 E025.50713

Monday 25-7-16 and Tuesday 26-7-16

The next morning we drove back down the 5km gravel road from the campsite to the main road.

There was an info board all about the bears who live in Transylvania. Unfortunately it was all in Romanian so we were none the wiser.

Today we were heading to a friends house who lives just south of Brasov. But first we needed to do a big shop. We found a huge Auchan supermarket on the outskirts of Brasov. Inside it had the largest bag and weigh section I'd ever seen.

My friend lived in a small town called Cristian . When we got there he was out and so we found a nice shady spot by the fortified church for lunch.

After lunch we caught up with him and he installed us in this yard. He also gave us the use of a granny flat attached to his house with a balcony. We'd be sleeping in a house for the first time in 5 months.

That night he and his Romanian wife organised a BBQ and invited some friends around. We got to meet some more Romanians and another Englishman who had a house in the town. He invited us to a BBQ at his house the next night. We couldn't fault the hospitality. The next day I took the opportunity of having access to some axle stands to rotate the front wheels with the back. The rear ones have a deal more tread on them and would do a better job on the front. As ever I had expert supervision from my co-pilot.

We had a walk around the town and it felt friendly and like a nice place to live. In the evening we all went to the BBQ. He had also invited 11 Irish people he'd met in Brasov who were touring Romania. He had a huge house where at one time he and his wife had run a children's home. The Romanians, like the Bulgarians love to cook pork over charcoal. His Romanian mate took charge of the cooking and didn't stop supplying us with food for two hours.

The Irish got drunk and danced and we got drunk and watched them. We had a great night.

Cristian, Romania.

Wednesday 27-7-16 and Thursday 28-7-16

We said our goodbyes and left Cristian. Thirteen years ago I got the chance to buy a plot of land in the mountains of Transylvania that had permission to build a house on it. We'd never visited it, just seen photos, so it seemed like a good idea to go visit it and camp on it. It was 30km north of Brasov and we found the turn off to it on the road then drove 3km up a gravel track. When we got there to say we were pleased with our purchase would be an understatement.

Our neighbour in the house on the left introduced himself as Gabriel. He invited us on to his balcony and we told him why we were there and he told us lots of stuff about the area and building a house here. He gave us his phone number and said we should keep in touch. We pitched up in a shady corner and sat and looked at our 900 square metres of Transylvania. 

That night I carried on with the pork over charcoal habit we'd formed and burnt some ribs.

The next day Gabriel took us up into the woods blackberry picking and we got to know about the bears, wolves and Lynx that live here. I felt a bit uneasy about wafting my meat odours around last night, we decided on pasta tonight. We had a good look at Gabriel's house. He had a 12m bore hole for water, solar panels and a wind turbine to charge a big bank of batteries that fed a 240v inverter and a log stove that heated his water. He said we could build a house twice the size of his for 20k euro. We sat outside the van that night and made plans.

Wild camping on our plot of land, Persani, Romania. N45.76465 E025.29696

Friday 29-7-16

We said our goodbyes to our new best friend in Romania, Gabriel, and drove back down the track to the road. We'll hopefully be driving back up it in April next year with a caravan to leave on the plot while we erect some fences and start to build a house, lets see what happens. We drove on north through some lovely countryside. I had some coordinates for a small camping in the mountains and after a steep climb we found it. From what we could gather it was just called Camping. That's all the hand painted sign said, we gave a young lad five euros and we got a pitch next to a big covered table.

It had a brand new toilet block and a river. It was our kind of place. Being Friday lots of Romanians turned up with tents, dived into the forest and dragged wood out for fires, then proceeded to light them. I made do with a crappy foil BBQ which needed some encouragement to light.

That night it was like a scene from Apocalypse Now with fires and smoke rising above the trees. You wouldn't get this on a Caravan Club site in the UK. This place was far better.

Camping Camping, Romania. N46.77943 E025.75345

Saturday 30-7-16

And then today, we headed further north. Driving through a gorge that was as spectacular as the Verdun Gorge in France and over mountains with hairpins and switchbacks.

The Romanians had also installed some more little wooden tat shops to make the experience complete.

We drove over a dam and then followed a lake for 40km, the views were great. The only problem was the roads, so far we'd had good roads but here the surface was appalling and then did 100km of potholes and bumps.

The churches here are something special too. They have domes and spires and they cover them in gold and silver tiles.

We found a camping ran by a Dutch couple, small and tidy, the site that is not the couple. We planned to have a week in Romania, but today we stopped and bought another 7 day vignette. It's a great country and we want to see more.

Camping Vuurplats, Romania. N47.53493 E025.415871

Below are the numbers so far for 144 days away.

Cheers, the Van Brian Crew.

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