Sunday, 7 August 2016

The Twenty-Second Week

Sunday 31-7-16

So we were on a small Dutch run campsite in northern Romania and we awoke to sun and fresh cool air due to the height, lovely. At the entrance to the site was a small wooden house.

We asked the owners if we could have a look around it. It was built in the traditional Romanian style that we'd like for the house we plan to build on our plot in Transylvania. Plain wooden boards cladding the outside and an overhanging roof creating a balcony. This one had cedar shingles on the roof but we fancy a small clay tile that a lot of the houses are roofed with here.

After nosing around the wooden house we packed up and headed east in the general direction of Hungary where we planned to end up at the end of the week. On the drive we passed a huge timber building, no sign of what it was built for but now completely empty and slowly disintegrating. Seemed a shame really.

The road today was appallingly surfaced and the poor van rattled and bounced for 120 miles. The upside was the beautiful mountain scenery and forests, northern Romania is a very pretty place.

It was Sunday and in every village we drove through the ladies were togged up in the traditional colourful dresses and either wandering to or wandering back from church. Liz wanted a photo of them and started taking lots of photos out of the window. I've just looked through them, not one actually shows the ladies but we have lots of photos of walls, reflections in the screen of things on the dash and the side of my head. So you'll have to google it if you want to see what they wore. After a long drive we eventually ended up on a small site in the centre of the town of Sighetu Marmatiei. It was empty apart from five Polish lads who'd cycled to Moldova and were now on the way home via the Ukraine. The Ukraine border was only 2 miles away and for a while we contemplated heading there. But we didn't have insurance and the van was making some strange noises, the Ukraine didn't seem a great place to breakdown.

Camping Iza Sighetu Marmatiei, Romania. N47.93354 E023.90508

Monday 1-8-16

From here the roads straightened out and flattened, we started to get a taste of what would be waiting for us on the huge plains in Hungary. Boredom and tedious miles. Today we saw nothing that we wanted to photo and the high spot was a visit to Lidl. The grinding wheel bearing ground a bit louder and the radiator slowly emptied its contents as we drove. By mid afternoon I'd had enough and we ended up at a basic campsite next to a very big water-park.  It was 4 quid a night with ehu.

They had small garden sheds, painted in bright colours that Romanians stopped in overnight while spending their days in the water-park. I spent a while drinking a beer and watching them cooking pork on the communal BBQ. The whole family poked and prodded the coals and had a go at burning the meat.

After they'd done I jumped in and slapped my pork on their grill.

Camping Thermal Carei, Romania. N47.67198 E022.45483

Tuesday 2-8-16

This morning we consulted our maps and decided it was time to bite the bullet and leave Romania and get the boring flat bit of Hungary out of the way. The border wasn't far and the road we chose to cross was a small one. The border crossing appeared quite suddenly around a bend of what was no more than a little country lane.

There was no queue and we drove up to two armed policemen and a border official. They asked for our passports, driving licence and vehicle documents. They searched the van, looking under the bed and in the bathroom.. More security than any other border we've crossed this trip. But after ten minutes they were happy and let us into Hungary. We drove for endless miles down straight roads with only corn fields and the odd boring village to look at. No hills or bends or scenery. At a big town I spotted a bank and Liz got us 100,000 Forints out of the ATM. They really need to sort their decimal place out here, this only added up to 270 quid. Then after more boring miles the satnav directed us down an unpaved road. 

We knew the campsite we'd chosen for our first night here was down an unpaved road so this didn't worry us. But it turned out this was the wrong one. It got smaller and ended up as two tyre tracks in sand with a big grassy mound in the middle.  It did get us there but if we'd have stayed on the main road to the town we'd have found a shorter flatter one. What this road did was drag my spare wheel off, it hangs under the van in a cage. So I crawled under the van in the sandy road and strapped the cage up and dumped the spare wheel inside the van. At the campsite we were greeted by Fred the owner, a nice Dutchman, who laughed when I told him how we got there. The site was our kind of place, simple and small with friendly owners.

That night they invited us for drinks on their balcony along with a German friend of theirs and three other Dutch couples staying there. It was a pleasant and multilingual evening.

Camping Fantazia Tanya, Hungary. N46.94258 E019.93027

Wednesday 3-8-16

We decided to have another night here. Fred and Vera invited us to a meal of goulash cooked over an open fire that evening and we quite fancied having a bash at that. The night before I'd asked how far the town was and Fred said it was better to go on a pushbike. When we woke up we found a pushbike lent against a tree next to the van, a nice gesture we thought. But we walked in, a long way in the heat but the town was nice and we bought bread and cheesy pastry things which we ate in an immaculately kept park. Fred called us over later to sit around the goulash with a drink. Two of the other Dutch campervans had left leaving just us and a couple in a Landrover with a tent. So there were six of us for dinner.

We chatted around the fire then sat down for dinner, Nora made us wear Hungarian goulash safety equipment. Much to my amusement.

We had a good night, the other Dutch couple called Edwin and Jeanette had traveled all over the world, including China and Tibet. They had some great tales about their travels. Fred supplied us with his home-made wine and Jeanette produced a bottle of port out of their Landrover.

Camping Fantazia Tanya, Hungary. N46.94258 E019.93027

Thursday 4-8-16, Friday 5-8-16 and Saturday 6-8-16

Before we left we bought wine, honey and a walnut and beeswax hand cream that Vera makes. I also nipped in the toilet block and took a photo of the tiling job Fred had done. It was an original concept and made visiting the toilet a pleasure.

And then after using the right unpaved road we once again found ourselves back on the boring roads of Hungary. Only after around a hundred miles did we start to see a change. The north west of Hungary has hills and forests which were a pleasure to see. We were heading for a site owned by an English couple called Andrew and Sharon. I'd already messaged Andrew and he'd sorted us out with a garage to look at our noisy wheel bearing and leaky radiator. We arrived and pitched camp, then Andrew drove me to the Fiat dealer so I could get the van booked in. This round trip took us two hours. Andrew said it was no trouble but it was beyond the call of duty in my mind. We popped into a Hungarian B&Q while in the big town and I spotted stills for sale. Not something you'd find in our big DIY stores back in the UK.

We had a nice shady pitch at the top of the site and Andrew also lent me a BBQ to burn my pork on.

On Friday we went with Sharon, taking time out of her day to help us, to pick up a hire car up. The garage couldn't fit us in until Monday so a car would give us some independence to get out and about and also help when the van goes in on Monday. There was a tractor rally in another town and I fancied seeing what they did at one of these. It was great. They had an arena set up with straw bails to sit on where we watched formation tractor driving, tractor slalom racing and tractor and trailer reversing against the clock. Mad stuff but fun. And everywhere the smell of goulash cooking over open fires, they're mad for the stuff here.

On Saturday night we went to the local bar with Andrew and Sharon. It was a proper local joint, selling washing powder and envelopes as well as beer at 60p a pint.

And that's us, waylaid for 6 days while we sort out Van Brian's wear and tear. But we have a nice place to stay and plenty to do. Next week we should be done with Hungary and seeing what delights Austria has to offer.

Tranquil Pines Camping, Hungary.  N46.59027 E018.10344

Below are the numbers so far for 150 days away.

Cheers, the Van Brian Crew.


  1. Hello Kev and Liz, We very much enjoyed your visit to our campsite. It was very nice and we laughed a lot. We wish you a very happy and safe journey. Maybe we'll see you again. ;-) Greetings Fred and Vera

    1. Thanks Fred and Vera, when we drive back to Romania next year to start on the house build we will stop off to see you for sure.


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