Tag: Romania

Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 24. Gelati to Izmail.

From Gelati it’s just 10km to the Moldovan border. At times the road is quiet and flat, at other times it’s badly maintained and busy but I’m quite used to that now, so I gave the cars as much space as I could and made it to the border alive.

I skipped past a line of waiting cars, filmed a brightly coloured train moving some cargo and then rolled into Moldova with a new stamp in my passport and without much fuss.

The road through Moldova is easy and quite fun as it’s literally 1km of bad road next to Moldova’s only a port (and thus access to the open water of the Black Sea). The road passes straight across a pleasant peice of land with a nice view of the river and then delivers you to the border of Ukraine.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 23. Turcoaia to Gelati

Waking up by the river was beautiful made a refreshing change from waking up in a hotel room that smelled on my sweaty shoes and damp clothes. It also meant that we were up, fed and on the road early.

The only downsides were a) I was still smelly and covered in sun-cream from yesterday and b) we all needed to use a ‘real’ toilet.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 22. Cernavoda to Turcoaia

Having sweated my way up and over many East European hills in the company of two French and now two German speakers, I learnt that all three languages (English, French and German) all use the same idiom “to sweat like a pig” and none of us know why.

One explanation is offered here and suggests the word pig refers to pig iron but this doesn’t explain why the french and German expression uses the word swine not pig.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 21. Silistra to Chernovoda

Leaving later than expected (now a common problem), today was to be the first day of cycling alone and was perhaps to be the start of a long and lonely week on the road. I set of relatively early and crossed the border into Romania on the edge of the city. I was happy to be back in Romania. Bulgaria is nice enough and I had a wonderful time there but Romania is, in many ways, more colourful and entertaining. It’s also supposed to be flatter although the first hill I hit at 10:00am destroyed that myth.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 17. Turnu Măgurele to Giurgiu.

In Romanian villages – it’s all about the bench.

While the Bulgaria seems quiet and sometimes a little introverted, Romania is the complete opposite. By and large, Romanians are outwardly friendly, noisy, curious and incredibly welcoming. In fact this openness is almost built into the fabric of their towns and Villages. Unlike Bulgarian villages which are arranged in clusters away from the main roads, houses in Romania line the streets and outside every house is a bench under a tree. This bench is where people sit, talk, gossip and argue, but mostly it seems that the bench is simply for sitting on and watching the world go by.

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Budapest to the Black Sea: Day 10. Kovin to Moldova Veche.

Leaving our super-friendly guesthouse by the Danube, our friendly hosts and their two crazy dogs behind, we left a little later than usual today (it’s hard to leave warm bread and home-made jam) and headed for Romania.

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Don’t be scared of the lifts

Lifts, or ‘elevators’ in Eastern Europe are intimidating things. They are small, they don’t look safe and they are usually in a state of stinking decay.   However, don’t be scared by Ukraine’s collection of terror-boxes – I haven’t heard of anyone who’s every been hurt in, or by a lift.

In Romania, I once squeezed into a lift, with my rucksack and another man, that was only big enough for 1.5 Romanians or 0.25% of an American.  The thing was made entirely from wood, it was covered in graffiti and it didn’t have a door or a back wall, but it worked. Basically, if you’re too lazy to walk, don’t expect communist-era machinery to pamper you in luxury while you’re hoisted up or lowered down to the floor.

Where they exist in Ukraine, the lifts don’t always work either, but if they door opens and you can identify the correct number from the cigarette-burnt plastic numbers – you’ll probably be OK.

Just remember that some lifts only deliver to every second floor and, as a compromise, some lifts deliver you mid way between two floors.

What happens if you get stuck?

If you’re extremely unlucky and it stops with you stuck inside, don’t panic. First try prising the door open. This sometimes works and hopefully you’ll be able to squeeze-out.  If that doesn’t work, look for one of these:

The intercom - your lift lifeline

The intercom – your lift lifeline

This is a lift intercom and whilst it might look like something from a WWII museum – most of them actually work.  Press the red button and see what happens.  You’ll probably get an angry sounding woman shouting ‘da’ (yes) or ‘sto?’ (what?) and if your Russian/Ukrainian is good enough you can explain.   You might even find that they speak English, but don’t count on it. They are employed to intimidate and begrudgingly help – not to communicate.

If you don’t know the address and you can’t find a way to communicate with the intercom woman – just kick the door and make some noise. Eventually someone will hear.

Oh, and make sure you ALWAYS carry the mobile phone number of a Ukrainian who can speak English. This simple trick could save your life.

More tips on surviving in Ukraine are available here: Ukraine Survival Guide

Good luck!

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