We arrived in Romania this evening, after pedalling across a corner of Bulgaria for half a day.
Dovijena Syrbia. See you later, Serbia. We met so many kind and thoughtful people during our week in Serbia, although I do not count the upper-class twit from Belfast among them. He was using his economic upperhand to chase women in Belgrade, the only way he had a chance of success in view of his lack of social skills. He reminded us of middle-aged Canadian and European men that we saw operating in Cuba –but he was only twenty!
From Belgrade, we pedalled along the North side of the Danube to tiny Banatska Planka, just before the Romanian border. We stayed in a small room rented by a jolly Serbian hostess with whom we communicated in a pidgin mishmash of English and German. I accidentally left my wallet in the restaurant because I was playing with a cat (who enjoyed some bits from my fish soup), and the waiter came to our house to return the wallet with everything still there. Note: important cards and Euros were kept elsewhere.
Our hostess had a jolly significant other whom she carefully described to me as nicht mien husband, mien lieben — not my husband , but my lover. They were older than we are. Mien Lieben and Chris repaired Chris’s slow leak in the morning, and removed the offending sliver of glass from Chris’s outer tire with tweezers. Then he poured Chris a shot of Slivovitz for the road. Note: This is our third flat in less than 1000 km, whereas we did 10,000 km with NO flats on the other bikes with their Schwalbe tires. We love these new bikes, but will buy Schwalbes before the next trip.
We took the first ferry, a tiny barge with two vehicles and us, across the Danube to pedal through the Iron Gate on the Serbian side. The Serbian road has less traffic and better views than the Romanian side. A Serbian TV crew was on the ferry, making a documentary on The Secrets of the Danube. We may actually be on Serbian TV. The Iron Gate has been two days of spectacular riding, with a ruined castle guarding the narrowest part on our side, and 21 tunnels. These are up to 300 m long and are unlit. Luckily, we have helmet-mounted headlights and various red blinkies, but things are still pretty exciting as you pedal through wondering when the next truck will come.
We found ourselves without accommodation as it started to get dark, probably due to the difficulties of inquiring and especially of understanding the replies. We were allowed to camp unofficially at a small museum’s picnic area, and by the time we’d eaten sausage on bread for supper we found we had four canine friends. It was a peaceful evening as the dogs settled beside our tent, and we could hear gentle snuffles and flea-scratching during the night.
We spent last night at another Soviet-style hotel in a Southern Serbian town, then today we crossed two more borders: first into Bulgaria, and then another more major ferry crossing to Romania. The hotel here is another Soviet-era special that makes the others look pretty classy. This one seems downright derelict and almost deserted, but staff are friendly and helpful. Welcome to Romania! We’ve just had an excellent supper.
Accommodation possibilities are further apart here, so we may camp more. So far, we have been unable to find a gas cannister that fits the so-called universal stove from MEC. We may just buy a new stove.