It was no longer my birthday but on the plus side, we were going to Romania! The Romanian/Hungarian border was the first ‘real’ boarder check we had encountered so far on this trip. I mentioned previously that the Slovakian/Hungarian border had potential but was empty. This one was manned and a lengthy queue of lorries were being searched. Our passports were checked but quickly and we didn’t even have to take our helmets off.
I should know better than to judge a country by it’s border town but I did pre-judge Romania and decided it was run-down and industrial. (How wrong I was!). The boarder it’s self had about eight currency exchange shops but wary of the rate we moved on. Ten minutes later we spotted one on the main road called ‘Free Coffee Exchange’. If the name wasn’t grabbing enough, the rate of exchange was exactly what we had pulled off google that morning. Good enough for me! We forewent the free coffee but a much needed cup of cold water did not go amiss.
Within half an hour of crossing the boarder, I had recoiled my premature judgement and fell hard in love with Romania. The houses were colourful and charming. Some had tiled exterior walls, some chalky blue orange turquoise or pink and some wooden with ornate carvings. Some were very old with plaster over hay stuffed-walls. Some made of chipboard and others just bricks and breeze blocks held together with cement, left unrendered and unclad.
The elderly women wear retro cotton dresses and aprons in blue or grey along with triangular head scarves tied under the chin or behind the neck.
On the roads there are mainly modern cars and a few of the same type of old car that reminds me of the ones in Borat. Also, in case you were wondering, the horsecarts have number plates! They are not ornate like the gypsy caravans you sometimes see in England or the Amish ones but simple wooden like the ones in Vietnam or Laos.
We covered a lot of ground on our first day in Romania though the majority of the roads were ripped up. In fact, possibly every road in Romania is currently being re-surfaced on at least one side. It was hot and dusty going and the traffic light system (to allow both directions of traffic to use the same lane) meant that we were stopped in the sun, in full leathers, for 20 or so minutes at a time, every ten minutes.
The campsite was a welcome sight when the time came and we flopped down on the reception chairs in the shade. By this point we were far too lazy to cook our own dinner but a quick enquiry told us that the campsite owner also had a guest house 300 meters away which offered home cooked traditional Romanian dinners for 8 EUR in their enclosed outdoor area. Music to my ears! His wife served us and a large group of 15-20 French pensioners in two sittings. On arrival, we were invited to try his home-made prune schnapps (only 50% alcohol!). I wasn’t sure if we were supposed to sip it or knock it back but i’m not sure it mattered. We started the meal with a large bowl of delicious chunky vegetable broth and a basket of home made bread. I was full after this course but onward came pork loin with onions, polenta and a huge plate of pickled cucumbers!
Obviously we went back for breakfast…
Have you ever misjudged a country based on the boarder town? Had a different view on Romania? Let me know!