Flexibility comes into play again as our package of a replacement helmet intercom fails to arrive and our stay in Brasov is extended by a further 2 days. Being able to track the progress of a package in these modern times when you can see that it has sat in Frankfurt for a day and then only travelled to Nurnberg where it has sat for another day can be a bit frustrating so best to just use the time (and some public transport) for sight-seeing.
A 25 minute bus ride from Brasov to Rasnov left us wondering if we really wanted to make the return journey. There is a mirror next to the driver. It enables him to see what his hooligan passengers may be getting up to. It also gives his passengers a clear view of him texting on 4 occasions whilst driving, chewing his nails on one hand while hanging the other out of the window and steering with his knees. Red light at roadworks, what red light! There were plenty of driving schools in Romania but from the evidence we are not sure who goes to them. Anyway, Rasnov is a fortress on top of a hill used for the purpose of housing the villagers in times of invasion which appears to have been frequently.
Bran Castle further down the road (fictitious home to the fictitious Dracula) was a royal residence and unlike Rasnov Castle has been restored and restored well. It is a popular tourist destination and you have to get through the inevitable tourist stands to get to it, but it’s worth the visit.
Brasov where we based ourselves has a lovely old town and a guided walk with local guide Ellie highlighted how diverse the local culture was. German, Hungarian, Romanian and Gypsy all living side by side working for the good of each other. Each bringing their particular skills to bear for the prosperity of the town. It also explained why many of the town name signs are in 3 languages. At our hotel we met Margaret who served everyone at breakfast. A middle aged lady, she spoke pretty good English and she told me that she had been to work in Manchester for a year to make some money for her family and then returned home. It is a common story and with the exchange rate good it can be a big help to a family. It makes us think more about the immigration debate going on back home.
At last the intercom arrives and within a short time we are back in communication and ready to get back on the road.
The Transfagarasan Highway beckoned. This road featured in Top Gear in 2009. It was built between 1970 and 1974 , allegedly on the orders of Nicolas Ceausescu who wanted a strategic route for troops to cross the Fagaras Mountains should there be an invasion by Russia, despite there already being a perfectly good road around the mountains and this road can only open between June and October due to weather conditions. It is also known as Ceausescu’s Folly.
The road is about 150 km long and is something to behold as it weaves back and forth up through the mountains. The weather conditions were perfect for the climb to the top but as with any mountain pass this can change rapidly and the lake at the top was soon shrouded with mist and the temperatures plummeted.
Coming down off the top the blue skies returned and it was a fantastic ride through changing landscapes and hardly a straight piece of road in sight. We met up with 2 groups of bikers at a cafe. One group from Hungary were like us drinking coffee, the other group, Romanian were all drinking beer. Thankfully we left ahead of the beer drinkers. Beer and bikes, not a good combo. As a bike rider, Jim declared the ride as excellent and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. For me some of the drops were very unnerving and any pictures taken consisted of me sticking my arm out and hoping for the best.
Over the next couple of days we road from Curtes de Arges up to Oradea, covering the northern part of the transalpina and other minor routes, all of which made for great riding. Would we recommend Romania to anyone else as a biking destination. Certainly, but take the map as a guide and not as a definitive as to road conditions. We avoided the major roads wherever possible as they don’t necessarily have better road surfaces than the smaller roads. The volume of traffic and pretty awful driving standards make the smaller roads more attractive and you get to see the real Romania.