ROMANIA: 31.08. - 11.09.2003

Route: Ostrov, Constanza, Tulcea, Galati, Oancea

Distance: 543 Km

Preface: We enjoy being on our own again. First we were quite shocked because of Romania’s poverty and it seemed that there are more donkey carts than cars. We fortunately only had good experiences with the people, but we always had to be careful because some kids love stealing.

Border crossing: Germans are allowed to have two passports, if they intend to travel into countries which don’t accept each other (like Syria and Israel). We started our journey with our 1st passport while our 2nd passport was at a visa agent, because we applied for our visas for Ukraine, Russia and Georgia just before we left Germany. After all the visas were issued, we got our 2nd passport posted to Serbia. To have already our right passport on arrival in Ukraine, we planned to exchange our passports between Bulgaria and Romania. We got our departure stamp from Bulgaria into our 1st passport. On the Romanian side of the checkpoint we showed them our 2nd passport, but because there was no departure stamp in this passport, the officers refused to give us the entry stamp and sent us back to the Bulgarian side of the border, to collect it. Of course the officers looked quite puzzled, when we returned and asked for another departure stamp, because we got it already a couple of minutes before. And because there was no entry stamp into Bulgaria in our 2nd passport the officers were now completely confused. We explained them the whole situation, but now they wanted to see also our 1st passport. This 1st passport was in our handlebar bag and our bikes stood still on the Romanian side of the border. The Romanian officer was standing directly next to our bikes and because I didn’t want to show him, that we have two passports, I just took both handlebar bags with me. The officer in Romania was quite surprised to see our two passports, but because he was able to speak a little bit German, we were able to explain him our problem. Because he was not able to give us a departure stamp without an entry stamp, he sent us to the other site of the house (the entry site). When we arrived on the other side, he already stood there and said: “Hello, welcome to Bulgaria”, gave us the entry stamp to Bulgaria and suggested that we should visit Bulgaria for about 15 minutes before returning to the border. After being about 2 minutes back in Bulgaria, we were called back to the checkpoint, where we got our Bulgarian departure stamp with a big smile!!!! In the meanwhile the officers on the Romanian side were quite confused about our long discussions and the circle around the Bulgarian checkpoint. They just started to walk towards the Bulgarian checkpoint when we returned to them. Now everything was fine and we got our entry stamp for Romania!!!!

Arriving in Romania: Our first couple of days in Romania were quite hard. On one hand, we forgot to change some money at the border and so we had to cycle 140 Km to the next bigger city with an ATM to get some money. During this 140 Km, we had to cycle through one of the poorer parts of Romania. Sometimes the main roads were even made out o paving stone and we met more donkey carts than normal cars (5:1). The villages had no real water supply and it seemed to us, that the most vivid place in the villages was aroud the wells (woman getting some water and donkeys, sheep and cows beeing watered). We spent our first night in a small forest which was also choosen from a couple for a big family argument. Our second campsite was close to a military checkpoit and twice some soldiers came to check our passports.
Punctures: For our third night, we choose a small forest which turned out to be a forest with heeps of “Akatia” trees. The “Akatia” is a tree with big strong thorns like roses which are perfect for causing punctures. Over the next 4 days we had a total of 8 puntures and I really feared to run out of patches.
Constantza: Constantza is a big town lokated at the Black Sea. During our search for an internet café we met Liviu, who invited us to use his Pc at home. Together we cycled to his appartment, but because the appartment was at the 8th level of a big appartment block, we took our bikes into the elevator. Stealing is still a big problem and it was not save to leave our bikes unguarded. The elevator was too small to close the doors and so we just pressed the closing contact with our hands. We parked our bikes in the living room and tried to make an update of our website. The comuter was brand new, but the modem seemd to bee produced in the middle age. It was a least 10 years old and was as big as a football and so slow, that it was impossible to open our “online website-updating-programm”. Even to open Yahoo took a couple of minutes, so that we finally decide not to update our website. Sometimes it is quite difficult for us to understand the mentality of the people in Eastern Europe. Liviu is spent a lot of money for a new computer, an internet connection and 3 mobile phones (for 4 persons) but he has not enough money for a proper modem. When we asked him to use the toilet we were told, that he didn't pay for the water bill during the last couple of months, so that he is not allowed to use water. But if we would open the tap not to much, so that the water meter would not start running, it would be ok. . After we sent our mails, Liviu showed us some photos (about 5 Kg!!!) from the time, when he was very active in politics. A time, in which it seemed to go very well for Romania before the "Ex-communists” finally took over again in 1996.

Official Campground: We spent our first night on an official campground in Manaia just behind the beach. Manai is Romanias most famous beach resort at the Black Sea coast.
How to use a well: Like each evening during the last 3 1/2 months we wanted to fill up our waterbottels before we were looking for a campsite in the bush. So far it was never necesarry to use a well, but when we asked some farmers in a small village close to the Danube for "Abra" (water), they just pointed to a big well. We immediately realised, that this was the only water supply in this village and also the only oppertunety for us to fill up our bottles. Filling up a water bottle from a well sounds quite easy, but the realety was differnt. First, one of our bottles was blown into the well (6m deep) from a sudden unexpected gusst. After a couple of minutes fishing with a bucket in the well, we fortunately managed to catch our bottle just in time, before one of the farmers came to look after us. The next problem was how to get the water from the bucket into a small Coke bottle, without dipping the bottle into the bucket and without spilling some water. We think water is quite percious and we didn’tt want that the locals think, that we're wasting or polluting their water. Until the farmer interfered, we filled the water first into our bike bottle with its big opening and from there into the Coke bottle. Quite amused about our method the farmer showed us the local solution. Next to the well was a funnel, connected to a pipe wich ended in a tub for the stock to drink. So the farmer was pouring the water into the funnel, while I helt our waterbottle under the other side of the pipe (above the tub) and waited for the water to drop into the bottle. By the way, the qualety of the water was very good and we had no problems.

Leaving Romania: Our first idea of crossing the border from Romania to Ukraine was by ferry over the river Danube (the Danube is the common border for about 100 Km, but there was no ferry). So we cycled to Galati where there was a bordercrossing marked on our map. The checkpoint was 25 Km out of the town and when we arrived there, we were told, that we're not allowed to cross the border here with our bicycles. The only official checkpoint for cyclists would be in Oeancea, 60 Km further north. One customs officer thought that it would be possible to load our bikes into a car to cross the border, but his boss didn't allow us to do so. Not able to cross the border, we cycled back to Galatie, where we met two cyclists from Poland. They told us that it is, according to the information they got a the police station in Tulcea, possible to cross the border with bycicles at exactly the border, where we were refused. We told them our experience at the checkpoint and they just answered with a smile. "Of course it would be possible, but you just have to bribe the ofiicials", was their answer. Both of them were so sure, that it is possible to cross the border, that we followed them to the border. This time, the officers were quite friendly and now we were told, that a distance of about 1 Km between the checkpoint on the Rumanian side and the checkpoint in Ukraine belongs to Moldavia. And without a valid Transit visa, wich can't be issued here but only in Oancea 60 Km further north, we were not allowed to use this checkpoint. For the sencond time we cycled back to Galatie. After 65 Km we were finally back at our last campsite, but this time we didn't stop here. Instead we cycled to Oancea and cycled in total 114 Km on thes day, so far our biggest distance.




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