Donauradweg; Cernavoda to Constanta - 68km
Trip Start Mar 21, 2013
69Trip End Jul 31, 2013
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Cernavoda to Constanta. 68km, 2892 km total
18 to 40 C
Hotel Maria 180 Lei ($54/41€) double & fantastic breakfast buffet
Telephone.: 0241 611 711
Tire Tread Wire
Hiro's back tire was flat when we went down at 6am. He and Junko worked on it while we organized our luggage and got our bikes to the street. They quickly found the culprit. A small staple like wire was still stuck in the tire. We had learned, during our ride in Mexico, that these little devils are weaved inside truck tire treads which are left on the road by the truckers after a tire wears out and shreds. He must have picked it up on the toll road yesterday. To save time, they installed the spare tube, the one that had been in Junko’s bike for a few hours, and Hiro pumped. Hiro’s arm got tired and Junko took over. Junko’s arm tired.
They must have thought the pump was a problem and asked Dave to show them how to use it. Dave said the pump looked fine and pulled the tube out of the tire.
Sure enough, the tube had two small holes in the same place and pattern as were in Junko’s other tube when it went flat. Those must have gotten there when they used it for a spare in Junko’s tire in Bechet. Dave had already patched Hiro’s original tube while they were reassembling the tire the first time. So without delay, they put the repaired tube in and, this time, the pump worked fine. The tire held its air.
Left Side of the Canal
Again it was Hiro’s turn to lead. He had spent time last night working out the best way from his large scale Europe map that does not have the small roads. We would be leaving the Bikeline detailed maps for 30 kilometers at Cernavoda. Hiro planned a route up and over the bridge and along the A2 toll road. We had to correct him and tell him the easy way was to stay down low and follow the left side of the canal all the way into Constanta. The Swiss couple we had met in Bechet had told us this was a new cycling alternative along highway 22C and showed us the route on their map. It didn't dawn on us that Junko and Hiro were not with us that day and we had not told them about it. Hiro’s work to find a route was wasted effort because we didn't tell him about the easy way beforehand. Sorry, Hiro. Sorry Junko.
Cernavoda Nuclear Power Plants
We had gone online to get some background on the cooling towers we had seen in Calarasi. Those sure looked like nuclear plant cooling towers to us. We came empty on any reliable information about towers we saw in Calarasi. All we could find on Romanian Nuclear Power were about the Canadian designed reactors in Cernavoda. This nuclear power plant complex supplies 20% of Romania’s energy needs. And we rode by the reactors as we went east out of Cernavoda. Two reactors are operational and three more are in planning and/or under construction here. The reactors were in massive cube shaped concrete buildings and were nothing like we see on the Simpson’s. Signs stated that taking pictures of the plant was forbidden.
The sun was getting high and temps climbed quickly.
Where is the Canal Path?
The Swiss couple had told us that this was a new 'flat’ cycling route along the canal. We assumed they meant we would ride a canal road along, but separate, from highway 22C. We watched for a cut-off toward the canal as we rode on the nice fast pavement of 22C. We got to a spot fairly close to the canal. We could see a dyke with a dirt car path on top. Between it and us were marsh and railroad tracks. We wanted to find a road to it. We did not want to bushwhack our way on sketchy footpaths to get there only to have to turn around and make our way back if the route wasn't continuous.
Not Flat at All
We were making great time on the smooth pavement and knew the dirt path near the canal would be much slower. We wanted to test it though.
Then, the hills started. They were not the Swiss Alps. Maybe that is why the Swiss couple perceived this way as ‘flat’. I am from Holland where we‘d call these ‘mountains’. And what happened to ‘flat as this table top?" I wasn't happy, especially when we could see the canal dyke down below as level as the canal. We never saw a way to get to the canal until the bridge crossing at Medgidia. But then this was the spot where the original Bikeline / EuroVelo 6 route crosses the bridge to this side and connects to highway 22C on this left side. We felt comfortable to be on the official route again and decided to follow it the final 40 km into Constanta. 22C and Highway 3 joined together at this spot and we joined 3 into Constanta.
We made the last turn into Constanta with the old town center still 12 kilometers ahead. The road was straight but had one crown and valley combo after another. Up and down and up and down through uninteresting urban sprawl. And the early afternoon heat was getting to me. We reached a retired Navy cruiser perched in a park at the 6 km mark. We rested in the shade knowing our day’s work would soon be over
Stop at Hara Bike Shop
My back tire was getting more and more wobbly taking all the fun out of the speedy down hills.
Trouble Finding Voila, Then More....
Google maps let us down again! It showed we needed to ride down a steep switchback toward the port and shipyards where the hotel label was shown on the map. We got to a fenced-off area without passing any hotels. We could not even get to the Black Sea and dip our tires here.
We had to climb back up. Back on top, we still did not have any idea which way to go and asked around. I had taken a picture of the location shown on the booking website and went in that direction. After 45 minutes of wandering, we ran across a guy who knew the hotel. It was just a few blocks away.
We rolled into the Viola Hotel courtyard and were immediately pleased that we had picked such a lovely hotel. The lobby too was cool and inviting. Tanya, at reception, was not so inviting. She curtly told us they had no rooms available. Dave confidently explained that we already had a confirmed reservation and showed her a copy. "That can’t be correct,” Tanya exclaimed. “All our rooms are already occupied” She grabbed the phone and looked closely at the confirmation and looked for a mistake in dates. “I don’t know what happened. We have no rooms”
We were all hot and tired after our ride and stayed deeply rooted in the plush couches in the air conditioned lobby. We showed no indication that we would be moving on any time soon.
“Call the booking company”, Dave suggested. Tanya called her manager and went on and on in Romanian. We found the customer service number for laterooms.com and called it. During the call tree carousel, we were cut off twice. The manager didn't help. They said they have not used laterooms.com since winter and could not honor the reservation. There was nothing they could do. “Could you help us find a room elsewhere”, I asked. Dave went back to trying to reach laterooms.com and finally got to Bev who said she would work on the problem and call us back.
In the meantime, Tanya, the sweetheart, had a list with a dozen places she had called. She gave us our two best bets, Hotel Palace or Hotel Maria. The first was more like Voila and in the historic area but more money. Tanya had negotiated a discount for us. Hotel Maria was near the train station at the center of town (not the historic area of town). "It is also nice but it will remind you of a hospital. And the price is close to the price on your laterooms.com reservation, 180 Lei." Tanya said. Dave had remembered passing Hotel Maria and we zipped quickly over there.
Hotel Maria was great and our rooms spacious. Yep, its a little clinical but much newer and better than we had hoped for. Only problem was they had rooms just for tonight. They cater to business travelers and had a conference group filling the hotel all week, starting Sunday night. Too bad.
Bev, from laterooms.com, emailed and said she could not reach us or Hotel Viola. Dave emailed back with our status of still needing rooms for the next nights and gave her both numbers for international dialing, including country code. Soon, Tanya called and said Bev had called her and we could have two rooms tomorrow. Her manager had agreed to 200 Lei which was a bit more than our original reservation but a good discount off their usual rate. We told her to hold the rooms for us and we’d be over in the morning.
Hiro and Dave Aren't Done
Dinner at the Hotel Maria was pretty good. Dave and Hiro hatched a plan to continue another 200km to Tulcea where we could take a ferry down to the Donau Delta and the official kilometer post “0” of the Donau at Sulina. At various spots along the river, we've seen the signs counting down the kilometer to “0”. We all wanted to go to kilometer post “0”. Dave and Hiro will ride to Tulcea together while Junko and I will go by bus. We were at the Black Sea already, that’s our goal. “And we need only 8 kilometer to reach 2900.” Junko added. “And we can do that tomorrow”
Dave suggested two 100km days to the end. But Junko stepped in. Hiro is a 72 year old man. He can’t do 100km with the hills. “Okay, three days then. No Problem.” Dave said. “The last thing we need is to get this far and have Hiro bonk!” Dave thought. But really, Hiro is strong rider for a person of any age. Neither of us thought 72 was limiting his ability. We scoped out potential hotel points for their three day ride.
July 21, 2013
Constanta 17 km, total 2909
Move to Voila Hotel, 200 Lei ($60/45€)
Phone: 0 241 508 002
After a dynamite buffet breakfast at Maria Hotel, we loaded the bikes and cycled across the park to the train station to buy tickets to Tulcea, including one bike. There seemed to be a lot of discussion about whether a bike is allowed on the train or not. Then the lady told me “No.” The mini buses out in front of the train station don’t go to Tulcea. We would need to go to the minibus station near the Park Mall to inquire.
We cycled over to other minibus station and were accosted by a driver who wanted to take us to Tulcea for 250 Lei. It would be a private van with room for all the bikes. We took his card and said we’d call if we needed him. At the station office, we learned buses leave every hour or two. But they do not have room for bike. Then a driver approached and said he has the only van with room in the boot for a bike. He goes one way each day. He would be doing Tulcea-Constanta the day we wanted to go Constanta-Tulcea. We did not have a good solution but figured we would end up going with the private van in the end. We picked up picnic goodies at Lidl market; hot out of the oven seeded whole wheat bread, baba ghanoush and hummus. The private van guy was gone and we’d have to call him later.
We cycled to a nice spot on the shore of the Black Sea, picnicked, took pictures, then continued on to Viola.
Tanya was worried about us. She had expected us sooner. She had our rooms ready. We told her we needed one for two nights and the other for three nights. Junko and I were going to give Dave and Hiro a one day head start.
We met Junko and Hiro at the restaurant on top of our hotel with the Black Sea as the backdrop. We discussed itinerary possibilities for our remaining stay in Romania then onto Istanbul, Turkey.
July 22, 2013
Constanta Tour Day
After breakfast we split up, Junko and Hiro wanted to take bus tour while Dave and I were content to explore old town around the hotel in foot. We climbed 140 steps to the top of the 47 meter high minaret of the Royal Mosque of Constanta for great view. The old mosque is known for its old carpet from Hereke, 144 m2 and 490 kilos. “One of the biggest”. Young boys at the mosque were receiving training. The lesson was given in the typically bad ‘repeat after me’ routine. The kids seem bored out of their gourds.
A good many streets in old town are torn up in effort to update the sewer and streets in this area. They are pumping in millions into the project. Old town will be beautiful when finished. We walked by the harbor area, mosaic museum (closed), casino, the restoration of a commercial building on waterfront, and the light house.
The highlight was a stop at the beautiful Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, Constanţa with its incredibly beautiful interior with wall-to-wall frescoes.
We stopped in at a TUR travel agency office. They have some great packages but the date that would work for us was sold out. She also mentioned that Turkish Airlines has a direct flight from Constanta to Istanbul with incredible rates. “No thanks. We like to see the country side and avoid flying when we can,” we told her.
In the evening, we met up with and Hiro and Junko and dined at a delicious vegan restaurant within easy walking distance of our hotel. During dinner, we discussed what we had learned today. Dave was able to find even better airfares on the Constanta to Istanbul flight, $63.15 each, non-refundable.
Hiro and Junko have fallen in love with their Dutch bikes and want to take them home. If we fly from Constanta to Istanbul, there was no need for Junko to take her bike to Tulcea. We could leave it at Voila until we come back. And we could leave a lot of extra luggage at the hotel and travel light to Sulina.
Dave used Expedia to book four tickets to Istanbul on the 31st from here. At the end of the booking process, Expedia popped up a hotel special in Istanbul, 40% off the normal rate if we booked within 4 hours. It worked. We booked rooms for eight days in Istanbul. We reserved rooms here at Voila hotel again for 30th.
Plan for the Two Weeks with Hiro and Junko.
July 23rd, Dave and Hiro are cycling to Tulcea and taking 3 days for the tough mountainous stretch
24th, Junko and I will take a 3 hour bus ride to Tulcea and arrange delta tour
25-26, Donau delta tour
27th, We'll bus or train to Bucharest
30th, We'll return to Constanta
31st, Fly to Istanbul
July 31 – August 8th - 8 days at a hotel near Grand Bazaar in Istanbul
Junko and Hiro Add;
1) Bikeline Maps & Guides; Donau-Radweg 5, (5 books in the series)
Our plan in a nutshell; 2900 total kilometers at 50 km per day - 2 days riding for 1 day off for a total of 58 riding days & 90 total days - April to July, 2013 :)