On the Road Again....

Trip Start Oct 26, 2006
Trip End Aug 2007

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Flag of Hungary  ,
Wednesday, July 18, 2007

We heard rumors that riding a bicycle through the outskirts of Istanbul shaded toward life threatening. Instead we took the overnight bus to Sofia, Bulgaria. The ride was pretty uneventful. I can't say we slept much but we were not fully awake either. We reached the border a little after midnight. The crossing itself was a series of getting off the bus, maybe show our passports, maybe answer some questions, get back on the bus, the bus moves forward 100 meters, repeat. After several iterations of that the guards got bored with us and the bus continued on to Sofia. We arrived in Sofia a little before five in the morning. There was a wonderful chill to the air. Something we had not experienced since Greece. After a bad cup of coffee we decided we were not that inspired by the city and got our bikes ready for the road. We had plans to work on an organic farm in Hungary in 2 weeks time and had much ground to cover. It was nice to spin the legs again. It had been almost two weeks since we had traveled by bicycle. Maybe we fell a sleep at the wheel for the kilometers seemed to tick by. By early afternoon we had crossed the border into Serbia. Not soon after crossing we came upon a farm with a hand painted sign indicating "Camping". We pulled in. After a shower by hose in the cucumber patch, we made ourselves some tuna-mac and fell into a deep sleep.

We spent three days riding through Serbia's beautiful rolling countryside. It was much more green and lush then we expected. The roads were also better than expected. No shoulders but there was also little traffic. Just a bit unnerving when the occasional truck drove past. The cities were bland. For the most part a bunch of boxy buildings with a couple features of flare to keep the morale up. It was interesting how many of the cities had factories right in the middle of them. Working in the construction business my colleagues and I joke how it would be a lot easier without architects. Well I've seen it, and it ain't pretty. Keep the architects. There are very few campsites in Serbia. Early in our visit we heard that there are still landmines scattered throughout the countryside from the war. We were probably travelling far from the area where that is the case but never the less we decided not to do any "rogue" camping during our stay. Our accomodations ranged from a hostel, to a hotel, to army barracks converted into a youth sports camp. They love their sports in Serbia. Aside from a dedicated TV channel showing all Serbian sports all the time, many walk the streets in their Adidas jumpsuits and sandles like they were in an olympic training camp. The people were not overly friendly like people in Turkey, but offered help when confronted. The rest of the time they looked at us in our lycra getup like a deer in headlights. I guess I can't blame them. Our only gripe about Serbia was the food. They liked their meat and they liked it fried. Not for us. We cooked our own meals after the first experience with "chicken meat".


Our stay in Romania didn't start off on the best foot but got better. We crossed into Romania onto a road in the midst of construction with newly funded EU money. To make matters worse it was a major trucking route. We were ready to make our stay in Romania a short one when we arrived in the village of Borlova. Holly read of a pension in this farming village so we road to check it out. Rolling throught the village there were more farm animals in the streets then cars and no sign for a pension. Having almost given up hope we asked a couple of kids sitting in front of the market, "Pension?" One knew a little english and explained that the family of his friend here had a pension and that he would take us to it. He hopped on his bicycle and took us back to one of the first houses we passed where we still didn't see a sign. We ended up camping on the lawn outside the pension for two nights. The stay there totally rejuvenated our spirit toward Romania. The village was nestled up a valley in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. It was still for the most part a farming village where the work was done by hand. The village was mostly self sufficient where the bartering system was still alive and well. Eggs for milk, grain for honey. I went shopping in the market one morning to come to find out it doesn't sell milk. When asked we were told there were enough cows to support the village so there is no need for the market to sell milk. The kindness of our hosts at the pension supported our theory that as you gained elevation people get nicer. One of our hosts was a Brit somewhat adopted (long story) by the owners who knew Romanian. So we could freely communicate which was a treat. But the best part of our stay there had to be our host mom's cookin. WOW!! If we didn't have to be in Hungary in a weeks time we probably would have stayed longer, but alas. On our second morning we set off with rain clouds overhead. For the next four days we road through the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. We probably should have enjoyed the lovely scenery and nice roads more but we spent much of this time dodging rainclouds and then trying to get rid of a nasty 24 hour bug that we passed to each other. This and the fact the Tour de France was now in the Alps gave us a good excuse to stay at some of Romania's many affordable pensions with satellite TV ( a night's stay with breakfast is about the same cost as camping in Corsica). So our routine in Romania was to ride to the next town and search out a pension. Once there, ask to see the room and then verify that they had Eurosport on the TV. Go to the store to buy beer and dinner. Eat dinner and drink beer in bed while watching the Tour. Soon after the Carpathian mountains we entered into Hungary.

Upon crossing the border we immediately felt we were more in western Europe. The horse and carts were replaced with combines, the cars were nicer, and the cities now came with bike pathes. The riding was flat and the weather hot. A summer heat wave had hit southern Europe. Mid day temperatures were getting toward 40C (104F) in the shade and we spent most of our time on an asphalt road stuck between two wheat fields with no tree in sight. Riding was more a chore than a pleasure. We pushed on thraough and pulled into Alan and Eva's farm after 1327 kilometers since Sofia only one day behind our scheduled arrival. Luckily Alan and Eva didn't mind our tartiness.

Next up, Holly and Seth exchange their lycra for some overalls.
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