Romania – Wedding, Danube, Trains and Breaking Down!

The Austria / Hungarian border was eerie to say the least, it was the first time on the journey that I felt I was travelling into a whole different way of life. The border seemed, for want of a better word, lifeless, it really looked as if I had gone back in time and crossed the iron curtain into the Soviet Union. Everything was built from concrete and looked abandoned, there were armed guards patrolling and the damp weather didn’t help either.

Below, looking over Reșița

View over Resita

Until you actually take a trip like this it is very hard to understand the scale of individual countries or whole continents. It took Ron and I all day to travel from Vienna to Romania with very few stops in-between (mainly just for fuel and a snack). In Hungary we were still able to use European highways, so although long it was at a constant and reasonable pace. As soon as we hit the Romanian border we were faced with much smaller roads which were not always kept up to a decent standard and made the going much slower. It must be noted that Romania is in the process of extending the European highways through the country, which should improve access in the future.

Resita Building

Travelling through Romania’s country side was again like passing back through time. The poorer rural communities still rely heavily upon horses and manual labour, where in England we would use electric strimmers to cut back long grass they are making use of scythes. Old fashioned stacks are still the only way to effectively store hay and subsistence farming is the primary method. Romania is definitely a major food producer and I was told throughout my stay that the country is 100% self sufficient in food.

Below, Train from the Reșița Steam Locomotive Museum.

Train

On the first day Ron and I visited the Steam Locomotive Museum in Reșița. After speaking to Alin about the countries history he believes Romania’s golden era was in the late 19th Century which is the period in which most of these trains would have done their work, the earliest example dating 1872. It was nice to see the trains proudly on display and kept in a relatively good condition (as good a condition as trains from 1872 can be kept) and we were able to spend 1.5 hours having a look and taking some photos.

We managed to get told off by the on duty guard by sitting on a plinth to take some photos, he blew his whistle a few times, come over and started talking Romanian. Once he found out we were English he walked off and I’m sure he must have thought “typical English tourists” or something to that affect.

Train coal oven

Long train

We met some great people during our stay, everyone was very kind and happy to welcome us to their home. In particular I would like to thank Roxie & Radu for letting us stay in their apartment and also showing us around the countryside near their summer home and Alin’s mum for cooking a lovely buffet type meal for us, with some traditional Romanian foods, on our last evening in Romania.

Train Detail 1

On the morning of the wedding we all met at Diana’s (the bride) flat and we were able to meet a few more people and try to remember many more names. On the way to the church it seems to be a modern tradition to go very slowly with hazard lights flashing honking the horn, it was good fun all be it very noisy. The wedding itself was held in a small church, which apparently Nicolae Ceaușescu had ordered moved from its original location to erect some new apartment blocks. It was quite a short service, and although I couldn’t understand the words it was a heartfelt experience that I am glad I witnessed.

Train Detail 3

After the wedding there was the party, this involved much drinking, eating, singing, dancing & laughing. I am not a huge fan of parties and dancing, but it was a really enjoyable time and it was nice to see a combination of modern music, played by a band with two of Diana’s cousins, and traditional Romanian and Serbian music.

I was asked to join in the Hora by a very enthusiastic gentleman who saw me watching the dance taking place, so I decided to join the circle despite having no idea what the steps were. I think I must have been quite an amusing sight for the younger Romanians as it was mostly the older wedding guests who partook in this particular dance.

The wedding was also an opportunity to sit outside (in the slightly quieter area) and talk to some of the guests. I got an overall feeling that most of the people shared a great sense of pride in being Romanian but also of disappointment at their governments lack of action to improve the country, many claiming high levels of corruption among those still in place after Ceaușescu’s removal and subsequent execution. In contrast it was refreshing to see some of the younger generations aspirations for their futures, one young lad Christian was really passionate about owning his own farm and spent a lot of time trying to practice his English with me for various plants, crops and animals, I wish him the best of luck for the future.

Train Detail 5

A couple of days after the wedding we arranged for Ron, Alin, Diana & myself to drive to the River Danube, camp over night and do some fishing. The plan was to get there before dark so we could easily set up our tents, this didn’t happen and it was pitch black when we got there. Thankfully Ron had brought his photography lights and they provided plenty of illumination to get the tents up and fishing gear sorted.

Train Detail 6

We were not very successful that night with the fishing, it didn’t help that Alin had left half the bait behind by mistake but I think it just wasn’t our night. This lack of sport was off-set by gazing up into the sky and looking at the milky way using Ron’s star and constellation phone app to pinpoint notable objects of which we found a few. We were also in constant need to try to find more firewood, as our fire kept dying and it wasn’t the warmest of nights. That is one thing to mention about Romania during the summer, it is capable of hitting and easily rising over 40 Celsius (which it managed during our stay) and the nights seem generally warm and comfortable, but if you go to the Danube the river and wind makes the temperature drop suddenly.

It is also recommended to take a lot of mosquito repellent (which we did) because there are millions of the buggers!

Below, Danube sunset, looking over from Romania to Serbia.

Danube Sunset

I have to give full credit to Alin, while the rest of us were in bed trying to get maybe 4 hours sleep before the morning heat forced us out our tents, he stood guard by the rods and managed to bring in 4 or 5 half decent fish. There wasn’t anything of any real size but he had managed what the four of us couldn’t the night before.

These fish were taken with us and when we met up with Roxie, Radu and the rest of the group by a lake further in the mountains, Alin gutted them and cooked them on a fire. I have never eaten carp before (in England it is illegal to fish for them in lakes and eat them) but I was surprised by how nice it tasted and everyone enjoyed getting around the bench and picking at bits of the fish from between the bones.

Below, Golubački grad (Golubac Fortress)

Danube Castle

One last thing that must be mentioned before the end of this post is the journey home.

It was just going to be me and Ron until Munich and then we were picking up another passenger before continuing to London, however as is usually the case it was not that simple.

Ron’s Jeep had done so well on the entire journey, and although all bets (from people who knew the vehicle) were against us making it to Romania let alone back, on the way home we felt sure we would make it in once piece. The Jeep had other ideas, driving just outside of Vienna the crank shaft snapped and we were only just able to make it into the next service station. Luckily Ron had European RAC cover and someone was sent to see what could be done. Upon arrival the guy looked in the oil and saw there was nothing left, he then saw the crank shaft had snapped and bluntly said to us “finished” which was one word out of his very small English vocabulary he had managed to perfect.

This meant we had to stay overnight (at the RAC’s expense) in a rather nice Austrian hotel until a hire car could be arranged for us the next morning. We were hoping to get out by 8am and pick up the new vehicle but finally at around 12pm we were picked up by the taxi and taken to our vehicle.

This overnight stay in Austria meant we had lost a lot of driving time to reach our ferry. The original plan was to get to Munich stay overnight and have a slightly more relaxed journey to Calais. Now we had no time to spare so we had to make the journey to our Premier Inn in Ghent, Belgium over night.

When we got to Ghent we estimated we had maybe 2 hours sleep before we had to wake up, drop the vehicle off and get to Calais. The plan was for Ron to drop off me and Mechel at Calais with all our luggage, then drop the car off and get a train back. What should have been a 3-4 hour trip to drop the vehicle off and get back to Calais turned into 8 after Ron couldn’t find a petrol garage and then the car hire location.

Finally when everything was done we were able to get on our ferry and arrive safely back in England. Looking back I don’t think I would have had the trip end any other way, at the time it was fairly stressful and irritating but we were all managing to keep our spirits up and laugh it off, even Ron who now has himself a brand new Jeep.

Daunbe Waterfall

I had an amazing time in Romania and I must thank Alin and Diana very much for inviting Ron and I to this very special occasion, it truly was an honour and a trip I will never forget.

I would also like to thank Ron for all the driving he put in on the trip making it possible for us to see as much as we did.

Finally thanks go to the little Jeep that so very nearly got us there and back.

Thanks for stopping by,

Tom out!

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