Cycling through Transylvania
When reading about Eurovelo 6 I found that the Romanian section of Eurovelo 6 is often described as “boring”, “arduous” or “repetitive”. So I investigated other options and decided that instead we would meander our way through the Carpathian mountains towards Bran Castle, home of Dracula!
We considered catching a train or bus between Tulcea and Braila but the Danube divides the country and it seems all trains go via Constanta. There is not much worse than going back on yourself when cycle touring!
The plan was to camp at a campsite next to a monastery in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. On arrival we were immediately surrounded by barking dogs and a nun came out to investigate. The ensuing conversation was one of the most useless I’ve had. She made no effort to understand us and resorted to shrugging whilst I struggled with finding the Romanian words. We gave up in the end and walked further up the dirt track to find somewhere to wild camp… And found the campsite. It was actually an unsigned legal wild camping spot and I felt a bit stupid for bothering the nun.
The campsite was on the slopes of the hill and didn’t have any proper facilties. The portatoilets were a bio-hazard and the watersource was a spring half way up the hill. We walked there and found it was being piped to the monastery, so we collected all the containers we could find and went and filled up from the outside tap.
The next stage was cycling into the mountains and figuring out the route to take through the Carpathians to get on the northern side. For our first night in the mountains we stayed at a campsite near Berca. A lot of the Comuna border signs had ‘Drum Bun’ written on them which translates to ‘farewell/have a good trip’. So my favourite thing became yelling ‘Drum Bun!’ at my brother every time we passed one.
The area around Berca is known for its oil and gas extraction but from a tourist point of view mostly the mud volcanoes, where gas and mud bubble up from the ground. These photos are some of my favourites, its so different to anywhere else I have been.
We bought a smoothie made from Goji berries and I chattted to the campsite woman. She told us that the sunset was always good from the volcanoes so we cooked a bit earlier and snuck back in. A few other photographers had the same idea, my best photo of the evening was of one of them.
The following morning we got up early and caught a train from Ojasca about 40km up the valley to Gura Bascei.
Once off the train we cycled up into the mountains towards Brasov, passing through Sinaia and its two mansion-like castles. We followed the DN1 road, which is a major national road linking North and South Romania. Honestly, that route decision was a mistake and we ended up cycling through it as fast as we could. The road was busy, steep and narrow which aren’t great combinations for a slow bicycle tourer.
We camped in Poiana Tapului near the highest point of the mountain pass. The campsite turned out to be a ‘vulcanizer’ garage, where they treat car tyres to improve the strength and resililancy. Obviously a garage isn’t the best place for a campsite and the busy road kept us up a lot of the night. The campsite itself was tiny and the facilities were the garage kitchen and two bathrooms with showers in the corner. It did the job but I would definitely recommend finding an alternative route over.
The next day we cycled out of the mountains and dropped down into the plains. We started heading West again towards the famous Bran Castle, home of Dracula. It was predictably a tourist hot-spot but still an impressive castle jutting out on a cliff.
We camped for a night in Fagaras, we discovered the campsite we were aiming for was part of a waterpark and it was all inclusive. It was an ideal stop after cycling for miles along a busy road in 32c+ temperatures.
The fortress at the center of Fagaras was thought to be the strongest in Transylvania. In 1948 it was taken over be communists and turned into a political prison. Now its a museum. It was another hot day so instead of carrying along the E68 we decided to once again hop on a train and get to Sibiu by midday.
The last stage of our cycle through Transylvania was visiting Sibiu, a town with Germanic architecture and the remains of medieval walls. It was the nicest Romanian town we saw, and by the looks of it probably one of the wealthiest. The square outside the church had iron mongers making an assortment of jewellry and sculptures.
The final photo of Sibiu is one of me contemplating the locals going about their business below me.
Just outside of Sibiu is Cristian and a gothic style Evangelical Church. The village is on the site of a 13th century Roman basilica and the church was built in the 16th century. It is enclosed by two rows of walls with guard towers and has two underground tunnels for villagers to flee to the forest or to an old monastery if besieged.
When I decided I really wanted to see Bran Castle I didn’t realise it was actually on the other side of the Carpathian mountains to the Danube. So the next stage of the holiday is cycling the Transalpina mountain route back over and rejoining Eurovelo 6 at the Iron Gates!
The cycle tour so far:
Romania – Departure and the Danube Delta
Romania – Cycling through Transylvania