Updated: Aug 20, 2019
We arrived at the border crossing between Hungary and Romania and handed our passports, my driving license and the camper documents to the customs officer. When we told him we were from South Africa i could see he had no idea what to do with us. We were told to park at one side and when i walked to their office i was told to wait. After about an hour they returned with our documents and told us that we could leave. We arrived at our campsite in the town of Carei, the campsite was located at the back of an aquapark and you get the impression the campsite was a bit of an afterthought. Next us there was a huge American RV parked, the owner invited us in and gave us a shot of Romenian schnapps. He told us that he imported the RV from the US a couple of years ago. We left the next morning and headed north to the town of Sapanta in the Maramures region. The town is famous for its colourful tombstones with paintings describing, in an original and poetic manner, the people who are buried there as well as scenes from their lives. The cemetery's origins are linked with the name of Stan Ioan Patras a local artist who sculpted the first tombstone crosses. In 1935, Patras carved the first epitaph and, as of the 1960s, more than 800 of such oak wood crosses were made.
Some of the inscriptions are rather sarcastic, for example one written on the cross of a mother in law.
"Under this heavy cross
Lies my poor mother in-law Three more days should she have lived I would lie, and she would read (this cross). You, who here are passing by Not to wake her up please try Cause' if she comes back home She'll criticise me more. But I will surely behave So she'll not return from grave. Stay here, my dear mother in-law!
We found a campsite that was actually a restaurant with some camping spots next to it and a river running trough it. I got out my fishing rod and managed to catch 2 trouts from the running river. The evening we were treated a traditional folk singing and dancing at the restaurant. Our next stop was a campsite situated in the very small village of Breb. The campsite is owned by a Dutch couple who have been living there for 10 years. The village does not have any tar roads and villagers produce all sorts of handmade stuff from wool too moonshine and yoy can buy it directly from them. The people living in the village are still dressed in traditional clothing and the houses are a mix of wooden and brick structures, it felt like stepping back in time when you visit the village.
From Breb we drove the most beautiful winding mountain pass road through a forestry area where there were lots of trees that were cut down and being transported in big trucks down the small winding road. We arrived in Dej and found a small campsite in the back of a garden that only had a couple of spots. Only 3 other campers were staying there and we got talking to Udo, his wife Helga and his dad Micheal. They told me that they were originally from Romania and left 30 years ago just before the fall of Nicolae Ceaușescu. They told us the interesting history of the nearly 800 000 Germans that lived in Romania until to late 1980's. They were called Transilvanian Saxons and had settled in Romania in the 12th century and had a profound influence on the Romanian history and culture. Micheal told us his amazing story, he was the mayor of one of the towns in Transilvania and was fairly well off but as things under the dictatorship of Ceaușescu became unbearable he left the country with his family taking only 2 bags of possessions with them and leaving their home and money in the Romania to start a new life in Germany. We had a grest evening with them, Udo brought out a bottle of white wine that he made himself and was very good. We also had a few too many locally made red wine and a very strong locally brewed brandy. The twins fell in love with their teenage daugher Celine and she spent the whole evening entertaining them. By the end of the evening we had become old friends. After 6 weeks on the road and staying in campsites we booked a house through airbnb in the small village of Dumbravioara and stayed for 2 blissful days. It is funny how much you appreciate things like a bed a bath, some privacy and space when you've been travelling in a camper for nearly 2 months. Isabeau did all the washing and cleaning and baked us some rusks and i managed to give the camper a wash and fix a couple of things on the camper. There was a dam on the property and i got into the dam fishing thing using freshly dug up worms as bait, Ben also managed to catch his first fish all by himself.
Our next stop was the beautiful old city of Sighisoara located on the Târnava Mare River in the historic region of Transylvania. Our campsite had a pool that was very deep but was only filled halfway which looked a bit odd but did the job as it was extremely hot. We were also just a stones throw away from the old city. The old city is a delightful mix of coloured houses and old buildings. The streets are paved with cobbled stones and small enough to make it easy to walk around the old city experiencing the little markets that line the streets wondering at the marvelous architecture and indulging in a tasty ice cream. The city dates back to the 11th century and it also has another claim to fame, being the birthplace of Vlad III better known as Dracula.
From Sighisoara we went to Brasov and stayed in the Vampire Camping close to Bran castle. We visited the Bran castle, the que was extremely long and it was a very hot day. Fortunately we bought our tickets online the previous evening and could skip a big part of the que. The castle was very impressive and had a very rich history related to the Romanian royal family. They had to throw in a section dedicated to Vlad III aka Dracula. His connection to the castle had long been one linked to his imprisonment after he was captured by the Hungarians in 1462. It was believed that he was imprisoned in Castle Bran, but historians now conclude that Vlad III was actually imprisoned in a fortress in Budapest.
It was the twins turn to visit Dino Parc in the town of Rasnov, it is a dinosaur theme park with a lot of interactive displays and a variety of lifesize dinosaurs. The twins lived it and had a thousand questions about dinosaurs and the big bang theory. We drove from Rasnov trough a beautiful valley but the road was extremely busy, the 30km took us 90 minutes. The only campsite on our route was actually a tyre fitment business with a couple of camping spots on the property. There were a couple of people that we permanent guests and as it got later the place filled up with cyclists, motor bike riders and a couple of tent campers. The next morning we had coffee with 2 Polish students that were cycling during their holiday and set off to Bucharest. We stopped at Sinaia a holiday town and ski resort for locals, it was very crowded but not too impressive.
We arrived in Bucharest at 4pm and in the middle of peak afternoon traffic, it was crazy driving with the camper through the middle of the city with thousands of impatient drivers making theit way home, and to top it all off it was the start of a long weekend. After a nerve-racking hour in traffic we arrived at our campsite on the outskirts of Bucharest. The camp manager was a bit of an interesting character, he lived in a caravan on site and had a lot to say about everything. I asked uf there is a way to get to the centre and he offered to take us for 50 lei. I saw Uber was popular in Bucharest and we got a ride for 27 lei.
Bucharest was a bit of a surprise for us, we took the hop on hop off bus and really enjoyed the city, we had a stroll in the old city after the bus trip and had a great restaurant meal at one of the many Irish pubs scattered around the city.
The next morning we left for Bulgaria and as you travel south out of Bucharest it becomes flat dry and the villages and houses in a very poor state, a complete contrast to the beauty of the north.
Romania has really surprised us, we did not realise how beautiful the country was and it still had a very authentic culture, identity and feel, much more than the other countries we visited. The influence of communism is still visible and the south is very poor and neglegted. It is country well worth a visit and the green mountains and valleys of the north and Transilvania with beatiful castles and monestries scatterd all along the way is overwhelming in its beauty and has left a lasting impression on us.