Week 4: Romania – Steep uphills and speedy downhill rides

Day 23: A wild ride through the woods to Poiana Sarata

This is definitely one of our most exhausting stages: a wild ride on gravel tracks and rugged logging roads. Andy, our Colorado cowboy from the U.S. Adventure Cycling Association, and Alfred, a down-to-earth guy from Bodensee, are searching for bear tracks. And they really find them! This landscape is incredible and stunningly beautiful…

As we reach the top, there is a big surprise waiting for us: oil production pumps and oil storage tanks!

Our descent: a challenging ride …

Day 24: To Covasna

standing out from the background. Yesterday’s rain has loosened up the loamy soil and we have great difficulty slogging our way through the mud. On one occasion, we even slip and fall … shit happens.

We let our gaze wander wide …

Day 25: World cultural heritage of Prejmer and the magnificent town of Brasov

Our first stop is the town of Prejmer and its fortified church. 

The fortified church of Prejmer, one of the most important medieval buildings in Transylvania, was added to the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list in 1999. In 1218, the Order of the Teutonic Knights began to build the Holy Cross Church. After the expulsion of the knights, the building works continued in early Burgundian Gothic style, which was brought to Transylvania by the Order of Cistercians in the 13th century.  The real builders of this fortified church, however, were the Saxon farmers and craftsmen who founded their settlements in Burzenland (a region in Transylvania) and in the town of Prejmer. The fortified church, which is surrounded by a thick wall, provided shelter to the local population during attacks.

As we enter the church, a group from Germany welcomes us with their beautiful choral singing. Interestingly, the group is not a choir, but members of the German Alpine Association from Franconia.

In the evening, we reach the old town of Brasov.

Day 26: In search of Dracula…

Dracula! We cycle across the Poiana Brasov Mountains and arrive at Bran Castle. Large crowds of people are shuffling through the tiny village amidst the Carpathians. The picturesque castle overlooking the village has been carefully renovated by a German aristocratic family, who is now marketing the place and his notorious landlord (which he never was). “Vlad” (count) Dracula owes his global fame to Bram Stoker’s novel with the same title. Stoker portrays the count as a brutal and relentless man who humiliates and tortures those who follow him. But the person that really lived in this place until World War II was, in fact, the Romanian queen. Count Dracula himself lived in a castle nearby, of which only the ruins have survived.

In the evening, we get to the town of Campulung, which must have been a prospering place back in the 1930s. Many buildings date from that time and were erected in a style called “New Romanian Architecture”.

Day 27: Plum tree plantations and a wild 30-km descent to Brezoi

Initially, we cycle along a paved road which leads us through plum tree plantations (the constant ups and downs are draining our energy…).  Then we turn into a valley and continue in an upward direction on gravel roads and forest paths, steadily climbing the scenic pass. What follows next is one of our wildest downhill rides ever: a 30-km descent through a magnificent valley with great picnic areas.

Days 28+29: To Petrosani and Baile Herculane – a bumpy adventure and our life’s longest descent.

The day begins with a mishap: In the morning hours, we have a bike crash in Petrosani and damage the pedal crank of our tandem. There’s no thought of moving on.

But then we meet Vasili and Petruska, a Romanian couple. They open the boot of their new Dacia and take out a Bosch metal (!) tool box. Luckily, they help us bend the crank back into shape. Petruska is very proud of her Vasili – and we are blissfully happy and grateful for their support.

We embark on one of the wildest bike rides during our trip through the Carpathians: 100 km and 1,200 meters altitude gain through Rezetat National Park – with lots of ups and downs and bumpy stretches… but also magnificent views of the fascinating landscape and pristine wilderness.

Day 30: To Drobeta Turnu Severin at the Iron Gate – our final destination!

But before, we want to have a bath at Baile Herculane. The old Roman bath has been under restoration for years – and is already now definitely worth visiting!

Along the river, many health seekers gather in the troughs with sulfurous mineral water to benefit from its healing power.

What a refreshing experience!

Then we hop on our bikes and cycle towards our final destination on the Danube River: the ancient Roman town of Drobeta.

We have conquered the Carpathians, at last!

Day 31+: Our journey back to Vienna on the Danube Cycle Path

via Belgrade and Budapest

Don´t stop!

keep on cycling! It’s definitely worth it. We return to Vienna on the Danube Cycle Path (EuroVelo 6).

We cross the Danube at the hydropower station near Drobeta and subsequently also the border to Serbia (no problems at all). We spend a leisurely day cycling along the Danube on a low-traffic road before reaching the famous Iron Gate (a scenic gorge with an almost Mediterranean flair), then moving on towards Belgrade.

The Danube River at the Iron Gate