We set off from the interesting but difficult to get around Bucharest or Buchapest as I like to call it since driving there is so annoying.
Michael Jackson had stood on the parliament balcony there in front of his adoring fans and shouted Hello Budapest. I'm so glad to be here!
The country's one good motorway, the national road E70 is a relatively short stretch of road that heads up towards Transylvania and you can cruise at 160 kph. That is after escaping the city which takes two hours, keeping in mind that this is not even during peak hours.
|3 Abandoned soviet era crop dusters. One is a now a very cool makeshift house for an elderly man.|
Our travel route was to take us through the province of Wallachia. Here is where prince Vlad Tepes the inspiration for the Dracula novel ruled, not Transylvania. After an hour on the fast divided highway we get back onto a two laner that winds its way through foot hills and plains. Road side vendors sell produce from the farms surrounding the road and traffic is light but caution must be exercised for gypsy horse drawn wagons.
As we pass through some medium sized towns it becomes evident of the scale of industrialization that took place under the communists. Each town has a massive steel mill, aluminum smelter or some other large scale anchor plant. Many now look either totally abandoned or working at partial capacity. We also pass the nuclear facility that Canada designed and collaborated on. The road then passes through an oil field with derricks as far as you can see on both sides.
Our overnight stop was in the town of Drobeta-Turnu Severin. A lovely city on the left bank of the Danube.The hotel is a frozen-in-time 1960's, seven story overlooking a church and the Danube. We rented a suite with two bathrooms for $75 including a full breakfast. This is considered a 3 out of 4 star hotel in the Romanian system. Typical meals in this country cost around eight dollars and the excellent beer or wine are a dollar. The desk clerks apologized that their hotel was outdated and I don't think they believed me when I explained where I come from 1960's decor is actually sought after.
|Mid Century Modern east block style|
|View from our suite|
We wanted to follow the Danube as much as possible and selected a small secondary route that hugs the bank along the mountains through what is known as the Iron Gates since the mountains tower straight up each side. This added at least 3 hours of driving but was well worth it.
The border crossing at Bela Crkva, Serbia involved checking out of Romania with the border guards including presenting passports and all of the paperwork for the car and then doing it all over again for the Serb guards in the next building. Vojvodina province where we entered is as flat as the prairies. It was once known as the bread basket of the Balkans and is now covered in endless cornfields with the odd apple orchard and vineyard thrown in. We stopped at the sole cafe in a sleepy farming village about an hour outside of Belgrade. After placing our order we were asked if we are Americans(the bad guys who dropped 2 bombs on their town during the 90's) and when we told them we were Canucks we were suddenly treated as heroes(they have relatives in Kitchener) no charge on the house but we must promise to come back again. I discretely slipped the cash under an ash tray and gave the coin collector amongst them a full set of Cnd. change plus some Ottawa embroidered badges.
|Serbian Victory symbol|
Most people under 40 speak English and what a couple of different Serbs have already told me "The whole world hates us". I am a guest in their country and also am not sure of their net neutrality so will not get into a discussion about the Kosovo situation on here. What I can tell you is the people who I have interacted with have gone out of their way to show kindness and generosity. A fellow uploaded my GPS with local maps saving me $100 and then saw that my iPhone had no case and insisted on giving me one. He was adamant about not taking money. Pirated software is still the main source for consumers in this part of the world. I feel bad for my girlfriend, sister and brother in law who are in the software development business because if we all used pirated software how would they ever be able to afford their thoroughbred horses or yachts?
|In case of Cyrillic script..RUN!|
The past two days we have stayed in Zrenjanin, midway between Novi Sad and Werbas. Today we head to Werbas and try to find the family homestead.
I will attempt to upload a route map onto the blog next update.