A Travellerspoint blog



semi-overcast 24 °C
View Grandfolks Grand Tour on Combes Caper's travel map.


We woke about 3 this morning and finally I managed to get the blogs and photos for the past 3 visits online! Now on the motorway to Friedenweiler in Black Forest. First 75 miles were pretty ok, feeling chuffed at watching the queues going in the other direction. However, now stuck on tickover in vast queue of traffic. 28c outside, thank goodness for air conditioning. Forgot that it isn't just us on holiday, and being Saturday in middle of July, when of all people we should know better and stay off roads, here we are stuck! Alarmed faces on driver behind as I clambered around, as B was edging forward, to get the computer. They obviously hadn't realised we have wheel on wrong side.... Another thing to cater for, as well as no travelling without booking ahead, now no travelling on Saturdays.

Addendum: to Salzburg, for beer drinkers, where we parked at Mulln, there is the Augustine Brewery and they were offering free parking if you bought so many beers, its beer garden was absolutley jammed, as you can imagine. Also there is a Park and RIde at Messe which is off the Munich direction of the A1 motorway, think that it would have saved us a lot of time in traffic!

Second Addendum: B said that in the lake, which was so clear, and which 3 different places we were told that the water is actually drinkable, he could not sink easily, as he tried to dive down and explore the bottom, though it proved to be very clear of anything interesting, other than pebbles and a bit of weed. No fish around the swimming area at all. Unlike the lake at Tata, where there were loads of carp fighting the ducks off for bits of bread and ice cream cones which people threw in!

Arrived in Rotenbach about 5.30 p.m. Long drive but could have been worse! In the latter part of the journey the route took us right alongside Lake Konstanz, very busy place and it must have taken about 30 minutes to get from one end to t'other. Our Bierhaus Guesthouse does not brew its own beer anymore Bob! It is another one of those funny places where you never see anyone all evening, but in the morning every table is packed.
Today we went out for a Black Forest wander. About 15 miles away is a lake called Schluchsee, not a huge one but certainly fair size with sailing, windsurfing and so on going on. Another lake Titisee we haven't yet seen, and when we came up behind a mammoth tailback headed in that direction we gave up. Shall try tomorrow, maybe it was the weekenders going there. Then the weather turned wet so we didn't get out the car much, but enjoyed the scenery and found a super coffee and cake place at Lenzkirch. Oh, what a place to pig out in! There were about a dozen gateaux, all looking equally delicious and we are only here 3 days. THink shall have to go back for breakfast and tea! Tucked into huge slice of the inevitable Black Forest Gateau whilst poor B had a cheese and ham roll (did give him a fork full or two), honest!

Back to base to watch Grand Prix and hoping rain will ease off so we can go out and have another wander around before evening. Instead of easing off, we had another wonderful thunderstorm, waterfall rain, but warm = 18c then back up to 22c.
Tonight went out for a steak at the Santa Fe Steakhouse, Roger, you would have appreciated it, warm meat, seared well and bluuuuue inside. Good chips too and a salad bar. Think we might be tempted there again tomorrow, but depends on how the weather goes. May go to Lake Titisee and have a swim if weather good.

Instead of going down to Titisee we decided to go exploring the upper Black Forest villages, some of the lanes were only about a car's width, but were surfaces beautifully. Would that Cornwall Council did the same for us! The signs were really descriptive, many showing cycling and riding trails off between the meadows and into the woods. Motorbiker country too, though we didn't meet any, with sweeping bends this way and that, not corkscrew style though.

Triberg, pronounced Treeberg, was a tourist hotspot. There is a super waterfall there coming off the higher ground from the convergence of two rivers, giving a spectacular display. Luckily for Triberg, this feature is right in town, so it only takes the tourist 5 minutes to walk up to see the bottom of the falls. From there they have laid nature trails, both along the river and into the woods and up the mountainside if you fancy going to look over the falls higher up.
Time for another piece of cake and coffee and a quick sneak into a few gift shops. On return to base we were told they were shut Monday night for food so we had to go off to the next village along and we found another good eaterie. Fellow diners were two parties of Americans. Some drama going on between management and customer, followed by altercation between wife and owner, we were beginning to expect appearance of Basil Fawlty, but after a storm out and back in the kitchen it all calmed down. Thankfully the cooking seemed to be proceeding all the while and we enjoyed huge pizzas whilst the drama unfolded!

Yesterday we discovered why there is so much fast traffic, and heavy lorries, past the guesthouse in this seemingly quiet village. Owing to a realignment of the main road the road through the village provides a quicker access to the new sliproad! The swoosh of double trailer lorries zooming through on otherwise traffic freeish road is very noticeable. The village, whether in retaliation or competition or not, has a church clock which plays a long peal before chiming the hour from 6 a.m. , no lie ins!

Another fine day! Or rather not, monsoon season seems to be upon us, the deluge brought on heavy mist too which made driving all the more difficult. In Freiburg, where we had planned to take the chairlift as it is said to show off the city and its surroundings, not only was the weather bad, but there was heavy traffic and it took 30 minutes to get through one tunnel alone! At least it was dry in the tunnel....


Our 2.5 hour trip turned into another 5 hour one. Places we meant to visit en route were shrouded in mist, so another time perhaps to visit Les Grand Ballon and Comte, home of a favourite cheese. Is-en-Bissigny is a small village tucked away in the Haute Marne. The couple here have been into B&B for 5 years, they are also both qualified masseurs and provide bio-pharma consultations. They have two children a girl of 16 who is currently on holiday in Belgium and a boy of 7 who is away with relatives, and an adorable Jack Russell, called India. She is only 17 months but very chilled.
We have eaten in both nights here, Jean is a great cook (must be something in the name!) as well as growing all their veg. With pudding tonight which was lemon meringue pie, he served courgette jam. Fascinating flavour and the courgette was still crispish. Will have a go at it when I get back. Another of his specialities is rhubarb, banana and gooseberry jam.


Today we went to see the Cutlery Museum at Nogent. Nogent used to be the centre of knife production in France. The Museum displayed intricate knives and scissors from the 17th, 18th and 19th Century. The delicacy of the scissors, the needlework tools, the manicure sets were gorgeous. The video explaining some of the cutlers work showed why this industry is fast disappearing here, it takes years to be skilled, and you need to be so accurate, there is danger in the stone wheels sheering off, in cutting horn or other materials to shape the handles and in forging the steel for the blades and other tools. The finished work is wonderful and it will be so sad if such skills are lost forever. The custodian said that apprentices do not want to take on the long process of getting the skills, the EU wants to enforce H&S and the customers no longer want to pay for the workmanship......
Following that we went to Langres, which has a huge walled citadel, along the lines of St. Malo and Carcassonne. A mixture of really old buildings, some renovated and many undergoing work at the moment. A living town within the walls. Cathedral, museum, tower, shops, cafes and so on. The ramparts are cyclable or you can take the tourist train and walk it, all 3.5km. In many places now you can get e-bikes as well to hire.
The heat is building again, hard to believe that this area of France also gets the -27c winter freeze. By the looks of the wind turbines there is also quite a lot of wind, though, thankfully they don't seem to have gone in wholesale for wind turbines here. The biggest wind farm by far was the one across the border from Hungary into Austria, have never seen one that extended so far.

Belgian family at dinner last evening, they have been touring the area and were on their way home. We had a good laugh when we showed them pictures of Cornwall and Newquay, they were surprised we got sun at all! This seems to be the conception abroad, that we are always in the thick of the rain and gloom. Perhaps we overdo our fixation?

Posted by Combes Caper 06:02 Archived in Germany Comments (0)


On to Austria

sunny 28 °C
View Grandfolks Grand Tour on Combes Caper's travel map.

  • 14Th to 17th July


Only two hours drive today from Tata. Motorway most of the way which was again mostly occupied by lorries. It was pretty free moving until the outskirts of Vienna. Was amazed what a huge place it is, it must have taken a good half hour to skirt the area from one side of Vienna to another at 80mph!

This B&B in Sparbach used to be a farm. The original farmstead house was completely renovated and extended 22 years ago so they could sidestep from agriculture. Now there are 9 guest rooms and 3 apartments. The farm buildings forming a rear courtyard seem to be let out to store carts and machinery. In the carpark there is a swimming pool! The water is 33c, what a stroke of luck. By the pool there is a 20ft+ apricot tree, absolutely laden with fruit. It survives because the courtyard faces south and the buildings take the edge off the wind, even so I think it must be exceptional to last this many winters. The fruits are deeeelicious.

Our hiccup of the day was finding somewhere to eat. Everywhere we went or were told to go to was closed. It seems that, owing to the skiing season, which is where most make their living, they shut in the summer. We finally ate down in Baden, went into a buzzing trendy place, El Gaucho, better title would be El Groucho!, which was not exactly the traditional inn we had a fancy for. Never mind will find one another day. Tomorrow we get to go to Vienna.

Having made good time here on 14th and after last night's fiasco in Baden, we set out for Vienna itself. What a well organised public transport system. We drove to the nearest park and ride, about 5 miles away. Parked the car and crossed the road to the train. We had no sooner paid for our ticket than a train arrived and we were on our way to town. One change and about 20 minutes later we were standing outside the cathedral. We strolled around and saw Mozart's Museum in the flat where he lived for most of his composing life, then wandered down the precinct to the Opera House where we decided to go on a tourist bus around the city. This was a good move as it became a really very hot day and being on top with the roof open there was a welcome breeze and we could both enjoy the views. This trip took about an hour and thoroughly recommend it for you to get your bearings. There are several alternative routes, depending on how much time you have in Vienna and what interests you.

Back at the Opera House we felt peckish so we wandered around to see what took our fancy, we found an old style Viennese bistro tucked down a side street and had a nice refreshing lunch. It was amazingly busy, there were 5 working away in the small kitchen and about 6 waiting on staff. For a small business it was impressive the amount of meals they were serving. Having refuelled we set off down the precinct once more and took coffee and chocolate torte in the famous Sacher Hotel. Made my day, to actually get there at last, though needed to walk a few miles afterwards! Thought came to me that if ever Flybe do flights to Vienna from Exeter perhaps we could have a girls weekend here, for shopping, eating, music et al?
The heat climbed up and up and we dodge in and out of shops for some air conditioning, I was planning on buying some Austrian choccies to bring home, but the penny dropped that apart from the risk of me eating them en route, they would not have survived the heat all that way back to UK.
Gaestehous Andrea serves a very good selection at breakfast, with real fruit juice and even makes a decent cuppa! Also the homemade jams in abundance.

Getting back to base, we quickly went down to the pool to cool off in 33c water, yes 33c heated by the sun!!, well as close to cool as it was possible. The tractor arrived home whilst we were in the pool, not much room for manoeuvre into its shed, and intriguing to watch from water level!
16th July

Went out for what we intended to be a short trip to explore our surroundings, off the main roads to a place called Hainfeld and then from there to Pottingen. What a drive that was, hairpin bends for miles. Someone recently brought up the joys of cats cradle, well cats cradle is nothing to that 20 miles! Hairpin bends for miles and miles, everywhere we went we met hoards of motorcyclists. At one cafe there were 70 parked outside. They seemed to be just cruising up and down specific sections to make sure they got the bends well rehearsed. It was a truly great route and terrific scenery and views to boot. Shall miss these alps and forests when we get back. Didn't see or hear many birds though on our photo stops. It was all enveloping silence, except for the roar of bikes approaching, and one Maserati!

Another speeding fine today, E20 this time, but think he let B off lightly as we said we were hungry and had been looking for somewhere to eat. He recommended us to look out for a sign indicating Austrian local style bistro food which is cheap and tasty, so we will look out for that tomorrow.
Back to another hot swim and farewells to Vienna.


Apricot jam making went on all day yesterday, Frau Andrea made upwards of 30 jars and gave us one as a parting gift today. We set off for Salzburg but first went to get diesel, not at the garage where the chap doesn't take cards, nor does he give change! So you get the nearest he gives for the money you have in your hand! Must be a good line that one?

The GPS decided to take us for a wander along quieter roads today, half motorway and then countryside. Mind you, some of the towns were rather busy ones, but went through one, Neustadt which look a good place to revisit if we have time.

It was also hot today, so we went into Salzburg for the evening. Allegedly a quieter time to visit, though there were not many shops open, but we did get a good look at the buildings, riverside walk and sat in a square on the way to Mozart's Birthplace to have supper. Took pictures of me with his statue and Bernie. There is an evening concert on Friday but whether we get there is another matter. The town is very visitor friendly in being compact, and being by the river there is that added appeal. Plus, the castle astride the burg set overseeing the town. Lots of great shops there, and Prada is opening soon. Took a snap of two pigeons surveying the windows as if they were queueing for opening bargains!! The ubiquitous horse tours were doing a great trade and a rickshaw bike tour too. Summertime is good time to visit, but possibly earlier in June might not be so hot. There seems to be a good selection of events laid on in all towns and cities. Pop, classical, comedy and so on.

Nearby to where we are there are three lake areas which we aim to explore tomorrow. We had lunch at Dachstein, which we found out later is the head of a chairlift and stomach grabbing viewpoint, am not sure about visiting that one!
PS on one of the local inns from Sparbach, when we passed it last evening it was open and the carpark was absolutely jammed with Mercedes, Audis, all kinds of sports cars etc. So, memo that Tuesdays that one is closed, not sure though that we will be that way again.
One thing is apparent in Austria, vis a vis the newer EU states. The prices are rocketing, no longer 75p for a jolly good coffee, now 3E and more for a teaspoonful. Prices of everything much the same as at home.

Wherever you go in Europe it would seem, the internet is fraught with frustrating delays. Tonight, no signal, and I foolishly thought would upload stuff to the blog. No way, 35 rooms are let and looking around, most of the women have at least 2 handsets they are trying to log on with, let alone the menfolk! Fico is not alone.....


Bright and early start, though we were still the last down at breakfast. Visited Fuschisee, Wolfgangsee, the largest of the lakes closest to Schwaighofen. Then we went on to Attersee which is even bigger. Coffee time, so we found a car park, which was free, sat on the terrace overlooking the lake and we decided to plunge in. The water was crystal clear, the bottom is pebble, but they are rounded, so don't dig in your feet like the ones on some British beaches. The temperature was 22c, somewhat lower than the bathwater at Vienna guesthouse, but refreshing. The lakeside was well equipped. Water ski trips for hire, boats for hire, bathing area for children complete with slide and two large pontoons for adults off from the walkway out into the lake at distances of about 30 and 60 metres. Next to the coffee shop was a grass "beach" with trees for shade as well as brollies.

We must have spent about 2 hours there and B actually started to get a tan now. Several times we have seen those mesh bundles of stones used as front garden fencing, and today they were around the frontage of the coffee house. It looks a bit weird considering the size and bulk, to say the least, but suppose that in view of the fact that ice and snow might mean that it saves cars or lorries sliding into them ?

We drove around a bit more to Mondsee, which was also well equipped for swimmers, sailing etc. Finally to Zellersee, which seemed to be mostly locals attracted there as there was no formal holiday set up, just cars abandoned every spare piece of ground and people with umbrellas, chairs and picnic tables perched along the lakesid. Then back to base.

Next target was the Salt Mines at Hallein, well, although it is only a fairly short run, allegedly, it took nearly and hour to get there, only to find that it was shut. Just as well as the sign advised that you should be suitably attired with sturdy shoes and warm clothing due to it being 10c at most inside! Amazed that tourist attractions shut so early here, 4.30 or 5.00 is about all they manage. The charges in Austria are pretty steep for entrance to various attractions, and given the employment situation, it seems strange that they do not seem to try and expand the period of trading during the light evenings to catch a lighten a few more tourist coffers.

Not to out done, we thought we would then go to the cable car at Bertchesgarden. Only a stone's throw from the Salt Mine. However, closing time was looming, but what really scuppered it was the open chairs to sit in going up. On the leaflets it shows a gondola cabin, which would have been fine, but swaying open chairs with no soft snow to fall on, was more than my nerves could stand!! Coward.... Still the views down to Salzburg were great and the road was nice and twisty. Looking up you could see tractors at incredibly steep angles turning hay and even baling! Couldn't help wondering how many over did the steepness...

Final night in Austria, on to Germany in the morning. Dinner on the terrace watching the sun go down on the mountains. Gotta make the most of it, time is beginning to slip away now towards Roscoff. Now we have had lovely swims in the lake, looking forward to more in the Black Forest.

On our run to the lakes, between Schwaihofen and Wolfgang See, right alongside the road, in under the trees was mile after mile of cycleway. It was being extended too. Which brings to mind that, considering the number of cyclists we have seen around, we have only seen one cyclist who was pelting along with no regard for other people on the path. Even on the road cyclists seem to be much less inclined to be in Tour de France mode.

Posted by Combes Caper 12:36 Archived in Austria Comments (0)



sunny 24 °C
View Grandfolks Grand Tour on Combes Caper's travel map.

JULY 11TH, JULY 12TH, 13th
Wet and misty morning, delayed departure due to hiccups with the hotel's card reader, probably damp in the works! The journey went pretty smoothly, though slowly, lots of police around though not many lorries, at least not in our lanes. On the motorway, once we got into Hungary, we passed a Police car tucked on the side, then a couple of miles further on, as we pulled into a service station, we just pulled up when it came storming in with all bells and whistles on the go! Naturally, we thought it was us they were after, with our track record. No, it turned out it was a van full of men, when we read the sign on the Police car, it was Border Police, so obviously they were on to border infringements!

We are now in the VALLEY OF BEAUTIFUL WOMEN, how did I land up here, should be Emily, Nicky, Mel and company?? Going to find out more about why it is called this in the morning. As this valley is full of wine bars, mostly in cellars tunnelled out of the hill walls and restaurants, we decided to just walk around and eat here. Bill and Doh, you will remember the Hungarian restaurant on one of our London trips?, well we had just ordered and were sitting quaffing a glass and admiring the view, when what should happen? Four sturdy chaps emerged at the back of the restaurant, took up their instruments and lo and behold an Hungarian Gypsy violinist began to play. They must have thought us completely off our heads as we burst out laughing, at the memory of "Cry Gypsy Cry"!

Today we shot into town to explore the sights, gave up trying to get a parking ticket out of their machines, back to base and resorted to a taxi. Memo to do the same in every town as taxis are cheap and save the headache of parking etc. Eger Castle is huge, the size of the walls must be over 3 metres wide, and this is the top of the wall I am talking about! There is massive rebuilding work going on and quite a lot to see, a museum of the history of the castle, a waxworks, an art gallery, cafe, shops, events and so on. Ticketing is somewhat bizarre, they take an entry fee for the walk around, but then once inside you have to pay for everything you want to go into. No option to have an all inclusive price for the castle offerings. Cafe was good, you boys would do well out here, mostly we have one course between two as they are so generous. The kids play area was made up of wooden horses as swings, see-saws and carriages, looking over the castle wall, as I heard hooves trotting along, there was a carriage with two lippizaners going down the street. Bernie hoped that this would do instead of going to see the stud tomorrow??

After leaving the castle we wandered in the pedestrian precinct at the foot of the castle walls. First shop I spotted was a wine shop. Lovely browse around and got chatting to the young woman and said about trying some Bull's Blood. "Oh", said she," it is the Eger Bikaver wine festival weekend. Just go along the street and you can taste what you want for nothing!" We went into one cellar and there was a crowd of folk sat round a table, yours truly asked could we join in, and the somellier, after one of the Hungarians translated for me, welcomed us. So we did as told, tasted some wine and ended up buying a few bottles. It was a jolly session, as you can imagine, and thank heaven the others were able to talk to us so we didn't miss the gist of things. Just about managed to carry our boxes to the end of the precinct to meet the taxi. It was a good job we came in by one, as not only would have found the boxes a bind going to a car park, but probably over the limit for driving!
In the taxi on the way back we noticed lots of the boys in blue around the place, thought nothing of it, then nearing the hotel, the traffic was at a standstill. Some minutes went by and we asked why "oh," says the driver, " it is wine fest and there is a procession coming through"! So we got a carnival parade thrown in for luck. Heading the procession was the vintner who won this years' award and his entourage in, guess what?, the carriage we had spotted from the castle!

This carriage was followed by tractors, cars, diggers and so on, plus musicians and folk in traditional costume, great scene. Oh, and best trick, the cameraman recording the procession laid his video camera on the ground in line with the digger and he let the digger drive over it, must say we held our breath at that sight. The camera survived!
We didn't do so well with the dinner recommendation, but the wine and starters were good and we didn't leave hungry.


Rather than go to Austria in one step, we decided to take an extra day and do half the run. First, the object was to go to the Hungarian Lippizaner stud at Szilvarasad. Lovely, motorbikers' road up through the Bukk Hills and came across several Hungarian holiday spots which were very busy. At the stud, which is huge, there was one exhibition barn with photos of Lippizaners and a collection of carriages and work vehicles. Then an American barn with working horses, a paddock with a few breeding mares and this years' crop of foals. You could arrange to be taken for a spin in a carriage, but we did not think we could because of the journey in front of us. Would have liked to see horses being schooled, instead there was a film on the Lippizaner story in which there was a brief section of one being put through its paces. Had we been based closer, could have taken a ride out ...... In the film there was a great section on the young stock turned out in the hills for the winter. There they were charging about in the snow, not a rug in sight, and even more impressive were the shots of the group thundering down through a forest, twisting and turning and so sure footed over the loose stones and branches. Apparently they are left free range until about 3.5 years old, then the training begins and the sorting as to what discipline each animal might be best suited for. One thing I noticed was that quite of few of the stock in the yard had a tendency to roman noses, wonder how easy they are to deal with?

After we left there we went to see a castle at Siroki Var, another wriggle through the mountains, more haripins and motorbikes to deal with. You can be going for miles and then all of sudden up pops a sign "bends for 2 km", even in these conditions you still get chancers overtaking. Bit hairy today as the cyclists and walkers were also on the road.

At Siroki we had a massive climb up to the castle. The EU funded the wide concrete track up to it and paid for some restoration and preservation works. The good old legs had a nice work out but the views from the top were terrific. Coming down was a piece of cake. It was started in the 1300's and was used by the Turks during the Ottoman Empire, apparently it was one of the better postings to have as it was quite peaceful up there, should think so, the effort to try and storm the place would have been monumental.

Drove off down towards Austria, took the country road as far as Groynsko about 50 miles from Budapest. Interesting spin through the city itself, but we didn't stop as we had spent so much time in the morning on the other sights. We then set out to find lodgings, visited a couple of places off the motorway but, with the first being a vast industrial town and the second a pretty shoddy mess, we began to wonder where we would end up. Then I saw a town TATA, so we wandered in. There were signs to several hotels or pensiunes, we saw a sign to one and stopped to enquire. When I got up the path to the house I spotted that it was right on a lakeside, with great views, boats sculling across and people swimming in the lake. The lake had a track too for cycling and walking all laid out. However, the B&B was not in business! Asked for directions to the nearest hotel or B&B, but was met with shaking of heads, then one suggested going down the road a bit further. Happily, we landed up at Hotel Casablanca. Right on the lake, huge terrace and great room. Now we have evening thunderstorm which is keeping us indoors for a bit and enabling me to write this up.

Boy is it raining, we cannot see across the lake and we had had it in mind to trip down to view the Danube which is not far from here. Tomorrow!
Hotel Casablanca, was an intriguing place with Moorish decoration mixed up with modern. Next door was a large restaurant complex called Picquant, so we were fixed. The lake has a path around it of 7km length for cycling and walking. On the lake itself you can take a boat trip, hire canoes and the locals also train for kayaking and rowing events on it. Plus there is a land train which does the whole circuit on a regular basis.
As well as the hotel, there are quite a few apartment blocks used for renting out to visitors and, just like Newquay, a few part finished ones waiting for owners!
We had a great meal at Picqant, but were surprised that they were shutting up shop at 9 p.m., in most of the eateries, it seems like Spain - they don't come out to eat until then. Then we realised it was World Cup final night and thought that was the reason, but no, apparently on Sundays they close earlier was the real reason.
Next morning we walked up to the castle area of the lake, took about 35 minutes, gardens off inland, a canal, several sluices for the lake waters and a mill race or three! There were several large parks leading off, no wonder it is so popular for everyone to use as a relaxation area. Recommend anyone going this way to take a look. Rewarded ourselves with an icecream at the cafe by the castle!

Posted by Combes Caper 10:32 Archived in Hungary Comments (1)


Happy Cemetery

Have got so many pictures, if anyone would like more, please let me know and can email the folder to you direct! It truly is an amazing cemetery.

Posted by Combes Caper 13:15 Archived in Romania Comments (0)


South to north Romania and borders of Ukraine

all seasons in one day 26 °C
View Grandfolks Grand Tour on Combes Caper's travel map.

e have JULY 7TH and 8TH to 10th
The first part of the day went well, we reached Sigishoara for lunch, and went to the Austrian Gasthof again. Took another walk around the citadel and hoped to find the lace butterfly for Susan. However, the stall wasn't anywhere to be found, so we pressed on to Targu Mures. Even more rural up here, and lots more painted churches and houses, but very poor outside the towns. Many horses with carts on the road, they are still making hay. Some lovely mountain scenery and we loved the towns of Predeal and Sinaia and stopped off in Sigishoara again.
Targu Mures, did not tickle our fancy so we decided to go on to Rhegin. A much smaller place, but no hotels could we find. SOOOOOO on we went, this time to Bistrita. On the way, we called in at a couple of places, one the room was so small and hot that couldn't bear the thought in 30c heat. Another, allegedly a holiday resort!, the grand dining room was all set up for a wedding (at least that is what I think, as there was a box with a slot in it and a picture of young couple), the place was sparkling, but there was no one around! The search for somewhere to stay was quite tiring as we were about 7 hours on the road and nothing offering itself up. So eventually we arrived in Bistrita.
Bistrita is at the foot of the Carpathian mountains. We found ourselves a decent place to stay for a couple of days to explore the surrounding area. Must say the roads up here were good, although one section was very popular with the Police, but the drivers warned each other this time. The first hotel we stopped by, this being the first time I had not booked ahead, was very swish, but they wanted top dollar and would not negotiate. We went round the corner where there were 3 more hotels. The Codrisor, the receptionist was so helpful. When I said we would stay for 2 nights she upgraded us to a suite with a terrace and views over the park. It is a bit dated, but all mod cons, a spa bath and so on, exorbitant price of £40 with breakfast per night!! The winner is the staff, as always eh?
Then we trundled through the large park, with cycleway for cyclists and skateboards and roller bladers, another path for pedestrians, actually there are two, one upper and one lower! A wonderful restaurant with acres of outdoor seating called Crama Veche, where we had a crispy base pizza, drinks and coffee. What struck us was that the vast majority of customers were under 30. No swearing, no shouting, and all the children with parents were peaceful and into their food. When we left there it was well after dark and there were still loads of people cycling, running and smooching in the park! Quite a lot of work is going on in this area to renovate buildings and installing new drainage and water and gas mains, but we are so impressed.
Today at breakfast we met an English woman whose husband works out here. She has been coming out here with him for one month off one month home for several years. They are due to retire and she hopes to get to do what we are doing. She said that buying here is as fraught with problems as Spain and France, you never quite know whom you are buying from , or whether what you think you are buying is quite what it seems! But she loves Romania and is looking forward to the next stage of their plans, to come out here for longer spells and explore as we are.
Thankfully, she has suggested a routing for getting to Hungary and visiting a wonderful, yet another wonderful, area of Romania, Maramures. Then we are heading on down to Eger in Hungary, and HORSES, near Eger there is a great Lippizaner stud, and apparently Bull's Blood wine is grown there too, years since that was the in thing?
8th July
Today after our breakfast chat, we set out to explore the town. Baking again, lovely bakeries, just as well we had eaten. There is a lot of work going on in town, with pedestrianisation of the streets, along with cobbles being laid and new drains and service pipes. You have to pick your way, but it will be great when it is finished.
Later we went out on the road to travel through the Burkau Valley. Stopped off in one or two of the villages, though it is difficult to explore them as the roads, or rather tracks, are so narrow that you cannot park up and explore and they do not run to village squares. There is so much to take in and we hope that the pictures capture some of it. Then we went on up the pass for a spectacular drive, through a very alpine area and the buildings so traditional. The tourist board must really get to grips with stops for photo shoots! I saw a mobile shepherd's hut, which was brightly painted and on one side there were brightly coloured panels forming a pattern, but there was no way you could get a shot at it. We went right up to the top of the pass, the views were endless and the weather perfect. Not much traffic about either, other than the horse and cart traffic collecting the hay.
I spotted a sign to Colibita National Park, so decided we would go there, on the return journey. As I was in the driver's seat I turned off, real unmade road, stones flying everywhere, mutterings about suitable tyres, suspension etc. , but it was great. Potholes and all, past Transylvania cottages, farmsteads, haymaking, horses and carts for 3km. Then we came to a super lake, around which there have been some modern dacha type villas erected. But what a setting, pine trees all around and no one for miles. Satellite dishes in abundance?! , so think they're not toooo cut off. The trip reminded me a bit of the road to you Lesley, but there were more neighbours around along the route.
Bernie said I passed one lorry where the passenger had his head in his hands! Surely not my driving?
We came to a village right at the bottom of the roadway. You need to turn the clock back 200 years to imagine the scene really, the small wooden houses, with the animal sheds close by and no machinery to speak of. The horse is the power house and the family transport. Sadly, now that Romania has joined the EU, it probably won't be at all the same in another 20 years or even 10. Can thoroughly recommend a visit sooner rather than later.
As always, the return trip seemed a lot easier than the outward one, though it took another 30 minutes to get back to the main road. Managed to steer clear of speeding fines en route and now back to base getting ready for the evening's adventures.
The swimming pool in the park next door to the hotel was absolutely packed early evening. It is a fair old size and all ages were having a great time.
We walked into town in the warm evening air to Crama Veche beside the park. Ate our meal and just about finished when a thunderstorm cropped up. Down came the rain and the thunder and lightning were deafening. As all the tables are outdoors under canopies, an awful lot of people scooted off. Being Brits, we stuck it out, but opted to have the gas burner lit to keep us warm. The temperature must have dropped 15 c in the meantime. Water was pouring off everywhere and in some areas the paving was about an inch deep in water. Eventually it subsided and we managed to walk back through the park. Shame as normally this restaurant is busy until late and the park is a hive of activity with walkers, and cyclists etc.
Have booked ahead for our next two stops, not making that mistake again in a hurry!
The overnight rain has filled the river running past the hotel, and we hear it has caused grief around and about with flooding. The rumbles went on for quite a time, as well as the chants when Germany scored a goal!
The drive up to Sighetu M was through lovely countryside, yet again, we are getting a good dose of mountains and trees. The road was pretty good all the way, with only one village which was suffering the after effects of drainage works, lovely trenches left raw across the road. Entering Marmures, which is the name of the county, was like going through a border, the road became rough and rickety for quite a few kilometres. The whole nature of the countryside changed too, owing to the hilly landscape and the lack of machinery to farm with. Managed to get quite a few shots of various style of old houses. It was misty but warm and the rain let off early on. Good job we only set ourselves 100 miles today as it took 3 hours to do that bit.
We thought we had landed up in a bad quarter of town when we got to Sighetu, the street does not look good and when we went round a corner looking for the guest house it got even worse. Although we had the right road, we couldn't find the house, so had to ask in a shop. Low and behold, we had past it several times. Squeaky clean and brand new! Great place and good food, plus the added bonus of a restaurant on site. However, they need a clear sign at the end of the street and on the front as am sure some folk would have just given up!
After lunch we walked into town and looked around. Went to the Prison Museum which tells the story of incarceration, executions, and trumped up charges by the communists after 1944 to 1990. The first thing which hit me was that so many women were rounded up during that time. The conditions were abysmal, as you can imagine. Writers, artists, as well as anti communists all suffered. The poets would tap out their poems in morse code and it would be passed around the prison like that. There were many prisons around Romania and people were taken to the Gulags in Russia for forced labour too. Looking at all the pictures and seeing the faces of the despots of Eastern Europe brought the Cold War back to life. It gives you a shiver when you think this town is only a stone's throw from Ukraine. And what is Russia at there? Playing the same old dirty game. It would be dreadful if the old regime were allowed to re-surface. In the "garden" of the prison building there are two memorials, on built down underground with access via a spiral walkway, along the walls of the walkway are etched the names of the hundreds of thousands who suffered imprisonment, deportation and execution. In another part of the garden is a group of figures representing those captured, a very moving scene, walking straight towards an impenetrable wall. The wall that ideology seeks to rebuild even now.
We came away profoundly moved by this museum, have bought a small translation if anyone would care to borrow it when we get home. We were going to go to another memorial site outside the town this evening, but thunder and lightning are with us again, so will do that tomorrow.
Tonight Bernie had a splendid dish of pork, coated in potato batter and pan fried, moist and good flavour. It was accompanied by sour cream with garlic and onion and a "small" salad. Small in these parts is generous. Mine was perch with grilled vegetables, also delicious. The puddings were totally calorie loaded. Chocolate teacup filled with cream and blackcurrants and a berry icecream on top of roasted banana topped with cream, both of us envisaged British portions, we still can't get used to thinking LARGE.
Today's visit was to the Happy Cemetery about 15km up the road. Hardly the thing you would think for a holiday excursion. It is quite an amazing sight, all the headstones are gaily painted wooden uprights with a dedication to the departed. The pictures on them show their favourite pastime, or job or passion. We couldn't find anyone to translate the inscriptions, but gather that they can be down right, blunt truth! Which is why it is called the Happy Cemetery. The pictures mostly depict either the female or male preoccupations, including cooking, spinning, car accidents, war and so on. The village was established in 1300's, but these headstones seem to date from the early 20th century, the pictorial inscriptions take away the pain of parting and keep memories of those who have passed away alive and kicking. It has certainly attracted the crowds and the church there is able to pay for major restoration project out of the fees at the cemetery gates.
We followed this up with a visit to a monastery just down the road. Usual story though, the distances on the signposts were anything but accurate. Have come to the conclusion that when the Romanians put up signposts the distances and the accuracy will depend on the numbers available to hand when doing the boards! This monastery is also having major facelift. The monastery was started in the medieval period, beautiful old timberwork, massive the beams and the staircase was solid oak cut out of ONE trunk! Inside the chapel the lovely domed ceilings and lots of icons on the walls. A nun was in charge, and as soon as you stepped out of the car, her voice was loud and clear, inviting you to step inside....
Once we had done the monastery justice we headed back to town. Feeling peckish we stopped by at a coffee shop near our lodgings and had coffee and cake. Though Bernie's pastries turned out to have salt cheese in the middle. Oh, and you couldn't buy just 1 you got them by weight! Need another walk now.
Sun is shining today and we hope to sit out for dinner tonight, then we will be on our way to Hungary in the morning.
Had a little snack in garden after a stroll around town, to work off the earlier excesses, so now wtucked into beautiful carpaccio and toasts with beer and wine, sunny afternoon and soft music; stupendous. Just needed a pool and some friends to join us? The hospitality here is sublime. Shall be sad to leave in the morning, though Hungary is great too.
Everywhere you go you see mountains of wood piled up outside people's houses and businesses. It is for the winter fires, at the Pensiune some poor chap has been trying to shift a mountain of it all day long. No wonder they are so slim and fit. We asked about the winter, like ours, the severity of cold can vary widely. Most winters the snow appears in December up on the hills, but the town stays pretty clear, and in the warm sunshine it can be nice. The rain recently, is not characteristic, same us ours!
Interestingly, Romanians are not too confident about joining the EU, their view is that prices of essentials are rising, but their wages are not. It is the politicians who are keener on the EU, they stand to gain much more! Haven't we heard that before? Remember when we joined, the purchase tax went up when it became VAT by about double? Since which, nothing ever went down, did it?

Posted by Combes Caper 12:44 Archived in Romania Comments (0)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 37) « Page 1 [2] 3 4 5 6 7 8 »