Day 39: Morahalom, Hungary to Arad, Romania

The clogged Romanian Border

I made it to Romania, one of my special routing points - it is a big point! - today. Romania, with an average yearly income of less than one tenth of that in the US, is, in some ways, a former soviet block third world country. It feels like in the city, Arad, where I am staying in tonight, with a lack of infrastructure and people working on their cars in the (major) street, and a somewhat chaotic feel to the traffic. In the towns, poverty was more apparent. In the city there are many huge soviet style apartment buildings, some in bad repair, but not slums that I could see. In the towns, there are a mixture of modest homes and less than modest homes. It is nothing like the poverty of Guatemala where a nice house is 9 x 12 foot with a dirt floor and corn stalk walls and roof, but there is more poverty here than I've seen anywhere else in Europe.

When I rode by a side of the road picnic area on the main highway, it took me a while to figure out what the strange structure in the middle of the picnic tables was. It was a ramp and raised area so that you could work under your car or small truck. That is a really useful thing to have in a country where many of the vehicles are chronically breaking down.

Speaking of vehicles breaking down, a fancy new Audi, which was one the cars that screamed past me as I rode through Romania on the shoulder (roads got shoulders today!) ended up wrecked alongside the road a few miles later. No one seemed to be hurt, but the car was smunched badly in the rear and on the drivers side. I didn't see the other vehicles that might have been involved, but I suspect a failed passing attempt that ended up with the Audi sideswiping an on coming vehicle and getting rammed in the back by the vehicle, probably a truck, being passed. The passing style here, as in Hungary, has to be see to be believed.

I actually used a bike path today because they were painting the stripes on the road going into Szeged

And, in a Hungarian town near the Romanian border, I used a proper bike lane

Highway 43, which runs from Szeged to the Romanian border, has a shoulder most of the way
I haven't seen many shoulders in Hungary

I had a much harder ride today than I expected. Mostly this was due to the wind which started from the east and came around to the north and got stronger in the afternoon. Most of my riding was east, and the strong wind coming across the road this afternoon both slowed me down and made life exciting every time a truck passed. It was hard riding. I still managed to do about 80 miles in just over six hours of pedalling, but yesterday I did 105 miles in 7 hours and ten minutes. The wind made most of the difference in speed and made the riding much more stressful today.

Mako Hungary where I visited with the family from Budapest
The Gellato Parlor is visible under the sign

The border crossing from Hungary

Folks waiting, seemingly forever, to get into Romania

Ah, road signs with distances, like Hungary, how nice!

I stopped in Szeged at a grocery store to get supplies - bread, cheese, yogurt, and water. As I was consuming the yogurt and part of the bread, a fellow stopped near by to smoke a cigarette. We ended up having a nice conversation in pidgeon German/English about where I was going and where I had come from and what good full body exercise bicycling was. I stopped again in Mako - a neat town by the way - for gellato (like ice cream) and coffee - and got into another nice conversation, this time in English with a fellow from Budapest. I ended up getting introduced to his wife and two kids as well. In both cases I just smiled and acted friendly when folks showed an interest in my bike. My bike, and the bikes of the two French women I met yesterday, were the only loaded bikes I saw in Hungary and Croatia. People really stared at me an my bike in Croatia, but there was little chance of a conversation there because of the language barrier. I had some problems in Hungary today, but there usually is someone around who can do English. Interestingly, there seems to be more English in Romania, at least written English.

It was educational tonight, when I walked for about an hour round trip to an internet cafe which turned out to be both very limited and blocked - for hacking - from accessing the systems my mail is on. I did send one important email message, but from another system. Walking is a good way to get the feel of a place and Arad felt good. I stopped on the way back to get a 'hamburger' for supper. It was a Florida burger, but there was no way the lady doing the burgers, could connect my pronunciation of Florida -- heh, I grew up there - with the word Florida on her sign. She had to stick her neck out the ordering window so that I could point to the word. Then she pulled her head back in saying Florida as I said it. Everybody that I have interacted with here has be friendly and helpful. No one, except at the hotel, has had much English, but that hasn't provoked anything other than smiles.

Romanian 7, which I'll be on for several days, is nicer than most of the roads in Hungary

It was very windy as you can see from the handworked fabric blowing in the wind

When I was at the border crossing into Romania, the traffic was backed up ten cars deep in each of three car lanes and barely moving. As rode up, a border person called me back and told me something in Romanian. I final figured maybe he had said to go around the cars, so, having nothing to lose, I put my bike on the sidewalk, pushed it passed all the waiting cars, and took my passport to passport control where the agent smiled said stuff in Romanian, and stamped my passport. I bet that saved me at least an hour!

When I rode into Arad, all I could see where what seemed like miles of apartment buildings, but I had seen signs for relatively fancy hotels (three star) coming into town. I wanted to find an ATM (Bankomat here) to get some cash and a nice hotel to work and sleep in. I figured, correctly, than even a nice hotel would be cheap and, if I didn't find a cash source first, they could help me with that. For at least half an hour I searched for those hotels. Finally I asked an older fellow who told me, with words and language indepent hand motions, how to find the hotels.

I followed his directions, then found a sign for a three star hotel and followed the signs for it, finding a Bankomat, which gave me some cash, on the way to the hotel. I rode almost 30 mile into Romania, through several towns and this big city, and I've seen only that one Bankomat. I better take out at least a few million Lei from it tomorrow. My room tonight is 1.1 million, but heh, that is under $35 at the current exchange rate.

Last Page Next Page