1. First Feelings of Ukraine
2. Just Lviv it
3. On the way to Truskavets
4. Truskavets: a Soviet Spa Town
5. Experiencing Ukrainian Roads
6. Rozniativ, a bit of rest before the Carpathians
7. Heading to the Carpathians
8. Maria, the Babushka of Kolochava
9. Where is the Road?
10. A Valley from Another Time
11. Upset Stomachs
We just crossed the border. On the road, a long line of cars is waiting in the dust. Some drivers look at us from their old beige or grey cars, no smile nor any sign of surprise, such serious and stern faces that we feel no power to smile. Borders aren’t usually the most welcoming places but the atmosphere here is almost dehumanised. We try to cycle as far as we can before night. The road is wide and cars are scarce. Most of the people we see from the road are tending their cars or their gardens and wearing camouflage or army clothes (which seems pretty unfriendly to me but Tina explains me that people wear army clothes mainly because they are practical and strong).
Tina: When we enter Ukraine a lot of memories from my previous visit come to my mind. I’m wondering how much Ukraine changed over those four years. I hope that the prices kept low and people in the villages are still so friendly. The food probably didn’t change much and I’m really looking forward to eating shashlik, plov, dark bread, and drink milk which tastes like milk! Last time I realised that with the EU borders end also the EU norms, which is sometimes good and sometimes not. Some food taste to me more real here in Ukraine, thanks to people who still appreciate agriculture without pesticides and traditional farming, but in the same time it’s not possible to close my eyes in front of problems like pollution and alcohol.
We stop for the night by a corn field next to a farm. The ground isn’t really flat but that’s fine for our first night in Ukraine. After preparing an experimental beetroot soup with buckwheat, we hide in our sleeping bags under the stars for couple of hours.
First rays of sun in the morning! We peer out of our summer sleeping bags, still shivering… Brrrr! This night was pretty cold! Hopefully tonight we will have a place to sleep inside in Lviv. The first Ukrainian church we see in a village is painted in blue and contrasting strongly with the boringly grey soviet buildings around.
JP: In the market the products are also different from what we use to see in Poland. We can find pretty much everything, many products are from Ukraine (or from Russia?) and written in Cyrillic. I obviously see that we left the European Union and I’m glad in a way to see that even in supermarkets, it is possible to buy beans, pasta, rice and even biscuits which are not branded nor packed in plastic boxes but simply sold loose from the shelf. I can’t tell if these products taste good, but at least they are affordable and eco-friendly 🙂
The last kilometres to Lviv are pretty hard. The whole day we faced an annoying front wind and now, as the traffic intensifies, the pollution, noise and dust become unbearable… Helmets on, fluo jackets on our backs, sunglasses and scarf around the face, we find our way to the city centre.
Despite the fact that many times we have heard that Lviv is the most beautiful city in Ukraine, our main concern after surviving the traffic to Lviv is not the neoclassical architecture, but simply to find a place where we can stay tonight. Sitting in a café in front of the opera, we try to find a host via Couchsurfing. As it doesn’t seem to work, Tina suggests we could sit in the park with a sign: “Hey, we are travelling by bike around the world. We can cook and we don’t smell bad! Can we sleep at your place tonight?”, we both love the idea but a moment later we receive an answer from a young couple of Couchsurfers who accept to host us for the weekend.
Tamara and Vic live in a very small flat near the city centre. We meet them late that evening, we put our bikes in their tiny kitchen under the drying clothes, set our mats on the floor by their bed and start talking about Ukrainian Carpathians. Tamara tells us sadly: “We love to go hiking in the mountains but most people in Ukraine don’t understand it. They ask us what is so good in walking all day and then sitting by a fire to grill a sausage…”
hum, grilled sausage! So far this year we haven’t made any bonfire. We are really looking forward to being in the Carpathians! 🙂
Tina: We also discussed with Tamara about the difficulties you encounter to if you have the Ukrainian nationality and want to go abroad. You will have to fill a lot of papers and pay a lot of money to be finally refused… I know such stories only from the generation of my parents, from the period which precessed the Velvet revolution in the Czech republic, and it always sounded to me as a long time ago. We are really lucky to be able to travel with so few restrictions. I wish there were no country borders.
During our first afternoon in Lviv, we meet Yeuhan, a Belarussian programmer who lives now in Ukraine. Yeuhan tells us about the life in Belarus, a country we barely hear about in the West. When Yeuhan started working as a programmer, he could only get a part time job and earned about 60€ per month. I cannot imagine how you can live with 60€ per month… No, you cannot live with 60€ a month. We were told that in Ukraine a university teacher earns less than 300€ a month, this is barely enough to rent a flat in a city like Lviv. In Ukraine most of the public jobs are underpaid and basically, if you want a decent life, you need to work for a private company. If you work in IT, you can maybe be employed by a foreign company. They sometimes pay good money but you might have to work more than the usual five days a week.
Because salaries are so low, many families split. In order to ensure a better future for their children, many fathers and mothers struggle to get a working visa abroad (which can be a really hard to obtain). When both parents are abroad, the children are usually left to the care of the grandparent…
How many kids in the West realize how lucky they are to have their both parents home?
JP: Yeuhan was cycling in Kazakhstan couple of years ago. He told us that when he bought his bike in 2008, he was one of the first person to cycle in Minsk. According to him, Minsk is a very polluted city and it is much better to cycle in Lviv. I already find the suburbs of Lviv extremely polluted and I hardly imagine how it is possible to live in a more polluted place. How can some people still dream to buy a car when they can hardly breathe in the streets filled with exhaust fumes? When will these people realize it isn’t cool to have a car? How much pollution is needed? I wonder…
The city of Lviv was under the rule of the Poles from the 13th century and then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire from the 18th century. Nowadays, it is probably the less sovietised city in Ukraine. There aren’t any concrete building in the centre but you can find a pleasant mix of neoclassical, baroque, renaissance and gothic architecture. There are also plenty of nice places to go for a drink, for example a whole house dedicated to the inventor of the petrol lamp where we had a beer with Yauhen. There’s also a Jewish tavern where you have to bargain the prices and opposite to it, is the House of Legends with a huge Iron casted dragon on the façade and a flying car on the roof. Nearby is also a masochist pub that we didn’t dare to try, we already had our share of masochism while cycling to Lviv 😉
Tina: Do you know the “oh-this-is-so-great-to-see!” effect? How often our expectations really meet our feelings?
For many Ukrainians Lviv is just the best, however, a friend of mine told me that if I had already seen some cities with nice architecture, Lviv probably wouldn’t surprise me. So what is the verdict? – Well, Lviv surprised me! I hadn’t expected to see a city where prayers are spread in the streets by loudspeakers in the morning and half naked girls are dancing on the roofs of limousines in the evening; a city where beautiful houses stay so proud next to the old and destroyed ones; and where alternative art seems to live in peace next to high heels and iphones.
JP: One of the reasons why we decided to go to Lviv was to meet Vookie and Ania who came to Lviv the same weekend. For those who follow our travel, you might remember that Vookie was cycling with me from Brno to Budapest last year and I’ve met him once more when I cycled to Krakow so this is the third time we meet, and for the third time Vookie has kabanos with him! Great guy 🙂
Back on the road, we are amazed by the amount of old cars, most of them are Lada and other models of Russian brands which remained unknown out of USSR. Even though they are mostly small cars, they sometimes emit impressive black clouds of exhaust fumes.
Tina: If any car could speak, I would tell him: “SMRDÍÍÍÍŠ! TU PUES! YOU SMELL BAD AND YOU MAKE PEOPLE FAT!!!”
After escaping the chaos of Lviv’s traffic, we are relieved to cycle on smaller roads. In the villages, babushkas tend their gardens and between the villages many people work in the fields. Often old military trucks replace the tractors…
The road is usually in a very bad state, there are sometimes so many potholes that we feel like on some kind of battlefield. To avoid these holes, buses and cars are going from one side of the road to the other and this is a little bit disorienting at first when you see a bus going straight into you because on the other side of the road is a 30cm deep hole. When the road is really bad, some drivers even choose to drive out of the road in the dirt. However, cycling on bad roads feels pretty safe because cars tend to be really slow 🙂
JP: Most of the cyclists use a map on top of their handlebar pannier, but I have a Czech book on mine. This way I can learn Czech when the road bores me, or when it climbs I read one sentence from time to time. However, on Ukrainian roads, my handlebar pannier is shaking so bad that it is almost impossible to read anything…
At dusk, my bike computer proudly displays a total distance if 10,000 kilometres. When we reach the city sign of Truskavets, I’ve already cycled 10,000 kilometres since I left France!
In Truskavets, we are kindly hosted by Lidiya in her beautiful flat. Lidiya prepared for us a big plate of buckwheat with some Ukrainian schnitzel. She uses to live in Lviv but she temporarily moved to Truskavets for her job. She explains us that Truskavets is a spa centre which was once renowned in the whole USSR. Still today, there are people coming all the way from Kazakhstan or Tajikistan to be cured in the miraculous waters of Truskavets.
Truskavets was maybe once a colourful a lively place, but today it feels like the whole town is swallowed under a huge amount of grey building blocks and couple of hotels. Did something changed here in the last 30 years? On the pavement, not far from a memorial for the Chernobyl catastrophe, babushkas are selling home-made cheese. In the art and craft market, most of the products are sadly made in China. Near the main square we walk into a grey hall where you can learn about the different virtues of the waters. Without a doubt, drinking water here is very healthy, but the one we tasted here had such a strong smell of oil, it was like drinking water from a petrol jar and we really struggled to drink it…
On our way home, we buy some food in the market to prepare a nice courgette and aubergine gratin and some dessert for Lidiya. By the way, using an Ukrainian electrical oven without any Ukrainian person around is quite a challenge 😉
Today we are heading to Rozniativ, a town which is more than 100 kilometres South-West of Truskavets. Usually covering 100 kilometres in a day isn’t such a deal but we know that in Ukraine the roads can be pretty hardcore so we decide to leave Truskavets early in the morning. The day starts with seven kilometres on a bumpy road paved with black cobbles. The bikes are shaking in such an annoying manner that we try to cycle on the side of the road as much as we can…
The morning is incredibly foggy. Sometimes a disaffected factory stands out of the fog… From time to time we cover our mouths when an old lorry overtakes us leaving a black screen of pollution. Couple of times we see buses carrying what seems to be gas bottles on their roof!? Isn’t that dangerous?
In the afternoon, we choose to follow a smaller road. There are very few cars but soon there are not only the usual potholes but whole parts of the road are missing. The road becomes a track. There are very few cars and the drivers sometimes prefer to drive in the fields by the road because the road is in such a bad state…
Exhausted, we make a break on a bridge and eat some tasteless cheese with bread. We still have 40 kilometres to go and most of it probably on this kind of road. We hardly cycle 10 kilometres in an hour!
The villages we pass are usually very colourful. The gardens are amazingly well tended often with a lot of flowers in the gardens and the houses are painted in bright colours.
Tina: It looks like if there was a national competition of the most colourful garden 🙂 However simple the houses are, people decorate them with paintings and their gardens are just breathtaking. So many flowers of all colours! And next to the house a path covered with vine full of grapes!
Cows are watching us, undisturbed. Geese are walking by the road and threatening to bite us when we come too close. A man is offering us apples after we stopped by his home:
The man (in Ukrainian): “Where are you heading to?”
Us (in Slavic mix): “Rozniativ…”
The man: “Really! My daughter married a man from Rozniativ… By the way, you’re heading to the mountains!”
Us: “Ah… that’s ok…” (but thinking: “He said mountains! Ouch!” )
Sometimes after crossing a village, watching the small houses and the people coming from the fields with their horse-drawn cart, we come face to face with an impressive Ukrainian church with golden roof. This is really a staggering view, such a contrast between the simple rural life and apparent luxury.
It is late now and the hilly road is really getting on our nerves. In the fields, people are burning something (grass? garbages?) and this is pretty smelly. It is already dark when we finally reach a bigger but not less hilly road. We ride the last 20 kilometres at night, pedalling like robots, and we finally arrive out of forces in Rozniativ.
JP: I remember Tina telling me in the afternoon: “Four years ago when I was in Ukraine, I was thinking that Ukraine is a country where I really wouldn’t like to ride a bike! How could I have forget this?!”
Today the terrain was hilly and the road was really in a bad condition but I love to cross remote places where tourists don’t go and we obviously reached such places today.
Rozniativ is our last stop before heading to the Carpathians. Despites our late arrival, we are warmly welcomed by Anastasiya and her parents. They offer us Ukrainian borsch (a traditional soup), varienkis (which are more or less like the Polish pierogis but can be served with different fillings) with a delicious home-made cream (without a doubt, the best cream I tasted in my life), and salo (a Ukrainian delicacy which consists of sliced pork fat and is delicious).
The highlight of our stay in Rozniativ is definitely the day we went to hike in the mountains with Anastasiya’s grandfather who’s 84 years old. We take the bus in the morning to a village further in the mountains. In the end of an alley, we meet Anastasia’s grandparents. Her grandma is delighted to show us their house. The ground is covered with carpets, every door and every window is decorated with the traditional Ukrainian knitted patterns. A traditional stove fills a third of the room and we are told that there’s a bed on top of it to sleep in a warm place during cold days. On the wall there are some religious icons also decorated of Ukrainian patterns. Anastasiya explains us that her grandma did all of the knitting here, sometimes with the only light of a candle. “Do you see this mirror with wooden decorated frame in the entrance? My grandma received it as a wedding present from her grandma so it is pretty old”
We are mesmerized by the place which seems to be from another century but soon the grandpa insist that we should go to hike. Despite his age and the rainy weather, he walks faster than us to the mountains. Anastasiya tells us that he used to go to the mountains since he was a child, he was hiking there barefoot because in that time they had no money to buy shoes… Unfortunately, it keeps on raining and there are lightnings around us so we decide to go back home after climbing the first mount. It makes no sense to climb higher.
When we arrive back home, we hang our clothes by the fire and get dressed in the grandpa’s trousers, ready to enjoy a delicious meal that the grandma prepared. Home-made wine, home-made apple juice, borsch and other local dishes. Our hosts are so hospitable that they want us to eat everything twice. We are already full when they bring some salo and raw onion to eat with bread.
JP: The hospitality of Anastasiya’s family and especially Anastasiya’s grandparents really touched me. I will never forget how beautiful they were in their little country house.
It is hard to describe without any abusive use of superlatives how Anastasiya was with us during the three days we stayed at her family house. Let’s put it this way, she was an extremely kind and careful host. She even insisted on giving us her bed! Each morning we had a delicious breakfast and her mum also cooked for us a lot of yummi Ukrainian meals. We are very lucky that we actually could meet her because a week later she would leave to China. She has spent the last three years in China and when we heard her talking over the phone, she sounded to us like native. We really hope to meet her again, maybe in China, who knows?
Tina: Nastia is one of those sunshiny people who experienced hospitality when being abroad and she is now happy to do the same for others. Thanks to people like her I can feel at least for a couple of days home even though I’m so far. Moreover, it’s a big pleasure to talk to someone who cares about nature and things happening around. Thank you, Nastia and see you in China!
After a last breakfast with Anastasiya, we finally get back on our bikes and head to one of the most untouched and remote places in Europe: Ukrainian Carpathians.
The region is home to the Hutsul minority and many others. Some of them kept their culture, language and tradition until these days.
During the first three days we try to reach the village of Kolochava. Up and down, we quickly learn that we will have to reconsider the distance we can cover in one day. Now we are back in the mountains… and this time there are bears! The first night we find a perfect camping spot and make a fire by a stream 🙂
The next day we stop in a restaurant by the road. Everything is amazingly cheap, we basically ate a shashlick, mashed potatoes, pasta, two pancakes, drunk two coffees and a beer for less than 3 Euro per person!
We didn’t fill our belly for nothing. That day we climb two passes of 930 and 940 meters. In the first valley, there aren’t much food in the shops but we manage to find a delicious home-made jam which we eat with biscuits.
By the road, we are surprised to see not only babushkas wearing shawls tied around their heads but also some younger women. All the houses in the mountains are wooden and painted in vivid colours, some blue and yellow one, some other in purple.
In the garden, we see a lot of wooden storks and on the facades, there are sometimes religious icons hanging or other frames.
This is so pleasant to cycle in such a rural area, seeing old people sitting on benches by their houses and chickens running around their yards.
Tina: However the road is bad, it is simply great to cycle here, say hello to cows and ducks walking sometimes in the middle of the road and enjoy more horse-drawn carts than cars and trucks! 🙂
When I look at the poster of a politician on a board next to a village shop I realize how different the life is in such areas. It makes me think of recent elections in France where extreme parties have more popularity in the countryside. If I saw every day the face of the same guy when I go to buy bread (and mostly just the only poster because they hardly ever change) and if I had not much possibility to see something different, then I would probably feel safer to vote for him because he’s the most familiar to me. This seems to work everywhere, no matter if you live in France, Ukraine or elsewhere in the world.
That evening we find a place to pitch our tent in a field by a village. Sitting by the fire, we feel slightly dirty but so free. The sky is full of stars, we had clouds during the last two days but tomorrow might be nice…
The next morning, when we open the door of our tent we are delighted to see a clear blue sky. The valley with the morning mist and sunshine looks very different. As usual our tent takes ages to dry so we take the opportunity to wash in the river and write a bit…
JP: In one of the first villages we cross today, we stop at a café by the road. It is smoky and dark inside but there are two tables on the pavement. We sit at one of them. Soon an old man nicely dressed comes and asks me if he can sit at our table. I immediately agree. I find him really amazing with his hat and striped shirt. He keeps on pointing at his tongue to sign me that he doesn’t speak our language, then he looks at us and smiles. After a while, he looks deeply in my eyes and with an amused look starts to move his ears up and down, asking me in a movement of eyebrows if I can do the same… I can’t, but he does it again and again. The scene is just so unreal. It feels me with good mood 🙂
We climb another pass today. It is about the same hight as the previous ones but the road is steeper. On top, there are couple of tourists and cows. Tourists are scarce but cows are everywhere! In the villages we usually zigzag between the cows and potholes. Today, the landscape seems much nicer under the sun… Images are worth a thousand words 😉
Kolochava! Finally we reach this village which we really wanted to visit. This place is famous in Czech Republic because of Nikola Šuhaj, a local Robin Hood who used to steal to the rich people crossing the region and to give to the poor.
At first Kolochava doesn’t seem much different from the other villages we crossed, there are cows standing on the main street, babushkas walking with their rubber boots and blouses, and a lot of colourful houses. However, the kids in the street greet us saying “Ahoj!” which is the Czech word for “Hi” and the beautiful wooden church of the village has its history panel written in Ukrainian… and Czech language!
A minute later, we come across a Czech hospoda. The owner is Czech and in front of the tavern we meet three Czech travellers. They warn us that the babushkas in the village can rent rooms for less money than the ones of the tavern. Anyway we are not looking for a room, we only wanted to refill our bottles… but after thinking about it for a moment, we decide we could maybe take a shower if we sleep at a babushka and at least we are not giving our money to a hotel. The first babushka we ask is called Maria and she offers us a room in her house for only 50 hrivnas, which is about 5 Euro!
Maria serves us coffee, offers us warm food and even some fruits. For the shower, we have to manage it the old way with a pot of hot water, a basin of cold water, and couple of other empty basins. The room is pretty simple but this is all we need. Lying on the bed, we feel really glad we decided not to camp tonight, feeling clean and full!
The next morning Maria prepares for us some coffee and offers us pancakes. She insists that it is a present and we shouldn’t pay for it! Then she shows us her room, talk about her deceased husband and her granddaughters… We find her so beautiful!
This morning, when Maria gives us kisses and wishes us a nice travel, we cannot yet imagine that today will be the hardest day since we started cycling this summer…
We are heading to Komsomolsk, a village on the other side of the mountain. In the main (and only) street of Kolochava, many people are heading towards the church. Soon we get out of town, passing in front of the last bar. We ask ourselves and then also some men drinking beers around a dusty table if the steep road without asphalt is really the way to Komsomolsk! Hum… according to our map, we have to go over the mountain following a pretty big road, but all people by the road confirm us that this is the way to Komsomolsk… let’s go!
Soon, the rocky path we are following turns into some kind of earthy path where the numerous tractors that passed here left incredible ruts. Nowadays, it is probably impossible even for an army truck to follow this, the holes are sometimes more than a meter deep… but the obvious good thing is that there is no traffic at all. Often we have to get off the bikes and haul them uphill or over the ruts from one side to the other side of the track.
We hardly believe this can be the large yellow road on our map but there wasn’t any other. Later we pass by a remote house in the mountain and ask a woman in the garden: “Komsomoslk?”, “Da, da…”.
Sitting by the road, exhausted by pushing the bikes uphill, we are wondering how can this be the only road there!
A babushka is walking downhill. We are watching her, wondering where she is coming from. For a moment we feel far from civilization… until we hear the traditional Nokia tune and see the babushka picking up her mobile phone. We look at each other in amazement! Of course, Ukrainian babushkas also have Nokia phones! What did we expect? 🙂
JP: At some stage we cross a stream and the road comes to a turn. From now the road is getting slightly better so we decide to get back on our bikes. Suddenly Tina looses balance, scream and fall. I turn to see her lying on the road under her bike. She’s laughing… Everything is fine. Since we left this morning I kept on telling her that it could be much worse, it could rain, it could be late in the evening and cold, we could even be sick… I feel healthy and happy and to tell the truth I quite enjoy this micro-adventure 🙂
When we finally reach the pass, the sun is high in the sky. We already accepted the idea that we will not be able to reach Romania today so we’re taking our time, having lunch enjoying a beautiful panorama on the valley. After our meal, we meet a Polish hiker who kindly shares his map with us. It looks like we will be back on a real road if we can reach the village of Komsomolsk, 8 kilometres to the East.
If going uphill was fun, going downhill is really a pain. When the “road” comes to a fork, we ask a shepherd nearby if he can advise us which way is the best for us.
He tells us: “On the left it is long. On the right it is fast but there is water…”
We decide to take the shortest way and soon we understand what he meant by “there is water”. The road is totally submerged by a green puddle long of about 20 meters. We manage to pass by the forest on the side and continue downhill in the rocks. The stony path is so steep we cannot even ride our bikes…
Later we reach a stream and the road simply disappear. Could we be wrong? Should have we taken the other road? Did we miss any track? Since an hour we are following this path and haven’t seen any sign attesting we are on the right way. Tina goes back uphill on foot to see if there was an opportunity to turn anywhere while I walk further down the stream. I find out that there actually is a tiny path which goes by the side of the stream. This is a little acrobatic with our loaded bicycles but we decide to give it a try…
Tina: While JP was quite enjoying this little adventure I started to worry if we really didn’t miss something and all the stories about wild Ukrainian Carpathians where you can walk for days not meeting anyone but wild animals come to my mind. Of course, we are not lost. Not completely! There is a stream that definitely goes to a river in the village; and there is still the possibility to turn back to Kolochava, but I promise, if you saw what we’d already crossed, you wouldn’t have enough courage to go back the same way either. And so we decide to follow the stream…
Later we have to push our bikes in the water. The wet stones aren’t really stable and are sometimes very slippery. Many times we have to help each other, we are then pushing one bike uphill on a tiny mud path which goes above the river, then we come back to fetch the second bike, cross the river and start all again on the other side for kilometres…
Earlier in the afternoon we were joking that it would be really unlikely to see any cyclotraveller on this track and now three guys are pushing their bikes with panniers in our direction! Are we dreaming?! We look at each other in amazement! How can this be? Either they bought the same map, or they are mad… One of them tells us that we are only 300 meters from Komsomolsk. This is the best news we’ve heard today 🙂
Tina: This means that the road we took was really the one on our map! Well, if I was one of those people we asked for the direction, I would have definitely told us that it is not possible to reach Komsomolsk by bicycle! …but hmm, checking our map, I probably would have given it a try anyway :-p
Komsomolsk is probably the nicest village we saw in the Carpathians. All the houses are wooden and most of them are painted in bright colours, just one next to the other along the only street of the village.
Here, every car is a Lada… elsewhere too but here it is somehow more fitting. In Komsomolsk we feel like we are thirty years back in time…
The road is still very bad, no asphalt and lot of potholes but after pushing our bikes for about 14 kilometres over the mountain, we are contented with any kind of road.
The next villages down the valley are probably equally beautiful with the same type of wooden houses. A lot of people are talking by the road or simply sitting by the road. How can it be to live here?
When the road becomes asphalted again (yeah!), we stop to check our map and a man is running towards us. He is wearing a shirt and shoes but has no trousers! Weird… He asks us if we are Czech and if we need a place to sleep. No, thanks, we will camp tonight!
This morning we were thinking we could make it until the Romanian border. We barely cycled a third of the way but it is already getting dark. We cross a suspended bridge above the river, pitch our tent in a field and set a fire by the river. Tonight we cook sausages and onions on sticks. Life is beautiful 🙂
JP: Ouch! My stomach is painful and noisy. I had a really bad night, wriggling in my sleeping bag and burping rotten sausage 🙁
Sitting in the grass by the tent, I am repairing my pedal and feel that I’m going to be really sick. A moment later Tina tells me her stomach belly hurts as well and she feels very weak. Bloody sausage!
We follow the river, slowly going down, avoiding potholes as usual. In the shop where we buy apple juice (yes apple juice is pretty good for our upset stomachs), there’s a TV with round buttons which might be 40 years old on the shelf. The few towns we cross are dusty and the people aren’t smiling at us… maybe because we look sick?
JP: Later that day, Tina is lying in a bench just by a tuned Lada with aerofoil. She feels weak and sick. Heavy trucks are passing by dragging the usual pollution cloud. We just cover our noses… I would like to help Tina but I don’t feel much better…
We find a nice place to sleep in a field by a river. At least it is not too cold to wash in the river. No sausage tonight, just a long night to rest.
The next morning we still feel sick but what can we do? We get back on our bikes and slowly cycle until the Romanian border.
JP: Seeing the fields this morning with women in blouses sitting by their cows really remembered me Romania. I fell in love with Romania last year when I cycled 800 kilometres from Giurgiu to Oradea. I am quite excited about exploring the north of the country.
On the last kilometres before the border, we see an incredible amount of very big houses. Well, these are not houses, these are mansions, almost castles and they are brand new, most often unfinished and one right next to the other in front of this dusty road busy with annoying construction trucks… This is totally insane. What pushes people to build a bigger house than their neighbour? A bigger house with a bigger gate and ridiculous marble columns around the entrance door…
If we were not already sick, this excess of luxury would probably make us sick before we reach to the small border post of Sighetu Marmației. Romania!
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