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Our route:


26.05.04 - 27.05.04:
  • Dogubayazit

    28.05.04 - 29.05.04:
  • Erzincan

  • Yozgat

  • Gerede

  • Edirne


  • Bulgaria
  • Bucuresti

    03.06.04 - 14.06.04:
  • Carta
  • Sibiu
  • Brasov
  • Sighisoara

  •   Going home
    Written by: Dorrit

    Sibiu, Romania On the Turkish side of the border nobody seemed interested in our camper van either and we quickly drove on to Dogubayazit to buy that delicious Turkish bread and those cans of Efes-beer that we had been dreaming of all day. Annoying little boys tried to rip off the Pakistani ornaments from our van but were scared away by a friendly shopkeeper. On the road there were quite a number of jandarma-checks, we heard that there had been bombs in Ankara and Istanbul again.
    We shared Murat's camping with Danyel and Birgit and their two dogs from Bonn. Both our dogs and we got along very well and we stayed another day. Our dog Shimal was behaving like the Pakistani man he was and tried to seduce the female of the two dogs, even though she was far too old for him.
    We drove west through the green Anatolian plateau that was full of yellow, white and purple flowers. Near Erzincan Coen was explaining for the 1000th time to a petrol station operator that the filling point for our drinking water tank is not meant for diesel. While he walked around the camper van to show the man where he could fill diesel, the man's colleague had already started filling diesel... in our drinking water tank! We nearly killed the idiot and drove away. But it was too late: after a full day of taking out the drinking water tank, scrubbing with bleach and washing-up liquid and soaking with certinox (a liquid against algae) the water still smelled and tasted like diluted diesel. Which will probably not get any better either. The only option is buying a new one for EUR 100 at home. We do not suppose the man has a third party insurance and of course we are not going to claim EUR 100 from him either.
    When we heard from my mother that my grandmother was ill we drove on to Romania as soon as possible, so that we could be home in two days if needs be. This meant some long drives again, not in the scorching heat this time, but in the pouring rain. What we saw of Edirne, lying just before the border to Bulgaria, made us decide we definitely had to return to this lovely city with its splendid old buildings.

    Sibiu, Romania The Bulgarian border guard had nothing in common with his Turkish colleagues only 50 m down the road, having a gleaming bald head and a fat neck. He took one long look at the Indian and Pakistani stamps in our passports, at Coen's pony tail and little beard, at the stickers and Pakistani ornaments on that dirty old Volkswagen van, at the two stray dogs in the cabin and said: "Garaj".
    Together with a brand new Mercedes our Bulgarian Kojak took us to a big garage where he and his colleagues spent the next two hours thoroughly searching our van. We were needlessly worried about our 3 kg Turkish tea (you are only allowed to take 100 grams each); it was only drugs they were looking for. Only one man at the time entered our van and one of us was allowed to check what he was doing and that he was not taking things. We hardly recognized the border anyway: there were signs above most counters indicating that at this counter you should not pay anything. Where you did have to pay there were clear lists with prices. This time nobody asked us for "gifts" like in December 2002. Bulgaria is working hard on that admission to the EU. Only one border guard forgot himself and asked for a fee we didn't have to pay. He shouted at us and tried every trick in the book but we were not impressed and after 10 minutes he gave up.
    Brasov, Romania The search for drugs was fruitless - of course - and at last we could enter Bulgaria. 400 km we drove through lovely flower fields and forested hills dotted with cute villages and Medieval Orthodox churches with gilded roofs. And again we only had one day to see this lovely country. We definitely have to go back here soon.
    It was already 19 hrs before we arrived at the Bulgarian-Romanian border of Ruse - where we had to pay EUR 75 to all those corrupt border guards last time. This time we only had to pay a few Euros for the bridge over the Danube, thanks to the EU! The border guard at the Bulgarian side took one long look at the Indian and Pakistani stamps in our passports, at Coen's pony tail and little beard, at the stickers and Pakistani ornaments on that dirty old Volkswagen van, at the two stray dogs in the cabin and said: "Garaj". That was a bit overdone to our opinion and we advised him to talk to his colleagues at the Turkish border before troubling himself with needless work. He did and with the desired result: two minutes later we were at the other side of the Danube in Romania.

    Carta, Romania There they seemed to take the admission to the EU even more serious: two third of the counters that had been there had been removed, the same had probably happened to two third of the corrupt border guards. Also Bulgaria and Romania seemed to have divided the work, we were at least waved through without a second glance.
    In Romania a lot has changed since December 2002; a lot of old roads have been renewed, houses are being renovated and everywhere West-European firms have sprouted like mushrooms out of the Romanian ground. Romania is looking more and more like its western neighbour Hungary. Despite all these improvements we still did not dare to take the ring road around Bucharest yet and opted for the road through the heart of the city. A good choice: a brand new four-lane road took us right through the centre with its fine squares and stately 19th century mansions and brought us to the other side of Bucharest in one fourth of the time we needed at the ring road last time.
    Carta, Romania In Carta, at camping "de oude Wilg" run by the Dutch-Romanian couple Manette and Tudor we met Coen's parents; a happy reunion after a year and a half! We needed two days to catch up before we showed any interest in the beauties of Romania again and only then visited the Medieval Transylvanian cities Brasov (Kronstadt), Sibiu (Hermannstadt) and Sighisoara (Schaessburg). These too are being renovated zealously and look pretty slick already. Maybe it makes a difference if you visit Romania coming from Western Europe or if you visit it after the Indian subcontinent. We find it a lot wealthier than on our way east in any case. We strolled through the narrow cobblestone streets and alleys and admired the fine old German churches, city walls and mansions that Transylvania can boast of. In between we bought a lot of spare parts for the car and had some repairs done - cost maybe 40% of what it would have done in Germany or Holland.
    Coen's parents however, had a lot of bad luck; on a bad road they hit a pothole and broke the chassis of their mobile home. They had to return to Holland without it; a bitter and pretty sudden end of their holiday to Romania.
    We follow them home more easily, enjoying some thermal spa's in the east of Hungary en route, like that of Hajduszoboszlo and a lovely, quiet and relaxing thermal bath in Debrecen, situated directly at the edge of a woodsy camping site. We also visit the dentist there, which costs maybe a fifth of what it would at home, and think we can get a new set of tires there cheaply too, but that we should have tried in Turkey rather than Hungary. From Györ it is a long day driving to Neustadt an der Weinstrasse in the South of Germany, where both we and our car are registred and where our car is overdue for inspections by a year or so. From there it is only one day from home, where our family and friends are waiting. Luckily, my grandmother is quickly getting better and we can really enjoy the three months at home before leaving again for Argentina.



    Both the border from Iran to Turkey and the one from Turkey to Bulgaria is open 24 hrs a day.


    The best camping in Romania (Sibiu):

    Camping "De oude wilg"

    Prudului 311
    2409 Carta
    Judetul Sibiu
    Tel: +40 (0)721 86 343


    A good pension in Sighisoara (Romania):

    Str. Mihai Eminescu 62
    3050 Sighisoara
    Judetul Mures
    Tel: +40 (0)65 77 88 50


    A good pension in Maramuresh (Romania):

    Busta Anuta
    Loc. Bogdan Voda 27
    Tel: 04/0262/335082