Bucharest (Romania), 06.11.2013
Six and a half months ago, reaching Istanbul I had left the EU. Today would be the day to come back. Ever since arriving in geographic Europe in Kazakhstan at the end of October, every day had brought me closer to “home”. Small things changed every day, the climate, the roads, the faces of people, the shops and gas stations and restaurants. It has been a smooth transition from Asia back to Europe. In Ukraine and Moldova I saw two countries on their way into the EU, the former still unofficially, the latter already formally.
Leaving Chisinau on a sunny morning I got coffee, a croissant and a sandwich to go and had breakfast while driving through the hills of Moldova on bumpy roads, with many vineyards and forests left and right. An hour later on a hill on my left I spotted the last Soviet WWII memorial, with a T-34 tank on a concrete base and heroic faces of soldiers on the wall, along with an explanation of troop movements to defeat Fascist armies probably in a battle nearby. My last Moldovan Leu went into a full tank of diesel shortly before the border. The Moldovan formalities were easy, the officers friendly. They were curious about my tour and asked more questions about the trip and the car instead of checking the contents of it. Yesterday one of them spoke to me in Italian at some point, today one in German. After so many grim faces speaking nothing but Russian I was very positively surprised. I hadn’t met polite officials speaking several languages in a while.
As I drove out of Moldova into Romania I wasn’t sure where to stop. Somehow I had expected tough EU border controls. But the first booth was empty, and at the border station I saw nobody that might be interested in checking me out. As I almost drove through, a woman appeared and asked for my passport and car papers. A guy came to check my car, asked if I was importing cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. I denied, but told him I had some wine from Moldova with me. We calculated I had 4,5l, half a litre over the allowance per person, and he suggested we just drink it before continuing. That was it, welcome back. I drove into Romania without being asked any questions at a basically non existing border. Let’s see what happens when I enter Greece, maybe there they have a real one.
In Romania, the road led through an initially hilly, then flat landscape. The Romanians have taken EU traffic regulations very seriously. There is a barrage of roadsigns everywhere, even the slightest curve is marked with speed reductions and huge warning signs in the curve. A few days ago I was happy if there was any signal in at least the sharpest ones. But the roads themselves are still small countryside tar tracks. I kept waiting all day if a motorway would appear, but had no luck. Around 16:00 the sky suddenly started to get dark, and soon after it began to rain. I entered Bucharest as the daylight disappeared and was greeted with chaotic city traffic. With the language being so similar to Italian, reading the many roadsigns, billboards, shop names felt very familiar. There were also many cars with Italian number plates.
After checking into the hotel I went for dinner, armed with my camera and on the way taking a tour of downtown Bucharest in the rain. After traffic clogged Bulevardul Nicolae Balcescu I reached what seemed to be a restaurant and bar district in the old town, where I also found the Curtea Veche. After dinner I crossed the river to see Ceausescu’s megalomaniac Palatul Parlamentului, a building of superlatives that houses both chambers of the country’s parliament. This oversized construction was a crazy sight, but it gave the whole area around it a metropolitan touch, although it was clearly visible that the ambition was bigger then the countries financial possibilities to maintain the grandiose buildings. Walking back to the hotel I saw many buildings from the 19th to the early 20th centuries, many of them very well kept, others apparently abandoned. As I admired Bucharest’s beauty in the dark of the night, I got offered girls or massages three times on the street and passed a range of night clubs, strip clubs, sex clubs. There seems to be a thriving industry in this field around here. Tomorrow morning I’ll have to check this city further.
– Km driven: 448
– Hrs on the road: 7h
– Diesel l/100km: 9,3