I started at approximately 9 in the morning. The north to south approach meant that I would have a long but not too harsh climb and a steep descent ahead of me. The lands before the Fagaras mountains are all flat and the mountains dont build up gradually but start abruptly, with no hilly area between flatlands and alpine landscapes.
I was happy that I had the whole trip to prepare for this, because my Berlin/Brandenburg flatland stamina would not have been enough to tackle this without being completely destroyed upon arrival.
While the biggest part of the climb was entirely managable, the last 20ish km to the peak became harder by the meter as the incline increased gradually.
Still...compared to those super steep ramps on uneven and loose terrain in the lower Tatras this did not feel too brutal. Plus I took quite a lot of short photo breaks.
The only slightly annoying thing was the traffic. It was mostly motorbikes, but they all drove decently. Bikers know not overtake too closely.
The peak was very crowded, a traffic jam was in the making, since all the parking spots seemed to have been taken. Honking cars and stressed out faces. A weird contrast to the breathtaking landscape surrounding us.
After checking out the area I had some boiled and salted corn and a crappy cappuchino at one of the many wooden sheds that catered to the visitors. I filled up my bottles at a mountain spring nearby and carried on.
Next up: a long, sketchy tunnel with bare rock walls, very dim, lights, dripping water and eerie noises from the wind. I m usually not on the sensitive side but this passage made me feel quite
On the other side of the tunnel I met 2 local cyclists on their carbon road bikes. They told me I should be glad that I came during the week, on weekends there would be traffic jams of 2km to the top, from each side. Also they warned me that they saw a bear further down the road! That sounded exciting!
The ensuing downhill was absolutely mental! All the elevation I gained over a long strech was condensed into a 25km descent. I had enough confidence in my setup to let it roll. Some bends were oddly shaped and on some road stretches the tarmac turned bumpy with no warning, tricky stuff. I overtook 6 cars and have been passed by only 1 motorbike. Big fun! Earned me some cheers and applause from motorcyclists who were parked roadside. At the end of this almost hour-long descent my ears were ringing from the roaring airstream.
When I almost arrived to the campsite, that I picked for the night I noticed a few people excitedly pointing their camara all in the same direction. When I realized what they were excited about I slammed my brakes, jumped off the bike and got my camera out as well. A mama bear with two cubs! At a safe distance. Also reassuringly uninterested in us. Amazing!
Later I learned that bears come to this place all the time because people have picknicks there and leave food behind. And indeed..after I checked in at the camp site I bought a beer at a roadside bar.
While standing there all of a sudden, on the other side of the road, maybe 10m away, another bear stuck his head out behind a trash can! Moments later a local man already sent his dogs after that bear, they chased him back through the woods. I was glad that the campsite had an electrified fence and went to sleep very pleased with my spontaneous change of plans.
Since I passed out on the couch and woke up at 5 am I had to rush to get the 6 am train from Alba Iulia to Cîrţa, a village close to the start of Transfagarasan mountain road.
I had a stop over in Sibiu that was long enough to stroll through old town and eat some pizza.
Since the the regulations about bikes on trains is so unclear Hans had previously advised me to just act like a tourist and slip some money to the ticket guy if necessary.
On the train to to Cîrţa that advice came in very handy. I learned about the art of small-money bribery in public. Because one has to maintain an image, especially when the train is crowded. So
there is a whole show around handing over the cash. Kind of amusing. If you do not have to deal with this kind of shit on a daily basis of course.
The campsite in Cîrţa was quite busy with people from all over the world, but I did not feel social at all.
So I largely kept to myself, ate, napped in the shade, sketched and listened to podcasts. Perfect.
No pedaling day! Hiking day with my cousins! We took the car to get to the Ramet Gorges. Before going there we stopped at a flea market, I got myself some sneakers because I only had my clickie-shoes with me and I figured that they are not ideal for canyon hiking.
The hike was spectacularly beautiful although a bit crowded at the beginning. And unfortunately the amount of plastic trash that was scattered around was a very sad thing to witness. Hard to comprehend how people can be so mindless.
One way we took through the canyon, the way back we took over the mountains. It turned out to be almost alpine climbing in some places, the view was incredible. At this point I was really happy that I got those sneakers earlier on.
We returned to the hotel in the late afternoon, my cousins took off because they had to work the next day. And I took the the decision to change plans and jump on a train in order to do the
Transfagarasan road after all.
Upon the suggestion from the reception lady I had a beer and went to the sauna afterwards.
The combination of the hike, the beer and the sauna did not fail to have an effect.
I sat down on the couch to look up train schedules but did not get far..next thing I knew..I woke up on the couch at 5 in the morning, still naked from the sauna.
I woke up at 6, the sun just peeked over a nearby hill. When I went for a pee Iand realized it was surprisingly cold, so I crawled back into my tent until the sun hit my camp spot.
Since the scenery and the general mood were so nice I took it really slow.. 2h for packing, breakfast and two rounds of coffee. My only goal for the day was to get to Alba Iulia to meet my cousins. According to Komoot a ride of less than
40 km, all down hill.
And down hill it was! The Ride started with awesome serpentines down into a valley. A bit sketchy at times because of pot holes and fallen rocks, but nonetheless big fun!
The ride to Alba Iulia was relaxed, which was very welcome since I still felt a beat beat up from the previous days uphill.
I arrived in Alba Iulia way before my cousins so I strolled through the fortified old town! Amazing, with a surprisingly mediterranean flair!
Bridged some more time with 2 small beers, snacking and some sketching. I got surprisingly tipsy from those beers. When my cousins arrived we had more beers and a huge meal that we walked off in old town.
We spent the rest of the day with strolling around and a nice cheese and wine dinner in the evening. Excellent day.
It turned out that our shared route was already at an end after a few hundred meters. We said good bye, my fellow Berliners took a left, I took a right. Nice side roads again thanks to Hans. I
felt well rested and full of energy.
On a long uphill section I started pushing it harder than usual because I realized there was a strava segment and I was curious about how well I could do with all that load on my bike. It turned out that all those kilos were not to be ignored. Accordingly my result is not worth mentioning.
Nearing sunset I passed through a village with pretty odd, slightly out of place architecture. Mainly older houses retrofitted with more modern elements and ornaments.
Then I remembered that Hans told me about this place. Apparently quite a lot of its inhabitants became filthy-rich with sheep farming. And it seems like showing off became kind of a local sport. That includes parking the latest german SUV models in front of ones architectonic marvel.
The campsite that I planned to stay at proved to be closed without any notice anywhere. Since the sun was already setting I figured I ll just set up camp close by. I found a nice spot just
outside the village on a lovely meadow, overlooking a beautiful valley.
This was my first wild camp since I entered Romania. I did not do this before because everybody warned me about bears. After dinner I packed up all my food and put it on a tree, far away from my tent. I went to sleep early and slept excellently, in fact the most relaxed night I ever had while wild camping alone.
Donal and I bought food from the local market and had a decadent brunch. As a result I took off way later than I should have. The route proposed by Hans turned out to be great. Countryside and gravel roads with very little traffic.
On a long, straight stretch of road I saw two silhouettes that looked like other bike tourers.
I caught up with them and they turn out to be two Berliners from UK named Katie and Joseph. Like Donal they were also headed for the Transfagarasan pass.
We grabbed an ice cream together and visited the castle of Biertan. There was a concert taking place in its cathedral at the time which made for a very nice soundtrack.
When we continued we had to get over an elevation. On the way down we realized that a storm started building up behind us. We bolted to the nearest village but figured we could do 8 more kilometers to the next one before the rain would come down. The clouds got ever darker and the wind started getting really strong. Really strong from behind! The ensuing ride was pure awesomeness! The wind pushed so hard from the back that it felt like I had a rocket strapped onto my bike!
We reached the local Magazin Mixt in the next village just in time to buy beer and snacks. Then we sat down at a bus stop and boom! It started pouring down!
A local man joined us for a beer and told me his life story. He also was so nice to invite us to his place but we declined politely because we figured it should be a only a short rain shower after which we could do a few more km.
Another man came by, had a beer with us and insisted to gift us a freshly made cheese, big like a football. We thanked him and tried to explain that it is too much to carry on a bike but to no avail.
During all this the church bells were ringing constantly. Our generous cheese-friend explained to us that the bells were rung in order to break the clouds.
At some point we accepted that it would not stop raining before sunset. I asked the store owner if he knew a place where we can set up our tents. He offered us his barn and we gladly took the offer.
We set up camp and made a nice little dinner including a lot of cheese.
While talking to Hans he asked me about my last name and if I am related to a certain Nikolaus.
Yes I replied and it turned out that bis dad had studied with my grandpas brother. What are the odds?
Hans lived and studied in Munich, then returned to his home town of Sighişoara.
He is an environmental and political activist and had a lot of insights to share about the state of things in Romania. Interesting and to a lagge extent quite depressing.
I wandered around the old town of Sighişoara and got a romanian prepaid card because mine just stopped working for no apparent reason.
Hans showed me a cantine where they served awesome no-frills lunch at working-class prices! So good! It was nap time after that.
Later I wandered through old town a bit more and checked out an ancient graveyard, that Hans had told me about. Wandred around there for about 1h in the low afternoon sun without meeting anybody! Amazing atmosphere!
Hans and I spent the evening with a really interesting conversation about his environmental activism and shared some insight into the whole story of Rosia Montana (look it up).
He also told me about his fight against a big austrian company that is profiting of the crazy levels of corruption in Romania and is illegally deforesting the country at a frightening pace. A lot of that illegally sourced wood ends up with german hardware store chains.
While we worry about the Amazon (as we should), this tragedy is ongoing at our doorstep since years:
But Hans also expressed his hope that a generational switch might change things. Some of the younger generation that studied abroad comes back after having seen that the status quo in Romania is not normal and does not have to be this way...it remains to be seen if his hopes are justified. I sure hope so as well.
The following day I actually wanted to go back on the road but I felt very tired and Hans was so nice to have me for another night. I slept a lot and, but also gave my bike the first proper
cleaning after 2000 km and fixed up some minor things. After having been through so many troubles I decided to abandon my plan to follow Via Transilvanica and replanned my route based on tips
In the evening a fellow bike traveller arrived. Donal rode his bike all the way from Ireland and planned to finish at the black sea. He was heading for the Transfagarasan road, which unfortunately was not on my route. We had a few beers and exchanged amusing travel stories.
This time I managed to start really early. I wanted to cover some ground before the forecast rainshower. It did not start well since I hit the first dead end after only 5 km. A private property with a high fence was located where the trail was supposed to go along. I had to take a busy road instead. It sucked!
The following offroad section was fine at first, but then the trail faded into the woods and soon was not recognizable as such anymore. I checked alternatives on Komoot and Google.
I decided to follow a double track into the woods. It was visibly used recently and seemed to lead in the right direction.
The trail got more and more mucky...heavy sticky muck. Excellent for making terracotta but a nightmare to ride on. My wheels got blocked, I had to get off every few meters and scrape them free. During one of those involontary stops I noticed the imprint of a huge bear paw in the mud...paranoia started creeping in! I continued the ride whistling and singing loudly in order to avoid an encounter with the imprint maker.
I arrived at a bifurcation that was not to be found neither on Komoot, nor on Google, I decided to take the one that seemed to go in the right direction.
The next section lead me over a meadow with really tall grass, the trail was hardly visible anymore.
Just when I thought I should maybe turn around, I got back into the wods where the double track continued. Unfortunately it was unrideable...all dug up by boars, muddy and full of sticks and
When I exited the woods I got presented with the next highlight..about 100 m of the track were overgrown with stinging-nettles! I fought my way through but all my limbs were red and burning like hell (duh!)
And then the rainshower that was forecast arrived! I laughed.
My next challennge was a deep muddy creek, I barely made it through...at this point my frustration boiled over, I had to scream out loud.
This ordeal was followed followed by more tall grass. At this point I realized that I went in a circle.
I decided to take this as an opportunity to go back to that bifurcation where I obviously had chosen the wrong track.
After two more hours of muck, sticks, leaves, tall grass, another wrong turn, bear paranoia, singing and whistling and a lot of second guessing I finally made it down the hill and out of the
It took me about four hours to cover about five kilometers!
I arrived at a small village and bought some food and a beer at the store. I was so dirty and battered that I definitely looked like a hobo on wheels.
In continuation more sections that I planned based on Via Transilvanica proved unrideable, I had to take a main road instead. Fear, fear, fear!
As soon as I could I turned onto a side road . This one transformed into a gravel road, then a tractor trail and then it got me to yet another point where the supposed trail turned out to be overgrown.
I replanned the route on the fly and it turned out really nice. While replanning the route I noticed that one of the hills that I would pass was named Katzenberg (cat hill). Wouldnt it be ironic if I would encounter some dogs there I thought to myself...and guess what! Thats exactly what happened!
Seven big shepard dogs where hanging out under a tree right next to my track and no shepard in sight! They all jumped up barking, but did not come my way.
So I stopped, got off the bike and checked Komoot. It showed a trail that would elegantly lead around them. I was very glad about the fact since I did not feel confident enough yet to take on such a large pack.
The rest of the way was pleasantly gravely and eventually turned into a paved road, all slightly downhill.
My Warmshowers host Hans welcomed me in Sighişoara when I arrived in the evening, just when a big thunder storm arrived as well. Lucky once more!
Got a late start and a rear flat after 5 km. Fixed it and went on. Around noon I did a quick stop for coffee in Sovata which has a long tradion as a spa. It had beautiful architecture from the time of the Austrian-Hungarian empire but it was overly touristy and very crowded.
I did another coffee stop in Corund for some artisanal souvenir shopping.
The next stop was in Praid, famous for its old salt mine. I did not visit the underground part, but the overground was very interesting. There the salt breaks through the surface, and forms a
fascinating landscape. There also were some springs where saltwater comes up and encrusts the surroundings.
A nice gravel section followed but low blood sugar surprised me with wobbly legs so I had to have a food break. I ate everything I had on me and dozed off in the shade. Later I encountered another pack of three big dogs but it did not feel like a big deal anymore. My technique proved to work out well..at least when the pack was not too big.
The day continued with a nice and long downhill on a side road but also with two dead ends.
I started to doubt that I would be able to follow the Via Transilvanica as planned.
The day ended with a milkshake and a huge Langos. I checked in at the cheapest hotel I could find,
romanian television lulled me to sleep.
In the morning I got up late and moved too slowly to make a decent start so I decided to stay one more night.
I wanted to go up into the mountains but a rain shower happend, weather changed very fast there.
So I started after the rain, and wanted to roll to a lake that was described as being nice but I soon realized that l really wanted to chill, not to ride. While passing by I saw a beautiful, big standalone tree besides the gravel track I was riding on.
I leaned the bike onto the tree and layed in the grass. While I just sat there just enjoying to be I remember that I had carried some sunshine all the way over from Berlin, waiting for the right
time to enjoy it. I realized that this would be it! Perfect!
Eventually I became a bit hungry. I walked to my bike and looked for some food in the frame bag when something moved right in front of me on the bark. A stag beetle!
This was the first live one I had seen since my childhood! And then I realized there were two more sitting on the tree trunk!
I spent the whole afternoon there watching the stag beetles and everything else that was around.
Late in the afternoon dark clouds started building up and thunder became audible.
I packed up and enjoyed some downhill fun without all the load that I was carrying lately.
Unfortunately my riding became a bit too rowdy and I was awarded with a snake bite on the front tire. When I got off the bike I realized that one of the bottle had broken and the gottle was about to fall off. I fixed the tube while it started raining and due to my wonderful sunshiney afternoon I found it to be a bit more challenging than usual.
I went to bed feeling very satisfied. While in the process of falling asleep I m pretty sure a dog of the campsite peed on my tent. Oh well..
This was the day when I was supposed to start following Via Transilvanica. It is an ambitious project to establish a hiking path that meant to go from north to south of Romania, largely following the Carpathian Mountains.
@bikepacking_romania recommended it to me and I was really curious about it.
At the time of my trip only the first fifth of it was really finished in terms of being marked but the whole path is to be found in their website and it was quite easy to trace with Komoot.
The first part considered of nice and easy gravel roads and easy country roads. Only one stretch of about 5 km was hardly visible because of lush overgrowth.
At some point I started feeling quite uneasy because of the vast grazing land I was passing through. That meant that it was only a matter of time till I would encounter shepard dogs. When I approached a hilltop I saw a pack of 8-10 huge ones close to my path. Each of them was had long fur and was about as big as my bike.
Thankfully the sheperds were there and called them back when they started running towards me..phew!
Three similarly big ones surprised me later that day when I came around a bend and they suddenly appeared on my right side. They were quite "professional" though. As in they were not overly aggressive and let off as soon as they realized that I was posing no threat and just about to pass through their territory.
After this incident I had nice lunch on a meadow in the mountains. I was a bit paranoid about bears though because I sizzled some bacon and it smelled so intensly.
I reached the campsite in the early evening and met nice people who I had drinks with. Eventually the campsite-owner joined in with a big bottle of vin de casa and we got pretty tipsy.
My hosts showed me around Bistriţa. It has a nice little old town and is generally in good shape.
We had amazing coffee at an even more amazing coffee place. Definitely holds up to snobby Berlin standards.
When we returned we had pigeons for dinner. Sounds questionable, but tasted great!
At dinner they told me that they would go to church and I could come too if I wanted. After all they told me about it I was curious enough to say yes. The gathering did not take place in an actual church. It was a pretty big hall though, about 200 people were there. Women and men were largely sitting apart.
What my hosts told me beforehand was that there would be some sermon, some singing and a lot of prayer.
The interesting thing being that everybody would pray out loud, without having to say an actual, rehearsed prayer. Thats what I was most curious about.
After a few words from the priest the praying started...and lasted for 30 min! Nonstop! This made for a very intense atmosphere. And it was loud! People were praising, thanking, moaning and screaming. It actually kind of reminded me of what a stock exchange sounds like. I tried to stay open minded about the experience and I think I learned a few things.
My awesome hosts insisted on making me awesome breakfast. Upon their recommendation I took a different route than planned. It was a nice and gentle ride on country roads with little traffic. I had some dog encounters but I tealized that I was getting used to it.
I got caught by a heavy summer rain, but since the rain radar suggested it would not last long and I was close to my destination in Bistrița I decided to enjoy it instead of avoiding it. Everything got soaking wet and my phone prooved to be not quite as water proof as advertised.
In Bistrița I arrived at the house of my cousins friends.
The two and their two kids welcomed me to their house with a beautiful garden, fancy chicken and coop of fancy pigeons.
We went food shopping at the local market and I bought some secondhand shorts, my old ones were almost rubbed through around the butt.
In the evening we had a nice dinner and the two shared interesting insights about the evangelical church they were a part of.
I left tanti Marias place with a bit of a heavy heart. But I am determined to return there at some point.
The day started with some hardship: lots of uphill pushing, through deep tractor tracks full of sticky mud. A mosquito frenzy added to the suffering, the repellent became as essential as food, drink and sunscreen.
I had to face another dog situation. Big one, but luckily solo. I got off the bike and pushed the bike past the doggie with the pepperspray in my hand ass a backup. That worked well. As soon I left his territory he went back to chill.
While passing by a puddle I saw two huge leeches.
In the afternoon I got caught by a brief rain shower while going up a hill. First time I got a little wet while on this trip.
I continued when the rain stopped but soon realized that a bigger storm was building up. After accepting that I wont be able to outrun it I decided to look for shelter. Luckily I just arrived in a little village and found it at the local bar.
I ordered a beer and sat down on the terrace just when the rain started to come down heavily. Thunder, lightning, everything! It became so heavy that I had to move inside. The woman who worked there was super friendly, we talked a bit and when it transpired that the rain would not stop very soon she offered me to stay at her place. She and her family lived in a house on the other side of the road.
Her husband eventually arrived on his tractor and showed me to my room for the night. He also made me awesome dinner. And poured me plenty more beer.
I did not get as far as I intended that day but went to bed happy because it was another nice one.
Day 23 & 24
About Tanti Maria: I met her when my cousins and me visited her village the year before. The guy who accomodated us recommended we go there if we wanted to eat something since it was late and there were no restaurants close and the store was closed already. So we went there for a late dinner and she was just the lovliest lady ever. And the cooking! And she got us drunk. So we went there every day for the whole time we stayed. When we left I promised I would return the next year by bike. So here I was..
After having been welcomed like I would be her grandson the day before I now sat in front of her house under a little pavillion watching church goers over a great breakfast and a small pipe.
It was a religious holiday, so people from surrounding villages gahered in traditional clothing and you could hear the preacher over the speakers. Men and women were really dressed up and entered through separate entrances.
After the longest breakfast I went to the edge of the village to find a nice shady spot under a tree to smoke some more, draw and read. But then I saw a girl who seemed to be getting her
mountainbike ready for a tour.
So I went over, lalked to her and followed her invitation to join her and her friends for a spin.
We rode to a village nearby to meet up with her friends.
Of her 5 friends 2 bailed and took the road because they were too exhausted after their previous tour. After having some food and some discussion we decided to take the offroad trip back despite it being already quite late and some clouds looked like rain.
After a managable forrest road uphill, it got progressively more tricky the further up we got. We also had to deal with severe mosquito infestation, so we could not really stop to have any break.
When we arrived almost on top it started to rain as well. And the daylight was fading as well.
I started to get worried about our return because judging by the uphill the downhill would probably get gnarly, even more so with the trails slowly getting soaked by the rain. And so it was.
We went through heavy and technical downhill sections, my brake pads were melting away. My trusty Bombtrack Arise did not abandon me though. I was getting more and more impressed by the level of
beating it was able to take.
We were back in the village before complete darkness, with one dude getting a flat on the last meters.
Knackered but happy.
Great dinner awaited me at tanti Maria. And the deepest sleep you can imagine.
The next day I watched the church goers again while having breakfast for 2h. To day there were even more. Also quite a few tourists. Apparently this happening is kind of famous, at least within Romania.
After church Marias Family came over for lunch. Her sons with wifes and grandkids. They were so nice to ask me to join. It was an amazing feast! Everibody was dressed up, just I was sitting there in my scruffy travel clothes.
I was so full after the meal that I had to lay down for an afternoon nap. When I woke up one of Marias grandsons, Alec, was already waiting for me. He asked tanti Maria to ask me if I would go for a ride around the village with him. Sure thing I said. Then he bolted off and came back with 2 friends of his. So I had my little bicycle gang together. So we raced around a little, did some tricks, some offroading and we returned all dirty. The parents sure were thrilled about that!
Alec stuck around for a little longer because he absolutely needed to show me something on youtube. And that was something rather peculiar: It was a video of a foodie bike messenger riding around Bucharest with a GoPro. He did not know that I am a messenger and bike messengers are just not a thing in Romania. Apart from food messengers in recent times. So I have no idea where his fascination for that came from but I saw a future messenger in the making :)
I left the camp site dead last. A duck that lived on the campsite curiously and quackingly watched me pack up.
In Baia Mare I had a coffee first, at a place full of grumpy old men. Then I visited the market and got some food for the road and for right away. Tastes of childhood again! Sooo good!
My plan was to do quite a big detour to get tm my destination Breb. I absolutely wanted to avoid main roads.
On the outskirts of Baia Mare I passed by some soviet era housing units which were extremely run down but inhabited. I probably would not have passed by there by car. The things you see when you are on a bike...
I repurposed the banana-holder on my Bagface framebag as pepperspray-holder. That way I would be ready to react fast in case of unfriendly puppies.
I passed by a lot of spots where I expected dogs to attack, but nothing happened. Apart from one funny thing..
A german shepard stood at an open gate and watched me alertly. I got my hand on the spray immediately. But instead of running out of the open gate and coming at me he ran along the fence (on the other side of it) barking erratically.
Later I met a cyclist from Ukraine. We shared some uphill pains but I abandoned him cold heartedly on a long downhill after the climb. Yes I m a douche sometimes.
I was too close to Breb where tanti Maria was awaiting me with amazing food and wine.
Who that is? I ll tell you tomorrow.
I left the rather weird camp site rather early and had a stop over in Satu Mare. There I went to an eerie gamer cafe to do a photo backup.
Upon leaving the city again I stumbled upon its crazy brutalist architecture in the city centre. I spent quite a while there to take pictures.
When I reached the city limits I realized that taking the main road as komoot suggested would be suicidal. As a bike messenger I would claim to have quite a high tolerance towards shitty driving, but there I was sincerely scared for my life. So I did a u-turn and went back into the city to switch to other side of river and take a road that I hoped would be less trafficked. Fortunately that proved to be right.
It was getting very hot and the roads were similarly monotonous to those in Hungary.
I stopped at a local shop and chatted a bit with some bewildered locals while sipping on my livesaving kefir. They were impressed that I did this bike trip but they were also confused about why the hell I would do that. One guy said his ass already hurts when he takes his bike to the bar in the next village.
I took a dust road to a bridge that Komoot suggested but was not shown on Google. The locals at the shop told me its fine, so I went for it.
The bridge turned out to be an old, disfunct and rusty conveyor belt with a part for maintanance staff to walk on. It looked like people were still using it, so I decided to try it.
I barely managed to get my bike up there, but the rest went fine, although it was a bit shaky.
The "bridge" ended up on an abandoned industrial site. I expected watch dogs to be just waiting to snack my butt, luckily there were none. A dog attack happened a few minutes later when a I met a big, seemingly chill dog.
Surprisingly it came at me, but luckily doggie was not super-motivated, so it was just a little unexpected scare.
Then I was back on the main road, which I had to take to get to the next bigger city, Baia Mare.
It were only a few km, but the driving was so mental, I was genuinely scared, way too many close calls.
I arrived to Baia Mare completely exhausted when I saw an old lady selling cherries roadside.
While getting a bag full she told me to be careful, a cyclist had been killed by a truck just the other day.
Easy to imagine. Unfortunately.
I left Baia Mare pretty soon to get to a campsite in a nearby village. Upon arrival to that village I got chased by dogs again. This time it felt quite dangerous because I almost crashed and also went into the oncoming lane. No traffic, thankfully.
The campsite was nice and I enjoyed good local food at a restaurant, while in the middle of a birthday party. Back at the campsite I made a fire and talked to some other campers until I got tired and went to bed.
Hungary turned out to be pretty much as expected.
Why expected? Because of childhood memories. We used to visit my home country Romania every summer. And passing through the hungarian puszta always felt excruciatingly long. Huge fields, all flat, the roads endless straights...and hot!
The heat was bad but thankfully not as bad as in high summer. But unfortunately there were virtually no places to hide from the sun.
The monotony of the long, straight roads would have been managable by pedaling yourself into a trance-like state. That was not really possible though because of the occasional wrist-breaking pot hole and idiots overtaking way too close for no reason.
When I checked Komoot at some point I realized that there should be a path winding along a river, pretty much parallel to my route.
So I turned into a small dirt road to get there. Until I got stuck because of mud and overgrowth.
At this point I instantly got attacked by mosquitos, massively and viciously! On a level I have never experienced before..there must have been about 40 within 3 seconds. I turned my bike around in a panic and fled back to the road.
Eventually I got to do some gravelling which is nice for a change, but...mosquitos again! So stopping was not an option! Which became a problem because gravel turned to sand and I got stuck multiple times and was bitten mercilessly. Very exhausting and frustrating.
It was not all shitty though. I got to see a mother fox with two younglings, pheasants, deer and a lot of insects (besides those fucking mosquitos)
For the last bit of hungary I got to ride on a dike for about 30 km, mostly paved, again no stopping because of those micro-vampires.
On this section I discovered something very peculiar..because I was alone on the dike almost the whole time I started staring at the pavement right in front of the bike. There is a certain area
that, when I stared at it would have a very psychedelic effect on me. Hard to describe, I guess you have to try it.
Shortly befor the romanian border I saw a dog breeding...farm I guess. Looked horrible.
I reached the first actual border of this trip at nightfall. After a short, friendly chat I was let in.
I headed for a camp site that google indicated.
Upon entring into the village two medium sized dogs chased me down the road. 30 minutes after entering the country! Great start! I barely managed to shake them off. Then I entered a small gravel road which was leading towards the camp sit. No street lights of course, pitch black. And then, when passing by a farm house, out of the dark..the next dog chase!
Welcome home I thought to myself.
I reached the camp site completely knackered.
Komoot promised a day of mild but continous downhill. I got off quite early because I wanted to get to Hungary and cover quite a bit of that, since my plan was to just take another day to leave
it again. While rolling along I noticed that the bike felt like I was losing air. That was not the case though. I luckily realized that I lost the screw that attached the front rack to the left
side of the fork.
In the next bigger town I went to the local bike shop. They were super nice, helped me out with screw and coffee. The senior mechanic tried to persuade me to change my route, he claimed to know a nicer one, with less traffic. His younger colleague had to translate and did not seem too convinced, but I took seniors advice. It was quite nice indeed, unfortunately I had so much headwind that I had to pedal pretty hard even though it went downhill.
It was almost dark when I took a break next to a river. I had to spray myself with mosquito repellant right away. Fucking micro-vampires everywhere!
I felt like I had enough energy to ride into the night and cover as much distance as possible, since I was expecting it to be very hot the next day.
I crossed the border to Hungary at about 23 h after a longer climb in the middle of the woods. Awesomly smooth country side road with no traffic at all! Just a sign informing me of the fact that I crossed the border, there was no abandoned infrastructure or anything.
The descent after the climb was surprisingly long and biiig fun! A freshly paved road with fresh road marks shining bright, no traffic and a clear sky with the moon illuminating my path.
After a sharp turn a startled deer ran away right in front of me. He ran along the road for a few hundred meters, illuminated by my headlights before jumping into some bushes.
I kept on going till about 1 at night and I would have kept on, but I found such a good sleeping spot that I decided to end the ride there. It was a wooden observation deck in the middle of a field. Perfect.
Slowensky Raj apparently has been a tourist destination pretty much as long as the modern definition tourism exists. Its mostly famous for its spectacular gorges that have been equiped with climbing amenities in order to be able to access the partially very narrow and steep gorges.
At the beginning of the hike we had to share the gorge we chose with way too many other people (for my taste), most of them rushing through in their neon-coloured sports gear.
Luckily that was only for the first half hour or so. For the rest of the 4 h hike we were almost alone.
The traces of mass tourism were evident though. Trampled vegetation, roots and driftwood smoothed by generations of hikers and an eerie absence of animals. I later found an article online that analyzed the problems of this place. Like many others its being suffocated by its own popularity. And now we were part of this.
As spectacular as all the climbing and the landscape was, we found ourselves being most fascinated with the tiny things. We spent most of the time with looking at tiny plants, mushrooms and wood structures. For the inclined passerby it might have looked like we were on acid.
And indeed, at the end of the hike we both actally felt high! While I like being in nature like that and no stranger to its uplifting effects, I must say this was exceptional!
Back at the campsite we made another fire and had some goodbye-beers, since this was our last travel day together. The next day Jerome would catch a bus back to good old Nemčija.
We both found it hard to believe that we had been on the road for only little more than 2 weeks.
We got up shortly after sunrise with a mild day ahead of us. Our destination for the day, Slowensky Raj, a somewhat famous national park, was not far away and we had little elevation to cover. Unfortunately it got pretty hot pretty soon. After a delicious but heavy lunch we desperately looked for a shady spot to lay down.
We found it under some trees, overlooking a beautiful landscape.
Sleeping proved almost impossible though since that spot was so incredibly alive that we had to observe a wild array of crawly creatures. It is really amazing and to see how much richer the flora fauna got the further we moved east. Its also sad considering there are hardly any places like that left in Germany.
After a beautiful and mellow ride we eventually arrived at the campsite next to Slowensky Raj.
We got the
sense that the area might be quite heavily touristified, but it still was pre-season, so there were not too many people. We met Mandy a solo cyclist from Leipzig who was in her first weeks of a
We pitched our tents, made fire and food and emptied a few beers before calling it a day.
The morning uphill felt terribly long and heavy. I dont think my legs ever burned so badly before.
Jerome took off quite a bit and I missed the turn to the cable car. With no sign and me not checking Komoot properly I went up the mountain way further than necessary to another cable car station which was obviously defunct.
After Jerome called to ask where I was and we realized I had quite a fun downhill back to where I was supposed to be. I arrived there 1 hour after him
Despite the sceptical looks and comments that we got from people we decided to we decided to take the bikes up with us. The view on top was splendid! We walked the trail for about 1 h, even though we realized already after 10 min that it would be foolish to try it with our heavily packend gravel bikes.
I am fully determined to try it on a MTB as soon as possible. With a light backpack and the bare necessities it should be quita a lot of fun. On the way back we saw a mountain goat.
Back at the cable car station we discussed a change of route over a hearty soup.
We decided to ride down the north side of Chopok since there seemed to be a managable trail going down the mountain. Going back down the south side would have felt too much like a defeat.
What awaited us would have been challanging on a fully, on our bikes it was beyond gnarly. The trail was covered in mostly loose rocks, big and small. To make things more interesting we had to cross sections of snow as well.
Jerome decided to walk it at the beginning but even that was not easy. I took it as a challenge and was able to ride it for the most part but it felt like a permanent state of almost crashing. And I did twice. Luckily with no consequences.
Further down we met a guy on an E-fully who we helped out fixing his flat. We were both surprised that our bikes survived this material murdering trail, especially the wheels.
Back on tarmac we blasted down a very nice road, overtaking cars and marvelling at the landscape.
After a stop at a gourmet food store we rode on. We had to stop pretty soon though because I realized I did not eat enough throughout the day and I started to bottom out. After a coffee and some snacks we rode on until we found a chill riverside spot to set camp for the night.
We made a fire and ate up all the delicasies from the store. Another amazing day coming to an end.
I took 2 ibuprofen after breakfast which dimmed down the pain enough to decide to go for the big climb. We were still not sure if it even would be possible worryingly steep part.
First we followed a forrest road that was designated as a bike path. The path passed by an old abandoned water bottling plant / spa which we inspected of course. What an eerie place! It looked like it was abandoned in a rush..even paperwork was still laying around! We also drank from the springs that were still accessible.
Komoot fooled us once again as we took a turn that became a dead end. Way too steep and overgrown.
We decided it would be worth trying another way. The leg seemed to play along.
The uphill took us on a forrest trail that gradually became brutally steep as well and was riddled with rocks and roots. I was hardly able push the bike anymore when we reached a point where it
started to get even steeper! No chance, we had to admit defeat.
After (mostly) riding back down while melting our brake pads we decided to continue on the bike path and follow another one along the mountain side.
It turned out that in Slowakia a designated bicycle path can easily turn into a gnarly downhill trail..
very steep, rocky, rooty and generally a nasty piece of work.
I have to commend Jerome for riding all of it..with little experience, on a packed CX bike..not easy.
Being more of a riser-bar / MTB guy it was also quite new for me. I had to grab the handle bar in the low position in order to be able to brake adequatly...terrifying to ride down such a trail in this position. But also fun :)
After checking out another soviet era memorial and an abandoned hotel we decided to sleep another night indoors and checked into a hotel.
Over a goodnight beer we decided that we would give the crest trail another try by taking the cable car up Chopok Mountain and try to ride from there.
We checked out the village of Donovaly..rather superficially though. Is seemed to be a place completely dominated by skiing tourism, but obviously in off-season.
We decided to just rest and try to think about our next steps.. we had planned to ride a trail on top of the lower Tatras. From all the material I could gather online it seemed rideable. But! After the ordeal that we had to endure the day before we became sceptical of the route proposed by Komoot.
A few sections seemed to be very steep.
I decided to ride out and try to get a good old paper map. After having aquired one without a problem I rode back. When I entered the courtyard of our guesthouse I slipped on the wet grass and crashed into our hosts veggie garden. No veggies were hurt, but my left thigh hurt quite badly and turned blue quite fast. No need to mention that my ego took some bruising as well.
Heavily limping I entered our appartment. Jerome was way too amused about my mishap. Well I would have been too.
I grew increasingly worried if I would be able to make the climb onto the trail with my hurting leg.
After lighting up the fireplace we sat down to study the map. Unfortunately it did not really enlighten us. I put some more wood on the and spent the evening with sketching and listening to podcasts.
I did not take any pictures that day..hence..there is only a sketch I did while listening to the crackling fire.
Its Kevin, the Gravlin!
Day 13 & 14
We left pretty late again because we planned only a 45 km ride as a tryout for the Tatras.
It started nice and mellow along a little creek, mostly on dirt and gravel. As we got into the woods it gradually got steeper. As shown on Komoot. As we kept on it became unridable though, we had to get off the bikes and push.
Slippery leaves, rocks and roots did not make things easier. Then we encountered a section where multiple fat trees layed across the trail. We had to lift our bikes over them in teamwork. Really exhausting, but we were still laughing.
And we kept on. Because we thought it would have to be over soon..
According to Komoot we estimated it to be less than 2 km before it went downhill again. That was indeed about right.
But..our good mood gradually vanished with every meter. It took us more than 3 torturous hours to cover that distance!
At some point I had to unload my bike because it became so steep and overgrown that it was hard to even just walk, let alone push 35 ish kg of bike up there. I carried my panniers and water bottles to the top, Jerome pushed through with his bike loaded. We then both went back down to fetch my bike.
After this massively exhausting episode we still had a 3 h uphill to conquer. Most of it was rideable, but some was too steep.
We were rewarded with a breathtaking landscape, a spectecular cloud scenery and a feeling of deep bliss. Words and pictures can only fall short to describe it.
We ate some peanut butter on top of Krizna mountain, next to a radar station that looked like the lair of a fictitious super villain.
The peanut butter was a welcome and necessary source of power. Because what followed was a downhill stretch that would have been fun on a fully, on our gravel bikes it was pretty scary. Especially for Jerome who had little offroad experience. It was a steep mix of wet grass, mud and the occasional rock.
Nonetheless we rode it all without crashing and after leaving the rough patch behind the trail turned out really nice and flowy. When we arrived in Donovaly it took us a while to find a guest house. But when our host poured us a shot of slivovica as a welcome and lit up the fire place we knew we were in the right place. It smelled just like at my grandmas house back in Romania!
Day 11 & 12
We saw a tank factory with fortified walls when leaving town. Interesting.
Our uphill fitness seemed to get better but generally we felt a bit exhausted.
Once again we sucessfully outran some bad weather.
We passed through a eerie little village with evident german influences and an ensemble of weird sculptures and scarecrows.
My knee pain suddenly reappeared after shaking my leg a bit too wildly. We decided that we sould take a break before attempting to climb the lower Tatra trails. The camp ground we first stopped at proved to be in a lousy state, creepy and close to a noisy road.
So we just had a beer there and kept on rolling until we found a lovely little guest house run by a sweetheart of an elderly lady. We went to bed pretty early.
The next day we slept in and decided to have a full on resting day.
We bought ingredients for a BBQ and made it an epic one! After this feast we spent the rest of the day laying down. Both of us constantly dozed off while trying to read or listen to podcastsDuring all this it rained so much that riding would not have been fun anyway.
Good timing once more.
It seemed like we got slower to start every morning..I caught myself feeling impatient..and wonderedI why is that ?
This seemed to be our pace, so let it be, no need for rushing.
We had to start the day with a brutal uphill. But it was rewarded with an intense downhill rush! With my rack secured and the general setup working well I now felt more secure to go faster than earlier into the trip.
We had a water refill, ziptie restock and a nice chat at a local bike shop, evidently run by enthusiasts.
On a gravely downhill bit Jerome crashed into a bush for no apparent reason. Man and material were fine, we were able to laugh it off. We were both confused about why this happened. A short bit later I had to jump off the bike because it sunk into some mud.
We did a small detour to anti-fashist monument in Plostina and had lunch there. Meanwhile thunderous dark clouds were approaching, luckily we were able to outrun them. We still got wet because it was hot and humid. We were sweating like animals.
Aditionally we fell victim to a Komoot fail. The topography diagram promised a day of low elevation but we were presented with a long and brutal uphill instead.
We both ran out of water by the time we were on top of the climb, somewhere in the woods.
Jerome went ahead as he pushed harder uphill and felt dehydrated. I chose to rest for a bit before continuing.
The downhill that awaited me was absolutely insane and made me forget about my exhaustion!
A forrest road with perfect, fresh pavement and a steep incline! Unbelievable sensation to blast through the woods on a narrow road like that! I tried to contact Jerome in order to meet up but
there was no reception. I wondered if I would have noticed him laying in a ditch while speeding through the woods.
A bit after surprisingly crossing into Slowakia I found him sitting next to a roadside spring refilling on water.
Amazingly a bunch of Salamanders were living in it! It is considered as a sign of extremely clean water. But besides that its just awesome!
A long, gentle downwards road took us to our destination of the day. With no good idea where to sleep Jerome suggested to check Air bnb.
We were lucky as only 2 options were at a sensible distance and the first one we contacted answered really fast.
Marian and his pitbull welcomed us on the 9th floor of a renovated soviet era building.
His Mom was visiting and made us some great soup and Bryndzové Halušky. Absolute soul food!
Also..a shower never felt so good!
After mom was gone our host put some weed on the table, we talked about our trip and his time in the UK until late at night.
It took us forever to get going and when we finally did our legs felt real tired. We dragged along through the heat, only interrupted by Icecream and Frappuchino.
Luckily the bike road was great. I was not aware of this before but I would say Czech Republic is way ahead of Germany in terms of bike infrastructure.
We saw lots of dead mice on this day. Without exageration..about 1 every 5 m. No idea why.
Realizing that we are not on top of our game, we decided to try to call it a day early and look for a chill lakeside spot.
In order to save some time and km we illegaly crossed a dam. Getting on it was easy, in order to get off was a bit harder. We had to unpack the bikes and lift them over a gate.
The search for our spot turned into a 2 h long shit show. This was because the lake shore proved to be very inaccessible, the forrest road was in parts unridable, dug up by deep tractor tracks and the place was mosquito-infested.
After all the hardship we were still rewarded with super cozy spot.
We lit a fire, prepared a savoury dinner and went to sleep.
We had a nice start after having breakfast in the beautiful lakeside yard of somebodys cabin. When we were already packing up the owners of the neighbouring cabin arrived but they were super chill and even spoke some german. After a friendly chat we carried on. We decided to replan the route for reasons I forgot. Possibly lazyness.
On the road we caught a glimpse of a dude with a Metal detector roaming the woods.
After a juicy lunch at a fancy local restaurant we took a nap in a park until a brief rain shower surprised us.
Later I had to pull out a tic out of Jeromes butt cheek. I guess that means we are closer friends now :D
After some fast and rattly downhills my knee gave me a pinchy reminder to take it easy.
When we arrived at the site where we were supposed to find a camp site, according to google, we had to realize that this information might have been outdated. There was only a public swimming pool that had not opened yet for the season and a bar.
We tried to talk to the owner, an old layed back dude. Verbally we could not communicate. But sign languade granted us beers and a free spot to camp for the night.
So we enjoyed those beers, made a cozy fire and enjoyed a late dinner before curling up in our tiny tents.
We kicked off the day with savoury grandma style breakfast. Awesome!
And thankfully! Because we started with tired legs onto a brutal climb. We also felt a bit hung over.
So the first coffee pause came after 9.8 km already. Earliest yet! We were both very happy that I took the little Bialetti on the road. I had to fix my first flat of this trip and we took the opportunity to have lunch.
Soon after that my front rack collapsed onto my tire after a bumpy gravel section.
This could have ended badly at high speed since there are 2 screws that could have ripped the tire wide open.
I had to loosen almost all screws to move it back up again. Then I secured it by linking it with my handle bar using zip ties. Thanks and praises to whoever invented them!
A weasle crossed the road right in front of us. Funny looking creature.
Also realized that some cuckoo bird had provided for a soundtrack every day so far.
We had to search for a sleeping spot for quite a while and found a sweet spot lakeside, basically in the backyard of somebodys vacation home.
The fire we made got rid of the mosquitos and Jerome took the opportunity to make some aglio e olio on it.
We ate well while the sun set.
I even managed to read a little before going to sleep, the days before I always was too destroyed.
The surrounding sounds truly made us feel like sleeping in the jungle but it actually was nice and we slept well.
While the nights before were a bit chilly, this one was actually cold. I woke up freezing a little, while Jerome was already up. His sleeping bag was in the lighter side, so he hardly got any sleep. Not even wrapping the thermo foil around himself seemed to help.
So we had an early breakfast with coffee and all, hung our tents up to dry and warmed ourselves in the rising Sun.
Upon packing up we also realized that our camp spot was absolutely tic-infested.
Luckily none of these shitty little creatures managed to poke holes into our sexy bodies
Our aim for the day was the origin of the river Elbe which springs at 1386 m of altiude.
I had doubts about such a heavy uphill with my knee situation but I popped 2 Ibuprofen and gave it a go.
The climb started gentle but got harder and harder as we advanced. Towards the end it got extra punishing since the path was layed out with big, bumpy slabs of stone.Lots of pushing was required towards the end. We were rewarded with a breathtaking landscape full of surreal rock formations. The spring turned out to be largely buried under snow.
For a late lunch we sat down next to it and ate up everything we had left.
Unfortunately there was not much time to rest as it was getting colder with the sun slowly setting and we had tofind shelter for the night.
The way down was insanely fun! We rode a steep mountain road with pretty damaged tarmac. And we had it all to ourselves! Zero traffic! All this topped off by an eye-watering landscape.
We found a hotel in the middle of nowhere. It was run by an elderly couple who also lived there. She had a hard time walking and he seemed blind on one eye. It seemed like they had their difficulties to run this huge place with the charming soviet era interior all by themselves.
They were really sweet, we felt right at home. The smell of the place even reminded Jerome and of childhood at his grandparents place.
We had beers and some soup and went to bed highly satisfied. Amazing how wasted one can get from 2 beers after such a day.
We started slowly with a nice breakfast after which I took 2 Ibuprofen.
It turned out to be a beautiful ride with lots of gravel and country roads, all framed by the picturesque landscapes of Sächsische Schweiz. Especially the rock formations there were spectecular.
One thing that I really like about this travel mode is the multitude of little things you get to see. When you dont go too fast you can get so many interesting glimpses into peoples lives. All while hearing and smelling everything.
Not really possible by car/train/plane
We crossed the border to Czech Republic in the middle of the woods, there was just a small sign informing us of the fact.
My knee seemed to play along and I was really glad that I changed the cassette last minute, the gear range allowed for
pedaling with way less pressure.
We found a nice camp spot on a meadow just outside a village. We scared away a young deer, had dinner and went to sleep with the setting sun.
Day 3 & 4
Jerome called a few shops to investigate if they are savy about hydraulic disc brakes.
On the way to the chosen shop my knee went from seemingly ok to bad within the 6 km to the bike shop.
I asked a dude outside the shop about a doc. He recommended a physio therapist nearby.
After Jerome left his bike at the shop with an estimated waiting time of 1 h we went to see the physio. I was super lucky to get an appointment right away.
The therapist suspected that I did something to my Meniscus while (over-)stretching. She massaged my knee a bit, put some support-tape around it and recommended 1-2 days of rest, and then continuing easily while taking some Ibuprofen. In my place she said she would not cancel the trip.
Slightly relieved we went back to the shop to pick up Jeromes bike.
The bike was not ready yet, which was good because while waiting I decided to install a cassette with a wider gear-range in order to be able to ride with less pressure on my knee.
The folks at the bike shop were so nice to let me do the cassette swap myself using their tools.
I sent my old cassette home by mail and we decided to try to get to a camp site in Bad Schandau and let my knee rest there.
The 40 km along the Elbe river seemed managable, going slow with enough breaks.
In the end I barely made it, pedaling with only one leg for the last couple of km. Clickies ftw!
We pitched our tents on a cozy little campsite and went to sleep early.
We woke up to heavy and persistent rain. Not a day for riding anyway, so we felt lucky in a way.
I took some Ibuprofen after breakfast, then we spent the das doing classicly touristy stuff around the area.
We went around with the historic tram, checked out the old town of Bad Schandau, the ruin of a mill and a waterfall.
In the evening we had some good food with a bottle of fine wine and went to sleep early.
Despite the physio therapist being positive I went to sleep wondering if the trip might be over before it even started.
We repacked our things in a more sensible way, so it took ja about 2 h before we took oft.
Tech problems appeared on Jeromes bike. He realized that he lost chain ring bolt and that his rear brake is leaking.
We decided to call it a day earlier than planned and camp close to Dresden in order to find a capable bike shop the following day.
On the last 10 km to the campsite my knee started to act up. At first it just felt somehow unconfortable but it gradually built up to hurt upon pedaling harder. I had had some knee problems about 2 years prior, slightly worried I went to sleep.
Finally we were off to this trip I anticipated for so long. Anticipated it while trying not to get charged with expectations!
I had layed out a route on komoot but I wanted to keep an element of drifting to this trip. So I avoided setting any fixed dates and I did not plan on doing any fixed stages, leaving as much room as possible for the trip to be shaped by chance.
Thankfully my homie Jeromie was on the same page about this travel mode.
And we put the concept into action on the first day already when we met 2 other bike travellers who made us deviate from our planned route.
We set up camp for the first night outside between some trees close to a small forrest. Right before going to sleep I spotted a pack of wild boars running away. Subsequently I found it hard to fall asleep, lots of comotion in the dark.
Deer or boar?
I woke up from terrifyingly sounding animal calls from the woods. I suspected boars but later learned that young deer sound like that. I would describe it as a dog-human-hybrid-like noise.
Seen a huge owl land on a branch above me while scanning the dark with my flashlight. We looked at each other for a moment, then it took off in complete silence. Amazing!
Later I woke up again because something seemingly rather big was nibbling on the foot-end of my tent.
After shouting to piss off I heard something with hooves running away, probably a deer. I finally found proper sleep when it was almost dawning.