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Border crossing used: Mateszalka (Hungary) – Satu Mare (Romania)Border process / hassles: None – quick wave of the passport and through.
New motorway (not even shown on 2013 road atlas) runs almost to Mateszalka. Smooth, virgin, unused tarmac all to ourselves – so made excellent time!

Tax to pay: Need to purchase a Rovinetta (road tax) ASAP after the border. Cost for a week was 3 Euro (payable in Romanian LEI – so useful to have some before you cross the border). Rovinetta can be purchased from MOL fuel stations (others quoted the prices – but told us to go to MOLs). Believe they can also be had from Post Offices? This allowed us to travel on any road. Electronic – ie no sticker to display, we received a receipt that we’ll keep for a year (just in case!)

Cost of fuel: 5.7 LEI / Litre (about £1 a litre!)

First impressions: This was the first country that felt very different from the rest of Europe. We pulled up for fuel just past the border, and before I’d switched off the engine a guy was at my door begging. This is fairly typical in supermarket carparks as well – throughout the route that we took.

The first town we drove through (for currency exchange and the Rovinetta) was a bit grim, with beggars at every junction and traffic light.  Once out of the city the first villages seemed subject to some kind of building boom – with lots of frankly very ugly and ostentatious houses going up.

Again, roadside begging was common, especially Roma selling baskets of mushrooms. A UK camper vanner we spoke to had told us about a Dutch charity that fed the Roma once a month – and told him how desperately poor some of these people are.  A year of travelling through Africa, and a bad experience with a subway beggar in Vienna has hardened my attitude over time, but we did wonder if perhaps we should have bought some food for some of the families begging in the car parks?

Our route from Satu Mare took us North and East into the Carpathian Mountains, running parallel with the Ukranian border.
The scenery was beautiful.
First stop was the Merry Cemetery at Sapanta. We parked up and were mercifully ignored by the locals.  Begging seems limited mostly to the towns, and not the smaller villages. I wouldn’t say I normally go a bundle on ecclesiastical stuff – but this place was brilliant! Since 1935 the usual grim grave crosses have been replaced with brightly painted oak crosses, with a verse and picture relating to important aspects of the deceased’s life. Many are humorous, some are grim – depicting the method of death (including one murder by decapitation!). Sounds awful – it wasn’t – we spent an amused hour there, and made me like Romania and Romanian sense of humour!


The Merry Cemetery – a fantastic place!

Death by Landrover?
From Sapanta we headed in to Sighetu Marmatiei and camped at Hotel & Camping IZA II:
N 47.56.024
E 23.54.319
Nice campsite with WIFI and decent enough facilities (including a wine fridge!), although they might get a queue for toilet and shower if all 11 pitches are full?!This was also were we met the last of the UK camper vanners. We are used to the Landrover attracting a lot of attention, and it can be a good ice-breaker and way to get to meet people….

But, I would like to propose a few road rules for campsites
(that we will have the good grace to follow as well):

1) Leave people alone when they are setting up camp
2) Leave people alone when they are breaking camp
And 3) BUGGER OFF! when I have laid out my sockets and spanners and am obviously busy doing vehicle maintenance.

Of course I was far too polite to let on that I was busy and we had another 300km long journey ahead of us that day. Still, it WAS great to hear all about their trip, were they have been, in what vehicles, what MPG they get, how annoyed they are by Roma beggars, and then have them critique our awning choice, gas bottle size and (get this!) the volume of washing up liquid we carry….


Leave me ALONE!

“Truck Fusion” cooking – tastes a LOT better than it looks…
The next day we saw more of rural Romania across the Carpathian Mountains – elaborate carved wooded gates outside cottages, churches with silver roofs, ornate well heads in every front garden, and lots more beautiful countryside.

Where’s wally?

I DO like a nice haystack…
Unfortunately for us, Romania was always planned as a quick transit, and we still had the 10 days to make up that we lost through my back injury in the UK. We ploughed on towards the border the next day – stopping only to ogle the Frescos at Voronet Monastery, before unashamedly booking into a motel (with proper beds and sheets and hot water and cold beer and telly and wifi and….)So, in summary, a fascinating country that we hope to return to and see in a bit more detail one day….