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Published: June 18th 2013
We left Tulcea with a mix of feelings regarding the Danube and its delta.We had come here because we wanted to experience the delta and its wildlife but had failed because we couldn't arrange a boat trip that we were happy with both from a cost point of view and a boat owner that we felt would give us what we were looking for in a boat that we felt safe in.
However all was not lost as far as the Danube was concerned for us but more about that later.
With a big day of travel ahead of us we got ourselves organised early and on the road to Bucharest.
Vicky wanted to take us south on the E87,the road we had arrived into Tulcea on from Mamaia, and then west on the A2,the main highway from the east into Bucharest.However the BBA doesn't like to travel the same road twice and see things we have already seen and so we over ruled her and took the E87 west directly from Tulcea running adjacent to the border with the Ukraine.Not that the over ruling was easy as she wouldn't accept Bucharest as a destination without telling us
to do a u turn and head south.So the only way was to put towns ahead of us on the road we wanted to travel until we got to a point where it was the only route to take.
The drive was through pleasant rolling country with tidy small towns like Somova passed through.Here it was very rural with almost more horse and carts as transports the cars.We start to wonder why the traffic volume was so light on what was a major road heading towards Braila,one of the larger cities in Romania.
At Isaccea we got as close to the Ukraine border that we would and stopped at a high point just on the edge of the village and looked out over the Danube into the bottom end of the Ukraine and a rather ugly looking power plant and industrial smog/haze.
The road followed the twists and turns of the river and the oxbow lakes left by it in years past when it followed a slightly different route.The road was very much like what we call in NZ 'a goat track' so named because the original road builders took a goat with them into the hills
and let the goat find its way and so the road was laid on that path.Well that is the way we understand the term!
We made good progress and soon Smardan came into sight and we drove into the town following Vicky's instructions(she had Braila set as our destination).We followed a right hand instruction only to come up against a couple of very large trucks and trailers and a man waving his hand indicating we should veer left,which we did.Vicky suddenly burst into voice again telling us to do a U-turn as we veered left.We immediately saw why Vicky wanted us to turn around as the swiftly flowing waters of the Danube were dead ahead and there was no road bridge!!
Thankfully there was a large barge with a ramp waiting for us where the road ended and before we knew it we had parted with RON22(about €3.75) and were parked on the barge waiting for other vehicles to turn up and so commence a short journey of 400 metres or so across the Danube to the industrial city of Braila.
So now it was clear why Vicky wanted us to go south from Tulcea.Yet we had
looked at the atlas we have with us and although we knew we would be crossing the Danube at Braila, the atlas shows a solid red line all the way indicating no break in the road.
Although this all delayed our progress for about 45 minutes while we waited for more cars and then the two trucks to be loaded we did get our ride on the Danube after all even if it was just from one side to the other.It was amazing to see just how fast the river was flowing especially in the middle section although it didn't look to be in flood because of the rain of the last few weeks in Central Europe.
Briala was a nightmare to drive through.The road we took through the industrial city was under reconstruction and looked like it had been for years, as old tram lines were being removed and there were two different levels to drive on and a need to cross some of the tram lines still there from time to time.We were pleased to be out of the place!
The land west beyond Braila was as flat as a pancake and it was some
time before any hills came into sight on the horizon and even then they were to the right,or north,of us with just more flat land ahead,or south west of us toward Bucharest.
The temperature now it was early afternoon had reached 30C and with only open plains all around us as we drove on it was almost impossible to find a place to pull off the now busy road to have lunch under the shade of a tree.Eventually we did spot a layby far enough off the road and away from the trucks thundering by to have a boot lunch.
While we were sitting there we heard a chatter that sounded like frogs yet there didn't seem to be any water around us.Looking down we noticed tiny frogs on the tar seal of the layby going to and from the grass verge.One ventured out towards the road and before our eyes a car flashed by and that was that.....................!
The wind on the open plain was brisk and it made the temperature feel even warmer so we were pleased to be back in the car with the air conditioning on set at 17C and motoring on towards
the next change in direction at Buzau.
Thankfully we didn't have to drive through another large industrial city that Buzau looked as from a distance as the road turned more southwesterly.We still had to slow down for a huge petrochemical plant which had a single building that we calculated at 2km long with a double line of trucks stopped on the other side of the highway waiting for their turn to deliver their loads to the plant.This place must have employed hundreds if not thousands of people as there was a massive car park full of vehicles and lines of buses that we assumed transported workers from nearby Buzau.
As we drove on the sky ahead started to darken with gathering heavy looking clouds and rain didn't seem to be too far away which we wouldn't welcome on the very busy road which had now become 1 1/2 lanes in each direction.We are sure that whoever designed the road thought that they had made enough room for 2 vehicles in each direction but that must have been before the larger cars of today and of course the truck and trailer units all doing their maximum of 80kph and
The right hand lane was barely wide enough to get the four wheels of the car contained within and venturing too far to the right meant that you diced with the sudden drop off from the tar seal as there was no shoulder to rely upon if you strayed a little.What made it even more interesting were the fruit and vegetable vendors with their tables and umbrellas and stands.They were sited mostly in the towns where the speed limit was 50kph which did give us a bit of time to avoid cars stopping in this half lane to make a purchase.In most places there was no where else for cars to pull of to and make their purchase without having to walk back to far.
Then we had the rain to deal with although luckily the weather was passing across us and therefore we were only in the wet weather for about 20 or 30 minutes.
Bucharest has a wonderful ring road with lots of on/off ramps and it was simple to leave the E85 and join the ring road to the suburb of Voluntari.
There is a lot of evidence of urban sprawl with
many new attractive apartment blocks(didn't think we would ever say that about an apartment block in Romania)and commercial buildings as the city spreads out to the suburbs.
The street our hotel was in had some very secure looking properties some of which were guarded by security people.While this was a little unnerving given Bucharest's reputation we put it down more to the fact that the people that lived in these properties probably had some expensive stuff and so they needed to be guarded.
We had dinner out at a lovely café just down the road from the hotel tucking into a hamburger and chips(tasty!and not chicken or pork)and beef schnitzel.To make it more enjoyable the wine was two for one and they were generous glasses.In the end the price reflected the suburb we were staying in but was still very reasonable by our standards.
It had been a long day with some driving adventures along the way and tomorrow we take on the tour of Bucharest or as much as we can fit in before our feet won't carry us any further.
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