As we traveled through Eastern Europe we found beautiful sunflower fields everywhere followed by watermelons posts on the side of the road. Read on our dear friends, there is big beautiful mountain pass just a few lines ahead of you.
The Austro-Hungarian Empire
After crossing into Austria, some shopping was required to stock up on water and a few other basics. We decided to pay a visit to Melk, where we found a Hofer – that’s the supermarket Paula used to shop in when she was an Erasmus student in Linz. The shopping list is rather different now.
The first few miles into the country rewarded us with the same stunning scenery as Germany. But what we really caught our attention were their huge chairs.
The style of driving changed slightly in Hungary. Either we were slower or everyone else was much faster. Hungarians drivers seemed to be a bit relax about road signs and traffic rules. There were bikers driving in parallel and people overtaking using the inside lane. Perhaps a sign of what is yet to come. Since we wanted to blend in with the locals we chose to ignore the toll signs (apparently you are meant to get a motorway pass in Hungary).
We stopped in Gyor for what was meant to be a quick goulash and ended up staying a couple of hours. No need to blame traffic jams or tube strikes this time: we got a bit lost trying to find a place to park.
Our first border crossing
After the delay in Gyor, we had to make some good progress towards Romania. Luckily for us, we bumped into a highway that wasn’t on the maps and we got to the border in no time. Fastest ever border crossing? let’s see: an incredibly friendly official smiled at us, checked our passports, had a brief look at the back of Lola, mumbled the word ambulance and waved us off, all in well under 2 and half minutes. Something tells me this is going to be the easiest border crossing of them all!
At night fall we stopped just outside Arad, in a rather big industrial area. Not as glamoruous as the previous night but good enough to recharge our batteries for next day.
The Transfagarasan Highway
After a few hours drive we were at the doorstep of the Transfagarasan Highway, without a doubt one of the roads we were looking forward to most. And it did not disappoint.
It was a gorgeous day: blue sky and nice temperature. Lola was ready and the mountains inviting. Ah Lola, little she knew what lied ahead of her.
We started going uphill with determination. Driving this road with an automatic car should be forbidden:
3rd gear, down to 2nd, up to 3rd again. Beautiful. Lola didn’t complain a single time, we left that for the trail of cars behind us. But who cared about them!
A mile or so before the top we stopped for a few pictures at which point the whether changed dramatically and in the blink of an eye we were cruising along Mordor at 7C. The pictures speak for themselves (and they were taken on the same spot within the space of 2 minutes!):
We made it to the top in the middle of a huge storm which made going downhill on the other side even trickier. Nothing Lola could not handle though. By the time we reached the bottom of the mountains we were welcomed by some sheep who kindly came out to say hi.
The atmosphere inside Lola was a bit sticky, with wet wipes the closest we had been to a shower for a couple of days. Lake Vidraru was our answer and under a glorious sun (once again) we jumped in and treated ourselves with an invigorating bath. 10 seconds of bath to be precise, the water was rather cold!
As it was getting a bit late we started our search for a place to park and spend the night. The area that lies in the South face of the mountains is stunning and we soon found a brilliant spot that rivals that of the first night. Luckily the chap who owned the field came over with a translator, his son, who, with a smile on his face, said we could spend the night there “no problem”.
Romania, you rock!
We decided to skip Bran castle and head towards the coast of the black sea and then Bulgaria. Lola has already taken us 1413 miles away from London – she feels like home to us now.