Seeing as there has been a bit of a gap in our journal posts, let me quickly recap on the last two weeks. Due to a combination of the incredibly slow Egyptian customs and some obscure yet strict export/import laws for motorbikes, we were presented with an unexpected 2 week gap in the tour. We could either travel to Romania and wait for the bike there, hoping it would reach us sooner than the expected 10 days, or travel home to the UK and wait for news there. We plumped for the latter in part to save cash on accommodation and food, but also so we could repair and replace the few items that Jordan and Egypt had been a bit rough on. It was great to arrive home after the mania of Jordan and Egypt however, having said emotional goodbyes to our loved ones expecting not to see them for weeks and weeks, it was also a bit embarrassing seeing them again 2 weeks later. A week into our 2 week layoff recuperation time we received news that the bike was due to arrive in Bucharest the weekend of the 31st/1st. We packed up our gear once more and set off. For real this time.
We arrived into Bucharest with surprisingly minimal security fuss. Normally we would have to endure endless questions, unpacking, justifying, and swabbing of our camera gear, but this time it was totally painless. Even on Eastern Europe’s version of RyanAir, WizzAir, we managed to wrangle a row each. The city was a lot more western European than I think all of us expected, with the architecture, roads and parks comparable to Madrid, Milan, or Paris. Our taxi from the airport pulled into one of the more lively looking streets in the area with groups of Romani gypsies hanging outside corner shops, the men in vests, the women in dressing gowns. The taxi turned down the street, narrowly missing what you could only describe as a trench spanning the whole road, we found our hotel at the end. It was called Hotel Uranus and there were absolutely no childish jokes made about that whatsoever.
Our first full day in Bucharest took us to the Romanian Harley dealership to meet with its manager, Constantin. Whe had two routes planned out for us to choose from, one that would take about 3 to 4 hours a day on the road and one that would take 3 hours extra each day. We discussed each route and google-mapped them both to decide which would work best and finally decided on the long one. Constantin kindly took us for lunch in a traditional Romanian restaurant called Ikea, or something. It also sold flat pack furniture! Over lunch we had the opportunity to chat to Constantin about growing up in Romania under Ceausescu, and what remains of his reign. He seemed understandably annoyed about having to grow up with so many civil liberties restricted and without so many things he now takes for granted. He told us about having to queue up at general stores for their weekly shop without knowing what they were going to be able to buy, or how much they would be allowed. He told us about a lot of the buildings built under Ceausecu’s rule were so big that now, it is too expensive for the government to run them but also too expensive to demolish.
Because the bike was still having trouble squirming its way out of Egyptian customs and we had a potential wait of 3 more days for our hire car, we decided to use our free time to explore the city a bit. We were all keen to see Ceausecu’s buildings, in particular the current Parliamentary building which is the second largest civilian government building in the world, the pentagon being the first. It was quite large. That night, we took ourselves out for some dinner hoping to sample a bit of local cuisine and a beer or two. None of us have ever been to Romania so were curious as to what exactly the local delicacies would be. It turns out it is cold meat and cheese, or hot meat with cheese, or meat with cheese inside it. Luckily, their other delicacy is serving beer in 2 litre glasses so everyone was happy. The next day we picked up our hire car that was to be ours for the next ten days, a Mitsubishi Pajero, but were at the same time introduced to Romanian weather which was very heavy rain. This would not have been a problem if it hadn’t been for our sunroof, one of our only two requirements for the vehicle, refusing to close. We had to resort to clingfilm to spare us and our gear stick from getting soaked.
As today was our last day in Bucharest we decided to try and find somewhere a bit nice for our final breakfast. We ended up in an up-market park full of families, couples with dogs, and kids with ice cream. There were also men hiring out segways and pedal-cars. Unfortunately we only had enough cash for either breakfast or some fun on a segway or pedal car. I think its clear which we opted for. Tomorrow we start the 2nd leg of the tour, from Romania to Austria. It feels like it has been ages since Jordan (perhaps because it has) but we’re all really eager to get back on the road and get some momentum going again.