On the trail of vampires and bears…  good 2’100km through Romania

Chapter Four

Love at first breath

On the trail of vampires and bears
Through dust & mud

The day before, we were able to book our toll for Romania online without any problems, which cost us a measly 13€/month. After our somewhat depressing experience in Hungary, we wanted to cross the border as quickly as possible, as we were only allowed to be in the country for a few more hours. 24.09.2022

Shaken not stirred, from Debrecen to the border at Nagykereki Bors to pitch our tents near Oradea RO. The first attempt to cross the political line on the map was unsuccessful as the crossing was only allowed for vehicles up to 7.5t. The Romanian border guards were very nice to us and explained how to get to our destination. Well then – another 17km over Hungarian potholes.

Just before the border, the roads change significantly and to our total surprise – road surfaces of the finest from the moment we enter the New Land.

The light changes, the clocks are adjusted for the first time.

The landscape impresses from the first breath. Amazed by the new cityscape, where Roma dwellings alternate with chic detached houses in harmony. We did not expect that!

About 30 km east of Oradea, in the picturesque landscape at the foot of the Carpathians, we reached the village of Copăcel. We are overwhelmed by feelings of happiness. Let’s go off-road to our campsite in the middle of ancient oaks.

On the trail of the bears

Relaxing was the order of the day, archery, updating the diary, mushroom picking. In the distance we spot a herd of cows with a pack of sharp-looking shepherd dogs. Slightly unsettled, we put our bows and arrows together “we don’t want to get too close or scare anyone”. From our experience in Central Europe, we expect to be scolded now and have to move on. The dogs circle us and lead the cows past us. Bringing up the rear in the hustle and bustle is the cheerful shepherd Tomash. Totally sociable and delighted to see us tourists in his pasture. A new world begins to open up for us. We, still a little taken aback, tried our best to talk to him. He wanted to invite us to his place, which we were completely overwhelmed by. He noticed this perfectly, mumbled around in his pocket and dug out a bottle: “Palinka, Palinka”! This is a very tasty fruit brandy which was now shared on the spot. Our first day in Romania, they are all incredibly friendly – it’s just a pity we don’t speak their language.

Originally, outdoor activities were the order of the day. “Maybe we’ll see a bear?” was our hope. That was our hope. Unfortunately, however, the weather did not favour us. Unfortunately, mountainous landscapes in stormy weather are not much fun anywhere. During the next few days, we chugged around the beautiful Carpathian Mountains in the direction of Cluc Napoca / Klausenburg.

Bruno discovered a praying mantis

Our intention in Cluj-Napoca was a viewpoint above the city. Once again, a 3.5t sign makes it difficult for us to reach our destination. Orientation by compass direction and possible routes is the order of the day, which will unexpectedly lead to an intense off-road experience and put my trucking skills to the test. Delighted, we turn onto a road without any road signs. The road changes quickly – but still looks perfectly passable. I have to point out again that it had been raining the previous days. We now walk through the forest, the slope and the mud increasing. We are only a few 100m away from the finish until the slope increases immeasurably out of nowhere and 40cm high ruts make the ride difficult. By now we are close to several gardens. Good, all locks in, gear reduction on and full throttle! However, we soon realise that the ground conditions are a bit too much for our 10t. We have to get out and re-orientate.

Fortunately there is an option to turn left 50m before our current position, the slope seems even steeper but with a paved path. Manoeuvring in the mud is a challenge, but we manage the situation. Full throttle, the engine roars loudly – people look at us in surprise between the trees “What is happening here?” Without a run-up, Oleg now makes his way out of the earthy sludge and up the tight curve into the massive incline. We can only see the sky – our knees are shaking – we are looking into nothingness. The slope decreases, the path becomes visible again, we stand on a hilltop in the middle of a residential area.

In front of us now, the same slope downhill, various cars parked on the road – OMG! There is no turning back. Ziss gets out to guide me mm by mm. It was so steep that I was hanging in my seatbelt and steering our 10t down. We would have mastered that hurdle. We go a few metres through the residential area before we reach the plateau. On the horizon Bruno is already waiting who could drive the official way with his Lada.

Here the paved road ends again. We switch on the gearbox and the locks and drive off-road. The dirt road was completely soaked with water. We had to give full throttle and had the feeling that Oleg was digging and drifting sideways through the terrain until we had solid ground under our wheels again. “You have reached your destination” the sat nav chattered, and this without disregarding a barrier. It wasn’t until we got there that we heard from the comments in the Park4Night app that one of the users warned against driving on the site during rainy periods. We have learned a few things today.

So we chilled a bit and enjoyed the fabulous view. After a while we spotted an SUV scurrying around in the landscape and parked at the edge of the forest. The noise of machinery is heard. After some time it started moving again. We watch as the car drives into the forest path which we, during our turbulent journey, have defined as “currently not passable”. The road is filled with water and the depth of the pits and ruts is no longer visible. This can’t be good!

We couldn’t help but gape.

About 50m behind us was a fork in the forest road where we hoped that the SUV would also use it. Wrong, not even 10 seconds later they got stuck. Rough shoes, saddle recovery plates and rush to help.

Actually, the 3 gentlemen hoped that I would drive the truck into the danger zone and pull them out of the muddy mess. Initially they were not enthusiastic about us coming to their aid with manpower and sand sheets.

Tensioned tyres are simply part of the game

The car was sitting up full. We barely had a chance to get the sand boards under your tyres. “What have they loaded!?” Communication was not easy. The driver was totally clumsy.

After a few tries of pushing and sand boards, they opened the doors. The SUV was loaded to the teeth with at least a ton of logs for firewood. Angrily, the 2 younger companions heaved the material out of the vehicle. The metal sheets were put on again and we beat the vehicle from one pothole to the next until we were successfully freed.

The following day, the comrades were again on the mat. They hurled the logs down the slope and reloaded the whole thing. They thanked us nicely and were off.

Here we are on the path in the background of the previous drone pictures approx. 5om behind our vehicles.

Marketing “Dracula”

Romania is characterised by its countless castles and palaces. Of course we had to visit one or the other of these sights. Our route took us via Biertan to Sighisoara, “supposedly the prettiest little town in Romania” – which was absolutely confirmed. Unfortunately, however, no matter in which of these really worthwhile places the old Count Dracula is squeezed to the last drop of blood for commercial purposes, so that you soon don’t want to see it any more. Revenge?

It is not the last time we will strongly question “tourism”. It seems to be a kind of love-hate relationship, as in many countries. With it is somehow complicated – without it the income remains even lower than it already is.


When you travel, you hardly get anything for free. For some time now, we have been burdened by the escalating conflicts in Iran. Almost daily we discuss possible alternatives.

We don’t have any orders in the pipeline either and are always waiting for payment for an order in Switzerland because otherwise we can’t afford the “Carnet des Passages”. Without this document, we cannot cross the Turkish border.

Although we have animals visiting us almost every day, we still miss our Pünktli very much. Therefore, we decide to visit an animal shelter and went to Miercurea Ciuc (Szeklerburg).

The people running the shelter were incredibly nice and happy about our interest in adopting a furry animal. I immediately fell in love with the young male Plato. Sabine – the director of the institution – encouraged us to do some research before we took the dear dog in. Unfortunately, after reading up on the subject, we had to decide against it. Dogs are considered unclean animals in Muslim countries, which can make travelling incredibly difficult. We were well informed about cats. So the decision was clear: “No – maybe then to Australia.

Sometimes you just get surprised

On the way to the climbing area, we had to look for water, as we often do – an option to do laundry would also be nice. Many campsites have been closed since October. Thrilled by the landscape, we move on until we reach the village of Honigberg. We read that there is a campsite here. The gates were closed. A telephone number was left so it was clear what the next step was – to call. So the priest’s wife opened the gates – spoke perfect German and gave us a warm welcome.

The parking space was directly in the vicarage at the Honigberg church castle, which was just across the road. A pearl to visit, well preserved and hardly any tourists! A real insider tip.

A still almost undiscovered “Fountain Bleu
Sandstone at its finest in the heart of Romania

7 October 2022 – Using the 27Crags app (climbing app), we are recurrently on the lookout for possible bouldering adventures. Even if I repeat myself – the Romanian landscape is breathtakingly beautiful and hard to capture in words:

On this trip we had our sights set on Bratilesti. We were told there was delicious sandstone to crackle over. The landscape was reminiscent of our beloved Ticino, just so much bigger. After a 12km drive uphill on rough forest roads, at about 1’100m.a.s.l., we reached our campsite for the next days.

I was as happy as a little child – the first bouldering day in years was just around the corner. I checked my balance and my mails and my mood went downhill. This one payment always doesn’t come in – our financial means are increasingly at the limit. There don’t seem to be any orders in sight yet. It is a recurring burden for me that we only document the kilometres we have driven so far with mobile phones and a camera that is as old as a dinosaur. Nevertheless, we tried to distract ourselves for a couple of hours by climbing. Finding good blocks via app is unfortunately rather difficult – my expectations of myself for today remained unfulfilled.

8 October 2022 – Ziss talks me through it and finds the right words to get me mentally into the “here and now” and to put my expectations aside. We are somehow in paradise if we can allow it in our hearts. “Falling fruit in the bouldering area” our condition is currently pretty… well. Although, we had a very satisfying climbing day.

Residual doubts about our project from the day before motivated me to set up a promotion on Instagram before going to bed.

The coming day starts surprisingly. Coming out of the forest with a shovel and toilet paper, Christian & Adrian are standing in front of the truck. They have heard about us in the valley. “Do we want to go climbing with them?” With a bit of regret I explained our sore muscles from the previous days and that I had to work off some office work. “Alright then, you (meaning us) are welcome to join us for dinner. We’ll come by later and pick you up?” Pleased with the invitation, we set about our goals for the day.

By 5.30pm they were back with us, we got in the car and drove to their place, Christian’s weekend home. It turned out to be an enchanting evening with delicacies and exciting conversations. The two are pioneers here in the area, busy exploring, cleaning and documenting new blocks. Unfortunately, they both have to return to Bucharest that night. However, Christian promises to come to us in 2 days and show us the area and the coolest spots.

With a bag full of Romanian meat specialities he knocked on the door 2 days later. He showed us one great sector after the other, from easy to difficult routes, everything was there.

He was very happy about our visit to his climbing area. He has big goals there, as the region represents a gigantic potential as a climbing area. The sandstone quality is comparable to the world-famous Fontaine Bleu. Currently, he has bought a cottage there where he enjoys accommodating climbers. In the future, he hopes to open a small campsite and make the area worthy of its popularity among mountain lovers.

The following is a link to the area – a topo in book form does not yet exist: https://www.bouldering.ro/outdoor/Bratilesti.html

As discussed with Christian, I will pass on his contact by e-mail request.

Every visit to his home bouldering area makes him happy. He will greet you with the greatest enthusiasm for the sport.

We had a sensationally refreshing time with Christian, he stood by us at various hurdles so that we were soon able to do everything we needed to do. Unfortunately, we still haven’t encountered any bears – only their tracks, which have been showing us the way for some time.

Then there were only two!

I guess we haven’t thinned out enough yet. Although we had some very nice days, Bruno doesn’t seem to be happy about the trip and the new opportunities it has opened up for him. He is constantly preoccupied with what is being reported on Telegram and “other media” about the gas/Ukraine crisis. He says: “I want to go home and take care of the family. His fear that Central European Constantinople will collapse and that there will be war is great.

So we will soon part ways.

What is that? …definitely not snow – salt!

From the Carpathians to the Danube Delta to Bucharest

We cruised without expectation through the Carpathians, rugged by hundreds of rivers, towards the Danube Delta. Romania is always open to surprises. So we find ourselves stunned by salt mountains near Buzau or explore the craters of the mud volcano near Berca. A landscape as surreal as if we were frolicking around, unfortunately not weightless but nevertheless exploring the moon.

Travelling with a heavy motorhome again raises funny questions about traffic. We try really hard to follow truck signs. Sometimes this is very tiring. So we increasingly dare to disobey 3.5t signs clearly knowing that if a bridge comes up we have to turn around. The very entertaining thing about the whole thing is that almost after every disregard of the tonnage, a much heavier vehicle comes towards us.

The mud volcano of Berca


Our confidence in our project is increasing with the great response to the Instagram promo that we have tracked in the countries to be visited. Unfortunately, however, the biggest hurdle currently stands between us and the enquiries from Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, etc. How do we get there and when do we arrive? How do we get there and when do we get there? Unfortunately, without those answers and solutions, we cannot accept a deadline-specific order.

After a fatally in-depth research, we decide on the following plan: via Turkey to Cyprus and from there by ferry to Israel. In Cyprus there is a Swiss embassy where we have our Carnet des Passages sent as soon as the expected payment arrives from Switzerland – “Sounds good!?

I will come back to this major mistake in our Turkey report…

Endless expanse at Macin Mountain

We chauffeur ourselves from the Carpathians across the plains to the steppes near Macin Mountain. Along the Ukrainian border – where we noticed a gigantic column of smoke, according to the newspapers an attack on some works in Ismajil – to the lush green of the Danube delta in Murighiol.

We treated ourselves to a boat trip with Ivan through the delta, which was worth every cent. Forgetting for a while the immense collection of Ukrainian trucks as well as the terrifying sight of the column of smoke over Ismajil.

The Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is impressive and a visit is highly recommended:

The Danube Delta (Romanian Delta Dunării, Ukrainian дельти Дунаю) is located in the estuary of the Danube into the Black Sea. The Danube Delta is the second largest delta in Europe after the Volga Delta and covers an area of 5800 km², of which 72 % with an area of 4178 km² is under nature protection. Of this area, 82.5% lies in the Romanian part of the Dobruja landscape and 17.5% in Ukraine. The Danube Delta has been a biosphere reserve since 1990.

The goal of the following days was to chug slowly towards Bucharest. The first 80km along the Black Sea coast left us feeling the world. One military exclusion zone after the other made it difficult for us to find a place to camp for the next night and left us with an uneasy feeling. We only found one near Jurilovca. Here too, however, a troop vehicle greeted us in the morning.

For the first time on our journey, I was tormented by diarrhoea and nausea for the next few days, which did not make driving any easier. Although we both ate the same food, fortunately it only affected me. So at least one of us always stays in the lens.

We meandered along the mighty Danube. I mean, our Rhine is already impressive. The Danube, however, is twice as wide in places, often very wildly rugged with hundreds of islands, fascinating with its diverse birdlife and wild nature.

What life has to offer: slowly but surely we had reached our financial limits. You can’t imagine how invigorating the start of the day was – delighted with the news from my bank, we manoeuvred into Bucharest. Finally we can take a deep breath and buy the last components we need.

Of course, the sat nav chased us through the city until we arrived at the campsite west of the city. There we were relieved because the parts we ordered in article 1 – back in Stralsund – arrived safely. My sister-in-law was so kind and sent them there by express mail with additional surprises. Duality knows no bounds. While passing Bucharest, our accelerator starts to rattle and I notice an enormous loss of power in the vehicle.

Pit stop was the order of the day – get everything back in shape, wash, clean the cab and try to repair the accelerator.

In the process we meet Fritz @puchadventures from Pforzheim. A nice young man who has just arrived from Iran. What he tells us does not give us the courage to want to drive through there.

Since the campsite had a “slightly mafia-like” air, we decided to choose a car park in the middle of Bucharest with Fritz to explore the city and do our errands from there.

Christian also helped us to find the right shops. It’s not easy to find physical shops online! As travellers, we don’t have a delivery address. After a good 22km walk and a last, sensational, traditional Romanian dinner and equipped with the desired camera, we had a pleasant night in the middle of Bucharest.

Unknowingly, I was still unable to remedy Oleg’s loss of power at the moment. Fortunately, Fritz was in the fire brigade and knows his way around machinery. Before we left, he took a look at possible causes – but couldn’t find anything. Unfortunately, we parted ways here without taking a souvenir photo.

So we took off in the direction of Bulgaria.