Leva

After another great breakfast, I set off for the ferry and Romania. Having only 14 leva remaining, and not wanting to exchange only a few dollars, I headed out short on food and water so I would have money for the ferry, planning to resolve after a short ferry ride to Romania. Does this look like a working ferry port?

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Working or not, most everything in Bulgaria looks like this. Tourist Information indicated the ferry, not the bridge. Given my experience in Turkey, no surprise. However, all lanes being barricaded, and the dog warning the old man in the shack to stir from his chair, prompted me to ask, “no ferry?”. He replied no, and gestured that I should go back out and around. I followed signs for pedestrians and cyclists, which eventually, several kilometers later, wrapped around to a separate lane (on the “wrong” side of the road) on the bridge, built several kilometers outside of town.

Several kilometers later, after cycling across the bridge and into Romania, I started to wonder if the Schengen Agreement was in effect already. I was well into Romania with not a border guard in sight. Nothing else to do but cycle on (given the two layers of fence on both sides of the road). A long line of trucks eventually appeared ahead – the delay at a border crossing. I cycled up, and a woman in a booth waved me on – that was easy. As I was cycling away, a border guard shouted at me. The path on the wrong side of the road meant I was cycling out the in of the process, and the guard redirected me to the other side.

The passport check routine, I cycled onwards. I headed to the closest town, in need of food, water, and the requisite cash. All readily taken care of in the boardwalk part of town (although I found a better exchange rate shortly thereafter – rats!) and I, now fully equipped, stopped for a quick lunch in the local park, and then headed forth.

The scale on my previously discussed tourist map was different enough that I hadn’t realized that Craiova was less than 100 km. With little in between, and despite now two days of 100 km+, I could cycle there in one (long) day. A couple of concerns: while the world was flat at my location of Calafat, I’m headed towards the Carpathians, and the road clearly had a couple of major switchbacks; a long day of cycling yesterday.

While flat starting out, most of the day turned into a steady gradual climb. Heading towards the Carpathians, I don’t begrudge gently gaining altitude. Like any new EU country, road construction is everywhere, with regular traffic stops for construction. In spots where I might hope for a shoulder, instead there’s a 6′ straight drop during the road work! I’m not fast enough for those cases where traffic is released one way or the other, which lead to a few exciting moments.

Around 4:45 pm I climbed the first actual hill, and had that continued, I would have been in trouble, but the steady easy climb continued until the first true switchback rose in front of me,  a monolith barring my way, the road carved into the side of the mountain.

Every hour or so I stopped to drink, eat, rest a bit, and check my current ETA. Clearly time for a break. I stopped at a gas station at the foot, looking for a bit of shade. A few locals invited me to the patio in back, and we worked our way through the usual FAQ. They moved on, as did I. The sign for the hill was 7%, and while in my lower gears, I climbed with no issues.

Usually at about day five or six of a tour my metabolism starts to shift, where to keep moving I just need more calories. This trip that’s taken longer. I’m getting older. Intermittent days of cycling. The 103+ fever surely impacted that schedule. That began to change today. I found I had power to occasionally accelerate (or at least not downshift) up hills. My average speed starting to increase means I increases my range, and/or my available free time.

During one of my rest breaks, I set Craiova as my destination on the GPS, and noticed instead of selecting a random spot in town I’d accidentally selected an actual hostel. Upon more careful review, three hostels in a row on the same street. Hostels being preferable to hotels, I deemed that my destination. The first hostel was full. The second part of the first, and so also full. The third had a room (which they think a lot of at $20). Usually hostels are also close to the center of town, but in this case blindly following my GPS leaves me somewhere at random in the city, and am done wandering.

I bought a SIM card for my phone in Sunny Beach which gave up the ghost when I crossed into Romania. The store next to the hostel sells SIM cards, and a bystander helped me translate and get the phone configured. Only about half the data for the same cost in Bulgaria, I really only need the cellular when I can’t get wireless, and I’ll likely be out of Romania before I run out the data plan. I normally keep the phone in Airplane Mode for battery reasons anyway.

Tomorrow I’ll seek out the castle in town, and then a short trip to my next city.  Romania will be changing to the Euro relatively soon, and everything seems to be priced in both Euro and Romanian Lei, so once I run out of lei, I can spend the euros I brought with me.

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