Currently in Chiang Mai, Thailand (06/12/2013) - 31200km cycled

14 Aug 2012

Dog is not man’s best friend – Romania

Posted by Will

Romania is a fascinating country full of natural and man-made beauty. The mountains loom high and mighty over the blisteringly hot plains, old castles and Roman ruins abound and the people gush friendliness that will prove impossible to explain. A pity the dogs didn’t provide such a kind welcome. I owe my speed across the country as much to the swarms of chasing dogs as to anything else. So thank you dogs – the joke’s on you!

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First the good things, and in Romania there were many. After a swelteringly hot day of cycling (at one point a man reversed and gleefully told me his car read 47 degrees Celcius), 18 year old Ionut offered, in immaculate English, that I should stay at his house. I met the whole family including his brother Bogdan who is the same age as me and also studied economics at university. I was treated to a long bath and after that a feast of barbeque chicken, tomatoes, onions and bread. Everything we ate came from the garden and so tasted delicious. We even had chocolate ice cream for dessert! Bogdan gave up his bed to me for the night and in the morning Ionut cooked fried eggs. They gave me a tour of the village, Ionut showed me his talent for graffiti on the local school’s wall (!) and I tried the grapes in the garden that will soon be pressed into wine. After Ionut and Bogdan had tried my fully-laden bicycle for size, I was waved out of the village by everyone with a packed-lunch in my panniers and a collection of photographs to remember them by. Thank you very much to the Coporan family!

I experienced many other forms of kindess in Romania. A local woman, on seeing me cowering out of the afternooon sun one day, insisted she would buy me a Coke. A young girl running a grocery shop made me several ham and cheese sandwiches on the spot when she found out I was cycling across the country. Numerous villagers drew water out of their wells for me so that I hardly had to buy bottled water at all. Staying sober for a whole day proved difficult in Romania as locals are always keen to share their home-made wine or the much firier Palinka, a plum liquor that ranges from delicious to deadly. Seeing me cycling up the steep hills, people driving horse and carts often indicated that I should put my bike in their wagon and hitch a ride. The list goes on and on.

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As far as dogs are concerned, I have to disappoint by revealing that I have no pictures of the bloodthirsty hounds. Snapping a picture is the last thing on my mind as I pedal furiously to keep at bay the jaw-snapping reincarnation of hell that happens to be chasing me this time. Romania has a huge number of stray dogs wandering aimlessly around the towns and villages, usually too weak and pathetic to mount an attack upon an unsuspecting cyclist. It’s quite sad really – mass homelessness in four-legged form. The mean dogs are the ones belonging to the people too careless to keep their gates shut. Every time I’d cycle through a village I’d keep my eyes peeled for open gates. “Uh-oh, spotted one, now if I can just pedal past the opening stealthily … argghhhh!” and the chase begins. Most dogs can catch up but my forward momentum always ensures they only get a mouthful of pannier. The worst is when they pursue me uphill. My already exhausted legs are forced to pump against the gradient to the top with no carrot and all stick!

The dogs aren’t only satisfied with chasing either. They’re also experts at sniffing out and disturbing my tent in the middle of the night. Just outside Brasov in central Romania, I must have camped in the stray dog capital of the world. Almost as soon as I had settled down for the night and the outside of my tent was being intimately explored by a pack of dogs amidst sniffing, snarling, snorting, growling, yowling and heaps of other unpleasant canine sounds. Even though I’ve left Romania now I don’t think I’ve seen the end of unfriendly dogs. Keeps me on my toes I suppose.

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I’m now in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, in possibly my fittest physical condition yet. Quick progress across mountainous Romania has killed my fear of cycling up big hills. Given enough time, I’m confident I can cycle any road. About a week ago, I pedalled past the junction with the notorious Transfagarasan Highway and felt a huge pang of regret that I wasn’t going to tackle it. Maybe some other time. For those who don’t know, this road is regularly included in lists of the most beautiful drives in the world and is incredibly steep. Google it and see!

Mountains are up next as I continue heading west for the much-raved-about city of Sarajevo. Now it’s not bears I have to watch out for … it’s landmines.

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3 Comments already on “Dog is not man’s best friend – Romania”
  1. 9:10 ampermalink
    15 Aug 2012

    mumsey

    Loved the latest blog. Thinking of you from Portugal. xxx

  2. 2:25 pmpermalink
    25 Aug 2012

    Fran

    ………….. think I’d rather have the bears!
    Take care and continue writing – it’s a great read.
    Your fitness levels must be through the roof. You’ll have to make it back for the next Tour de France. It’ll be a walk in the park in comparison.
    Love from us all,
    F

  3. 11:37 pmpermalink
    25 Aug 2012

    Jackie

    Sounds incredible as usual!
    I am regretting sending you a Facebook video of Kody being fluffy and cute… it seems like you’ve had enough of dogs for a little while haha
    Remember, stay away from the land mines! I know, I give the BEST advice :)