14 Wednesday, 1.6., Sapanta, 97 km
There is no breakfast available at this accommodation and so we can start early at 7.30 am this morning. We will start to ride on the route number 1 towards the Maramures at the northern border of Romania to the Ukraine. And we really have a nice take-off, there are bad road conditions with innumerable potholes. On the other hand there is a vivid country life. The locals work with ancient instruments on their fields. The crop - hay mostly - is loaded on horse-drawn carts. On the left side there is a railroad and and some cozy (urig) trains rattle along, the doors of the compartements wide open sometimes.
The officials who have composed this route may have thought to present
a special entrance examination to the newcomer. So we end on an unpaved
path which is difficult to overcome with a loaden bike. But please calm
down, we only will have another stretch of this kind and this will be
much later. For this time (10 km) we have to surround geese and hens,
deadlike sleeping dogs and the potholes - as I told before. As we hit
the national road again we can enjoy a real road for 5 km to the
village of Seinei. Now we
turn north, uphill and into the wind. But the countryside gets more
scenic, may be because there are more hills?
There is a larger town named Negresti Oas or Certeze. We continue in northern direction towards the Ukranian border which can only be crossed by an expensive visum. But the road conditions are not better there, as other visitors have told. We come to Huta Certeze and see many construction sites, may be they develop a tourist centrum at this region? (Others had supposed that there was an earthquake eventually but this is not to be proved.)
We come to the pass Huta (587 m) which is not so hard to be climbed, 7% perhaps. We pass the first of those wooden chapels and at a big parking site reach the summit. The downhill with potholes in a dark forest is not so enjoyable. In the valley - we have reached the river Tysa again - the road gets better.
Some final kilometers to Sapanta, the destination for today.
This village is world famous for the "Merry Cemetery" and let us learn
more about it.
I soon find a sign advising the "Pensiunea MINUTA". A boy strolls around and shouts for his grandma who comes out of a potato field. With her golden set of teeth she recommends some nice upper rooms of their flat. Some time later I am just standing in my underpants as the lady invites to have a meal ("mengare" or so). I go down to the hallway (not in underpants meanwhile) and get a fatty but not really hot potato soup. There are various strange pieces of meat and bones in it, a kind of loin ribs? Be sure, I consume as much as I can and enjoy to have not my dear wife Heidi with me, who would have had more problems with this meal. On another plate there are bacon, sausage and cucumbers and those are fine. Meanwhile the landlady presents a home made bread, but this just falls down on the ground and must be sweeped from the floor. What a pity!
Moreover I get a Vodka and shall empty the bottle if necessary. But it is not necessary. Eventually the rest of the family comes back from the field work. They are hungry as well and hoes (Hacke) and other instruments find their place at the wall. Then they wonder what a strange guest sits around and soon come along with a dictionary German - Romanian or so. Because the late-afternoon sun is still shining I soon say farewell with the gesture of shooting photos. You may be right that this is not the appropriate behaviour of a guest concerning the Romanian hospitality.
I am looking for the "Merry Cemetery"
and as usual run in the wrong direction. So I find another place, a
construction site where they just build up two brand new church
buildings in traditional style anyhow. May be those shall be some
additional tourist attractions of this village in the future? Smells a
bit like Disney-Land. I
continue to toddle around for some time and finally find this famous
cemetery just at the church, where else should it be? And here it is,
this famous place known from TV or every relevant tourist guide
concerning this area. Colorful painted wooden gravesigns
documenting characteristics of the deceased (verblichenen) inhabitants,
mostly symbols of their profession, may be teacher, farmer, tractor
driver or spinstress (Spinnerin).
Under a tree they just dig for a new grave. And there is much trouble
to get the waters out of the dimple (Kuhle). One bucket after another
is spilled out. Let us argue that those late locals perhaps do not
reside in the best comfort down there? But on the surface again I
finally are caught by a woman calling "Ticket, Ticket!" and so at last
have to pay 3 EUR for the visit and for some shots. But this is no
problem, remember the long journey since now! Outside I meet some
Germans from Swabia (I apparently meet them on any place of the world).
One of them is a cyclist as well and ballyhooes his cycle with three(!)
gears. Tomorrow he would shoot some photos from outside the fence and
would not pay 3 EUR for another time. "I am a Swabian at last - you
The foreigners should know, that the Swabians are well known for their thriftiness (Sparsamkeit) at home, may be they are relatives of the Scotsmen? Let us cite the famous Swabian slogan "Schaffe, Schaffe Häusle baue..." which can not be translated - may be "Work and work and build a house.."?
For today I end in a bar with a proper beer (Tuborg Strong, 7,8 % alc). Thereafter from my room there is a nice view to a backyard with some hens just going to bed. So do I and enjoy the nice sounds from cows, sows and farrows nearby and soon fall into a deep sleep. But at 11.45 pm the local dog outside prefers to intone a persisting bark concert which lasts - believe me - until 2 am. It is not my turn to do something against this matter, so I desperately munch a chocolate bar.
15 Thursday, 2.6., Borsa, 102 km
Finally I had some sleep and awaking early in the morning hear the family swarming out to their field work. Even the landlady seems to be have swarmed out, because I cannot find any human being in the house. In the floor hall there still waits the soup from yesterday, but grey and cold meanwhile. May be I better resign to get a breakfast? I have paid yesterday in advance, so I can bunk out and for another time confess that there should be a better behaviour of the guest. So this is your turn, dear reader, if at some time you will come along at this place!
We start along the wide valley of the Tisza
which is the border to
Ukrania. Some grey smokestacks of any industry are to be seen far away.
We come to the town of Sighetu
Marmatiei. It is to be read in the tourist guide (Marco Polo)
that there should be a former
prison building with its origin lasting
to the era of Maria Theresia and there were cruel events in the past
even lasting to the socialism period. Today it is a museum, properly
restaurated and really not looking cruel. But now in the morning it is
not open and I can continue.
Now there are two roads leading to the cultural site of the Maramures. The first is a main road along the river Viseu. A smaller parallel road is to be find along the Iza valley and recommended as cycle route (still the Nr. 1). And let us say in advance: this will be the "Königsetappe" (the highlight leg) concerning the multitudinousness (sorry for this word, but I found it in the dictionary) of ethnic impressions.
Here you will see all those
things which may have been in your phantasy concerning this phantastic
country. It is a mere open-air museum including the local population.
The people work in the fields by their hand's work, mow the meadows
using scythes (Sensen), the hay is turned over by hayforks and finally
transported by horse- or cattle-carts. I dare a shot of one of those
but the leading woman crosses herself afterwards. On the fields with
poatoes and other root crops they fight against the weeds (Unkraut)
with simple picks. And on the road they all run or cycle along to or
from their work. Be careful if someone caries a scythe on his shoulder
and stay on a proper distance. And if I remember my own childhood (the
first life stage) I must go back to the fifties. We then lived in a
village and experienced the people working in the same manner. Some
time later the tractors and other farm machines came up and the
romantic times had gone.
The people in this valley apparently live and work for their mere self-supply. Once some workers wave and - if I understood their gestures properly - invite to work with them instead only to cycle for no one's benefit. So we get mediative with all the Lei-millions in the purse and EURO in the neck pouch (Brustbeutel)?
In spite of all they really have a sense of culture. You can see the
famous artfully carved wooden gates as a symbol of prosperity. Not to
speak about the scenic churches and cloisters (e.g. Barsana). Sometimes there are
rope bridges across the river
and it is not my turn to
cross one of it, but a local cyclist shows (walking) how it works. And
the road is in a remarkable good state.
Now let us pass a flock of sheep and the white dogs watching all
movements, leaded by the shepherd's melodic whistles. At a rest place a
woman comes along, cowers aside a creek and washes some shoes and
clothes. Busy as she is she does not realize the secret photo. And
another scene - one of the best shots - showing the real atmosphere of
area: two local women peer across the planks of a fence to have some
communication with anyone behind it. And it is to be said, that there
is a bench in front of each estate, where the seniors can participate
with the local life.
Another rest in the village of Salistea
de Sus. The school is just over now and the kids stroll along
the street enjoying their freedom. One of them eventually comes along
and looks at me as I just consume a banana. "Do you speak English, we
learn it at school?" he asks after a while. "So we can talk and you
will know, why you learn Englisch" I say, and the ice is broken.
Immediately the other kids come along and now they all are astonished
have cycled all the way from Germany. "What's about a photo?" I ask and
get the camera out of the front bag. As I turn around I see the group
immediately formed up to a classic school class photo, some of them
even on their knees. And then they all can see the photo on the
display. So this little event was a great pleasure!
Now there is the end of this stage - let us say one of the most
extraordinary vallies of Europe. There is a village named Sacel and then a final hill is to
be climbed to run down to the parallel valley with the main road Nr.
18. The rest section of this day is not so enjoyable with much industry
around and on a concrete surface with handwide gaps. Now the village Borsa is the destination for today
but not as scenic as I had expected for one of the highest peaks of
this part of the Capathian Mountains, the Pietrosul, 2302 m is nearby.
I find a pension at a side road and get the most simple room of this tour for 10 EUR. The window of the chamber can be opened to a narrow dark corridor and from there we have a view to unsightly blocks and a river full of rubbish.
Near this pension there is a junk market and
some poor dogs stroll around. One of them has problems by some innards
hanging out and has organized a proper cardboard box to find any place.
If anyone comes along he anxiously climbs out and looks for a shelter.
When the danger is over he painfully climbs back in his box.
I look for an evening meal and finally find a very special restaurant named Restaurantul Perla Maramuresului, Motel. This looks like a mixture of Chinese and Mexican elements. So let us go inside and consume a proper pig's cutlet and two whooshing beers. And the service maid says after a small gratuity (Trinkgeld): "When you come back I waiting for you". May be we should keep this matter in our mind?
Chapter 5: Gheorgheny