Tuesday, 12 December 2017
When I started my ascent up from Berkovitsa to Kom Mountain it was raining already - and the rain would not stop for the next days ... Luckily the ascent was easy but due to fog I could not even see Kom Mountain which marks the start of the Kom-Emine-Trail. Weather was so bad that I was heading to accommodation at Petrohan Pass. Before I reached the mountain hut there I passed a sort of hotel.The hotel owners did not speak a single word of English - and to make things worse - had no clue about google translate. It took ages to find out the price for accommodation and food. There was on heating, but at least hot water for the shower. I ended up eating tripe soup because I did not understand what it was ....
14 beds were in each room and a wood stove but I was too tired and lazy to turn it on. No electricity though. After a quick dinner I immediately dozed off - still shaking with cold. I was woken up at 11 pm when suddenly car lights illuminated the windows. I was scared to have some late night visitors because the village was completely deserted. There was no lock at the door which I had just blocked with my trekking poles. But despite hearing voices no one tried to come in. After ten minutes of vivid discussion outside I heard car doors slam and the visitors disappeared.
Friday, 1 December 2017
|After the Serbian-Bulgarian border|
|Obiutaries in a bus stop|
|Castle in Belogradchik|
|Memorial in Berkovitsa|
|Pedestrian zone in Sofia|
I had a rather stressful day in Sofia: The KomEmine guidebook was not available in the first bookstore, but I could find it in another one. Then a quick shopping trip to Lidl and buying shoes at Intersport. Eventually a last trip to Decathlon because I needed warmer clother for the higher altitude. And then back to some obscure parking lot near the train station where the local shuttle car was departing back to Berkovitsa. No accidents on the way back either. By now I was itching to get back on the trail but the weather had turned bad...
Wednesday, 29 November 2017
I have only hiked three days through Serbia mostly on roads but still I tremendously liked it!
Tuesday, 28 November 2017
For me personally Romania was the most difficult country of this trip - out ouf two reasons: I was a guinea pig for an entirely new trail. Luckily, members of the Romanian hiking association, "Siebenbürgischer Karpatenverein", were incredibly helpful. They sent me the most recent gpx tracks, provided me with information on resupply and accommodation and were in general very responsive. They are doing a great job in establishing a long-distance route in a country where hiking is not so much on the local and tourist agenda.
But the poverty I saw was shocking and depressing considering that this a a member of the EU. Especially in the countryside old people live under conditions like 100 years ago. No warm and cold water in the house - usually there is only a well in the garden. If you are well-to-do then the well has an electric pump ...
When I was first in Romania in the early 90s the country was much poorer and shops were empty. This is definitely not the case any more and Romania's economy has improved. There is no difference between a Lidl supermarket in Germany or Romania except a slightly different product range. But litte mom-and-pop-stores in the countryside are another story. Selection there is extremely limited. Don't expect to find any fresh stuff like milk, bread or fruit and vegetables. In the countryside people are self-supporters and have their own cows, chickens and gardens ...
With so many garbage dumps in streams and cattle being everywhere I never took any drinking water out of lakes or streams. But there are many piped springs along the trail - and plenty of wells in the villages. As there is no public water supply in the country side everyone has their own well in the garden - and some wells are publicy accessible. In some cases I had to ask for water at houses and despite language problems my request was usually granted. I never treated well water and had no problems but I would still always bring some sort of water treatment. Water generally was no big issue during this hike, but you have to plan ahead. Most water sources are not marked on the OSM maps. Water is therefore only guaranteed in villages where you often have to ask for it.
The biggest problem in Romania for me were sheep! Wherever I went I encountered flocks of sheep - with or without shepherd - but always with sheepdogs! And these sheepdogs protect their flock aggressively!
If you see a flock of sheep in the distance you should yell "Buna ziua!" (Hello!) and hope the shepherd hears you. He will then try to keep the dogs away from you.
Monday, 27 November 2017
Sunday, 26 November 2017
Finally I reached the area were the "Siebenbürgische Karpatenverein" had just recently waymarked and maintained the trail. Brand new blazes, cut-off trees branches and freshly mowed grass meant fantastic hiking conditions. I just wonder how long this will last. If the grass and undergrowth is nut cut every year, next hikers will basically be bushwhacking! The new trail marking stopped soon but with the help of my GPS I had little problem continuing on trail.
My luck stopped at Bautar where the hiking association had relocated the trail to in order to avoid a major road walk and some property issues. As soon as I crossed the highway at Bautar the marking stopped completely. It was a bad foreboding when I was refused water for the first time in my entire hiking life. I had asked an old lady at a farmhouse for water and she just chased me away. It turned out not to be a problem because the trail followed a stream for quite a while. There was no marking and no real trail but red ribbons seemed to flag the route. Shortly before sunset the flagging stopped.
Timisoara turned out to be a fantastic place and it is no wonder that the city will be European cultural capitol in 2021. I took a free guided city tour and learnt a lot, especially that in this town the Romanian revolution started in 1989. You can still see houses with bullet holes from that period! I loved the Art Museum that showed a fascinating modern art exhibition.
Saturday, 25 November 2017
Then it was a long hot walk along a busy highway into Oradea, but luckily there was a bike trail next to it. The official trail crosses further North at Letavertes but involves 60 km of road walking to Oradea.
Oradea gave me a first impression of Romania. The city used to be beautiful - but is just crumbling away now. Wonderfully restored houses are next to ruins and construction work is going on everywhere. Close to Oradea there are several spa towns where I enjoyed the thermal baths together with throngs of people before setting off hiking for good.
Again it was freaking hot and I encountered the first problem: Where to get water! Unlike Hungary there were no public water fountains and up in the North the E3 trail traverses mainly agricultural land. I saw many cars with foreign licence plates and decided to ask at a house for water. I chose one with a British car in front of it because I assumed the inhabitants would speak English. Romanian country houses are fenced in and you cannot look through the fence. Therefore I knocked and opened the door. A Romanian family was staring at me. When I explained my problem I was showered with friendliness. Instead of tap water they gave me bottled water. Plus a piece of cake and many well wishes after I had told them my hiking story. Romania is poor but its people are friendly!
The Karst landscape continued until Padis where I had to do my first resupply on the trail. Padis is not a real village but more of a conglomeration of bungalows and camping area plus a tiny litte store where I bought the last Milka chocolate bars, some old bread and an awful sausage. There was not much other choice ....
Walking out of Padis I encountered two Hungarian girls who were here on a holiday - and spoke perfect English. I was so happy to be able to have a normal conversation again until I realised that the two were on a mission: They were both fundamental Christians and tried to engage my into a religious conversation. I politely took leave but was showered with Christian pamphlets ...
Vartop was another tourist trap with astonishing extremes: Brand new hotels were already abandoned and up for sale. The modern buildings were a stark contrast to the fact that there was no waste water system ... But once I had ascended up to the karst plateau I was overwhelmed with fantastic views and one of the best campsites of the entire trip.
Next morning the views from the crest were just incredible and culminated in the 1,849 metres peak of Curcubata Mare and its radio tower. Despite the early hour a big group of Romanians were already up there because unfortunately you can get there on a dirt road by jeep ...