To Sibiu

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25 August. We left Pietrele early and descended the rough track, then the newly re-sealed road to Salasu de Sus. Here we collected our gear and met a few other couchsurfers including two young women from Georgia who are working on a volunteer project in Arad. They are both graduates but were unable to find jobs so signed up as volunteers with a Georgian NGO. They said that the project was not really satisfying but they had been able to implement some of their own ideas and were making some short films. We also met Jos, a Dutch maths student and photographer who has travelled a lot by bicycle around Europe.

After returning to Hateg, we headed for Hunedoara, the location of Transylvania’s most famous gothic castle. Our guide book instructed us that this should not be missed on any account. The route was through beautiful countryside, over a couple of small saddles, marred only slightly by roadside rubbish. A descent took us into Hunedoara, past an area with many houses that the guide book refers to as tin roof palaces, and some call gypsy palaces. They have rooves decorated with fancy metalwork and are very distinctive but not all in a state of completion. The castle is an impressive building with pointy towers. It reminded me of Schloss Neuschwanstein with its dramatic architecture and its capacity to attract tourists.

Hunedoara Castle

Hunedoara and the area to the north, however, is seriously blighted by a vast area of abandoned industrial sites and factories. This was a bit hard to take in after the pleasant country we had just seen. We pushed on to Deva along a busy road where the presence of road works gave us an empty lane for much of the way. We had intended to cycle to Alba Iulia, but hot weather, concerns about traffic and time getting on resulted in a decision to take the train to Sibiu from Deva. We then had a few hours to wait.

Deva has a ruined castle on a hill overlooking the city but is mostly a modern socialist era city. The railway station can only be described as dilapidated, but the booking system was computerized and the train left on time. It was similar to one of the French trains we travelled on with plenty of space for the bikes and it was uncrowded. The train line follows the valley of the Mures, through a beautiful rural area. It took 3 hours to go the 130 or so km so it was after 10pm when we arrived. And just one other thing – this morning we saw two teenage boys scything in a field with their father, so maybe I’m wrong about the younger generation’s interest in this activity. Also, the pipes along streets in towns mentioned before are gas pipes.

Romanian trains
Contrary to some warnings we’d received we’ve found Romanian trains to be pretty good. While they are a bit scruffy, they seem to arrive and leave on time and travel faster than any passenger trains in Australia!

Bicycle route:
Pietrele – Deva (we did the rest by train)

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