I left the hotel room looking like some survivalist’s fallout shelter. It was littered with empty 5 litre bottles of water and empty packets of various bland, long-shelf life food items. I had lost 5 days to a case of food poisoning and, more notably, television; the novelty of lying in bed for hours, ‘catching up on’ (binge watching) particular shows felt oddly reminiscent of my previous, ‘normal’ life and reminded me of one of the reasons why I went on this bike ride in the first place.
But less than 24 hours after that Game of Thrones binge, I found myself setting up my tent in the garden of someone I just met before joining them for a barbeque, a couple of beers, and a conversation that depended more on charades than a common language. It is strange that this sort of thing has become as normal in the daily routine of cycle touring as Netflix was to my ‘regular’ life before this trip and how quickly one sort of normalcy quickly shift into another just by getting on a bike and cycling for a day.
The kindness and hospitality of the locals has been one of the most notable elements of cycling across a tiny snippet of West and Southern Romania (to avoid the worst of the Carpathian Mountains that go through the middle of the country). On my first day, I have had more people come up to me just wanting to say hello and have a chat than during the rest of the trip combined; yesterday, as I waited to cross the Danube for the final time, one of the people working the boat came up to me smiling, halved his sandwich and forced it into my hands. It’s all been a lovely surprise experiencing such kindness in a country I personally knew very little about and is generally misunderstood at best; if I believed certain outlets of the UK’s media (not naming any names), all I would know is that Romanians either take your jobs or steal your belongings.
If I wasn’t able find a hospitable local or decent camping spot, then Romania also has an abundance of cheap, modern hotels. At around £12 a night, it’s been very difficult to turn down a proper bed, shower, and fast internet. Evidently I’m no hardcore adventure cyclist but after 6 weeks sleeping in a tent I’ve never been happier to experience the comforts of a blandly anonymous hotel room on par with a Premier Inn.
Alternating between these two normalcies – the normalcy of unconditional hospitality from locals to a hungry cyclist and being reunited with the normalcy of home comforts – sums up what it’s been like to cycle across Romania. In the case of the latter, however, I can’t help feeling guilty about being temped when confronted with the home comforts.
God help this wimp when things get tough further East!