Tuesday, 28 November 2017

E3 Romania: Conclusion and tipps

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.
The trail traverses some very beautiful, sometimes even spectacular landscapes and is also historically very interesting - especially when you are from a German-speaking country. The people I have encountered were generally very friendly - despite language problems.
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 ...

In the cities I walked through drab housing complexes in the outskirts whereas in the city centre historical houses were just recently renovated and hotels are definitely up to Western standards. The gap between rich and poor is very wide and apparent. It is no problem to hike here with a Western budget and I was surprised of the quality of hotels - but then you see another grandmother in the countryside in old clothes washing her dishes in the garden next to her well and you wonder how she survives.

Another sad sight was the amount of trash in country side. Although I saw garbage cans in most villages I assume that garbage collection is not everywhere. I saw many wild dumps and sadly enough most of them are in streams or rivers. The photo was taken in the idyllic Cheile Nerei - but even here plastic bottles that have just been dumped into the river have piled up on the shore.

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 ...

But you will find all sorts of chocolates, candy bars and biscuits - usually also Western brands although here they are more expensive. Sometimes there is bread and sausage or cheese. It is almost impossible to get dehydrated food packages in Romania except the local "Ramen noodle soup". I was living on spaghetti with packages of dry tomato sauce. You will get dehydrated mashed potatoes but the brands I tried tasted horrible. Polenta is widespread and another cheap option.

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.

Romania is a paradise for pigs, cows and horses - and therefore also a nightmare for drivers! These animals are roaming free everywhere. I saw cows grazing on parking lots and horses walking on roads. Unlike in Great Britain I never had any problems with cows in Romania. They are milk cows and therefore used to humans.
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!

As soon as these dogs discover you they will run towards you and bark. This is quite frightening as there are usually three or four of them. They do not always obey the shepherd's commands either ... And often there is no shepherd in sight anyways. Still, beside barking and circling you these dogs never bit me. My trekking poles also helped me to keep them at bay.
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.

Did I like my hike through Romania? Yes, it was one of the most interesting trails that I have hiked - but also one of the most mentally demanding ones. Would I recommend it to a friend? Yes and No! This is definitely not a trail for beginners! If you are just interested in carefree hiking you should go somewhere else. But if you like to explore "unknown" countries and are interested in the cultural aspects this route is great. And if you want to do a thruhike of the E3 through Europe you can be relieved: With this new track through Romania a real connected thruhike is now possible - thanks to the great efforts of the "Siebenbürgischer Karpatenverein"!

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