Homeward bound: Returning to Bucharest along EuroVelo 6
EuroVelo: Why did you choose to cycle this section of EuroVelo 6?
Miron Podgorean: I was waiting for a friend in a bar after work and remembered that someone had given me the EuroVelo overview map earlier that day. To pass the time, I took the map out and started studying the routes and pretty much decided then and there that I would cycle the section of EuroVelo 6 between Passau and Giurgiu! At Giurgiu, I would have to leave the Danube River and head inland for 50 km to reach Bucharest.
Did you do much research into the route beforehand? What information did you take with you?
The starting point was obviously the EuroVelo overview map. I then bought some guidebooks that covered the section of the Danube cycle route that I was covering. These came with some GPS files, so I used those as well. That said, for most of the route, I think you could find your way without detailed maps or GPS tracks. I met a couple from Slovenia who were just using large scale maps that they picked up from tourist offices and they were managing ok. Things start to change a bit in Romania, as there are no official signposts to follow anywhere.
How was the signposting elsewhere?
For most of the route, the signposting was really good. Perhaps the best country for this was Serbia where the official signs are extremely detailed and even include some famous quotes! These are supported by unofficial signs sprayed on the path or walls by enthusiastic locals although you need to be careful that you are following the right one!
Obviously there were some devastating floods along the Danube earlier this year. How did you find the conditions along the route? Have things returned to normal?
By the time I went at the end of July, the recovery was well underway. In Austria you could see the devastation that the flood waters had caused but the cycle path itself had largely been cleared and was open for business. In some areas you were cycling with piles of sand over 1 m high on either side of the path! Where there were still a few problems, diversions had been put in place but these were clear and easy to follow.
In Hungary there was a short section that was still covered by mud that had been deposited by the flood waters. This made the path a bit slippery and as a result the only fall that I had during the entire trip took place on this section.
What type of accommodation were you using?
I had packed a (very) small tent but only ended up using it on a few occasions. It was extremely hot from Hungary onwards – it reached around 38 degrees in Romania – so it was quite attractive to stay in cheap hotels and hostels that had air conditioning and access to cold water! I also wanted to see a bit of the towns and cities that I was passing through and as most of the campsites were located out in the countryside, hotels and hostels were more convenient options.
It sounds like incredibly hot weather in which to do a cycle tour. How did you cope?
The temperature became a real issue towards the end and I had to develop a routine to deal with it. I aimed to get on the road around about 7 am every morning then stop for a long lunch break during the hottest part of the day before continuing on into the evening. I also worked out that I needed to cycle 24 kph or faster in order to benefit from the cooling effects of the wind!
It was important that I kept my water levels up and I found that I was drinking over 2 litres of water every night!
So, what were the highlights for you?
In terms of scenery, I would have to say the Iron Gates on the Romanian and Serbian border. They were truly spectacular.
However, my lasting memory from the trip would have to be the people that you meet along the way, both in terms of fellow cyclists and local citizens. On such a well-developed route as EuroVelo 6, you often keep bumping into the same people in different places. There was a group of Italians I got to know this way and I have stayed in contact with one of them since I got back. The further east you go, the numbers of cycle tourists generally declines, so you greet each encounter even more enthusiastically there.
The kindness shown by some of the locals was really amazing. For example, one night I was trying to find somewhere to stay in a small village in Romania. It turned out that they didn’t have a hotel but the local priest heard about my troubles and allowed me to pitch my tent in a corner of the graveyard!
You obviously come from Romania. Do you think that if EuroVelo 6 was developed it could play a role in supporting the local economy in that part of the country?
Yes, it definitely has the potential to make a difference. The sections of EuroVelo 6 in Romania are currently far less developed when compared to other countries but it is a beautiful part of Romania and the local people are extremely welcoming. In some of the villages I passed through the local children would wave at me shouting “Hello”, “Bonjour”, “¡Hola“, “Hallo”!
The big advantage of cycle tourism is that it will generate income directly for the local communities along the route. You can start to see it happening already - I was in contact with an organisation who were arranging for local people to rent out spare rooms to tourists. This part of the country has historically not received many tourists, so if the right investments are made into the infrastructure it could potentially be very beneficial for the local economy.
Photo credits: Miron Podgorean