Europe & The Near East 2007

An Unexpected Welcome

We pedalled slowly down the dusty track out of the last Hungarian village. An unsettled evening was in store — clouds brooded above, hanging menacingly as the air gusted and whipped around us, and the silence of the plains was interrupted only by the distant sound of cowbells on the wind. I had cycled a hundred kilometers, and was ready to pitch my tent and sleep, but the lure of the unknown drew the three of us onwards for just a little longer. The map showed a road across the border into Romania, and it would be a satisfying achievement to cross it before the end of the day.

The border itself came and went in a spectacularly anticlimactic fashion. It was nothing more than an unmanned metal barrier, which we instinctively skirted round on our bikes. The road went from dirt to tarmac, and we stopped, wondering uneasily if we had missed something. Surely there was more to it than that? But then, what with Romania joining the E.U., trans-continental travel was supposed to be a whole lot easier, wasn’t it?