The plan is to slip through the next 3 countries as quickly as possible without touching the toll roads. So, the next few days are mainly driving, but of course we can’t resist a stop at the cute market town of Zamosc in Poland. The old town is encompassed by red brick walls, the buildings brightly painted and the central plaza pulsing with people. There is a wedding happening on one side, a concert on the other and restaurants are brimming with people. After meandering around we head off to find a camp spot. Success! A Cathedral carpark – even have our own alarm when church bells chime & locals flock in for the 8.30 am service. It is amazing how busy all the village churches are as we cruise by. We also note how affluent Polish homes seem after Russia & Belarus.
But on across the open border (therefore no annoying crossing) to Slovakia. Here the houses look poorer & there are more hills & forestry. A quick stop for food before crossing to Hungary – and again an open border YAY!! We have decided to revisit the lovely town of Tokaji, but on a Sunday evening the wine caves are shut. Oh well we find a nice camp spot beside the river with a few other motorhomes. Time to explore & eat out.
This morning we head to the border of Romania. (We visited years ago but shortened our visit as GR1 didn’t like the roads. At that time we promised ourselves we would return again.) But oh bother – they have a border control. The fast queue is for EU vehicles, which sadly we are not! We wait in our line for over 2 hours. Then it takes all of 5 minutes to get stamped out of Hungary & in to Romania. Crazy. But we are finally free to explore – so we head to Satu Mare- a surprisingly lovely city – to get some cash & a Sim. Time to head to the Maramure region. We pass loads of villages – and these are way fancier than they were over 10 years ago. The housing & lifestyle here has definitely improved. The day is nearly over so we find a spot right on the river bed overlooking Ukraine (the closest we will get on this trip)
In the morning our first stop is at Sapanta to see “The Merry Crosses”. We now are definitely on the tourist trail when we see a tour group of 20 motorhomes parked around town. The decorated crosses are a special feature here – each one is unique to each person’s grave – a lot of fun to look at. Then on to the town of Sighetu Marmatiei to explore. We wander the bright streets & stop at the Museum of Arrested Thought set in the old prison – it is almost all in Romanian – so much info about people who died here. What a truly terrible place it was, anyone who defied Ceausecu was sent here. Feeling depressed we head out for food, finding some great hole in the wall shops with awesome fresh pretzels, croissants & pastries. Finally, we head out to follow a few scenic back roads to see the real Maramures. Lots of wooden churches, lots of amazing carved wooden gates, lots of horse & buggies, lots of crazy haystacks & lots of flash new houses. By now we are practically old wooden churched out and as it is nearing evening we pull over beside a tiny lake. Perfect for a camp fire.
Back in to the fray. After more time exploring back roads and yet another Monastery full of lovely wooden buildings (all pretty new) at Barana we decide it is time to head back to the main road at Borgas & on in to the Moldavian region and the mountainous Prislop Pass. At the top there is, yes, another church to gawp at. The mountain views are pretty stunning too. As we head down through more villages we discover the house style has changed. They are more heavily decorated with metal roof with metal lacework. Even the wells & gates are decorated. We are heading to the famous painted monasteries. I have chosen 3 to visit – John thinks it will be more than enough. First up is Moldovita Monastery and it is pretty amazing. No photos inside, but really it is the painted exterior that is the best. Some of the scenes are pretty gruesome, but we can see lots of Bible stories amid the blood & gore. Enough for one day – we stop beside the river that runs beside the town.
The remaining 2 painted monasteries today. First up – Sucevita with its totally renovated walled compound. This one is on the tourist trail as well, so again busy. Then on to Humor Monastery. It’s not far to a few more, but we are done (especially John), so we head on to the city of Suceava. Not too much to see except the castle. A bit disappointing as it is so “renovated” and rather a maze inside. Time to head off to find a spot beside a lake not too far from the Moldova border.
This morning is earmarked for our next border crossing. John has already checked with border police that we can cross at Radauti-Prat, so we arrive bight & early. The queue is short & customs very efficient, but they suggest that Moldova will not let us in. We try & they are correct. It is only a car border & they don’t have insurance offices etc here, so with 3 extra stamps in our passports we head to the next border that they assure us we can use. And yes, we can. Finally, we are in Moldova with car insurance & road taxes paid. We will be back to finish exploring Romania in about a week.