Jensen Monday Club

Day 8: The Curse of Cheese man!


Top Touring Tip 7: Always take at least two spare pairs of skiddies

We were beginning to get savvy. After having breakfast in out hotels we had headed off at 9 to 9:30ish in the morning, and had always arrived late in the evening and missed our evening meal, so today we were going to give breakfast a miss and get going early.

We gave the car it's usual morning check over...

She was starting to look a little road weary (and I think so were we to be fair)

Unquotable Quotes: "that's not a car - it's a germination pod for Lego"

We drove around Bucharest on a cold, damp morning, and there was a certain faded grandeur about the place.

The billboards of the capitalist corporate multi-nationals must have had the old hard line communists fuming into their super sized, caffeine free, skimmed organic milk, lattes.

It really seemed to be a city at a cross roads. Obviously an impressive and affluent place in it's past, it has also obviously suffered years of neglect. Now the money of the western "Brands" was making itself felt, trying to sell these people a "lifestyle".

Notice the McDonalds sign in the foreground.

We noticed a banner advertising Jaguar cars on a tall building. I commented that most of these people had more chance of being savaged by a jaguar than owning one...

It had a rather unpleasant "opportunistic" feel about it, like taking advantage of people in a desperate situation, but then we saw the obligatory housing...

and thought a booming consumerist western style economy might not be so bad, as we drove around in a Jensen spending more on petrol in 2 weeks and these people earn in a year.

We saw lots of this, and were never sure if it was the worlds worst scaffolder at work, or whether it was just keeping the house upright?

We had heard the stories of the Romanian gypsies and the horses and carts still on the road, but had not seen much of them up till now. Today we were going to see lot's of them. Every road we took we saw horses and carts. There were signs in places forbidding them on that section of road, but they didn't take any notice and used them anyway. We wondered how long before the government clamped down and this way of life was lost?

It was a foul morning and we saw a guy walking along the side of the road heading off to work in the freezing pouring rain in blue plastic sandals. We were both wearing expensive big brand training shoes, with our feet snuggled into Wilton lambs wool carpet. It was difficult not to feel a bit guilty.

We took the motorway heading towards part of today's challenge, to go to the Rucar Pass, and find "Cheese Man", on our way to Brasov, to find the Prince of Darkness (Dracula, not  Joe bloody Lucas!)

Motorway driving must have been a bit new to Bulgarians as they didn't seem very good at it, and we passed these 2 accidents in the first few miles.

Overturned lorry in a field.  Another one doesn't make it.

 "Cheese Man" had become a bit of a quest for us. It had been an article in a Sunday newspaper magazine. He sits at the side of the road in the Rucar Pass for hours everyday trying to make a living selling his home made cheese. As both me and Chris are cheese fanatics, this seemed like a must do item. We only had a picture of the section of road he sat at, but there was a distinctive sign nearby, and we were confident we could find him.

We passed the obligatory power station...

and chemical plant...

and started heading out into the countryside. The weather brightened up immeasurably as we left the Bucharest area, and it was almost as if the city was developing it's own weather pattern as it was so different to the countryside around it.

The Rucar Pass was fabulous and almost Alpine in nature, being very similar to the Austrian Alps we had passed through.

The scenery was stunning, and we drove slowly to take it all in, and to keep our eye out for Cheese Man.


Try as we might we couldn't find Cheese Man. We even got to the stage that we could tell the area we were in in Rucar from the style of chevron on the sharp bends (there are 3 different types you know!), but we couldn't find him. 4000 miles, and the bugger had took a day off!

We were so dejected we didn't even buy cheese from some of the other cheese sellers, but Dracula was next, so that perked us up a bit. We drove on and an ominous looking castle appeared on the horizon...

I think if we had seen this at night we might have needed the spare skiddies mention in the touring tips!

Ooh err! We were getting closer!

I never told Chris this, but I had taken a sharpened wooden stake with me. Not for vampires, but for Chris if he used the "Fancy a bite?" gag!

The castle loomed above us...

It was a bright warm, sunny day, so not too bad,  but you could imagine it at night in a storm...

Unquotable Quote: "Urgent crossing lane. I didn't think there was a word for urgent in Turkish?"

After the splendour of Dracula's castle, it was back to the obligatory power station, and the spell was broken.

We pulled over for a quick break, and surveyed the car. She had been pristine when we started, but now she wore the road grim with pride, and the missing rear valance as a battle scar.

Our final destination for the day was Cluj Napoca, the capital of Transylvania.

We passed through pretty little villages that looked like time had forgotten.

Except for the electricity, and phone lines :0)

And passed some fabulous architecture...

We are modern, educated, urbane, intelligent guys, and not influenced by primitive superstition, but it was nearly night time, and we were in Transylvania, so we gunned the throttle and raced the setting sun...

Eventually we roared into the outskirts of town.

And finally we were here.

I don't know if this sign was meant to confuse visiting vampires, but it confused us!

We rolled into the town centre just as the sun set over the cross on the local church. No symbolism there then!

We checked into a hotel that was hosting a wedding. The D.J at the reception had a sound system that made Chris jealous, and shook the entire building. Mercifully we were assured he would finish at 11.

We asked the receptionist about garlic and crucifixes, but she smiled sympathetically at the spooked tourists and told us there were no vampires in Transylvania any more. The werewolves had eaten them...

We popped out for a few beers and a cracking feed, and Chris took this picture to prove to my girlfriend Kate that I had eaten my vegetables, and not lived of steak and chips for 2 weeks.

One strange thing we noticed was that at pedestrian crossings the locals would wait absolutely until the light changed for them to go. Under no account would the cross before the light changed, even if it was obvious nothing was coming. I don't know what the penalty is there for crossing on red, but it must be pretty harsh. Thrown to the wolves?

It had been a great day with only the ever increasing noise from the back of the car to spoil it.

A good nights kip and we were ready for: Day 9. Four Meals in 4 Countries.