Welcome to Romania

On the approach to the so-called Podul Prieteniei (Friendship Bridge) which links the Romanian city of Giurgiu with its Bulgarian counterpart Ruse across the Danube are two white columns. The column on the left is engraved with the year 1952, the one on the right 1954. The dates signify the beginning and end of the bridge’s construction: the 2.8 kilometre bridge took just over two years to complete, opening in the presence of Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej and Todor Zhivkov on June 21st, 1954.

For the next 59 years the Podul Prieteniei was the only bridge across the Danube linking Romania and Bulgaria. In those days of course, before Romanians were free to holiday where they like, traffic was limited to lorries carrying goods, occassionally joined by the odd Australian driving a camper van to Kabul.

A new bridge, between Calafat and Vidin, opened in 2013, a mere 14 years after construction began (it no longer takes two years to build a bridge in these parts).

The Calafat-Vidin Bridge. Click for source.
The Calafat-Vidin Bridge. Click for source.

Alas, both Calafat and Vidin are in the proverbial middle of nowhere, and until either is linked to civilisation by a motorway the bridge is fundamentally useless. The majority of traffic between Romania and Bulgaria still uses the old Giurgiu-Ruse bridge.

And these days there is a huge amount of traffic, not least at this time of year as half of Romania packs its bags and heads for Greece.

That would not be a huge issue, even on the single-carriage way Podul Prieteniei, if the bridge was fully operational. It isn’t, and hasn’t been for some time.

Repairs to the road surface and to a hydraulic mechanism that can be raised to lift part of the bridge, allowing taller vessels to pass underneath, have now been ongoing for almost two years.

In the same amount of time it took to build the damn thing from scratch, today’s engineering giants have been unable to complete some simple repairs.

As such, crossing the bridge takes hours. About two hours, unless you are there before six in the morning (as we were a couple of weeks ago), in which case you might be done in under an hour if the wind is blowing in the right direction.

Coming back from Greece this week we arrived at Ruse around 4pm, fearing the worst. Amazingly, we were over the bridge in half an hour. That, unfortunately, was only the beginning. 

Of several passport lanes available, just two were open. It took more than an hour to get through. 

Welcome to Romania.


21 thoughts on “Welcome to Romania

      1. Ah ok fair enough. I didn’t think there was much to see south of Bucharest until you reach Greece.


      2. Of course it’s great. The Americans were kept out of it. Hopefully they’ll be kept out of it forever.


      3. Americans were not “kept out.” I am an American and have been to Bulgaria. I enjoyed it very much. The New York Times, which has a worldwide readership, just published an article about the Bulgarian Black Sea coast (a nicer beach setup than Romania’s and a far better value too). Maybe more Americans will be on their way very soon.
        I do wish you would come to New York, although it makes your beloved Unirii Champs-Elysees look a little threadbare. You would still have a wonderful time.


      4. As long as they didn’t take over their secret services and they didn’t setup an “anti-corruption directorate”, as long as their ambassador keeps his mouth shut and there’s no anti-missile shield on Bulgarian territory, it means that Americans were kept out of it.

        Bulgarians are smart, unlike Romanians…


  1. The Calafat-Vidin bridge is ideally located for a Bucharest-Belgrade motorway, in the rather distant Schengen future. Less so for Bucharest to Sofia or Athens 🙂


      1. Maybe it was inspired by an alien race. There are many odd buildings in the world which are said to be inspired by aliens.


  2. Inmates throughout the country are refusing food and setting things on fire in their prison cells, protesting because of disastrous detention conditions and the overcrowding of the Romanian penitentiary system.


  3. Construction of Calafat – Vidin Bridge started in May 2007, check Wiki:


    I was working in Bulgaria from July 2004 – May 2007, and regularly visited Vidin to inspect progress of one of my projects. I never saw any construction work taking place for the bridge before I left.

    So six years to construct (including delays due to lack of expropriation of necessary land) not fourteen.

    Of course, the Commies would have never have experienced that problem ;).


    1. In the real video footage of the fake attack no blood/ketchup was visible, despite a 17tonne truck driving over the actors.


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