The joy of motoring in Romania

We’ve been on something of a Romanian odyssey this past week. From one end of the country to another we’ve driven from Bucharest to Petresti and back, with stops at Cluj, Campia Turzii, Alba Iulia, Sibiu and Curtea de Arges along the way.

What have we learnt? Nothing new, merely confirmation that driving long distances in Romania is awful. We did our 1200 km round-trip at an average speed of just 51 kph. Faster than Romanian railways, but not by much. There are few motorways (and one of the short stretches of motorway there is currently goes unused, as it was poorly built and is unsafe for traffic), few dual-carriageways and far too many lorries transporting freight which should be going by train. (Or would, if the rail infrastructure wasn’t equally screwed).

And yet for most foreigners any mention of driving in Romania immediately conjures up picture-postcard images of its many glorious mountain roads, not the least of which is the Transfagarasan.

Ever since its appearance on Top Gear in 2009 the Transfagarasan has become one of the country’s most popular visitor distractions. Slovaks and Poles are particularly drawn to it. (For anyone interested, the day job Bucharest In Your Pocket has the only definitive guide to the road, right here).

Given that the Transfagarasan is in the middle of the country, by the time most visitors get to it the grim reality of what driving in Romania actually entails has long hit them hard in the face: endless hours on single-carriageway roads spent staring at the arse end of an articulated lorry whose dickhead of a driver insists on occupying as much of the road as possible. Or coming to a complete stop because a lorry has crashed into a house in Miercurea Sibiului. (See the photo above: we saw this up close, and it was grim).

Even then, when the Transfagarasan does rear into view, it is not all sunshine and flowers. If you’ve been daft enough to arrive at the weekend you can expect to spend hours in barely crawling traffic, as half of Romania turns up. It is worth noting that during the filming of the classic images of the Transfagarasan which made it so famous the Top Gear team had the road to themselves: it was closed to the public.

We keep reading about how Romania needs to make a grand, national statement before December 1st, 2018: the 100th anniversary of the unification of Transylvania with the principilaties of Wallachia and Moldavia. It is an argument which is often put forward as an excuse to justify state-funding of the Romanian Orthodox Church’s huge vanity project, the Catedrala Neamului.*

We can’t help thinking that a far better and more fitting way to celebrate would simply be to construct a decent motorway linking Transylvania with the rest of Romania.

*We note with alarm that the Romanian Orthodox Church was today handed 15 million lei by Bucharest’s increasingly populist mayor Gabriela Firea and a subservient city council dominated by the PSD. Because hospitals and schools have all the money the need of course. The USB’s votes against were not, this time, enough to prevent the funding of this highly immoral, megalomaniac project.


21 thoughts on “The joy of motoring in Romania

  1. Why even drive Bucharest-Satu Mare? First of all, it’s much more expensive than rail: 24 hours x $$$/hour – your hourly rate, plus the risks of accident and death.
    I did Bucharest-Carei-Bucharest for more than 15 years by rail. While not perfect, at least you can read or talk with people outside your usual circle. Nowadays, there’s air conditioning during the day. Or take the night train, the sleeping cars are okish.


  2. Ah, this brings the memories flooding back. You forgot finally overtaking the truck, only for it to come barreling past through the middle of the next village when you make the mistake of actually slowing for a speed limit.

    Now I mention it, that’s probably what happened to the one in the photo.


    1. Most of the times those trucks are not Romanian, but Turkish or Polish. Romanian drivers are used to the roads, they rarely commit such embarrassing accidents…


  3. “We note with alarm that the Romanian Orthodox Church was today handed 15 million lei by Bucharest’s increasingly populist mayor Gabriela Firea “……….Well at least the money didn’t go to fake scientists with their fake space and global earth bullshit!


  4. Firea is already campaigning for 2019.

    If Americans are stupid enough to vote for “the first woman president”, who are we to think of ourselves as being smarter than the Americans?!

    She was already visited by the American ambassador, which is equivalent to a granting of privilege here in Romania.

    And she has all the qualities required to become president: she’s beautiful, she’s smart, she has 3 children, she’s not corrupt, everybody knows her etc… and besides that, she will be running against a proven idiot.


    1. Has she managed to ban the Bucharest International Marathon 2016 yet? I thought she was going to suggest to the 6,000plus runners to do about 100laps of Parcul Carol? The last runner to get bitten by a dog doesn’t get a medal?


      1. Ah that plonker! Yeah I know him but I know his wife much better. She kind of fancies me a bit? I was chatting to her at a previous Bucharest marathon circa 2014 and in the corner of my eye I saw this blonde geezer trying to get a word in. I asked him “Can I help you mate?” “No you can’t, I want a word with my wife” “Sorry pal, didn’t know it was your wife mate”. I riled him again when he was chatting to Gabi Szabo and she turned her back to him to catch my attention instead with a “Yoo hoo, Mr Rearguard, over here!”


  5. Tarom runs an Airbus A318 from Bucharest to Cluj, Craig. Total flying time is 34 minutes. . . Romania’s lack of autostradas is integral to its backwardness. If the the country ever manages to link Bucharest to the Hungarian border by highway, Romania would change irrevocably. Billions would be needed though to drill through the Transfagarasan mountains.


    1. Yeah, but now we have nuclear weapons. The Americans are moving them away from Turkey and they couldn’t find a better spot. The DNA is willing to arrest all Russians only to protect the newly acquired nuclear weapons.


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