Pat and Mike Carter on his R1200GS at Auschwitz's infamous TUNNEL OF DEATH
Oli & Csilla H/U Members from Oradia, Pat and Bin, and Krisztina & Szabi H/U Members from Targu Mures
Old style farming methods still the norm.
Pat in front of 12th Century Transylvanian Castle called Corinesti Castle in Hunedoara.
Sovata salt lake on an August Weekend.
Satu Mare, Romania motorcycle gathering 500 motorcyclists watching stunt show.
HU members gathering: Bin and Pat with Super tenere, Jo and rEkiny from Poland with Tenere and Oliver from Romania with Aprilia 1000.
We met and travelled with a journalist Mike Carter from London writing stories once a week for the Observer Guardian newspaper and this is what he wrote, thought you might like it!!
"Travels through a midlife crisis
Mike Carter's motorcycle odyssey gets tangled up in red tape at the Ukrainian border, and he is forced to face up to his anti-social tendencies
Sunday August 20, 2006
'You don't need a visa for Ukraine. Not since they hosted the Eurovision Song Contest,' some guy I'd only just met in a London pub told me during the minutes of intensive research I carried out for this trip. I didn't question his sources - after six pints it seemed entirely feasible.
But now, standing at the Ukrainian border, it occurs to me that perhaps I should have at least checked, because the heavily armed Homo sovietus is waving his big stick at me and telling me, in no uncertain terms, to clear off back to Hungary. 'But everything's cool since Eurovision,' I am telling him. And, in context, it is perhaps the most surreal thing I've ever said.
'Visa, no problem,' he is saying. 'Photocopy of motorbike registration document is problem. You need original.'
'But this is the original,' I say, waving my photocopy at him and thinking about the crisp original, filed neatly at home. 'No,' he says, and I am thinking that this is what happens in Ukraine, that everybody is corrupt, because pub guy said that too, and all I have to do is slip him a few dollars and doors - or in this case barriers - will open.
But behind Homo sovietus is a big sign warning of the dire consequences of bribing an official. And although pub guy would doubtless be surreptitiously handing over the money, he is almost certainly still in a pub in London and not risking an interminable spell in a Ukrainian jail.
So I turn my bike around and head past the queue of cars, back across the river on the bridge of shame, eyes burning into me, and I am transported back to being a 16-year-old in Birmingham, and Boogies nightclub, when the bouncers said my shoes were the wrong colour, or something, and it's funny how rejection never seems to get any easier, even if it's the delights of Chernobyl, and not grab-a-granny night, that you're missing out on.
My travelling companions of the past week, an Aussie couple on a Yamaha, are also riding back across the bridge. 'Our documents are fine but we need a visa,' Patrick and Belinda are telling me, and I'm feeling guilty, because it was me who persuaded them to come to Ukraine, and it is only now occurring to me that Australia doesn't do Eurovision.
So we head off towards Romania to try our luck getting in there. Ever since I met Pat and Belinda in southern Poland, riding with them over the Tatra mountains, through Slovakia and Hungary, life on the road has been immeasurably easier. They are a fantastic couple and terrific company, with an easy, enduring relationship that has gone some way to altering my latterly acquired cynical views of marriage. There's a dynamic to travelling with others that utterly changes the experience. There's the framework of consensus, an external validity to your journey, no more solo breakfasts and dinners and, of course, someone to tell you when you're starting to smell. Somehow a beautiful landscape shared with another, even in a wordless exchange, exists permanently in a way that as a sole witness it doesn't.
But as we ride on, I am thinking that I want to be off on my own again. This voice is annoying because it doesn't make any sense at all. Just what is so wrong with easy?
And, for some reason, an image comes into my mind of a group photograph taken when I was aged four at nursery school, where I am standing at the edge of the frame, slightly apart from the other children. As I start mentally flicking through the group photos of my life, it's nearly always the same, a leitmotif: always at the edge, always apart, them and me. If there's one thing I'd like to change, this might be it. But how?
Ultimately, Romania makes the travelling decision for me. Pat and Belinda need a visa, which they don't have, and I'm thinking there must be a pub guy in northern Queensland too, as I head off alone in the rain towards Transylvania."
"Buna Ziua" from Romania!
Since we last wrote we have travelled through many Eastern European countries and met some wonderful new friends. The world is full of great people!
After a tearful departure from Jo and rEkiny we drove off with Mike Carter, a London journalist writing weekly reports for the Guardian-Observer newspaper. He is writing about coping with a mid life crisis and has been given a brand new BMW motorbike and all the latest gear and told to go travelling for 6 months and write about what happens to him and how he copes!! Lucky bloke hey!
Next stop on the Polish travel circuit was Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp. The death factories killed 2 million people from 27 nationalities, about 90% of whom were Jews. They gased the people with pesticides, so dont use pesticides in your home! It was a terribly emotional day, they had displays of all the peoples shoes, hair they cut off to stuff in mattresses, suitcases; nothing was wasted. They tricked the people into thinking they were going to a better life and even had a band playing when they arrived from the train to welcome them. Then the Nazis told them to go and have a shower and gassed them to death. The fit young men and women they put to work building more gas chambers and most of them died within 3 months of arrival from overwork and malnutrition. The motto was to exterminate the jews through labour. Terrible time in history thanks to Hitler.
Tatra Mountains and trekking with rEkiny, Jo and Norbi was next; have we told you how much energy this man has- never go trekking with rEkiny. Jo was alright though!!
Off to Slovakia with Mike Carter in tow. Levoca was a lovely old walled town and we stayed in a 4 star hotel right in the centre for E40. We checked out Spissky hrad which is Slovakias largest castle dating back to 1209.
Hungary was next with lovely baroque city of Eger being a highlight. It also had a great castle dating back to the 13th century. The roads were great and we wound our way to a lovely little wine village called Tokaj. We then thought we would go to Ukraine and didnt realize we needed a visa. EU countries dont need one, but Aussies do. The same applies for Romania, so Mike the POM got into Romania and we had to go Budapest to sort out our visa. We dont normally like big cities but Budapest was beautiful with the 19th Century mansions, castle hill and huge parliament building. Three days later after amazing displays of incompetence on behalf of the embassy, we had our visa and could proceed into Romania. This is the first visa we have needed for a very long time.
Romania is a very special country in our hearts mainly because of the people we met there. It is the wild east of Europe with gypsies and horse drawn wagons on the streets with trucks and cars fighting for the same space. Somehow it works, but it is probably the most dangerous driving we have seen in Europe. The leader of the communist party Ceausescu had a devistating impact on Romania. He exported food to finance his huge ego driven visions; in 1989 Romania suffered the worst food shortages in decades. We saw inside many communist blocks of grey flats and got to see how Romanians live.
In Oradea we met Horizons members Csilla and Oliver Schul. We were their first guests and we had a fantastic time with them. We stayed 5 party nights as we were waiting for Polish friends Jo and rEkiny to come and travel with us through Romania for a couple of weeks. We all travelled together for awhile, 3 bikes, 6 people and had a blast!
We crossed the famous Transfagarasan Pass, checked out picturesgue Bran Castle and Peles Castle in Sinaia, which was a former Royal Palace. Man, the castles in this country are amazing! Next we saw Brasov Square with its baroque facades and Bohemian outdoor cafes, then Sighisoara to see Draculas birthplace and then we swam in the salt lake of Sovata with thousands of other people! We stuck to mainly secondary roads as there were too many trucks and traffic on the main roads. We then drove over the mountain range towards the north of Romania and said our final goodbye to Jo and rEkiny until we see them in Australia!
We had a magic night in Sighetu Marmatiei with Csillas mother and grandmother and then headed south on our "syrup tour of Romania". We met Alex in Cluj- Napoca, who gave us a whirlwind tour of his city. Then we headed off to Targu Mures to finally see Szabi and Krisztina Santha who we have been in email contact with for a long time. Scilla and Oliver joined us again for more parties. Soon it will be more good byes and then off to Bulgaria and Turkey.
Belinda and John Cameron with the bikes in the lobby of the Hotel in Albania for 7 Euros per night!!
Bunkers on the beach in Albania, they were everywhere!!
Mostar Bridge in Bosnia- amazing 16th century bridge and medieval town.
Bullet ridden house in Sarajevo, Bosnia where the tunnel museum was.
Sandra and Brian Smith from Calgary, Canada (HU members) and old friends of Pats who we travelled with for awhile in Croatia.
We found this very helpful for travels in Eastern Europe, so thought we would share it with other travellers. Relevant for July 2006
Country : Fuel / Exchange rate July06 / Emergency no / Alcohol
Germany : €1.32 / €1=€1 / +49 22 22 22 / 0.5
Poland : €1.07 / €1=PLN4 / +48 6183 19892 / 0.2
Ukraine : €0.70 / €1=UAK6.3 / 987 / 0.0
Czech : €1.09 / €1=CZK28 / 1230 / 0.0
Romania : €0.98 / €1=ROL3.5 / +40 745382715 / 0.0
Hungary : €1.09 / €1=HUF260 / +36 613451755 / 0.0
Slovakia : €0.99 / €1=SKK38 / +42 12444 56860 / 0.0
From Patrick and Belinda last seen in Romania heading south.
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