Limes tour, part 2: Wien - Constanta


Description of sections.

 Section IV:
Wien - Budapest

 Section V:
Budapest - Ineu

 Section VI:
Ineu - Gura Humorului

 Section VII:
Gura Humorului - Galati

 Section VIII:
Galati - Constanta

General information on cycling in Hungary and Romania is given on a separate info page.

See page Limes part 1 for sections from Katwijk aan Zee to Vienna.

Left: Bana, a friendly village, typical for northeastern Hungary. Middle: Donau bridge that connects Komárno (Slovakia) with Komárom (Hungary).
Right: Budapest, with the famous chain bridge crossing the Donau; at the background: Saint Stephen's basilica.

Section IV.
Wien - Budapest.
381 km, average 19.2 km/h, 1020 hm.

Within the first 100 km we have cycled through three countries: Austria, Slovakia and Hungary. The border crossings are anything but spectacular, since each of the countries have signed the EU Schengen treaty. Eighteen km after Bratislava -close to the Hungarian border - you have the choice to follow the Donau on the Hungarian or Slovakian side. The latter is 40 km shorter and has no climbs of any significance. However, we have chosen for Hungary, because the route along Györ, Tata and Esztergom seems more interesting. Although the route follows the Donau, you won't see the river very often. According to Esterbauer's descriptions of the Donau-Radweg (see below) you leave the Donau valley three times, once after Györ and twice after Komárom. These 'detours' are necessary to avoid heavy traffic along the Donau (National road No. 1) and for visiting the charming town of Tata. Most of the 1020 hm in section IV are situated in these detours.

Guide: Verlag Esterbauer Radtourenbücher Donau-Radweg 3, which describes the section Vienna - Budapest.
Donau cycle path signs are missing in Hungary; instead you may follow the Eurovelo 6 signs. However, this long distance cycle route from Atlantic to Black Sea is not always fidentiacl to Esterbauer's Donau-Radweg itinerary. Eurovelo 6 takes the National road No. 1 for quite a distance. We have followed the route on the detailed maps in Esterbauer's guide.


Photos at right. Top: last Donau cycle path sign in Slovakia; bottom: Eurovelo 6 sign in Hungary.

Art in three Donau capitals. Left: Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna. Middle: "Men at work" sculpture in Bratislava.
Right: part of the Béla Kun memorial by Imre Varga, removed after the fall of the communist regime and now displayed at the Budapest Memento Park.

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Left: Local road through the puszta near Kocser (H). Middle: Tisza, ferry(boss) and Henro.
Right: Puszta near Chisineu-Cris (RO). This type of water crane is rare in nowadays Hungary, but can be frequently seen on the Romanian side of the border.

Section V.
Budapest - Gyula (Hungary) - Ineu (Romania).
379 km, average 17.7 km/h, 210 hm.

A section dominated by the puszta, a vast and flat extent of agricultural land. Friendly, but by no means exciting. Local roads through the Hungarian puszta are often surrounded by trees and shrubs, which provide a welcome protection against head wind. Such barriers are unfortunately missing in the Romanian continuation of the puszta. For obvious reasons we have tried to take the shortest route between Budapest and Gyula, instead of the (in theory) one day longer route as described in Clemens Sweerman's Limes part 2 guide (see alternative route on the map above). In practice our route wasn't much faster. Firstly, because our "Cycling around Hungary" guide indicated the road between Puzstavacs and Nagykörös as a cycle path on dirt road. However it was 10 km shifting sand; impracticable, even with 50 mm wide tires. Secondly, because the Tisza ferry between Veszeny and Martfü was no longer in operation, which forced us to taking the Tiszakécske - Tiszakürt ferry (25 km downstream).

Guides: Frigoria Publishing House, Budapest, 2006: Kérékpártúrák Magyarországon = "Cycling around Hungary" guide with 1:250,000 maps; text in Hungarian, German and English.
For the Romanian part of our tour we have used Clemens Sweerman's Limes fietsroute part 3 (Gyula - Constanta). The maps in this guide are excellent; you won't find any better. The guide is written in Dutch, but the maps are sufficiently informative to find your way. The descriptions are fine, but sometimes a bit dated. This part of the Limes route was surveyed in 2004. Infomation about road quality is not always correct anymore and there are definitely more shops (magazin mixt / magazin alimentar) along the route. Also a lot has been changed with respect to accomodations. There are quite a number of new hotels and pensiunea, while a few accommodations that are mentioned in the guide could not been found or were closed.

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Left: Cluj-Napoca with Orthodox Cathedral. Note the abundantly present power lines. Middle: Carpathian mountain range south of Vatra Moldovitei.
Right: a highly decorated gate clearly shows that the owner lives in comfortable circumstances.

Section VI.
Ineu - Gura Humorului.
668 km, average 18.9 km/h, 4770 hm.

Crossing the Carpathian mountains formed undoubtedly a scenic highlight of our tour through Romania. Climbing the Curmatura Boului (1040 m) and the Pasul Ciumarna (1109 m), respectively shortly before and after Vatra Moldovitei, are absolutely worthwhile. The Bucuvina is rightly world famous for its cultural heritage. We have visited the monasteries of Moldovita, Humor and Voronet. The last has, to our opinion, the most impressive decorations (see photos below). Cycling through the north-eastern part of Transilvania has given a good impression of Romanian rural life. Small villages with a combined Magazin Mixt and Bar provided us with food for lunch and good quality coffee. Most farmers still use horses and oxen to cultivate small sections of land for private use. Horse-drawn carriages can be seen everywhere (see photos at right). Needless to say that people are always very friendly and curious about our nationality and tour. Following the border of the Roman (!!) empire was greeted with much approval, but the idea of cycling more than 2000 km usually aroused disbelief or lack of understanding.

Guide: Limes fietsroute part 3 by Clemens Sweerman. We have taken the Beclean - Nasaud - Vatra Dornei route, as described in Sweerman's guide. Because there is no suitable track through the Muntii Bargau we have taken the train from Lunca Ilvei to Vatra Dornei (43 km). Note that you are only allowed to transport bikes in slow trains, indicated as "Personal" or "Accelerat". According to the 2009 timetable there are only three P-, or A-type trains per day, leaving Luna Ilvei at 6.14 (a.m.!), 15.58 and 19.59. From Lunca Ilvei to Vatra Dornei takes approximately 1 hour by Accelerat. It is advisable to check the CFR timetable on beforehand, for example at the information desk of the Cluj railway station.


Photos below: the sacred monastery of Voronet.
Top row, left: monastery with western and southern walls; middle: southern side apsis; right: martyrdom of St. John the New from Suceava (southern wall).
Bottom row, left: St. Nichols orders the demons to quit the temple; middle: part of the Last Judgement (covering the full western wall) showing Heaven with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (keeping the souls of those who are saved) and the Mother of God; right: river of fire of Hell.

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Left: spending a Sunday afternoon in Dragomiresti (prov. Vaslui). Middle: entrance to orchard farm nr. 3, northwest of Bârlad.
Right: row of Dacia 1300s in front of an apartment bloc in the centre of Bârlad.

Section VII.
Gura Humorului - Galati.
421 km, average 19.3 km/h, 2645 hm.

The section through the region of Moldavia has given us an impression of a less touristy area of Romania. One of the characteristics of such an area is the relatively high number of horse-drawn carriages, while the abundantly present Dacia 1300 - 1310 cars (based on Renault type R12; produced from 1968 till 2004) by far outnumber the modern Dacia Logans. To find accommodation we had to cycle on average more kilometers per day than elsewhere. The longest leg was from Roman to Bârlad (135 km and 1045 hm). In the southern part of Moldavia you can find vast agricultural areas, instead of the usual small sections for personal use only. In cities as Piatra Neamt, Roman and Bârlad, the detestable results of Ceausescu's "urban renewal" program can be seen: quite depressing, poor quality apartment blocs that have replaced traditional housing.

Guide: Limes fietsroute part 3 by Clemens Sweerman.

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Left: Donau delta. Middle: traditional house near Nufaru (prov. Tulcea). Right: bike parts for sale at the Sunday market in Sarichioi.

Section VIII.
Galati - Constanta.
418 km, average 18.6 km/h, 2280 hm.

We expected that the final part of the Limes tour, along the Donau delta and the Black Sea, would be easy going. However, because the delta area is almost completely deprived of roads you have to cross the foothills east of the delta. Ascends of 6-8% are no exception. Tulcea is the main gateway to the delta. All sorts of boat trips are offered for visiting the Parcul National Delta Dunarii. Small boats have the advantage that they can navigate through the more scenic narrow canals. Excavations show that the area along the delta was already colonized for several thousands of years. Remnants of Greek, Roman and Byzantine settlements can be seen, among others, west of Galati (Dinogetia), near Murighiol (Halmyris) and north of Jurilovca (Argamum). The largest and most important site is situated 8 km east of Istria (Histria; see photo below). Constanta (Tomis) has an archaeological park and interesting museum (Muzeul di Istorie Nationala si Arheologie Constanta).

Guide: Limes fietsroute part 3 by Clemens Sweerman. Note that map No. 36 of the Limes 3 guide shows a ferry across the Donau between Isaccea (Romania) and Orlivca (Ukraine). However, the ferry is no longer in operation and it is therefore not possible to cross the border at Isaccea. The nearest border crossing is just east of Galati, via Giurgiulesti (Republic of Moldavia) to Reni (Ukraine). In Galati we have not found any indication to this border crossing. Follow the Calea Prutului (E87), which is the continuation of the B-dul Basarabiei in easterly direction (port of Galati).

Airport of Constanta: the airport is located 25 km northwest of Constanta, near the village of Mihail Kogalniceanu. Leave Constanta via the B-dul Tomis and continue along the busy, four lane road to Ovidiu and further (National road No. 2a = E60). Clear signs to the airport are missing. A few hundred meters after passing the airport you will find a hotel (next to the petrol station). This is the only place to stay when your plane departs early in the morning (in our case 6 pm). The service offered is limited, but the alternative - cycling along the main road at night - is far more unattractive.

Left: Roman-Byzantine part of the archaeological site of Histria. Middle: Parcul Arheologic in Constanta. Right: Mission completed (Black Sea, Constanta).

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