1.5 From salt mine and Dracula castle
Updated: Aug 25, 2022
After a steep downhill ride of about an hour, we have now arrived back in the Aries Valley. Somehow quite relieved that it also goes well downhill. Our confidence in our vehicle grows with every kilometer of driving experience. We take the opportunity of a designated water refueling at a gas station. On the question, how much water I would like to have, I answer that approximately 200 liters will get in easily by now. The gas station attendant boss makes large eyes. He wants to give us a maximum of 100 liters. Apperently, there is a water shortage, because it has not rained extensively for a long time. He is right, indeed. Of course we respect the restriction and are thankful that we were allowed to get water at all under the given circumstances. We fill our tank to 60% with the knowledge that this will surely be enough for another week.
The ride leads through Motzenland down towards Turda, very winding and every now and then over old disused railroad sleepers, which indicate former mining activities. About 10 kilometers before Turda we make new camp for the night directly at the Aries river. Once again a wonderful area, actually pure nature, if there would not be the waste mountains of former visitors. We install ourselves also here immediately for two nights, so we thought. Because on the second day we get again an alarm of the government on our cell phone. This time not a heat alarm, but a storm alarm with indication of large amounts of rain and winds. When we take a close look at our situation, right at the water's edge in the wide river basin and a maximum of one meter above the current water level, our situation is suboptimal. After careful consideration, we prefer to retreat to somewhat higher ground. No sooner said than done.
About one kilometer further downstream we find an equally beautiful spot, which is about three meters above the current water level and offers us the desired safety.
The night becomes nevertheless one of the most restless nights so far, since we received neighbors, who did not keep to the current fire prohibition and held the whole night a gigantic campfire upright exactly in our wind direction. Fortunately the announced rain finally came. But there was no trace of storm and deluge. The drizzle didn't stop the pyromaniacs from partying through the night, barely fifty meters upwind from us.
The next morning we leave our sleeping place a bit unnerved and with a farewell by our unmistakable trucker horn. We drive through Turda to the disused salt mine on the north side of town.
The crowded parking lot let us understand that this Turda salt mine is one of the important tourist hotspots. Judging by the car signs, but mostly local visitors. Of course, we didn't pay attention to the fact that today is Sunday. We probably could have picked a quieter day. After a short wait at the ticket office, however, the visitors spread out within the mine and Sunday is no further a disadvantage.
The descent into the underground is relatively short compared to other salt mines we know from Romania or even Austria. A corridor about 700 meters long leads to the second, older entrance and the attractions are all located in the side passages.
It is said that salt has been extracted here since ancient times. However, the size of today has of course only been achieved in the last century and thanks to more modern excavation techniques. If you are interested in the technical details, you can read them here. For us, mainly the photographic and economic aspect is interesting. The largest hall, the Franz Josef Gallery, is very impressive with a depth of 120 meters. The Romanians have created here an attraction within the attraction. An amusement park was created here, which makes children's hearts beat faster. From the Ferris wheel to table tennis, miniature golf, billiards and boating in the underwater lake, here no wishes remain unfulfilled. Everything for the appropriate surcharge, of course. Among all those amuesement, the relics from the time of the active salt mine go a bit lost. But the imposing salt walls and ceilings remain omnipresent. And quite apart from the commercialism, there is still one consolation: a visit to the salt mine is healthy for the lungs, skin and immune system. So a visit is worthwhile in more ways than one ;-).
After the mine, food shopping is once again the order of the day for us. After all, we have been self-sufficient for over a week now, which means that our food and drink reserves are also at a low level. Turda also offers an amazing range of German products. Lidl and Kaufland are just opposite each other. Who is surprised, after all we are still in the middle of Siebenbürgen. Anyway, they offer us everything we need for the onward journey.
But the place we are aiming for today is a good hour further south on the highway. Leaving Turda, our GPS leads us to a road jumble like no other. You have to take a look at something like that, even if it's only on Google Maps. Here probably the state has pulled the taxpayer over the table several times. In any case, we are sent like on a roller coaster first in a big left loop, followed by a right loop, then again left and again right crisscross through the most impressive highway maze we have ever seen. And all this just because the A10 splits off from the A3 in a southwesterly direction. From New York or Tokyo you might be used to such road chaos, but Turda? Salt mine impressive. Freeway labyrinth priceless...!
The route south is beautiful. Gentle grass hills in all green variations alternate with lightly wooded hills. Besides a lot of corn you can also see grain, sunflower fields and livestock. The highway itself is also in top condition and, like so much else, far beyond the expectations of this perennially underrated country. Funnily enough, at every highway overpass, without exception, there is a warning sign with a 5.50 meter height limit. Once again, someone has earned a golden nose with this. How many trucks are higher than 5.50 meters?
Shortly after Alba Iulia we camp for the night. Again, in a fantastically idyllic place right on the Miresch River. Alba Iulia is definitely worth a visit. However, we know this city from a previous visit six years ago and therefore skip it for today. At the Park4Night location today is once again another overlander. Happens rarely enough. We give the van with roof tent a big enough distance. Today nothing with cuddling. Privacy or not, Brigitte throws a shy look with the binoculars to our wild camper neighbor. She thinks, looks like a van from Zurich. Somehow I can't take her seriously right away. Why should there be a Zurich overlander in this deserted place in the middle of Transylvania? After we have settled in, I just want to run over to see what the supposed Zurichers are all about. And there they already meet me. We have a nice evening with Karin and Werner from the northernmost town in the canton of Zurich. They are just on their way back after two months in the Balkans and Greece. August 1, Swiss National Day, is not until tomorrow, but one should celebrate the festivities when one has time to do so. The Appenzeller shots replace the white wine, the fantastic sunset is our fireworks.
The next day, our new Zurich friends leave. But we like it so much in this place that we take an extra day. Forced to, because the next item on the program, the visit to Count Dracula on the Castelul Corvinilor, is always closed on Mondays. We take the opportunity and once again take the fatbikes from the carrier. Fatbike Maintenance Day is announced and of course a small tour in the surrounding area.
When we drive into the site of Corvinilor Castle in Hunedoara, we are first amazed. It is not the castle that first catches our eyes, but the numerous palaces with silver and golden pointed roofs and even more pompous entrance gates. The Roma barons seem to be at home here, on the hill of the former iron processing city. For the sake of size, we park our big ship outside the official castle parking lot and spend the next two hours with Count Dracula. No, Corvinilor is actually not Vlad Tepes` (the "civil" name of the count) castle. But he is said to have been here several times, voluntarily and involuntarily. Corvinilor is, as expected, especially fascinating from the outside. It roughly corresponds to a fairy-tale castle from children's books. However, the first rooms after walking over the long access bridge and through the castle gate are anything but fairytale-like. They are dedicated to the torture chambers. We are amazed at how many parents take their children to see the gruesome reenactments in detail. Whether these are really history lessons or educational measures remains to be seen. Strolling through the other rooms can give us a good idea of how life might have been in the Middle Ages. The many reenactments and information panels, however, resemble more a museum and can inspire us less. But maybe it's also due to the increasing heat and the masses of tourists pushing through the narrow castle corridors.
So we didn't meet Count Dracula in person, and yet we feel pretty drained in the evening. But the day's stage takes us a few more kilometers. First we go to refuel fresh water to Fellow Camper Peter, who generously offers us a full fresh water tank for free. Afterwards we drive once more to an ingenious place before Silvasu de Jos with the horizon in approx. 70 kilometers distance and the edge of the forest in the back. A small oak tree gives us shade during the day, which we are really happy about. The place pleases us so well that we insert also here a small extension. We have coffee early in the morning with the shepherd of a huge flock of sheep and goats, which according to him includes 1000 head of cattle.
His four shepherd dogs also make friends with us very quickly, which may also be due to Brigitte's dog treats. In any case, they always like to steer the herd up to us and then rest in the shade of the Unimog. The herd can wait, the dogs set the pace.
As neighbors we have there also a small green lizard that has made a blackberry bush its home. We also discover deer and the many colorful butterflies around us. It strikes us that we have never observed nature as much as we do now. The slow travel is really doing us good. The word "deceleration" gets meaning here.
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