Dateline: Galati


GALATI, ROMANIA — Once I’d made it back to Constanta, I had to figure out how to get back across the Danube. There was massive flooding all along the Danube delta, up to and well beyond the industrial port city of Galati. Nearby roads were submerged, and the ferries weren’t running. It boiled down to two options: retrace my route all the way back over the bridge at Fetesti, or take a slightly more direct route further north over the bridge at Harsova. I went with the latter.

There are vast swathes of southeastern Romania where there frankly isn’t much to see, but these vast expanses of nothing are interesting in and of themselves. For the first time on my trip I got to experience the feeling of being utterly alone, with nobody around for miles and miles. While the badly-irrigated terrain the road ran through was obviously being farmed by somebody, they certainly didn’t live nearby.

I have discovered the Saskatchewan of the northern Balkans

I have discovered the Saskatchewan of the northern Balkans

At the bridge, sure enough, the Danube was high. How high, momma? 673 centimetres high and risin’, according to the news. It had overflowed into the floodplains around the bridge, giving the impression of a lake with trees sprouting from it. Stealing glances left and right as I drove across, I had the unsettling sensation of seeing an enormous amount of water magically levitating above the horizon. This was my sixth and final crossing of the Danube on this trip.

And then I gunned it up towards Galati, where my brand new windscreen from Germany was waiting. Its broken predecessor, temporarily secured to my rucksack with a cheap bungee cord, had fallen off unnoticed somewhere outside of Budapest, and wind blast and noise had been getting to me in the meantime. The lack of a screen had also turned my bike jacket into a mass grave for insects. It was a bitch scraping off the encrusted glaze of bug guts every night, and I was really looking forward to installing this new piece of kit. As I drove, the road filled with convoys of military earth-moving equipment that were heading into town to build a 4-kilometre dike in a bid to save the industrial lowlands of the city.

Outside Galati, the countryside mellowed out and there were more and more sunflower fields, which is about as perfect a motif of the Romanian countryside as it gets.

The bucolic splendour of rural Romania

A little bit further along, you get your first glimpse of Romania’s largest iron and steel plant.

The modern splendour of Romanian heavy industry

That plant is simply massive — like something you’d see in Detroit, only way more apocalyptic. With the Looney Tunes Assembly Line Song stuck in my head, and a loosened clutch cable that was making navigation through rush-hour traffic very tricky, I made it to Oana’s just before she was about to leave for the evening. She wielded my prized package in one arm, and a baby in the other. Thanks, Oana, for accepting delivery! Joern in Hamburg had also snuck in a few extra goodies with the order, like different jets for high-altitude driving. Thank-you, Joern.

I am a happy camper

I then made my way through very badly cobbled streets to a guesthouse downtown, at which point it started to rain. And rain. And rain some more. I took advantage of this downtime to do a little work on the Hamburglar. The windscreen turned out to be huge, and it had the aerodynamics of a barn door, making every gust of wind a threat to the bike staying upright. So, I found a guy with a jigsaw who cut it down to a manageable size. I now have a windscreen just like Ponch’s in CHiPs.

Now all I gotta get is a tight-fitting police uniform

After a few days of watiting in this gosh-darned rain, I figured that it wasn’t going to let up anytime soon and that I should just make a run for it. I had the equipment, sort of, to handle the weather. And so, it was off to the former Soviet Union. Next stop: Chisinau, Moldova.

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