Ukraine & Romania Bike Tour

by jpc_touring-bicycle

After two-and-a-half months within the metropolis of Poznan, Poland, the time finally got here for me to get again on my bike and pedal out of Schengen Europe. In an effort to get out of Poland on time (so I didn’t overstay my 90-day restrict), I took a prepare from Poznan to town of Przemysl within the south-east nook of the nation. That is the place my “Biking Japanese Europe” bike tour would really start!

It was a protracted, 13-hour prepare journey to Przemysl, however the prepare journey was low cost (about $18 USD) and there was hardly anybody else on the prepare. About half-way by way of the journey, at round 1 within the morning, a person got here into my compartment and requested me for a cigarette. However once I mentioned that I didn’t have any (and that I don’t smoke), he gave me a extremely unusual look – as if that’s the case say, “No actually! Come on! Give me a cigarette. Only one!” However after a protracted look into my eyes, I feel he may inform that I wasn’t pulling his leg. I didn’t have a cigarette to offer him. So he shortly acquired up and moved on to the subsequent compartment.

Just a few hours later I heard raised voices (in a international language – Polish) and shortly realized that two males within the compartment subsequent to mine had been combating with each other. A second later, each males exploded out into the passageway that runs down the prepare automotive. They had been pushing one another and throwing blows. One of many males was the person who had requested me for a cigarette simply a short while earlier than. And from what I may perceive (my Polish is admittedly unhealthy, however I do know slightly), the lads had been combating as a result of the one man had taken one or a number of cigarettes from one other man… and the second man wished some cash for the cigarettes that the primary man took.

On the subsequent prepare station, the person who had requested me for cigarettes was pressured off the prepare and he shortly walked away – not fairly believing that he had been booted from the prepare (or possibly, not fairly believing {that a} stranger would get so upset whenever you take one thing from them with out cost of any sort).

As soon as in Przemysl, I rolled my bike off the prepare after which walked for a short time across the metropolis. It was solely 11 AM at this level, and the resort the place I used to be planning to remain that evening within the metropolis mentioned I couldn’t test into my room till 2 PM, so I wandered up onto the hillside overlooking the city and located a spot within the grass to sit down and relaxation. Excessive up on the hill, proper close to the native ski resort, I laid down within the grass and appeared up on the sky because the solar got here out and crammed me with heat for the primary time in a number of months. It had been a chilly, darkish winter in Poland. I hoped that the solar was an indication of excellent climate to return over the subsequent a number of weeks.


After an evening in Przemysl, I loaded up my bicycle and all the things I personal and headed south. I may have crossed the border into Ukraine that very day (solely 10 km or so from Przemysl), however I made a decision to go the longer, extra scenic route by way of the mountains south of town after which cross into Ukraine the next day. So I cycled south and into the mountains. Fortunately, the mountains in Poland aren’t that huge and I used to be capable of simply cowl a good quantity of distance – although this was my first day of long-distance biking in over three months. (My earlier bike tour was in Taiwan.)

Watch the video beneath to see what the highway appears to be like like on this a part of south-eastern Poland:

I may have simply crossed over into Ukraine that first day, nevertheless it was getting fairly late by the point I reached the border space, and I may inform by wanting on the map that it could be tough to discover a place to remain or camp as quickly as I crossed over into Ukraine. So once I noticed a distant forest highway close to the border in Poland, I traveled down it a methods and pitched my tent within the forest.


It was a darkish, chilly evening (significantly, freezing chilly!), however I survived by sporting every bit of clothes that I presently posses. And I entertained myself by listening to podcasts and studying ebooks on my smartphone. I used to be slightly chilly at instances, however total, I loved myself.

The next day, I packed up my campsite, rolled my bike again out to the highway, after which cycled a brief distance (in all probability lower than 10 km) to the Poland/Ukraine border close to the city of Kroscienko. It was right here that I encountered my first subject with biking in Ukraine.

As I pulled as much as the border, I may see that there have been a bunch of locals standing on the facet of the highway, making an attempt to flag down passing automobiles. They weren’t younger individuals, so I knew they weren’t prostitutes (one thing I’ve seen in lots of different nations all all over the world), however I wasn’t positive precisely what was happening.

After I rolled as much as the border, nevertheless, I shortly found that Ukraine (or this specific border crossing – I’m undecided which) was not permitting pedestrians or cyclists to cross by way of the border. You needed to be in a automotive or truck… or driving a bike.

That being mentioned, I gave the border guards my passport and stood with my bicycle – ready. A couple of minutes later, they handed my passport again to me and mentioned that I may undergo the border on my bike, however that I wanted to observe the auto in entrance of me and undergo the border with them. In order that’s precisely what I did. I teamed up with the stranger in entrance of me (an outdated Ukrainian man driving a beat up Honda Civic-style sedan), and after our paperwork was checked (collectively), we each drove by way of the border into Ukraine.

Little did I do know, I’d have this very same drawback when making an attempt to exit the nation every week later – however the individuals on the opposite facet weren’t going to be fairly as accommodating.


Getting into Ukraine was an attention-grabbing expertise – not as a result of something essentially attention-grabbing occurred to me, however as a result of I’ve cycled throughout Ukraine earlier than (through the winter of 2012).

Throughout my first bicycle tour throughout Ukraine, I entered the nation on a sunny day, however once I woke the next morning, I used to be surrounded by a thick, darkish and freezing chilly fog that didn’t go away for the complete 1-month that I used to be within the nation. The fog was so thick that I may barely see only a few meters up the highway, and the moisture within the air hung to all the things it touched – my clothes, my tent, my panniers, and many others.

This time round, I entered Ukraine on one other clear and sunny day. Like earlier than, nevertheless, the air was chilly and I do know that winter circumstances could possibly be encountered at any time. With my jacket on, however my rain pants packed away, I cycled east to town of Khyriv after which south to Staryi Sambir.


As soon as in Staryi Sambir, I got down to discover a financial institution or ATM machine and withdraw some Ukrainian cash. A tall, stunning girl standing on the facet of the highway sporting a darkish black trench-coat pointed me in the precise route. Although my map mentioned that there have been three ATM machines on the town, I may discover just one. The primary ATM machine was lacking utterly. The second was there, however was not in operation. And the third one, once I lastly approached it, would solely let me withdraw a small amount of cash (not more than 1000 Ukrainian hryvnia – about $45 USD). When the person behind me in line on the ATM tried to withdraw cash, he was refused. So he went in and requested the financial institution supervisor what was fallacious. The supervisor shrugged his shoulders and mentioned, “We’re all out!” (Or at the least, I assume that’s what he mentioned, as a result of I don’t communicate Ukrainian). And everybody else in line behind me immediately turned on their heels and walked away.

I had lower than $50 USD to my identify…. and I hoped it might be sufficient to get me to the subsequent main metropolis alongside my route. Little did I do know at this cut-off date simply how cheap issues in Ukraine presently are.


After leaving Staryi Sambir, I started biking up a protracted, regular incline. It was so lengthy and unfold out that there have been instances once I had no thought I used to be going uphill. It was solely once I stopped and look again at the place I had come from that I may inform I used to be certainly climbing a large mountain.

After a full day of biking by way of run-down Ukrainian villages, I used to be amazed to see a contemporary, camping-style lodging on the prime of the hill. The gate out entrance was locked and there have been no automobiles or individuals in sight (I used to be touring by way of the realm effectively out of the summer time and winter vacationer seasons), however I believed there could be somebody inside. So I climbed underneath a gap within the fence and walked inside the massive cafeteria on the correctly.

Inside, I may see a lady on the far finish of the constructing, speaking to somebody on the cellphone. I approached the lady at midnight and tried to get her consideration – not desirous to frighten her. However when she noticed me, she didn’t pay me in the least of consideration. In truth, she tried to wave me away, saying one thing like, “Go away! There’s no meals right here.” However I wasn’t after meals. I wished a heat place to sleep for the evening. I laid my palms up towards the facet of my head and closed my eyes, as if I had been taking a nap… and the lady immediately understood.

“Oh! I’m sorry,” she mouthed to me in Ukrainian. “Sure, we do have a spot so that you can sleep tonight. Maintain on one minute!” (I’ve turn out to be fairly good at studying individuals’s minds – even supposing we don’t communicate a standard language).

The outdated girl fetched her husband who spoke slightly German (which I do know slightly of) and I defined that I wished a spot to sleep for the evening. He mentioned it might be 150 UAH (about $7.00 USD) and I fortunately accepted. After locking my bicycle in a shed close to a locked up hound, the person had his son stroll me to my room (pictured beneath). The place was removed from the fanciest lodging I’ve ever stayed in… and there was no heat water to talk of (simply freezing chilly snow water), nevertheless it was low cost and comparatively heat – particularly after they fired up {the electrical} flooring heater. For less than seven {dollars}, I actually couldn’t complain. It was a freezing chilly evening out… and I used to be pleased to be indoors. Glad to be again in Ukraine!


The subsequent morning I packed up my bike and hit the highway as soon as once more, making ready for one more lengthy day on the bicycle. Little did I do know on the time, I’d be spending nearly the complete day driving up a large mountain go. It was chilly and windy and I struggled with regulating my temperature – making an attempt to remain heat and comfy, however not so heat that I began to sweat.


The roads had been tough and the potholes had been huge. However the surroundings was spectacular and there have been hardly any automobiles on the highway. The few automobiles that did come up from behind me could possibly be heard coming from an excellent half-kilometer away. The potholes within the highway are an excellent alarm system… and so they decelerate the automobile visitors tremendously.


As I approached the highest of the go, snow began to dot the bottom. Decrepit wood houses had been scattered throughout the panorama and the terrain turned increasingly distant (the form of stuff that I like greatest).



I took my time and stopped on a number of events to take photographs and easily take within the surroundings. There was hardly a soul in sight… and people who did go me on the highway had been pleasant and well mannered.


I knew I used to be nearing the highest of the go once I noticed a ski raise working up the facet of the mountain after which handed a big signal welcoming Ukrainian guests to the ski resort within the space.


Then, someplace proper close to the highest of the mountain, I noticed a barricade going throughout the center of the highway and I believed, “Oh no! They’ve closed the highway on account of snow and I’m not going to have the ability to get by way of this fashion.” I took a photograph of the barricade after which moments later was approached by two Ukrainian troopers in full camouflage – every carrying at the least 1 or 2 massive weapons. It was then that I noticed the barricade wasn’t there for the snow. It was a army checkpoint!


To make a protracted story brief, the troopers checked my passport after which requested that I delete the photograph I had taken of their barricade on the prime of the mountain. I used to be positive with that. I deleted the photograph… after which they waved me on my means. I had reached the highest of the mountain… and I used to be positive it was going to be all downhill from there. Boy, was I proper!



After a protracted, stunning, sundown journey down the southern-facing facet of the mountain, I slammed on my brakes whereas coming into the tiny village of Uzhok.


There, on the northern-most a part of town, was a big, modern-looking vacationer recreation heart, with log-cabin model villas, a restaurant, workplace, ATV leases, a picnic space and a complete lot extra. After loading up on foods and drinks on the small store throughout the road, I went contained in the rec heart to inquire a couple of room for the evening. For lower than $11 USD, I used to be given THE MOST stunning lodging of my total bike tour!


Not solely was my log-cab-style room clear, heat and delightful, however there was even wi-fi Web – means out right here in the midst of nowhere within the mountains of Ukraine.

After showering and dressing in my warmest off-the bike garments, I went for a brief stroll across the village after which returned to the rec heart simply in supper time.


There was a small, round constructing on the property that I knew was a restaurant, nevertheless it appeared as if I used to be the one vacationer within the rec heart, so I wasn’t positive if, after coming into the restaurant, anybody can be in there. I used to be slightly frightened to enter truly, as a result of it was darkish inside and the home windows had been blacked out from the outside. It was like coming into a darkish cave.

On the within, nevertheless, I used to be delighted to see a heat, cheery room, adorned with inexperienced plastic vines hanging from the ceiling and the round pillars that ran across the heart of the constructing. At a number of tables lining the wall had been two or three teams of individuals consuming dinner and/or having fun with their drinks.

I approached the bar and requested the younger, blonde girl behind who was clearly the one employee within the place if I may see the menu. She instructed me to sit down and she or he introduced the menu over to me. It was fully in Ukrainian and I couldn’t learn a factor, so I requested the lady if she had something that was vegetarian. She didn’t communicate English, however I may inform she understood me. A couple of minutes later, she introduced me a small bowl of mushroom soup and a big salad consisting of nothing greater than beets, carrots and burnt brown beans. The salad was my favourite! And the most effective half was, the complete meal value me solely $2.25 USD.

The next day was my favourite day in Ukraine… and it was my favourite as a result of it was nearly fully downhill… by way of among the most stunning surroundings within the nation.


I had deliberate on solely biking about 40-50 kilometers that day, as a result of the day earlier than had been so tough. However as a result of I used to be flying downhill, I used to be capable of simply cowl the 90+ miles to town of Uzhhorod – my first main metropolis in Ukraine.



I used to be excited to see what Uzhhorod was all about. After having spent the previous few days touring by way of the take away villages of south-eastern Poland and western Ukraine, I used to be wanting ahead to being in a significant metropolis the place there can be extra meals decisions.


It took me some time to discover a place to sleep for the evening although. The primary two accommodations I attempted had been all booked up, the third resort was means too costly, and it wasn’t till I had cycled all the best way across the metropolis that I lastly discovered a resort proper close to the middle – for less than $10 USD per evening. I really like bicycle touring in elements of the world the place I can truly afford to sleep indoors at evening.



Somewhat than rush off down the highway, I made a decision to remain in Uzhhorod, Ukraine for yet one more evening. I spent the day strolling across the metropolis, taking photographs, taking pictures video, watching the individuals and easily exploring.








That evening, I ate pizza at an area restaurant. The place was stuffed with households and pals and younger individuals on dates… and I sat at a desk within the nook all on my own. Not my definition of enjoyable! And the pizza wasn’t excellent both. I don’t get pleasure from consuming out… and I actually don’t love to do it once I’m touring alone.

That evening my resort moved me into one other room. This room value me $13 per evening and was supposedly the fanciest room in the complete place. It had an enormous balcony overlooking the resort courtyard, however I used to be unable to get the recent water to work, so I went that evening and not using a bathe.


Trying again on it now, I ought to have stayed in Uzhhorod at the least one or two extra nights. I used to be in no rush to proceed down the highway. In truth, I used to be already means forward of schedule. However I did pack up and go away town after solely two nights there… and that’s once I immediately switched from taking a lot of photographs… to taking pictures a lot of video.

The video above is way from polished, nevertheless it provides you a style of what I did that day throughout my bike journey from Ukhhorod to Berehove, Ukraine. I posted this brief (and actually incomplete) little video to Bicycle Touring Professional’s YouTube channel, considering I’d get loads of damaging feedback about it, however I used to be shocked to see that folks actually loved the slice-of-life have a look at my life on the highway. In truth, individuals had been asking for extra movies like this… so I made a decision proper then and there that I’d begin taking pictures extra video… and that’s precisely what I did.


Leaving Berehove, Ukraine, I began taking pictures tons of little video clips on my smartphone. Not focusing an excessive amount of on manufacturing high quality, I started to try to merely inform the story of my day on the bike by way of my smartphone’s video recorder. The video beneath is actually the primary full episode of my new bicycle touring vlog sequence. Watch it… and I feel you’ll have a fairly good sense of what it’s prefer to go bicycle touring (not solely in Ukraine, however wherever on this planet).

Biking out of Ukraine was a problem, as a result of as soon as I reached the border the guards there refused to let me by way of on my bicycle. They insisted that although the border was a flat, completely paved highway that was not more than 100 meters lengthy, I needed to catch a journey from a passing automobile. I couldn’t merely cycle throughout the border.

So I stood on the border for greater than two hours, making an attempt to catch a journey with each passing automobile. However this was a distant border crossing with few automobiles or vehicles passing by way of. These automobiles that did arrive on the border had been both too small to hold each me and my full-loaded touring bicycle, or they had been already so stuffed with stuff that they did no have room for me. There have been just a few vans that handed by way of the border that did have room for me, however for no matter motive, the drivers didn’t need to assist me out. So I stood with my bike on the border for a really very long time, simply ready for a sort particular person to return alongside and provides me a journey.

Fortunately, I did finally get a journey by way of the border with a person named Dan, who instructed me he was a border guard himself. After taking my bicycle aside and loading it into the again of Dan’s automotive, we had our passports checked and had been, only a few minutes later, in Romania.

After I requested the Ukrainian border officers why I couldn’t undergo the border on my bicycle, they mentioned it was as a result of the Romanian border officers wouldn’t permit it. However once I acquired to the Romanian border, I requested the border officers there why I had not been allowed to journey by way of the border on my bicycle, and so they mentioned it was as a result of the Ukrainian border officers wouldn’t permit it. Sounds to me like neither of those individuals know why this rule is in place. It’s only a silly rule that somebody got here up with… and each side are following the rule, regardless of not figuring out why it’s a rule within the first place.

As a substitute of dropping me proper on the opposite facet of the border, Dan drove me about 50 kilometers away to town of Carei, Romania – which is the place he lives. He dumped me out in a grocery retailer car parking zone after which I used to be pressured to place my bicycle again collectively and discover a place to sleep for the evening.

The next day, I packed up my issues and started biking south by way of the flatlands of northern Romania. After an excellent, lengthy day on the bike, I pushed my bike uphill into a close-by mountain forest and spent the night tenting in my tent. It was heat sufficient to sleep exterior that evening, and I truly needed to take away a few of my garments as a result of I used to be getting too sizzling.

However the good climate didn’t final. It acquired fairly chilly after that, and for the remainder of my bike journey throughout Romania I used to be sporting both one or each of my two jackets. Rain and snow had been in my future!

It took me just a few days to get again on monitor after Dan (the Ukrainian border guard) had dropped me off in Carei, Romania, however I finally acquired again on the route I had deliberate to take throughout the nation.

After I reached town of Targu Mures, I felt slightly bit at dwelling, as a result of this can be a metropolis that I’ve been to earlier than. After discovering a pension on the outskirts of town, I met up with a younger Bicycle Touring Professional reader named Gergo who lives in Targu Mures. We met at a close-by gasoline station after which cycled throughout town to a restaurant the place we loved a pizza collectively. We spoke about probably doing a little biking collectively later this summer time… so that you’ll have to remain tuned to see if we’re capable of make that occur.

The bike journey from Targu Mures to the close by metropolis of Sighisoara, Romania was a brief one (solely about 55 km), however there was a good-sized hill or two alongside the best way.

I used to be greater than every week forward of schedule at this level and my last vacation spot of Brasov, Romania was actually solely a two-day bike journey away. So, somewhat than speeding straight to Brasov, I made a decision to spend a whole week in Sighisoara.

I’m glad I did too, as a result of Sighisoara is a gorgeous little city with a lot of good mountain climbing trails within the close by forests… and s few good eating places scattered in regards to the metropolis as effectively.

Throughout my relaxation days in Sighisoara I did loads of pc work, I went mountain climbing, biking, and even discovered just a few native geocaches. Have you ever ever gone geocaching?

When my time in Sighisoara lastly got here to an finish, I used to be slightly unhappy to go away. If you spend a lot time in a spot, you get slightly connected to it and it’s tough to say goodbye, figuring out you won’t ever get again.

However I did finally pack up my issues and cycle out of town – by way of the mountains and south to town of Fagaras, Romania. It was tremendous chilly and snowing throughout my bike journey by way of the hills, nevertheless it was an excellent, scenic bike journey, and I used to be capable of finding one other heat and inexpensive place to spend the evening.

The subsequent day, I had probably the greatest bicycle touring experiences I’ve had in recent times. The journey from Fagaras to the close by metropolis of Rasnov, Romania was a brief one (about 50+ kilometers), however there was a big mountain go I would wish to cross over… and the go was coated in snow! Watch the video beneath and also you’ll see what I needed to do with the intention to attain town of Rasnov. It was chilly and hilly, nevertheless it was significantly my favourite day of the complete bike tour!

Nonetheless forward of schedule, I spent two nights in Rasnov, Romania. Throughout my relaxation day within the metropolis I went on a protracted hike within the mountains and encountered dinosaurs (sure, dinosaurs!). I additionally snuck in and explored the Rasnov Fortress which sits on the mountain prime excessive above town heart.

Then I cycled an excellent brief 10 kilometers up a steep, snow-covered mountain highway to the close by resort city of Pioana, Romania – which is the place I’d spent my final evening earlier than biking down the mountain the next day and checking into my condominium within the heart of Brasov, Romania.

And that’s what I did. After greater than 22 days of continuous journey, I coasted down the mountain to the middle of Brasov, Romania (a metropolis I spent a month residing in throughout my 2012 bike tour throughout Europe), and I checked into my new condominium.

I’ll be spending the subsequent two months residing in Brasov earlier than packing up my bike as soon as once more and cycle west towards Serbia and Bosnia after which spending the remainder of the summer time biking within the Scandinavian nations of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

So watch the video beneath to see what it appears to be like like right here in stunning Brasov, Romania…. after which keep tuned for extra bicycle touring adventures within the very close to future!

Please let me know in the event you like these little every day bike touring vlog movies. In case you like them, I’ll make extra of them. And the extra I make, the higher they’ll get. So that you’re feedback listed here are drastically appreciated!


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