2015 is the 10th year I have began traveling abroad... 10 years and I feel that I have change both as a traveler and as a man. This year out travel team composed from two members of MotoRiders Club as professional and other obligations operated deterrent to others.
Although I am not used to visit the same countries and –more special- the same destinations, this year I made an exception. An exception could be made for very few countries, one of which is Romania. A country where more than the fact I really like it, are mainly the emotional bounds with the county.
Political and social situation in July, had as an affect the uncertainty about the future, something that made the plans of trip seams not a priority. The Romania as a possible destination was probably the only way. A trip to Romania did not requires boat and also the fact that this country was not unknown to us, could give us an at last minute choice for a travel.
We agreed our departure for Monday morning, giving an appointment to my house having as first destination the small village of Agistro located very close to the Greek-Bulgarian borders. Stratos found a small hotel close to the natural spa of this region. Our aim was to spend the night as closer was possible to the border, so the next day could arrive early in Bucuresti with the least possible delay.
DAY (1) - Monday 03/08/2015
Athens - Agistro (632 km)
At 10:30 a.m. Stratos arrived in my house and without major delays we started northward following the monotonous Athens - Thessaloniki motorway, the temperature was high – fortunately better than the previous day’s heat wave! We drive in a not very fast temp and we had some small stops for refueling , coffee and conversation... despite the fact that we had helmet intercom !!! We made a stops at Almyro, Kastro and just before Serres. Finally we arrived in the Agistro village , which located 8km from the border post Bastion.
Agistro was found almost by accident... and I say "almost" because I had heard before the natural spa of this area. Stratos searching the internet, discovered the existence of hotel in this village including a spa! So we decide to try it. The price was very good, about 45 euros (including breakfast) for the room and extra 15 euros for the usage of the spa for 30 minutes (regardless persons number).
As we were close to Thessaloniki, we talked with Achilleas hoping to meet him. Of course, as expected, he accepted the invitation and we gave an appointment for 8pm. We followed the signs at the intersection just before the customs station in order to arrive at village. The road from this point to Agistro village was green route, something which made our mood better for our choice. Very easily we arrived at the Hotel HAMAM. The nice located complex has outdoor pools (roofing) operating as spa. However, there is a spa room that is connected to the hotel and is the oldest. Hotel staff informed us that aged from Byzantine times and the difference with the rest is that you can reach it without move out of the central hotel building. As expected we book it in order to try it.
The baths were known in the past, residents used them for bathing, laundry, etc. The water is coming from Tsigeli Mountain and it temperature reaches 41 degrees. Periodically the temperature decreases. At the time we use it, the temperature was close to 38 degrees. The flow of the water reaches 400 cubic meters per hour.
At 8pm Achilleas arrived with very good mood. He had revisited the place and he knew the whole scene. After 30-40 minutes we were invited to use the spa, the booking include the exclusively use of spa and no the sharing with other residents. The space was simple and clean. It looked liked old, with some renovation elements. In the one wall, there are three holes for the incoming water that filling the small pool. This spa side was configured in a way to give you the ability to sit close to the holes and bathing with the hot water as making massage. The feeling was amazing!!!
After the spa, as it was expected, we feel very hungry. Achilleas proposed for food a place he had visited in the past so we moved to the tavern named Ksilino Horio, located very close to our hotel. Essentially this was another hotel complex. The food was good and cheap. After the dinner we stayed at tavern for some more time chatting and making fun, something that is a fact when Achilleas is part of our company! At 1.30 o'clock we returned to our room, we had not understood how we had spent the time... This trip started with the best conditions!!!
DAY (2) - Tuesday 04/08/2015
Agistro - Bucuresti (596 km)
We woke up at 7:30 am as Achilles wanted to arrive in time to his work, and we also wanted to depart early because we did not know the road condition in Bulgaria. Various reports have worried us speaking for road works, detours and delays on the bridge crossing the Danube at Russe - Gurgiu.
After we got our breakfast, it was time to say good bay with Achilleas. We pass the border station with no delays and a typical check. The all procedure is very quick as the border guards of the two neighboring states co-located in a common building and check is carried out concurrently. At the 10:30 am we were on Bulgarian territory, following the signs to Sofia. A new highway had replaced a big part of the old road, enabling us to move more quick and safety without anxiety about possible police blockades. The temperature was very good, making our driving more pleasant and enjoyable.
The time rolled very pleasantly, covering the approximately 180 km in order to reach close to the Bulgarian capital. And I say "close", since about 30 km before the city the new motorway led us to a node. The one node output leads according the plates to the old road known for me, the other according the plates informing that we could pass transit the city. Having stopped just before this node to make our decision, a van driver stopped to help us. He speaking Greek, obviously in the past had worked in Greece. He informed us that continuing straight was the right choice, because in the old roads there were reconstruction projects. So we take the risk of the unknown and moved straight...
We moved on the road and with the help of maps I had stored on my tablet we finally arrived at junction leading to Varna and Vidin, the intersection was the classic I had used every time I had Russe as destination.
We continued on a good pace, without troubles. With only a short stop before Pleven, we arrived at borders. We were anxious for the road situation because we had information about big delays because of reconstruction projects. The first signs were not the best... A huge queue -about two km- of trucks had formed before the border and closer to the borders a large number of passenger vehicles were moving slowly in order to pass the check point.
We skip the queue and we continued until the trucks check point without know what exactly was better to do. A man looked like as border officer, make signal to us to move forward. We moved quickly and cross the border without any check... finally we was in European Union territory so checks had no mean for tourist…
Almost until the middle of the bridge all was ok then we found a long queue of vehicles almost stopped. The one lane was closed, consequence the move of the vehicle be performed by only one stream. Skip in the grade it was feasible, several cars and finally we entered in the queued, continuing slowly until the end of the bridge. After the torment was over, we realized that it was painless, compared to what it was possible to have face!!!
We finish with the border checks in Romania territory and after we had refueled we continued for the last 60 km of the day. The road to the Bucharest was considerably better compared with the past... At 7pm we entered in capital and you cloud distinguish my joy and under the helmet! Whenever I feel good when I come back to this city...
We was luck as the traffic was the minimal and soon we arrived at the Ibis Hotel (30euro) which is located behind the Parliament Palace, after the cross of the street with fountains, which sparkle in the sunset light... We moved in the room, were we make a bath and then we decided to go for food, where other?... Of course in the La Mama restaurant which we prefer in every visit to the city.
Before returning to the hotel we parked the bikes in Revolutiei square and made a short stop, photographing, but mainly informing Stratos for this area with lot reports to the past...