Bicycle rides, bats, and Brasov. There are few things lovelier, in my opinion, than a leisurely bicycle ride on a springtime evening. This is especially the case when cycling down the narrow cobbled streets, or the vast, communist constructed highways, of a little and ancient walled city you’re just discovering, surrounded by friends and the sunset turning warped wooden gingerbread spires, and somewhat bleak, but painted peach, tower-blocks, into slate-grey silhouettes against a mountainous horizon, the air around you alive with the sounds of hundreds of bicycles, bells, and car horns, the still slightly icy wind scattering pastel patterns of apple blossom petals around you as you pedal onwards.
In late April, Mike and I travelled to Brasov, Romania, to meet up with our friend Darren Alff, the super adventurous owner of the website Bicycle Touring Pro, and ice cream sandwich connoisseur. Darren has been travelling around Europe on his bicycle for many months now, and having last crossed paths over a year ago in California, before setting off on our separate travels, the opportunity to meet up and regale each other with stories of our past year’s adventures seemed entirely too precious to pass up on.
We enjoyed a week together, in Brasov, and I was overwhelmingly impressed by the city, and it’s surrounding mountains, enchanting deep green and amethyst wild-flower meadows, and dense, atmospheric, coniferous forests, home to brown bears, lynx, and wolves, perhaps one of the last truly wild forests of Europe.
The week was spent hiking, playing games of scrabble, catching sticky hot crowded buses to shut-for-the-summer ski resorts, taking part in a critical mass bike ride, eating heaping bowls of avocado salad and strawberries, countless flaky apple strudels purchased from the pastry store in the town centre, with it’s little hole in the wall, through which the equivalent of 50 cents is passed in exchange for a delicate but sizeable and slightly warm pastry of your choice, and jars of Zacusca, a rich, deep red vegetable sauce, made of aubergines, courgettes, tomatoes, and peppers, and flavoured with bay leaves. We spent a night camping out in the Transylvanian forest, climbing up trickling streams of snow-melt, the last of the evening’s sunbeams pouring lazily through the gaps between pines, casting intricate patterns on the forest floor, and baked sweet potatoes and bananas with chocolate, wrapped in tinfoil, on the gently hissing, crackling, camp-fire, whilst scaring each other with tales of bears and vampires.