If you are looking for reasons to be satisfied that you are living in Romania, it is very easy to find them traveling through the country. We had this chance on the occasion of several excursions, school camps and holidays with our parents in different resorts. We caught the „good times” before 1989, when the resorts were full of ordinary tourists of all ages, when it was enough to have a Dacia car or get on the train to start a real holiday adventure. After the „Revolution” and „price liberalization” we were forced to discover the short time tourism, better suited to the „transition” budget. Even so we saw a lot and we understood that we Romanians are stuck in these lands because here are the roots, here is the labor and sacrifice of the forefathers, here is our dignity as a people before God and before the world.
With sadness, in the last 30 years we have realized which are the consequences of the greed and lack of respect for the people and nature: too many people with selfish interests, anxious citizens staring at the ground, bald mountains and increasingly rare forests, polluted rivers, degraded or dying resorts, underdeveloped road and rail infrastructure, and the on-water transport of people remaining merely as a memory (at least in Galați).
A country like Romania, with such great natural wealth, does not make a good pair with a nation that gets worse and decreases numerically. Perhaps we should look more closely at the beauty of Romania and regain the pride of being worthy inhabitants, so to stop the country being degraded. Without the claim of making a touristic presentation, we are trying to prove through images that our country deserves to be loved and not abandoned in these rather difficult times. If all of the antiquity roads were leading to Rome, now we can say that for us all the roads are going away from Galați...
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This is our city. Situated in the south of Moldavia, on the left bank of the Danube, between the mouths of Siret and Prut affluent rivers, Galați has an interesting geographic position. If you cross the Danube you are in Dobrogea, if you cross the Siret you are in Muntenia, and if you cross the Prut you are in Bessarabia. Looking on the map someone could think Galați is on a flat terrain, but in reality it has slopes that offer beautiful perspectives and sensations to those who like riding the bike through the city. Galați is big enough to offer you the opportunities of the civilized world, yet it does not suffocate you by its size. From anywhere, in half an hour, you can be on the cliff, looking across the Danube towards the Măcin Mountains and feeling like on vacation...
Galați is a former Moldavian little town of fishermen, merchants and craftsmen. The Orthodox Church „Precista” (translated „Most Holy Virgin Mary”), one of the historical landmarks of the city, dates from the mid-17th century and was built during the reign of Vasile Lupu. Galați developed rapidly in the nineteenth century as the commercial gateway of Moldavia and the United Principalities. At that time, various foreign merchants and businessmen settled in the town, which spurred the modernization of the town and erected beautiful edifices, a heritage that can still be seen in the central area of the city.
The city expanded according to new criteria in the socialist period, especially after the construction of the large Steel Works factory. In the first period green neighborhoods (Țiglina I, Țiglina II etc.) were errected, but then the strategy was changed and the crowded blocks of flats for the working class appeared.
In the „liberty times” after '89 we saw how a city can be disfigured when the interest in the public domain good becomes secondary to both authorities and the citizens. Fortunately, there are exceptions, and the signs of a return to normality begin to be noticed. The road to the modern city that we want is long, but it can be traversed faster investing more in education and the change of mentality. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, we've attached a set of photos from Galați ⇒ click the arrow button in the lower-right corner of the photo frame.
Being great amateurs of movement and nature, we did not miss the opportunity to make one-day rides on bicycle in the northwest Dobrogea. Crossing the Danube river by ferry to I.C. Brătianu (a village in Tulcea County), we had the opportunity to admire the Galați waterfront and felt the cool breeze of the Danube. On the way back we crossed again the Danube at Brăila, but the sensation was different, because the Danube is narrower there, the ferry went slower, and the crossing ticket was significantly lower priced for cyclists.
Once in Dobrogea, the atmosphere changes. Road traffic is much reduced, limited by the capacity and timing of ferries, and as a bicyclist you feel safer. The road is generally comfortable, but there are slopes that make your muscles work hard. However, with the excitement offered by the beauty of the view, pedaling becomes easier. The Măcin Mountains show you their heights of about three or four hundred meters, and the sunflower and corn fields make you feel in the countryside. There are plenty of opportunities (as everywhere in Romania) if you want to stop and eat something to gain new powers, but the essential thing is to not leave your home with an empty backpack. On the Măcin Arm of the Danube river (Old Danube), between Măcin town and Smârdan village, there is a picturesque fishing spot with quiet water, lilies and shady trees. If you go a little south to Greci village, you have the chance to see a spectacular face of the Măcin Mountains. These old, small scale mountains, are a good invitation for hikers and offer more delight on the spot than it would seem just seeing them from afar.
Going on these roads several times over the last few years, we have had occasion to reap new impressions. Some were enjoyable, such as the ferryboat crossing at Braila, at a time of great crowding on the Danube. Existence of the Măcin Arm, and multiple docks on both banks of the Danube complicates the river traffic and it is a delight to see the skills of the ship captains in these situations. Other impressions were less pleasant, for instance when we saw the fate of a whole string of trees along the road, that were ruthlessly cut off from the root.
During the childhood, at the geography classes, we learned the first things about the Măcin Mountains. We were told then that they are very ancient mountains, the oldest in our country. Looking at the map and seeing that their height barely exceeds 450m (their highest peak is Greci / Țuțuiatu - 467m), we immediately concluded that you can not expect anything spectacular or special from them. Moreover, in the very serene days, on the upper cliff of Galați, we could admire the „silhouettes” of these mountains, which did not really resemble what we had seen in the Carpathian Mountains.
In the last few years, by cycling around the area, we have discovered more of their wild beauty and have felt the invitation to hike through these mountains. Only when we finally had the opportunity to climb these mountains we discovered alive how wonderful they were. The views they offer, the feeling of being at a height and the unexpected climbing effort fully justify their name of „mountains”. Whoever does not believe us, do come to see them, but behave modestly so as not to disturb their charm...
Climbing the mountain was the central stage of a one-day cycling trip. We left Galați early in the morning. We crossed the Danube with the ferry at Brăila and after about three hours of pedaling we arrived in the village of Greci. One of the initiators of the trip, a young Franciscan friar settled at Galati, took care to put a good word for us. So we were received with great heart at the church of the Catholic community of Greci, the „Italian church” as it is said in the village. Here we rested for a while, we ate something and parked our bicycles in full security. The Catholics of St. Lucia's community in the village of Greci are descendants of Italian immigrants who came to these places at the beginning of the 20th century. The Romanian state wanted them to settle definitively here because they were very skilled in the exploitation and processing of the stone. We have been convinced of this seeing the mountain quarries and some stone fences down in the village.
We started walking towards the mountain with the desire to reach the Țuțuiatu Peak, the highest of the Măcin Mountains. The first stage was the „conquest” of the Ghiunaltu Peak, which rises in the eastern part of Greci. The climb to the top was not hard, but it took longer than we expected because we had to cross several successive slopes until we reached the top. The land is in many places covered with rocks and boulders, the diversity of rocks being very large. We were warned to step watchfully because there are vipers in the area, but we have not seen anything. The western slopes of the Măcin Mountains are generally covered with small vegetation, especially towards the foot of the mountain, but above there are clusters of trees, mostly short linden trees. The Ghiunaltu Peak gives you a wonderful view of the entire region, starting at the base of the mountain where the village of Greci is situated and up to the horizon, where you can see the Old Danube (Măcin Arm of Danube).
Only after you reach the Ghiunaltu Peak you realize that behind him it is the highest point - the Țuțuiatu Peak. The road to this is on a ridge, with a gap in the left that gives you the feeling of emptyness in the stomach. You really feel to be in the mountains... On the right side the mountain has the form of a horseshoe and here you can test the appearance of the echoes. Beyond the Țuțuiatu Peak, towards the east, begins the forested area of the Măcin Mountains, which we have left unexplored. Here, at the highest point of Dobrogea region, we had the surprise to meet two tourists from Nantes (France). They told us that they had come for the second time in the Măcin Mountains and that they were delighted with the originality of the land. We felt embarrassed because we were here for the first time, although we live in Galați, a city about 45 Km away on the road...
We returned to the village by descending on another slope and we passed a deserted stone quarry. Because of the effort we were very thirsty, and the water supply was over. At the first water well found in the village we drank cold and pure water, thinking about the good deed done by those who dug the well. Walking down the paths and streets we finally reached the church where we left our bicycles. The priest here invited us to come back, having the opportunity to stay there overnight, because the places are worth seeing leisurely. We said good-bye to our hospitable hosts and we jumped on the bikes, but we took note of what was written on the frontispiece of the church: „Nihil sine Deo... Nothing without God”.
We returned to Galați on the same road, but at the time of Danube crossing on the ferry it was already dark. We were lucky that two of us had powerfull bicycle lights, so we pedaled between them and we got home safely.
The impetus to make a bicycle tour of the Măcin Mountains came to us when the famous French Tour was taking place two thousand kilometers away. We knew from previous hiking how the western slope of the Măcin Mountains looks: rocky, wild and relatively poor in vegetation. But we also knew that these dwarfish mountains have a special diversity, able to surprise you. During the trip to the Țuțuiatu Peak in the previous year, we discovered a dense forest that did not allow us to see in the valley on the other side, so we was left with an unanswered question: how does the eastern slope of the mountain look like?
To find out the right answer, we decided to go around the mountains by bicycle. We studied the map to pick the route and to calculate the total distance on road, approximately 170 Km. We have judged that it can be done on a summer day if all available light hours are used and with a preliminary training of the muscles. In our case, the latter condition was fulfilled because we had already made a hundred-kilometer trip through Galați County, occasion to learn by experience that the midday's sun harshly burns the skin, especially that of the forearms, and that you must have a long-sleeved blouse when you go for several hours on the bike.
Knowing that the county road in the east of the Măcin Mountains goes through a forest area, we chose that direction of the route loop so that the first hours of the afternoon would reach us just when riding the bikes on the shady side of the mountains and under the coolness of the trees. The choice proved to be very inspired. The route we went was: Galați - Brăila - Smârdan - Măcin - Cerna - Horia - Nifon - Luncavița - Văcăreni - Jijila - Măcin - Smârdan - Brăila - Galați.
We left Galați at 6 o'clock, so we could catch the ferry at 7:30, at Brăila. The pedaling on the pier was a pleasure, accompanied by the smiles of our „little sisters” from the sunflower field. The temperature was ideal, and only a few peaceful clouds were floating in the sky, preaching a beautiful summer day. For crossing the Danube we took the ferry from the left wharf, because we found there the best price for cyclists (1.5 lei). During the embarkation and crossing, we witnessed interesting maneuvers made on the Danube by various river vessels and we were proud to be „citizens of the Danube” who can assist more often at such a show.
Once in Dobrogea, we saw again the pool with water lilies that lies beyond the town of Smârdan. Being the beginning of July and the beginning of a new day, the pool and the air above were crowded. The hungry birds were taking their flight and were landing all the time, creating an atmosphere comparable to that above a crowded airport. After we passed the town of Măcin, we traveled through an area with sunflower fields and recently harvested fields, where we enjoyed the singing birds and the insects making their noises. We smelt the perfume floating in the air, and we saw the numerous field flowers, especially the blue ones which were on the side of the road. We passed by the village of Greci, at the foot of the highest sector of the Măcin Mountains, and we entered the interesting hills zone. Here we pedaled on a long slope of about two kilometers, whose inclination was progressively rising to the top. We got ambitious and we managed to climb without putting our foot down on the road. At the top of the slope we stopped to regain the breath and to admire the landscape. This place is called Priopcea Pass (Chervant).
The eastern hill, the most imposing in the area, is called Priopcea and has a height of 410m. Some locals of the Greci village call it „Hill of Elijah”. We remarked it when we were hiking in the Măcin Mountains, because it is seen as a massive hill, with the tip cut off. After seeing it closely, we felt it deserves to be visited on the first occasion. We started cycling again, this time with the gravity by our side, and we traveled a few kilometers to Cerna village. Here we saw the pointer to the Memorial House Panait Cerna, the poet who lived at the end of 19th and the beginning of 20th century. After we passed by the General Praporgescu village, we have had to ride the bike on a sloped curve that took the butter out of us. We pulled our soul and climbed down the valley in full speed, overtaking a waggon drawn by two young horses at gallop, which also was descending at maximum speed to the Horia village.
Once in Horia village, we turned left and took DJ222A county road. After a while we saw Lake Horia, in the middle of a beautiful landscape. The Măcin Mountains began to reveal us their unseen face. We passed through Balabancea and Hamcearca, two very rustic Dobrogea villages. To the east of the Măcin Mountains is a large valley, with good land for agriculture, beyond which are the Niculițel Hills. The eastern slope of the Măcin Mountains is forested. The road we chose was of a good quality for the most part of it and with a reduced road traffic. Immediately after the village of Nifon the road enters the woods and winds up in the shade of the trees for more than 10 Km. This road sector is ideal for the cyclists.
At Cetățuia point (near Luncavița village) we stopped at a refurbished well with fresh, clean water. We were immediately greeted by two extraordinary „aggressive” pups, eager to bark at someone... Whoever wants, can see them in the attached picture set by clicking on the arrow button in the bottom right corner of the frame above. In Cetățuia we also found a modern information point with LCD touch panel and a presentation website, all perfectly functional. Congratulations to Luncavița village authorities and those who have made the info-kiosk and the touristic panels alongside the road!
In Luncavița we stopped for a while in the small park that surrounds the Heroes Monument, then we headed for Văcăreni. Here we turn left to Jijila, to get back to Măcin and close the bicycle loop. Before we entered the Măcin town, we had to cope with a heavy slope, which we had ridden on the bicycle about 5 years earlier, but then we were younger... and not so tired. This time we had to give up and to start pushing the bikes for some hundreds meters, saving energy to finish the trip. The last 35 kilometers were hard, as if they would never be over, but we finally got home at 10 PM, very tired but happy of all we have seen.
The next morning we checked our muscles and realized one thing: The Tour of France, so easy to watch on TV, is not at everyone's fingertips. You need strong muscles and iron will to run 150 ÷ 200 Km per day, almost every day, for 3 continuous weeks and, above all, against the clock...