The tenth day of Autocar’s tour around Europe in the new Nissan Qashqai felt like something of a milestone. We’d made good on the roads back into the European Union on Tuesday, ending that leg of our journey in Bucharest, Romania’s capital.
Before we left Bucharest yesterday morning, we drove into the centre of the city to survey the Palace of the Parliament.
The building, a money-no-object construction at the behest of Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu at a time when millions of ordinary Romanians were struggling to make ends meet, is breathtakingly enormous.
To reach it, you drive up a long, wide boulevard, and the Palace comes into view about 1.5 miles away. It’s only when you park up in the square adjacent to the building that its true size becomes apparent.
Drivers in Romania seem forceful and committed, rather than genuinely erratic as we’ve seen in some countries we’ve visited. It’s a little easier to judge what they’re going to do next. A car sitting a couple of inches from your rear bumper is something you get used to.
In a way, we’re spoilt in Britain due to our extensive motorway and dual carriageway network; here, there are predominantly A-roads, so Romanians who are keen to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time get very adept at overtaking at the slightest possible opportunity.
Similarly, if a motorist turning left across the traffic is lingering, the guy behind doesn’t think twice before swooping around his outside to make the turn.
We didn’t linger long in Bucharest because our snapper Stan suggested stopping off to see Bran Castle, which is purported to have been Dracula’s residence.
As we left the capital, Stan found an unintended use for the Qashqai’s panoramic sunroof; if you were unable to see the traffic light signals on either side of the road due to high-siding traffic, you could peek out of the roof to check when the overhead lamp changed.
We headed north on a stretch of very new and very empty motorway, something that’s been a regular feature of many of the countries we’ve visited on this trip.
Then we took an older road towards Bran. It snaked up into the mountains, through small towns that bustled with various kinds of industry. We’re not sure all of them were completely above board: we saw one man selling puppies from the bonnet of his car parked at the side of the road.
The castle wasn’t quite what I was expecting; in my mind I’d anticipated a gloomily gothic, grey-slabbed and daunting creation perched high on a remote precipice. I thought it actually looked rather quaint, especially nestled among the tourist industry that’s grown up around the town.