Storms were forecast over the Carpathian Mountains in central Romania and Alex, our host in Iasi, had recently sent me some photographs of a German Cessna 182 which had been destroyed by an encounter with a storm and violent hail. With this at the front of my mind, I decided we’d make a relatively early start and fly during the morning, hopefully beating any storms! A short taxi ride to the airport, and the very efficient handling agents had us back at the airport and ready for departure in no time. To the southwest were dark, ominous clouds, and as we started up light rain started to fall. We followed the “follow-me car” as we taxied past the old cold war era fighter bunkers, and not a moment too soon we took off and turned en-route to the northeast.
ATC cleared us to climb straight to 11,000ft – in the end, we couldn’t quite manage the climb gradient they demanded so they relented and allowed us to turn on course across the mountains as we passed 10,000ft. There was no other traffic at our level and ATC gave me free reign to deviate left and right as required to avoid build-ups. Most of the towering cumulus clouds were off to the north, and we crossed the Carpathians a little south of our planned route. We only caught glimpses of the mountains below through a low cloud layer. Overhead, we could hear airliners on frequency asking for deviations and climbs to avoid the weather; including EK147, my usual Emirates flight home from Dubai after finishing a shift at work!
As we approached Iasi we were dropped from radar service and handed to Iasi tower. We passed through many small, circular restricted areas (none of them active) which our host Alex later told us were where anti-hail rockets were launched. Not something you want to run into in a C182! Once again we followed a car to parking, and after covering the aircraft headed through passport control. Luckily, we were just ahead of a 737 full of airline passengers and avoided getting stuck behind the long queues from that flight. We took an Uber to the International Hotel where Alex had kindly provided rooms for us on the 10th floor, overlooking the incredible Palace of Culture.
Alex was down at a Romanian sea-side resort, flying back that afternoon in his TB20 touring aircraft, so my father and I went out to visit the museums inside the Palace of Culture, and enjoy some drinks in the late afternoon sun. Alex came to meet us after he got back, and we had a long and delicious evening at a top Italian restaurant near the hotel before turning in. Alex turned out to be a remarkably interesting man, having travelled to over 100 countries and mastered all kinds of exciting pastimes such as skydiving. Conversation flowed freely over some excellent Romanian wine!
We had a lazy morning, with Alex collecting us at around 1130 for a tour around the city. He drove us all around Iasi pointing out major landmarks and telling us a little about the history of the city, and what it was like to grow up there. We parked up in the center, and visited a few of the churches; apparently Iasi has around 800! Alex told us how Romania used to be something of a gateway to Europe, regularly attacked by the Turks, with varying results through the years.
Early in the afternoon, we headed out to the Aero Club where Alex bases his TB20. The grass runway is just off the end of the main Iasi airport runway, and confusingly is also aligned the same direction. A few light aircraft are based there, as well as some Antonov AN2s that perform crop dusting work and other duties. We met a friend of Alex’s who flies 737s for a regional Romanian airline; he had suffered a crash in his microlight aircraft and was now busy rebuilding the wings and upgrading them from fabric cover to carbon fiber.
This done, we returned to the hotel to rest a bit, carry out flight planning for the next day, and in my case shop for a few new clothes! I’d had to discard a few that turned out to be rather worn out, but the large modern mall next to the hotel came through for me.
Alex collected us just before 7 and took us to dinner in a traditional Romanian restaurant. The first two courses were a wide selection of seemingly every traditional Romanian item on the menu, and he told us a bit about each one and the history behind them. They were delicious, although we ended up with enough food to feed a party of 10! The evening involved plenty more Romanian wine and spirits, ending late, and requiring Uber rides back to our respective homes with the car to be collected in the morning!
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