ROMANTIC ROMANIA

Travelled in April 2019

Before I went to Romania, I really didn’t know much about it except for the Dracula myth. What I found was a country brimming with incredible natural beauty, fascinating history and picture book towns.

Our first day we arrived late into Bucharest. Though we were tired, the transfer to our hotel was quick because the airport is not far out of the city centre.

The next morning, we were up early and drove to Sinaia, a lovely mountain resort famous for its ski trails, 17th century monastery and incredible architecture. There we visited the luxurious Pelisor Castle which was built by King Carol 1 for his nephew and heir to the throne, Ferdinand who married Marie, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria. With its towering multi-level stacks and distinctive pointed roofing, it’s truly unlike any other castle I’ve seen.  

After lunch we went to Bran Castle, famous for Dracula! This imposing castle that’s surrounded by the forest looks just like something out of a fairy tale. It was truly an adventure to explore the secret passageways and scenic balconies that are dotted throughout the castle and was a brilliant introduction into Romanian history.

After this we made out way to the beautiful town of Brasov, a historic town full of ornate baroque architecture with defensive towers and medieval houses. For dinner we drove a few miles into the mountains to the ski resort of Poiana Brasov. Although most of the snow had gone, it was easy to see this is a thriving ski area with plenty of bars, restaurants and dramatic mountain slopes all around.

The following morning, we visited a nearby fascinating fortified church at Prejmer. Built in the 12th century to help people defend their land, this gothic style church and settlement is set within a protective boundary wall and surrounded by a covered walkway from which they could pour down hot oil on to would-be invaders.

We drove through pretty countryside and the stunning Bicaz Gorges to Bucovina in the north of Romania. From here we were able to visit the Voronet painted monastery. There are several of these painted monasteries in the region, but this is the best preserved. The outsides are painted with biblical frescoes in vivid colours that have withstood the wind, rain, cold and heat for centuries. 

Our next main stop was back in Transylvania at Sighisoara, a beautiful town dating back to the 14th century. Vlad the Impaler (Dracula) was born there and it really is a picture book citadel, completely unspoilt and a UNESCO World Heritage site.  

Though it’s not a common stopover on typical tours, we were taken to the Turda Salt Mine. Once an active mine, now turned tourist attraction, it provides a memorable and unique addition to the trip. Once underground you can take in the salt air and just relax and play cards or exercise!  Most unusual.

We next stopped at Cluj Napoca, a large and beautiful city that’s known for its ancient Roman history and lively atmosphere. The next day we visited Alba Lulia Citadel which is where the provinces of Romania unified in 1918. This star-shaped fortress town was once important in the Roman era and is packed with historical highlights. Unfortunately, the citadel was mostly closed as we were there just before the tourist season started in earnest. However, we did visit the museum which was fascinating.

Our last stop was Sibiu, a 12th century Saxon city. Again, there was so much history, ancient buildings and city walls - it was just too much to take in on a short visit. One thing I was surprised to learn is that Prince Charles has even purchased properties here to help preserve them.  

Our final day took us back to Bucharest to conclude our trip. In contrast to the quaint and beautiful villages we toured through on the rest of our trip, Bucharest is much less well-preserved and more modern. It was interesting to bookend our trip with a visit to this city, it looked so different to us after seeing the rest of the country.

Overall, it was an absolutely wonderful experience that I’d recommend to anyone. You could easily do a fly drive, or travel with a group if you’d prefer.

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