Romania surprised us. Pieter had heard tales of theft and unfriendly people. This is not so. The people are friendly, helpful and often speak English. Yes, there is the odd beggar, usually annoyingly persistent. Maybe the gypsies steal, but we were fine. The scenery ia fantastic and the castles romantic. We truly enjoyed Romania.
Thursday 11 July 2013, Satu Mare
A lazy breakfast and shopping took up more time than usual. By the time we arrived at the Romanian border it was well after lunch. At least the formalities were over relatively quickly and I have 2 Romanian stamps in my passport. Coffee and croissant in Satu Mare was welcome, now we just had to organize road tax and a green card. These are available at the border, ATMs are not. The signs saying they are required were very visible, in several languages and repeated. We enquired in town where to buy them and were told it was too late, it was after 5 pm in Romania. We spent the night in a lovely motel with breakfast included.
Friday 12 to Saturday 13 July 2013, Breb
First we had to sort out the road tax and green card. The road tax is readily available at any garage so that was no problem. In Baia Mare we found an insurance company. They explained that the green card was no longer used and they could only insure Romanian vehicles. Suits us.
Our destination was a campground in the Carpathians run by a Dutch couple. The road wound over a mountain (hill) almost 1,000 m high. Then down into the Maramuresului Valley. The campsite is hidden away in a small village, far from any cities, beautifully rural. Here life goes on much as it has for hundreds of years. The farmers walk through the campsite toting their hand made wooden implements. A fabulous place to relax and take gentle walks through the farmland.
The highlight of the journey was stopping at a typical wooden church and having it opened just for us. The inside was fully decorated with hand embroidered cloth. A lot of care has gone into these.
Sunday 14 July 2013, Sacel
The Sapanta Merry Cemetery dates from 1935 is famous for its carved and painted wooden crosses. They Have folk rhymes underneath telling of the deceased’s life, occupation and family problems. On top there is a carving of the person or some aspect of their life. Some crosses have not been maintained but most are. The church is decorated with many badly worn frescoes but is being renovated.
As it was Sunday we saw many people on their way to church dressed in their Sunday best. Women generally had a dark gathered skirt, matching scarf and light coloured top. Younger women and girls had skirts just above the knee, the older ones had skirts almost to the ankles.
We took the route through the Izei Valley. It is scenic but spoilt for us by the rain. There were no campsites and no wild camping except maybe down some narrow muddy lane. Some pensions said they had camping but any space available was really for tents. We would have to park in the driveway. In the end we decided to take a room for the night. At least prices are reasonable. The use of carved wood is ubiquitous through out the region. The dining room had carved wooden rafters. Dinner was interesting for me. I decided to have a ‘traditional’ dish. It turned out to be stijve pap (firm corn meal) with egg and cheese just like some people eat regularly in South Africa!
Monday 15 to Tuesday 16 July 2013, Waser Valley
The Carpathian Forest Steam Train is a relatively new tourist attraction. The forestry company uses diesel engines for working and preserves the steam engines by using them for tourism. The rail line is very much in use. We stayed at the station for the 2 nights and the wood trains keep coming in. The second night was much quieter, maybe they had cleared the weekend wood.
The line was built in the 1930s and it is the only forestry railway still operating. All others have been abandoned. It runs for 60 kilometers winding along the Waser Valley and allowing wood to be transported from far up the valley where there are no roads or people. The train is an improvement over rafting the logs down the river. Roads used closer to town. There is a ‘road’ all the way to the lunch spot. It meanders over the railway line and through the river. For many kilometers it uses either the railway line itself or the river bed as the road.
It was a wonderful day out. It was interesting to see the more remote houses. The valley itself is very scenic and quite narrow in places. Lunch was good and yes the tourist trade is catered for. One of the best sights was the train itself followed by watching the latecomers on Wednesday morning. They seemed a little distressed until they realised there would be a second train. In summer there may be up to 3 trains.
Some of the photos are a little blurry. It is quite difficult to take photos when the train sways from side to side, shudders and jerks.
Wednesday 17 to Friday 19 July 2013, Funda Moldavei
After a day to catch up on the chores we headed for the monasteries in Southern Bucovina situated in the north east. The round trip from the camp site wound through green hills, and went close the the Ukrainian border before heading south again. I visited the monasteries while Pieter watched the people. The monasteries were built during the 16th century with strong fortifications for protection and to provide a refuge for the local people in times of war. The interior and exterior walls are covered with frescoes. Cleaning and restoration is an ongoing process. The churches are built in the classical Moldavian style with 5 rooms. Until I read this I thought there were only 3 rooms. The chancel, which is hidden behind curtains, the naos where there are a few seats and the burial chamber with its graves. There is a small area between the burial chamber and the porch both of which are considered rooms. The naos is quite small, there is only room for about 10 people standing and 6 sitting.
This is not the only area with fortified monasteries. The are many further south in Moldavia and many more in Transylvania. Two are enough for me.
Wood is used everywhere. Houses are built of wood sometimes with fancy wooden cladding and wooden roof tiles. Carts are made of wood. Even if modern materials are used there is always a wooden balcony. The roofs can be very intricate, a simple roof is extremely uncommon.
In the further reaches of the Carpathians time has really stood still in some respects. Hence the milk is collected from a farm with a satellite dish in traditional milk cans using a horse and cart where the driver chats on a cell phone.
Saturday 20 to Monday 22 July 2013, Danube Delta
The route to the coast descends through a picture perfect country side. The hills are covered in forest or green fields. Rivers abound or maybe that is because the road usually follows a river. It was a magnificent drive. Once we reached the plains we could see that the use of wood was not as prominent. There are large fields where machinery is used. The horse and cart is still there though for the smaller tasks. We also saw a few men collecting hay using a pitch fork. Not everything is modernised.
Our destination was the Danube Delta where thatch is used as roofing material. The
almost obligatory cruise through delta was a disappointment. There were some common
birds to be seen, cormorants, seagulls and pelicans. And there were occasional birds
of prey too far away to recognise. The most interesting aquatic animals were the
water slugs and the frogs. Our boatman told us many stories about life in his father’s
time. The family came from a village named Uzril. It has now been covered in water.
In his youth he lived in Uzril and he remembers the neighboring villagers coming
for the weekly movie using rowboats -
Tuesday 23 to Thursday 25 July 2013, Mamaia
Naturally we had to visit the Black Sea itself. We chose a campground in the north away from the main holiday centre. It was full of families who all enjoyed peace and quiet. Most of the coast seems to be privately owned. The umbrellas and deck chairs run for miles. The water was amazingly warm. I walked out until the water came over my knees before I felt some cool currents of water. This was already quite a way out and I didn’t go any further. It was too shallow to swim. As expected of an inland sea, the waves were small as well so I didn’t stay in very long.
People watching was very interesting. Most had tents, very few high enough to stand in. Several had a marquee as well, a square, high tent with removable sides. People came in groups. Two middle aged brothers, their wives and an old mother came together with 2 small tents and a marquee. Another family of 3 had a tiny tent, a large 2 person tent probably but only about a meter high. They had very little extra equipment, a table, 2 chairs and a stool, a small gas stove and a pot. I watched them pack up and head off to catch the bus. They had a lovely holiday on a shoe string.
The day we left many more people had arrived and the campground was becoming very full. There was no real organization as to where people pitched there tent so privacy was not an option, especially with so many people coming. Definitely time to move on.
Friday 26 to Saturday 27 July 2013, Bucharest
Bucharest was a disappointment. The campground is not the best but adequate. There
is a convenient bus into town but no information on where to get off. It takes a
loop through the centre which Pieter realized so we got off and caught the metro
back to University Plaza where the 1989 revolution against Ceausescu started. There
are a few crosses here. The statues in front of the theatre were excellent. They
are from plays by a famous Romanian playwright whose name I can’t find on the Internet
travel guides. In an effort to see something else interesting we took the City Tour
bus. There are many old and newer buildings which are empty and in need of renovation
or replacing. There are also modern buildings and Parliament Palace built by Ceausescu.
It houses parliament and a conference centre. It is apparently quite magnificent
inside. Eight square kilometers of the historic centre were leveled to provide space
for the building and others. The 40,000 people living in the area were given 1 days
notice to move out. The bus did not touch the historic centre nor was it mentioned.
I assume it is a non-
Before we returned to the campground we had coffee and cake at McCafe. The first time in a while where there was cake available to go with the coffee. Cafe’s here and in Hungary normally have good coffee made with coffee beans, alcoholic drinks and soft drinks, nothing to eat.
Sunday 28 to Monday 29 July 2013, Brasov
By the time we arrived in Sinaia, after rising late, showering, returning to the
campsite to fetch my forgotten passport, shopping and having coffee, it was going
on 3:00 pm. We looked for signs to Peles Castle but only saw signs to the gondola.
Assuming that the castle was at the top we went up for the ride up ––-
The old city is nice. We were lucky to arrive when some type of police ceremony was in progress. The speeches, done in a droning voice went on for ages. The police, especially at the back, showed their boredom by fidgeting and yawning. Finally the speeches were over and the march past began. There did not seem to be much detailed planning.The parade involved much discussion as to exactly where they were to march, a metre this way or that way. Finally it was agree and the march began.
Tuesday 30 to Wednesday 31 July 2013, Bran
Bran is where Dracula’s Castle is supposed to be. Consequently we stayed at Vampire Camping.
The castle is a rabbit warren of passages. It was originally built to defend the
pass into Transylvania and later to also collect customs duty. The displays are all
about Queen Maria and her family. She was grand-
Thursday 1 to Friday 2 August 2013, Sibiu
The scenery continued to be magnificent, through green gorges, hills and valleys.
We spent the night by a river near the “real” Dracula’s castle. Since it was 1,500
steps up we gave it a miss. Unfortunately we were joined by a large group of Romanians
Experiencing their loud music until 4 am is definitely something to be missed. The
road gradually winds up through the Fagaras Mountains to Lake Bacau which is above
the tree line at around 2,000 m. It a small lake with a few patches of un-
Sibiu has an open air ethnographic museum displaying houses from around the country.
Ceausescu appropriated the houses accommodating the occupants in new blocks of flats.
The houses have been repaired where necessary and are maintained. The complex is
quite extensive. It would take several hours to see it all. The houses, mills, churches
and specialized workshops show the use of wood for building. The general layout seems
to be two rooms both entered off a verandah with store-
Saturday 3 to Monday 5 August 2013, Sighisoara
Another lovely old town up on a hill. I climbed up the steps while Pieter relaxed in the car. He managed to talk to an American couple who are also world travelers, and obtained quite a lot of information about shipping the car across the Atlantic. We may do that next year.
I was very lucky to arrive at the church where locals had dressed up in traditional costume. They looked good.
The bust of Vlad Tepes (ruled Transylvania 1456-
We had to travel through ‘Saxon Land’ to get here. The houses in the various villages are not very old (mid 1900s) but many of them have a large gate, sometimes between 2 separate houses that obviously belong together.
Cost of diesel per litre
Cost of Camping per night
Cost of Hotels per night
Days in country