Category Archives: Travel reports

Why Romania is worth the trip

“It rained almost the whole time, a bone-chilling drizzle. We lost our rental car reservation because my husband and I showed up without our driver’s licenses. I cracked my ribs on a waterslide. But in the end, Romania was our best family vacation yet.

Last fall we decided to pack up our three elementary-school-age children for a week in Bucharest and Transylvania. We mapped out a journey that included a couple of days in the nation’s capital city as well as a road trip to Brasov and into the Carpathian Mountains.

Why Romania? That’s the question all of our friends asked, those who bothered to give voice to what their raised eyebrows were already saying when we told them our destination. To them, it seemed an odd spot for a European vacation. But we wanted something a little off the beaten path, and we were in search of more time in nature than we thought destinations like London or Madrid could offer.”



Romania’s Layer Cake of Connectivity

“Romania, and Bucharest specifically, is something of a travel blogger’s digital fantasy come true. Walk down most streets, stop on any corner, whip out your smart phone and more often than not you’ll find a wireless connection. That’s open. No password required; generally because a commodity as common as an Internet connection here isn’t worth stealing.

In fact, Romania has the world’s second fastest Internet at about 15 megabytes per second (mbps), second behind only South Korea. To put that in perspective,”

…read the full article here.


Mystical tales from Transylvania

Sighisoara_26.12.2012A fresh one from the BBC:

“It’s a freezing midwinter evening just outside the Transylvanian village of Miklósvár, and the forest is eerily quiet. Icicles dangle from the branches and silver blades of sunlight filter through the conifers, casting the forest floor in an iridescent glow. Apart from the crackle of the campfire and the stamp of horses’ hooves, there’s not a sound to break the wintry silence. It’s then that Count Tibor Kálnoky begins to tell the tale of the first time he visited the village witch.”

The full story, here:

Thanks M. for the link.

Halloween special – staking out the castle of Dracula

“The ruins of Poienari Castle sit high on a mountain peak with a seemingly never-ending vista looking out over deep gorges, charcoal-gray cliffs and mountain streams. It’s a natural paradise, but we did not make the trip to this castle just for the awesome view. Visitors come for its connection to history’s most famous vampire, Dracula.
Poienari Castle is not on the main tourist route. In fact, it’s pretty hard to get there. Public transportation is infrequent, and the big tourist town in the region, Brasov, is hours away.
The signs warn it is 1480 concrete steps straight up. I can’t imagine an army hoping to take the castle. It’s hard enough taking the modern stairs.”

Read the rest of CNN Aaron Cooper’s travel report here.

They got a Cluj

Another Brit with a footballing passion (is this a pleonasm?) and enjoyable writing has shared impressions from Romania. Nick Ames typically writes for Arsenal Football Club, but this correspondence was written for the “European Football Weekends” website. With no further due,

The waitress in balmy Piata Muzeului bears a striking resemblance to Jelena Dokic – and without the unnervingly obsessive father, you’d assume. My chances of finding out for sure are nipped in the bud fairly decisively. “You go dancing this evening?” she enquires in thick-frosted English. “Perhaps,” I reply evenly, “but I’m going to watch CFR first, so we’ll see.”

“You have come to Cluj to watch football….?” She tails off, says nothing more, regards me with the concerned disgust you might usually reserve for someone who leaves a copy of ‘A Journey’ open at May 12, 1994. She places my bottle of Ursus in front of me, frowning slightly. Twenty minutes later, her male colleague ventures forth to collect my six lei.

Perhaps I’d sold myself short. In a day and a half I’d already thoroughly combed Cluj-Napoca’s pleasant mixture of pretty churches, side streets and museums, all accompanied with the requisite sprinkling of dreadful Communist ephemera. I’d been down a salt mine and hiked 15km towards, up and back from a mountain gorge near the town of Turda, subsequently feeling pretty akin to the name. A chance meeting with some Americans had resulted in generous Ursus consumption, just five minutes from this very square, the evening before. So what could be done when there was just one thing missing?”

What could be done? One could read the whole article, here.

Romania through the eyes of an Australian photographer

Romanian landscapeFor those passionate about photography, Romania offers a wide variety of shooting opportunities.  Some have been explored by Mitchell Karnashkevich, an Australian (judging from the phone number) travel photographer, who shares some of his impressions on his blog:

“I would have liked my trip to Maramures to have felt like a trip into a different world, into the past. It wasn’t quite like that, but as I drove my car through the mountains to the Hungarian border, passing old cattle herders in traditional hats, women collecting hay in their unique attires, all while being surrounded by some of the more dramatic scenery one is likely to encounter, I realized – Maramures is still special. It’s not what I wanted it to be, but that doesn’t make it any less special in relation to the rest of the world.”

You can read the full entry about Maramures here. Might want to check out his previous two articles too, the one on Holbav, a forgotten Transylvanian village, here, and some introductory impressions here.

The New York Times spying on Bucharest’s Cool Underground

“About three years ago, Bucharest experienced a revolution that was entirely ignored by the international community. (…) So subtle was the transformation, in fact, that most Bucharestians probably didn’t quite realize what was going on. (…) It was just this kind of innovation I had come to this city of two million to discover. For about a year, I had been hearing of interesting developments — new museums, clever art projects, a film scene garnering international acclaim — and wanted to see how they meshed with Bucharest’s lingering old-world vibe and Communism-deformed mentality.
Give it five years, or maybe 10, people told me, and Bucharest will live up to its potential, and perhaps truly be “the new Berlin,” as the British newspaper The Guardian dubbed it in March. But I liked Bucharest now. (…) In five or 10 years, such discoveries would be commonplace, as unremarkable as a table and chairs set out under the stars — but for now they were new, and they were mine.”

Click here to read the full New York Times Frugal Traveler article.


(thanks Simona for the link)

At the End of the World

Cimitirul VeselThe morning starts when the bright rays of sun penetrate through the windows and tickle me into getting up.

I’ve been told that hitchhiking is pretty common in Maramureș (this region), so on the road towards Sighetu Marmației I thumb down a navy-blue BMW transporting two young guys to Sighet. They can’t speak much English (or other foreign languages, for that matter), but I am able to discern that they are big fans of Read more of this post

To the end of the world

Manastirea BarsanaMy host asks me again if I am sure that I really want to go „to the end of the world”. I am sure.

At the autogara, it is easy to find my bus, for it is the only one around. By the door of the bus, we meet a gentleman headed to Sighet, where he works though he resides in Piatra Neamț. He is a government servant who spends a couple of weeks at work, and then a week off at home. We chat a bit and board the bus when the driver arrives.

The bus snakes along the mountains lining River Bistrița through some scenic beauty Read more of this post

The Pilgrimage

CeahlauAs Explorish had guessed and warned against, I wake up at every stop of the train. At one such stop, I open my eyes and look outside to check which station it is, but don’t see any indication of a name anywhere. There’s no one around that I can ask.

As I am still rubbing my eyes, searching for a name, the train starts to crawl. A clock at the station says it is 1.30am. Bacău! This is where I was supposed to get down. Should I „pull the chain to stop the train” and get down? Neaah…then I’d have to wait at the station till 4.30 or so. Instead, I should go to the next station, and take the train back here, for trains are cozier than the stations.

It takes almost an hour to reach the next station, Adjud, which suits me fine as my train from Bacău is at 4.30 anyway. Asking around at the station, I discover that the next train to Bacău is at 3.30, which is cutting it a little bit too close since it is about an hour’s journey. It doesn’t matter now – the deed is done.

There is a sandwich shop open but they have no vegetarian food. Outside on the platform there is a bar-cum-game-saloon where I find a packet of potato wafers and pear nectar. The wind is cool and nice and I enjoy walking on the platform, which is deserted except for a stray dog sleeping in a dark corner.

My train arrives at its due time, and delivers me to Bacău in one hour. Unfortunately, I have missed the connection literally by seconds – I can see its tail rolling out of the station. The next train is at 9am. So I walk out of the gara and to the nearby autogara and minibus station. Nothing goes to Piatra Neamț. Read more of this post