Romania - Are you sure?
This was the first response from friends and relatives when we told them about oru destination for the autumn 2016. I had seen the country during a couple of business trips but mainly in Bukarest. We were excited to see more also in the country side. When you talk about Romania first meanings like Carpathian mountains, Transylvania, Sinties and Romanies, and Dracula are appearing in your mind. We felt we had to look closer and to discover ourself. The first trip was planned to take up the scent. Romainan airline Blue Air brought us with a late flight from Hamburg directly into Bukarest. We4 checked in the J.W.Marriott hotel, which is already placed directly opposite of the big palace building.
The taxi brought us back next morning to the airport to collect the rent car. We received a band new Opel Astra.
Our first destination was a place named Sinaia, appr. 1 1/2 hours away from Bukarest. We had a room booked for the first 3 nights in a small hotel in the forrest. Close by this hotel is a castle named Peles Castle (peles.ro). The Sigmaringen Castle in Germany was the pattern for this building. We recommend strongly to book the tour and listen carefully to the guide.
Opposite of the castle is a another historical site with restaurants inside. Every evenings we took the walk from our hotel up to the restaurant. The atmosphere in the darkness with the ilumanted castle was bizzar and romantic. Unforgetable for me.
Sinaia is a small city with long history of treatment during wintertime. You need to walk the city. We took the cable car to go uphill. On the mountain we found first snow and it was icy and cold.
Another nice spot was Zabala. We stayed in the former mashine-house which has been refurbished in a romantic and fancy way. This mashine house is part of a wider farming-entity with aristocratic buildings. During communist times it has been misused but there are efforts going on with support from a couple from North Germany to get the entire complex life in a more cultural way. We enjoyed a slightly sophisticated candle light dinner in a romantic room.
Again we took Bleu Air from Hamburg this time to Cluij Napoka, formerly named Klausenburg when it was German.
The salt mine in Turda is a place you should visit. It is and impressive totally underground place with a belowground sea and leasure park with big ferris wheel. The panorama lift is always busy but it is worth to accept the waiting time. When you leave the car in the parking lot and pass the entrance to the mine from the wrong side (what we did), you have a long walk to arrive the final mine. Take your jacket, it is cold inside.
Two nights we spent in Sighisoara (Schässburg) in a small hotel which was not easy to find. The hotel is in the historical part on the hill and you have to leave car one level lower and climb the stairs. We found nice restaurants, good atmosphere. All well restored and maintained - a bit like a museum with people liviing in.
Our highlight was the stay in Parcul National Piatra Crailui. We stayed in a brand new chalet in place named Samedu. The atmosphere was like in black forrest in Germany. From the chalet we had a magnificient view around and it is perfect for hikers. This place is not easy to find even for the gps and the road is narrow and more like a path and rocky.
One of the reasons to stay this place was, that this area is famous for the bears living here unfenced. We needed to motivate the owner of the chalet to find and book the right guide for the bear watching lodge. But he made it. In the internet you normally find a place where the bears are in a fence. We met with the ranger in a forrest nearby and together with other visitors he took us to the "lodge" where we could sit down and wait. The ranger is normally placing something to eat with a smell, before he brings the tourists in the lodge. The lodge was placed close to a glade and after a while the first bear appeared. And then the area filled up with about 4 or 5 bears. We had switched the cameras before on completely silent operation and got spare-batteries with us.
Biertan is another place in Transylvania with a very nice fortified church. Nice to walk around there.
Anohter chance encounter came up driving the road thorugh country side. A small street market a side with a wide range houshold products made of copper made us stopping by and having a closer look. This market or street shop was operated by a family of Romanies, where every member had his own duty. We discovered a small copper basket which we liked. Immediately the father of the family appeared and realized our interest. How can agree on a deal if you there is no common language. He got me a small booklet and a pencil and asked me to write a value in. I returned him the booklet and asked him to start. No the deal started to run. He put a number in, i put my number below, then he responded with the next number. This went for a while. Suddenly we got an agreement and closed th deal. Just when we finished the negotiation, the women routed us to her son, who was in the meantime sitting in the grass and polishing the basket. We paid what we agreed and received our basket. This was an excellent experience how to open, run and close the deal without labelling a price on the product. One thing to considder. You need to be mature, that you are not willing to accept every price. They realize if your are not skilled. Then you pay probably an uncomfortable price and will regret your purchase after. I decided to take this experience for future training-sessions for sales-people.
When we drove very much countryside through small places and villages we saw lots of horse-drawn-buggies. For me it did not appear as poorness but more as a logical social standard for transportation. The waggons have been steered by people of all ages and it looke like an appropriate method to carry load arround. There was an inexpensive und available technique of transportation.
The historical part of Sibiu (Hermannstadt) has the biggest medieval ensemble in Romania. The city is the religious center of the orthodox church. This can be seen at the cathedral "Holy Trinity". The big marektplace is atractive for a stay at day and at night. It is very much enjoyable to sit for a nice dinner in one of the restaurants outside and to view at the people walking around.
How have we been navigating and finding our places.
Mobile cell phone network is availabel and teh Euro-Flat from Vodafone is doing an excellent job here. We could both use Sabine's Iphone and also the Ipad with partner-SIM-card. The Ipad is comfortable to use for online-maps. We did not need to book the car with GPS.
An impressive trail is the Transfăgărășan. This is impressive road crosses the southern part of the Carpathian mountians to move further south towards Bukarest. On top of the mountains you pass the Balea Lac on 2034 m. This was an interesting but very busy place with lots of tourists. We spent one night in a small pension and visited the prince-church in Curtea de Arges.
Bukarest historical country side museum in the city (Muzeul Satului in Herastrau Park)
A must in Bukarest is tour in Ceausescu' pallace. You need to book in advance. We stayed again in the J.W.Marriott and this the right place to book tickets in short-term.
At the lake of Herastrau we could take lunch in restaurant Casa di David which is close by the area of the embassies. A good place with excellent food.
Palatul Primaverii or spring pallace, we would name it as the place of residance of the former president Nicolae Ceaușescu. This was the place where he lived. It is a bit bizzare but worth to visit and take the tour with the guide.