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Published: July 12th 2010
As we stepped off the train at Braşov, we were surprised to be hassled about accommodation for a change. Finally, maybe we had come to a place in Romania which did expect tourists! Not that I mind walking off the beaten track a bit, but having already been recommended visiting Constanța by someone and finding the apparent lack of anywhere to accommodate tourists there, I was worried that the whole of Romania, including Braşov, would be a repeat of this. However, I had been told to go to Braşov by two other people who were very right.
We took the guy who offered us a hostel up on his offer, and we stayed in an extremely cool place called Kismet Dao hostel on the outskirts of the historic centre. Our train had picked up the standard one and a half hour delay from Bucharest, so we arrived a bit too late to do anything after unpacking and taking a shower except go out and walk around the city. The architecture here was finally beginning to remind us of home, and made me feel a bit more like I was on the way home (which of course we are). The style
...well, at least you're not trying to be Stalingrad any more.
is far more similar to old towns in Slovakia and the Czech Republic to what we'd seen thus far in the Balkans.
The city is spread out over some small foothills shadowed by a massive mountain, Tampa, which leads to the ridge where the highest mountain in Romania, Moldoveanu, lies, about 70km from Braşov. This peak is way over 2,500 metres high, however Braşov is a modest 600-something and its watchful companion somewhere in the 800 range. This mountain enshadowing the city has huge letters on the side bearing the city's name - at first one might think "nice try, but you're not Hollywood" - however, upon discovering that these letters read "STALIN" 25 years ago, I felt a little more positively about it. Scaling this hill there is a chairlift, which was just about to close for the night when we arrived to try it out.
In the end, after hiding for a while from a huge rainstorm, we headed to the newly sunny city centre to get some food and watch the world cup final. By the time 90 minutes was up, the outdoor table we were sitting at had become far too cold, so we
...in the same way as Carlsberg is "probably" the best beer in the world? Come on you can do better than that!
retired to the hostel to watch Spain's victory (it was the only time in my life when I haven't got bored watching a world cup final!)
This morning we woke up bright and early to head off for a trek across the mountain ridge before leaving this evening. The hostel receptionist had told us to get a bus to an empty ski resort (this was all beginning to remind me of mine and Charlie's trip to Slovakia last summer when we arrived!) from whence there should have been a path leading us back to the mountain standing over Braşov. Firstly it turned out that the path did not lead from the ski resort but from the bus stop before it, and secondly, 3km of walking downhill later in contrast to our expected 12, we discovered that the path did not lead to the mountain but rather to the next bus terminus along.
We therefore simply decided to walk along the road back to the city and then take the chairlift up the hill, and walk back down again. The path led us past the "Braşov" letters to a few terraces where we got spectacular views of the city.
Just trust your intuition. It's the best chance you have of not being led into a bear cave.
It then led us to a large signpost, which we later discovered had been meddled with - the sign pointing us to the city instead led us uphill through a completely different path leading towards the ridge, rather than downhill to Braşov. The path was nice enough to walk along, and at first I was adamant that it was just taking us a long way round, as it looked this way on the maps laid around the area, however at one point after around an hour of treading this path and still ascending rather than descending, Jitka suddenly made an objection to going any further. At that time we happened to be a hundred yards from a signpost, which was this time displaying correct information, and pointed us down a different path which was clearly going downhill and in the right direction. Take note future tourists in Romania: Don't always trust signposts.
After another hour of scrambling down tree trunks and rushing through narrow paths surrounding by nettles and insects, we arrived safely to a familiar sight - not only of Braşov, but of the area of the city where our hostel was. As we were lead out of
Keeping a look out for canines
the wood, we sat down for a bite to eat and Jitka finally explained that the reason for her outburst before the signpost was that she'd spotted a bear's footprint. We already knew well that one should be cautious of bears walking in the Carpathians, indeed, one of my friends who previously visited Braşov reported that a bear walked past their group on the street one evening without even glancing at them. In summer when bears have enough food, they're generally not dangerous to humans (as scared of us as we are of them), but we were both glad not to have continued down this path at the very least.
We continued back to the hostel to pick up my newly cleaned clothes and take a shower, and pick up our backpacks before heading off to a café for some ice cream and now, our train to Sighişoara, a city slap bang in the middle of the country, where we'll be staying tonight before missioning it to a secluded village with a bed and breakfast (recommended to us by Anne-Sophie's Belgian friends). Luckily, our 10km walk to this village will be along a road. Most likely a bear-free road. Hopefully.
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