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Published: October 18th 2015
Alpine roads, country roads and long and winding roads
To travel in Romania using only public transport would be quite a challenge. Many towns and villages are not serviced by any busses or trains at all. We therefore decided to rent a car to simplify things for us. We know now that if we hadn't had our own transport we would not have been able to visit even a third of the places we went to.
Since it is difficult to travel if you don't have a car it is common among the locals to hitchhike. Twice we actually picked up hitchhikers ourselves. One of them offered to pay for the ride. We knew that it is common practice that the hitchhiker pay the equivalent of a bus ticket to the driver so we weren't surprised. Of course we declined the money. We picked up the hitchhiker as a service, not for the cash.
Another way the locals who don't have a car solve their transportation needs is to go in a wagon pulled by a horse. We saw many such equipages all over Romania. We find the horse pulled wagons charming.
In the Bucegi Mountains we went on a hike. One of the most popular hike destinations is this World War I memorial, the Heroes' Cross
But we guess that Romanian drivers only find them annoying.
Before we begin to tell you about what we did and where we went we might as well give you a short description of what it is like to drive a car in Romania. The roads are mostly in either good or decent condition. A few roads were being upgraded to better standard and while construction works are being done they are driveable but not much more. Having said that, driving in Romania is often a rather slow process. The roads often go through mountainous areas and are then narrow and winding forcing the cars to go slow. There roads frequently pass through villages. When they do the speed limit is only 50 km/h and that also makes road travel take longer time than you normally expect. But it is not only a downside that driving is a bit slow because that let us see more of the country than we would have if driving from one place to the other had been more straightforward. The scenery from the road was often spectacular making driving through the country a great experience.
We spent a
The mountains were at high altitude. In some depressions there were even snow left from last winter. Here Emma is playing with a snowball
total of three weeks in Romania and most days we did quite a bit of driving. Driving every day through such a wonderful country as Romania is gives you a chance to see much. We have in the previous blog entries from this journey concentrated on four specific themes namely churches
, Merry Cemetery
and the one that is a bit silly, the ul blog
. The reason for this is that we had so much we wanted to write about and we had to find a practical way to organise the photos and everything we wanted to say. Now in this blog entry and the next we are going to write about some of the places we visited and some of the things we did that we haven't included in the theme blogs.
One of the first places we stopped at after arriving in Romania was the town Busteni. From Busteni we took a cable car up into the Bucegi Mountains
where we went on a hike.
Busteni is located in a narrow valley with steep mountains rising up on either side. We expected to find steep mountains and difficult terrain when we got to the top of
Near the upper cable car station there is a rock formation called Sfinxul, the Sphinx in English. The rock formation actually look like the Great Sphinx of Giza in Egypt.
the cable car. To our great surprise we found a totally different landscape there. Once we were out of the valley and got up into the mountains we found large plains and smooth hills. The landscape there was beautiful, easily accessible and the hiking was good so not surprisingly the area was crisscrossed with hiking trails.
The mountains were at high altitude, above the tree line, so the vegetation was mainly grass and flowers. In some depressions there were even snow left from last winter. This was in early July so it might even be that in the deepest crevasses the snow remains though all of summer. There were actually a few hotels and other establishments in the mountains. We did not expect that. One of the hotels in the mountains is a kind of sports facility with a hotel, restaurant and even a track and field stadium. We are runners so we would have enjoyed to run a few laps on the track.
Near the upper cable car station there is a rock formation called Sfinxul
, the Sphinx in English. The rock formation actually looks a little bit like the Great Sphinx of
We expected to find steep mountains and difficult terrain when we got to the top. Instead it was a totally different landscape there with large plains and smooth hills.
Giza in Egypt.
After the hike in Bucegi Mountains we went to the city Brasov
. Brasov is famous for having a medieval city centre with preserved remains of the city wall, a medieval church
and two defence towers among other structures.
Brasov also has a slightly unusual attraction namely a Brasov sign inspired by the famous Hollywood sign
in Los Angeles.
Brasov is not the only town in Transylvania with a sign with the town name placed on an elevated position, there is a similar one in the town Rasnov
. Rumour has it that there somewhere in Transylvania is yet another town with a Hollywoodesque name sign. We didn't go there so we can't verify that rumour.
One of the reasons we liked Romania so much was the nature. We went on hikes twice, we travelled through probably a thousand kilometres of lovely farmland and yet another thousand of kilometres of dramatic roads through mountainous regions. The typical mountain road in Romania goes through valleys and serve as through roads and/or access roads to towns and villages in the valleys. However, two roads in Romania, Transfagarasan and Transalpina, are different as
The mountains were at high altitude, above the tree line, so the vegetation was mainly grass and flowers.
they were built in high mountains, not valleys, and were built more as prestige projects rather than to satisfy transportation needs. The only economical reason for constructing those two roads is that they serve hydroelectric power plants located in the high mountains. But they also make the mountains accessible for anyone with a car and the nature and the views in the high mountains are stunning. Transfagarasan
was built in the early 1970-ies partly for military and economical reasons but also as a we-build-this-because-we-can-project. The road runs into the higher regions of the Carpathian Mountains and can easily be travelled by car from end to end in one day. The highest point on the road is more than 2.000 meters above sea level making it the second highest paved road in Romania. Transalpina
is even slightly higher than the Transfagarasan and that road also offers great sceneries in a high alpine region.
The nature in Romania can be pretty wild. In one hotel located along the Transfagarasan we saw a sign on one of the doors warning guests that bears lurk in the area and that they potentially can be dangerous.
In central Romania we visited two cities we liked very much, Sibiu
. They are quite similar in one sense, they each have an impressive historical old town.
One interesting architectural feature we did notice on a few houses in Sibiu was that the houses had windows shaped so they looked just like human eyes. We don't think the resemblance to human eyes was deliberate. But once you had spotted the shape it actually looked a bit creepy. We thought it felt like the buildings were looking at us.
The city Sighisoara's historical city centre was founded in the 13th century and is very well preserved. It is such a fine example of fortified medieval town that UNESCO has added it to its World Heritage List.
We really liked Sighisoara. It was a nice place to wander around for a couple of hours and also to just sit and enjoy a cup of coffee in an outdoor café or a nice meal in a restaurant. There are several noteworthy buildings and other constructions in Sighisoara old town.
=> Vlad the Impaler was born in Sighisoara. The
A defence tower in Brasov. This tower is called black tower
house he was born in still exist and is marked with a plaque
=> There is a (slightly tacky) statue of Vlad the Impaler nearby the house in which he was born
=> In town there are several preserved watchtowers
=> From the lower part of the old town up to a church located on a hill there is a covered staircase. Covered bridges we have seen before but a covered staircase was interesting to see
The last place we are going to write about in this blog entry is Turda Salt Mine
, a former salt mine which has been turned into a museum cum amusement park. It is not uncommon that disused mines are opened up for the public then often as museums. But the idea of setting up an amusement park inside a former mine might be a first. Inside the main hall of the mine there is among other things a Ferris wheel and a minigolf course.
This was all we had to say from the first half of our road trip in Romania. The rest of the photos and our story about them will be published in a separate
A defence tower in Brasov. This tower is called white tower
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