Roaming around Romania

Timisoara

I didn’t know what to expect in Romania. As soon as my plane landed in Timisoara, from Berlin, however, I received the same feeling as I did when I got off in Belgrade from Geneva….coming home.

I was only gone from the Balkans a week, but I still missed it. However, the language is not what I was used to down here. I can actually understand some things when people speak.

I met a local woman waiting for the bus to the city and she said the language is a mix of Slavic and Latin. My Spanish and my few words of Serbian were being useful.

Reading is also simple, granted I don’t understand everything, but I can pick up the general idea. Some of their words and prononciation reminds me of Italian though my new friend said the grammar is similar to French and they say merci like Bulgarians do for thank you because it’s easier.

I went to get ice cream with her and her friend, and the ice cream was gelato- so more Italian influence.

I stayed at Freeborn Hostel and there was a miscommunication with my dorm bed. At the end, I was in a different building, but the owner had the key and wasn’t going to be back for an hour. So I waited. When he did arrive, he was so apologetic and helpful. I got a 10 bed dorm to myself and it was splendid. The second building is in the center of things, which was nice.

Timisoara is quite small, I was able to walk all around in several hours. It is proud to call itself the start of the revolution against Romanian communism and disctatorship in December 1989. Western Romania could receive news from the rest of Europe through Serbian channels and when they heard about the wall, things started to happen.

After a week of protesting and military intervention, Romania was liberated. There’s a “museum” on this period. There’s a 20 minute video that shows the death of the protestors, so caution is advised. The secretary told me it’s not a museum, but a memorial to those fallen during this time. There’s a piece of the Berlin Wall outside. The first floor has a permanent exhibit on the revolution and the second floor is temporary of different things. I found it very educational. Some of the panels don’t have English translations.

But nothing is left of what happened. The city is beautiful- full of color and parks. It was nice walking along the river in the morning.

I stayed at Freeborn Hostel/Bella Hostel (2 separate buildings, same owner). The owner was amazing and helped me a lot. Both hostel sites are good and comfortable! Only 5 minutes apart, but I preferred being at Bella as it was in the center. They are part of the Balkan Backpacker community.

Deva/Hunedoara

My hostel suggested stopping in Deva and then going to Hunedoara on my way to Sibiu for this awesome castle.

He showed me this site: turistderomania.ro that helps tourist figure out what to see and where to go. Unfortunately, it’s just in Romanian. Through this site he showed me this beautiful castle and I just had to go.

I took an early train, 7.33, to Deva at 11. I then got on a shuttle to Hunedoara (right next to the train station) at 11.15 to reach there at 11.45. The castle is about a 20 minute walk from the bus station. I spent an hour there at a leisurely pace.

Many locals have told me Bran castle isn’t worth it, this has become popular as Dracula’s castle, and to not go to it. This one was better than Bran (I saw it later).

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One of the things I like about the Balkans is that they are very free with their ruins or old buildings. There are no ropes or security everywhere. This castle, Castle Corvin, has been restored many times so it’s not quite the original, especially after the fire in the late 1800s, but it was still cool roaming about with no care.

I had this weird mix of Hogwarts and any other medieval movie/TV show I’ve seen. This part of Romania used to be part of the Hungarian empire (Corvin was the ruler of that empire). But this castle also has another popular king- Ioan. He built most of it if I understood the panels correctly.

Admission is 25 leí per adult, 5 per student. There is a photography fee, but I didn’t have to pay it, I’m not sure if it was because of down season…there were signs indicating audio guides, but I didn’t see where I would get those or how much those are. But, for info, there are limited panels with English about the rooms and the timeline. On the lower level there is the prison and torture chambers- with life-like dummies and all. From the tower, there is a great view of the city.

Upon leaving, a wedding party was enterring. That’s pretty cool- have your wedding in such a pretty castle!

I got back to Deva to find the next transportation to Sibiu (my final destination) was at 17.13 (by train) so I went to the fortress, which is on a dead volcano. You can take the cable car or hike up. Locals say the hike is 30 minutes, but it took me about 15 minutes. The top offers great views of the city and they have picnic benches there.

Deva also has a very lovely park near the bottom of the hill and I strolled through there for a bit. There’s a museum on ancient civilizations, but I didn’t go inside.

The train/bus to Sibiu is about 3 hours. It was a long day.

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Sibiu

I got into Sibiu very late and once I checked in, I went to bed. The next morning I toured the city, which didn’t take very long. There are some museums, but I wasn’t interested so walking the city took about 2 hours. I didn’t want to rush the next town to get to Brasov, so I booked a place, but upon arriving in that next city, I realized that wasn’t necessary.

Sibiu is very beautiful, I believe it was named one of Europe’s cultural cities. One of the main sights is the Bridge of Lies. The legend is that if you lie on that bridge it will shake. The tourist office assured me vigorously that it was a legend. I’m not sure if people take it seriously….

Sighisoara

It’s a 3 hour train ride to here. I took the train around 11 and got in around 14. The train to Brasov was 17. I heard so many people love this small town that I was prepared to like it too; however, after an hour, I saw everything and wished I didn’t book a night.

One of the highlights is a big beautiful Orthodox church along the river. You can see it going to and from the bus/train station. The other is the church on the hill that one can access through a wooden tunnel/staircase. That was pretty different. There is a restaurant that boast to be the home where Vlad (Dracula) was born and for a fee you can see the room.

To be fair, I also had bad weather. Maybe if it was sunny I would have had a much better experience.

Brasov

There was a problem with the train schedule and I ended up getting the 11.30 bus to Brasov, which took an hour and half- really quick!

The city center or old town is a bit far from the train/bus station. I stayed at Pomerade Hostel, which was nice. It was cheap and had a good breakfast. The rooms and beds were comfortable. The only thing was there were 2 toilets for the whole hostel.

I was able to take the 3/15 free torno the city, which shows all the big points. It was so cold and I was definitely not prepared for that weather. It was so cold it snowed.

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Brasov was situated in a fortress built by the Germans when this was still part of the Austrian Hungarian empire. Because they built it, they got privelege to stay inside and they kicked everyone outside. The city looks like a mini German town where things are still labeled in German, but after the wars, there are barely any German speakers left (as they moved back).

The guide showed us the third narrowest street in Europe. I don’t believe it’s the third. He mentioned the first two and I haven’t been there, but Prague has a really small street, narrower than Brasov….

He also pointed out a Mother Mary statue on the Black church (named after the fire) and asked if we can see what’s below her feet. They looked like monkeys to me.

“They are angels.” I laughed so hard.

They are watching over the main square where they had the markets in a very “German organized fashion.” Apparently the mayor decided to charge a 20% tax to the merchants who sold there along with a minium of 3 days of selling/trading.

Vlad/Dracula did not like this when he visited his mistress that he proceeded to impale several merchants. The guide explained how impaling works. It is quite disturbing. The wives wanted their husbands back so they kidnapped his mistress. It worked.

From Brasov, one can go see Bran castle, famed for being Dracula’s castle and Sinaia/Peleş Castle. Everyone told me it’s not worth it especially with little time. However, being so close, I would have felt bad not going since it is so famous.

It was a bit underwhelming. The price of admission for adults is 35 leí or about 8 euros. Students is 20 leí or 5 euros. I was behind a group of Spaniards who proceeded to give each other student ID cards when they finished paying. It was amusing to watch.

The castle is set up from the royal family and most of the info panels are about them. There is one room dedicated to Dracula, which was interesting. You have to pay to also enter the grounds.

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You take the bus from Autogara 2 in Brasov and they leave every hour for about 40 minute drive. It passes through Rasnov, which has a fortress, but I didn’t stop there. It’d 14 leí roundtrip.

I was thinking of going to Peleş then continuing to Bucharest, but I didn’t want to rush. Also, the weather was still really bad, which was perfect for Bran. So I booked one more night at the hostel and caught up on work.

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Dracula?

I took the 7.30 train to Sinaia, getting there at 8.40ish. I went to the castle, but on the way saw a monastery, which was beautiful! I also met an Italian who asked me for directions and then we kept running into each other. We had a funny conversation.

Certain trains have cheaper fairs. For example, at 6 am there was a train for 7 lei, but the 7.30 was 17. However, I didn’t think 2 euros was worth waking up earlier.

Peleş is closed Monday and Tuesday during the winter hours so I wasn’t able to see the inside, but the outside was absolutely incredible and I had such nice weather!!

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The actually town is really cute. It reminded me of a town near a ski resort for some reason.

I took the 10.41 train to Bucharest. I sat in the wrong car than it said on my ticket and the conductor pointed that out to me, but let me stay…it was the first time they cared about car number. Normally it’s just class (first or second).

Bucharest

I arrived in Bucharest at 12.10 and my flight back to Berlin was at 21. So I had 6 hours. For being a capital city, the main train station was lacking. I got on the metro, you have to buy 2 tickets at a time, and headed to the Parliament building, which everyone recommended to me.

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I managed to get the 13 tour. I had to carry my bag with me for the hou, but it wasn’t so bad. You have to have your passport though. I paid student price of 18 lei.

It’s the second biggest building in the world behind the American Pentagon. It was built by the Romanian dictator in the 80s. It is such an anti communist building as communism is about simple and everything the same; however, the extravagance of this building is crazy! The guide said it took 3 billion dollars. What??? It is a beautiful building, but it’s crazy. People were starving…

I then headed to old town and found a tourist office and picked up a map. The man went crazy circling things to see and do on my map. There is quite a bit, but none that I was interested in. So I did a lot of walking around and sat in the oldest park in the city for a bit.

Soon, it was time to take the bus to the airport. This is a different transportation ticket. Again, it’s a minimum of 2 ticket purchase and it’s more expensive than the normal metro. It’s about a 40 minute ride and passes by their Arc du Triumph. You take bus 783 from Piata  (square) Unirii (next to The Harper pub).

Romania was a lovely country. I really enjoyed the castles as they were very different from the German ones or the French chateaux. I enjoyed Timisoara and Sinaia. I wasn’t in Bucharest long enough to judge, but for me, Romania is about the countryside. Though it’s in the Balkans  (a lot of the food and drinks are the same just called different), it is very different.

More photos and here 

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