The ski season is opening in Romania and winter sports fans are starting to plan their weekends away on mountain resorts in the Carpathians. read more
The ski season is opening in Romania and winter sports fans are starting to plan their weekends away on mountain resorts in the Carpathians. If you are one of them, make sure you visit the oldest ski resort in Romania, located 32 km away from Sibiu, in Cindrel mountains. Since 1894, thanks to altitude of 1442 m, Păltiniș is the highest ski resort where tourists can enjoy the longest winter sports period.
Păltiniș is known to have ski slopes of medium and light difficulty, artificial snow and even a snow fun park. Enthusiasts will find here the newest slope complex in Romania, Arena Platoș, and several ski slopes with various degrees of difficulty: Oncești 1, Oncești 2, Păltiniș Dealul Poplăcii, Păltiniș Santa, Păltiniș Dăneasa, Oncești Păltiniș and DăujoaraPăltiniș. Located on Poiana Poplăcii plateau, 1 km away from Păltiniș at an altitude of 1400 m in Cindrel mountains, the Arena Platoș complex has five slopes for winter sports, equipped with four cable transport installations, snow cannons, nocturnal area, rentals center, ski and snowboard school and an Austrian après ski bar. For more details on the slopes and the rest of the facilities in Arena Platoș, visit their well organized website (English version available).
What makes Păltiniș a must-visit mountain resort is also the weather phenomenon common here, the temperature inversion. In days when it takes place, one can see a truly charming vue: beyond the sea of clouds down in the depression, appear the peaks of Făgăraș mountains to the east, Rodnei mountains to the north-east and Apuseni mountains to the north-west. At sunset, the Vălare area offers a wonderful scenery as well, over Sibiu and Făgăraș mountains.
A tourist attraction worth visiting is Schitul (hermitage), a wooden church built in the 1920s where the famous Romanian philospher Constantin Noica was buried. Noica’s memorial house is located in Păltiniș and can also be visited.
How to get there
By car: From Sibiu, take the county road DJ 106 A (32 km)
By train: you can get only to Sibiu, as Păltiniș has no train station
Address: 1 Strada Pricipala (Main Street), Păltiniș, Sibiu county
Alba Iulia is a tourist destination many may have never heard much of, but this up and coming tourist spot will definitely see increasing interest in the future. read more
Alba Iulia is a tourist destination many may have never heard much of, but this up and coming tourist spot will definitely see increasing interest in the future. It’s time to plan a trip there before it gets too crowded. Most travelers go there with low expectations, but end up in awe and decide to revisit.
What the majority know about Alba Iulia relates to its rich history – this is the place where the great 1918 Union took place, which makes the city commonly referred to as the other capital city. But only a few people know about the Alba Carolina citadel, which now, after the restoration with EU and private money, looks stunning. The citadel and the relaxed feel of the city will definitely turn Alba Iulia into a tourist magnet.
It’s the heritage that makes this city a must-include-in-my-holiday destination, but it’s not only that. The main attraction is the Vauban fortress called Alba Carolina, and a trip around the citadel – which should be guided, otherwise you’ll miss a lot of stuff – is a trip through Romania’s history, back to the Dacian and Roman settlements, to the Habsburg citadel in the star-shaped configuration designed by the French engineer Marshal Vauban. Should you need a guided tour, the place to ask for one is the Museum of History (where the Union Hall is also located), where they can organize tailored tours, depending on how much time you have. They’re talented story tellers too – the museum director Gabriel Rustoiu is one of them.
The Vauban fortress was built between 1715-1738 after the Habsburg conquest of Transylvania, and it looks great restored. The seven gates of the star–shaped fortress are a tour in themselves, and what sets them apart from other Vauban–type fortresses are the decorations that are still present on the majority of them.
But the history of the place goes further back in time: this was the place where King Michael the Brave unified the three Romanian provinces for the first time (and for a short time) in 1600. Later on, in the 20th century, this was the reason the city was chosen for the Great Union of 1918. To this end, the Union Hall within the Union Museum is a must see. Later on in 1922, King Ferdinand and Queen Maria were crowned in Alba Iulia, at the Orthodox Cathedral, which was built for this occasion. A rarity to see an Orthodox Cathedral so close to a Catholic one, which had been on the site since the year 1000 – and yet they ‘live’ together in the Alba Iulia fortress.
There are several palaces that need to be visited – so book at least a day for your tour of the fortress. You will be impressed by the attention to detail and by the local authorities’ understanding of the need for entertainment. If you visited other citadels in Romania and found it a bit boring, it might not be the case here. From the guards dressed in historic costumes who perform a change of guard ritual every day and fire the cannons on Saturdays at noon, to the photo magnet statues located here and there in the fortress, everything creates a positive experience.
The fortress is a lively place, especially if you happen to visit while they organize one of their frequent cultural events. But even apart from that, a lot people from down the city spend time there, a lot of them biking and mixing with tourists. The change of the guard is also very popular among tourists and locals alike, and so is the new Roman guard the Museum of History has put together – people dressed in Roman army costumes, performing their ritual during the evening.
The city itself is very quiet and perfect for de-stressing, as it is not on the main transport route, like the nearby Sebeș is, so chances are high you will enjoy a stress–free weekend. There’s plenty accommodation available – check below for our recommendations.
While in Alba Iulia, there are several other destinations apart from the citadel. One is the Râmetului Gorge, which was an adventure in itself and a must try for those who like adrenaline and a bit of climbing – it’s good for beginners as well.
Once the highway being built to reach Sebeș is finished, it will be even easier to get to Alba Iulia from Bucharest, but even so, on the Bucharest – Pitești – Râmnicu Vâlcea and then the Olt Valley route, it takes about five hours to travel the 350 kilometers before reaching Alba Iulia. The road there is good, although in some areas only just acceptable, but scenery on the Olt Valley is so beautiful that you’ll ignore some bumps in the road. If you have time, stop at the Cozia monastery in Căciulata, just at the entry to the Olt Valley.
On your way back to Bucharest you can take a slightly longer route via the Jiului Valley and make a stop at the famous Sarmizegetusa Regia Dacian site in Hunedoara county. Then head back to Hunedoara and Petroșani to enter the beautiful Jiului Valley. In 2013, the road was closed for repairs three days a week, on Tuesday, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, so better check before planning the route.
There are many things I like about Romania, but the one I like the most is that it has so many tourist attractions that are not yet known. read more
There are many things I like about Romania, but the one I like the most is that it has so many tourist attractions that are not yet known. Today I am going to tell you more about one of such places mainly known by locals and some mountaineers as it’s off the beaten track: The Living Fires of Buzau.
”A landscape that could only be dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm.” That’s how a British journalist with The Guardian described the Buzau region after a week bicycle touring through the Buzau Mountains.
Many already know about the Muddy Volcanoes, which are also a wonder of the nature, but few know that the area where the two attractions are located will soon become a Geopark, joining the network of 48 already present in Europe.
The Living Fires of Lopatari are some of the most mysterious, and unusual phenomena you will find in nature, on a hiking path, within your reach. The important thing is to know where to look. In the village called Terca you will find this phenomenon, which is unique in Europe, but not in Romania.
Two similar sites can be found in the Andreiasu and Reghiu communes in the Vrancea County. Although the Fires in Andreiasu are considered to be more spectacular, as they also cover a larger area, the ones in Lopatari are more popular among tourists due to the other attractions in the area: the Muddy Volcanoes, the Dealu Mare wine-growing district, the Salt Mountains near Manzalesti, the oil springs at Pacuri, or the amber mines at Colti, Romania’s only amber extraction site.
Wondering how this works? The natural emanations of gas are lit at the surface, under the rays of the sun. The fires burn at night as well, when the scenery is at its most spectacular display. At times you can see a flame rising up to 1 m above the ground.
For travelers, the fires are a natural curiosity. For the locals however, they are a source of legends, mystical beliefs, and superstition. Many local traditions have been inspired by these “eternal flames,” some no longer practiced, others still leaving their mark on local pottery or costumes.
So are you ready for a hike in the beautiful area of Buzau? To reach the place, take DN2/E85 to Buzau, drive through the city and then take DJ203K to DC159 in Lunci and then continue for another 7 km until you reach Terca. Keep in mind that the car cannot take you to the Fires. The road takes you on uneven terrain up the hill, on a twenty minutes hike. Make sure you follow the signs and you will get to see this wonder of nature in no time.
Romania is known for hosting a large amount of lakes. This week we want to present you one that strikes through its uniqueness- the only volcanic lake in Romania situated in the only intact volcanic read more
Romania is known for hosting a large amount of lakes. This week we want to present you one that strikes through its uniqueness- the only volcanic lake in Romania situated in the only intact volcanic crater in East-Central Europe. As the summer has indulged us in the past weeks with sunny days and pleasant breezy evenings, it’s time to gather all our camping gear and have a weekend getaway at Saint Ana Lake (Lacul Sfanta Ana).
Lake St. Ana lies in the cold crater of a dead volcano, at an altitude of 950 meters. In the prehistoric ages, there were other lakes in the crater, which, by now, got filled up with decaying remains of old trees, dry leaves, and the area turned into lightly forested, boggy land, called the Mohos-láp with an unique flora and fauna. The lake is supplied exclusively from precipitations, therefore the degree of mineralization of the water is very low. The water purity approaches of that of distilled water.
The area of the lake was not only believed to be a hiding place for pagan gods or genies, but also has been and still is one of the most adored and respected sacred place for the Christian Székelys, who always come here with a spirit filled with piety.
The St. Ana Lake is surrounded by legends, mysteries and miracles. Etymologically speaking, the name of the lake comes from the legend of a girl, Ana, who would become a wife. She did not want to marry because their parents forced to marry only to get the property of the young boy, who was quite unpolished in the marriage. In the evening of the wedding, the bride ran away and jumped in the lake, her lifeless body was not found not even today. Every year, on the day of St. Ana, the metropolitan consecrates the lake. Also, in her honor, there is a small chapel, set back from the water.
According to another legend, long ago, hereabouts lived two tyrants who were brothers. One mastered a fortress on the top Puciosul nearby, the other, a fortress located on the site of the current lake. Lord of the fortress of Puciosul had a beautiful carriage, won from the dice game, which has aroused the envy of his brother, who promised that the next day he would come and visit with a more impressive carriage. To gain the bet, the tyrant ordered the carriage to put a harness of eight of the most beautiful girls in the neighborhood.
The carriage was very heavy, they could not move it, which has aroused the master’s fury, who began to beat them. One of the girls, named Ana, cursed the hideous master. The curse materialized at once: an awful storm started, with lightning and thunders, earthquakes, and the fortress, together with its tyrant, immersed in flames. Here a blue and quiet lake was formed, called by the inhabitants of the area the “Lake of Saint Ana”. Also, the locals claim that the lake is bottomless.
In case you want to visit the lake and you want to take a refreshing bath, St. Ana Lake is 244 km away from Bucharest: take the DN1 to Brasov, then follow DN12 to Miercurea Ciuc. Then follow DJ113 for another 17 km.
The nature reservation “Dumbrava Vadului”, also known locally as “Poiana Narciselor” (the Meadows of Daffodils), is the biggest of its kind in Europe, covering an area of 400 hectares. read more
The nature reservation “Dumbrava Vadului”, also known locally as “Poiana Narciselor” (the Meadows of Daffodils), is the biggest of its kind in Europe, covering an area of 400 hectares. Dumbrava Vadului became a natural monument in 1967. The reserve lies in Sercaia commune, Vad village, less then 60 km distance from Brasov. Besides daffodils, irises and yellow peonies also grow adding to the vibrant natural colors. Apart from the specific fauna, roe deer, wild boars, foxes, rabbits, wild ducks and a few ant bears also live in the reserve making the place even more interesting.
In Romanian, the term used for the flower is “narcisa” and it comes from the beautiful young character from the Greek mythology called Narcis, who, it’s been said, fell in love with his own appearance. The legend says that the flower appeared after his death, right on his grave.
The Festival of Daffodils
The Festival of Daffodils is organized in the Meadows of Daffodils every year on the eve of the Day of Saints Constantine and Helen on the 21st of May.
This is the time of the year when the Transylvanian traditions and dishes can be admired and tasted. The young people from the Homorod Valley, dressed in traditional costumes, are head towards the meadow to race against other young people from the surrounding villages and counties.
The festival is a unique opportunity to emphasize the beauty of traditional dances, music and costumes, as well as the local customs and traditions in an incredible environment, surrounded by the beautiful daffodils.
Millions of daffodils bloom in Dumbrava Vadului every year, especially during the month of May, in some places exceeding 150 flowers per square meter. The locals have called them “coprine” and feel very blessed with this gift from God.
The beauty of this place attracts thousands of tourists every year. Dumbrava Vadului was also featured in the Romanian movie “Neamul Soimarestilor”, based on the novel with the same name written by Mihail Sadoveanu.
In case you are planning your getaway from Bucharest, the beautiful reserve is 228 km away in the Brasov county. You need to take DN1 to Predeal, then take the road DN73A to Vad and from there Dumbrava Vadului is just 3 km away on a local road.
When out of ideas on what to do during the weekend and longer trips out of Bucharest are not an option, we’d recommend exploring the areas around the Romanian capital city. read more
When out of ideas on what to do during the weekend and longer trips out of Bucharest are not an option, we’d recommend exploring the areas around the Romanian capital city. There are plenty of places to choose from for visiting, but this time let’s visit two monasteries. Two of the many surrounding Bucharest.
If you feel like a true explorer, the visit to the monasteries could include a drive through some of the nice villages around Bucharest. Not all of them are worth your time, but some might be just worth the trip.
Cernica monastery is first on our list. The first time we saw it, it was for a funeral, but that didn’t stop us from admiring it, and made a promise to return. Come next weekend and the nice spring weather, and we were there.
Winter sports lovers in search for new places to ski and snowboard, can choose to spend a weekend in Straja resort in Romania. read more
Winter sports lovers in search for new places to ski and snowboard, can choose to spend a weekend in Straja resort in Romania. Located in Hunedoara county, in the Valcan mountains, Straja has the biggest ski slopes in Romania.
The 9 km of slopes are evenly divided for skiers and snowboarders of every skill level, whether beginner, advanced or expert, everyone has a few runs in there. The longest ski run, the Telescaun is nearly 3 km and takes you all the way back into the valley if the snow conditions are friendly. The most challenging slope for experienced skiers is the Canal ski slope, a with 1.5 kilometers length. Other easy ski slopes in Straja are Platoul Soarelui (400 m), Sf. Gheorghe (700 m) and Constantinescu (1.7 km).
Above Lupeni city, Straja Ski Resort has fan-shaped runs, regular grooming and a tourist complex that offers numerous accommodation options including over 200 ski chalets, hotels, hostels and private villas. Visitors can also enjoy the 350-year-old history of the local coal-mining town, Lupeni. The nearest airport to Straja is Sibiu International Airport (SBZ).
You can reach the resort from Petrosani or Targu Jiu, which are about 230 km from Bucharest, going towards Romania’s west.
The site of the Chiajna Monastery, until recently abandoned, has given rise to plenty of urban legends, outside of its historical and architectural value. read more
The site of the Chiajna Monastery, until recently abandoned, has given rise to plenty of urban legends, outside of its historical and architectural value. The site was even used as an escalating wall by training mountain climbers or as a screen set for various local music videos.
Located in the North West part of Bucharest, at the periphery of the Giulesti – Sarbi neighborhood, the monastery is a historical monument dating back to the 18th century. Its construction started during the reign of Prince Alexandru Ipsilanti and was finished during the time of Phanariot ruler Nicolae Mavrogheni (1786 – 1790). It is a neo-classical monument, impressive in size for the constructions of the time: 43 meters long and 17 meters wide, with walls as thick as 1-2 meters.
Architecturally, the monastery is unique in the sense that it merges local and post-Bracovan architecture with neo-classical construction. Because of its fortress-looking aspect, it was bombed by the Ottoman army in 1814 and in 1821 it was completely abandoned to the ruin it is today. The monastery never accommodated a religious service as it was bombed before being consecrated. Despite its deterioration, the building survived several earthquakes and attempts to have it tore down as theft of bricks from the construction began to happen. The building of the railroad linking Bucharest to Craiova, which is about 30 meters away from the site, also weakened the structure of the monument.
Several attempts to restore the monastery were made between 1950 and 1970 but the site only deteriorated further as after 1977 when the ruins of the Bucharest that fell down at the earthquake were discarded nearby, at the former Chiajna garbage dump. In 1993 a perimeter of 10,000 sqm was added to the monastery to support its restoration and in 2008 the monastery was reactivated as a religious site, carrying the name of Marry, Mother of God and of Saint John Jacob the Romanian. In 2012 a wooden church, designed after the model of the ones that can be found in Maramures, was built on the site and religious services began to be held there.
You can find the Chiajna Monastery at 172 Drumul Sabareni. The route there on Google Maps is available here.
South – African fund NEPI recently started work on its new shopping mall in the Western Romanian city of Timisoara. read more
South – African fund NEPI recently started work on its new shopping mall in the Western Romanian city of Timisoara. The mall will cover 70,000 sqm in southern Timisoara, and will include a 4,000 – sqm multiplex cinema. NEPI will invest EUR 78 million in the new mall, whose completion date was not yet announced.
The library of the Gheorghe Asachi Technical University in Iaşi, Romania, was chosen as the most majestic library in the world in a ranking by Boredpanda.com. read more
The library of the Gheorghe Asachi Technical University in Iaşi, Romania, was chosen as the most majestic library in the world in a ranking by Boredpanda.com. The survey includes 25 libraries from all around the world and the list was still open for submissions at the time when this article was written. The “competition” lists architectural masterpieces such as the library of the Trinity College in Dublin, the Portuguese Royal Library in Rio de Janeiro, The National Library in Prague or the National Library in France.
The library is part of the University Palace in Copou (Iaşi’s famous park). The palace was built in 1892, based on famous Swiss architect Louis Blanc’s project which was, in its own turn, based on the sketches of a Romanian architect, Professor and Minister at that time. Louis Blanc was also the one who designed the Carol Davila University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Bucharest.
The library was severely damaged during the Second World War, in 1944, the reconstruction process lasting until the end of the ’50s, when the entire Palace was revamped.
Nowadays, the library is still functional and holds an impressive amount of one million volumes.
The library is connected with the University’s Festivity Hall. According to Professor Seghedin, the Technical University’s Prorector, interviewed by radioiasi.ro regarding the world library ranking, this is the most beautiful festivity hall in Romania. Both the library and the festivity hall can be visited, access is free.
The Copou University Palace located at 4 Păcurari Street also hosts the British Council in Iaşi and the European Documentation Centre.
The ASTRA Museum Complex in Sibiu, central Romania, had over 360,000 visitors last year, 60,000 of whom watched at least one movie screened at the ASTRA Film festival, according to a press release read more
The ASTRA Museum Complex in Sibiu, central Romania, had over 360,000 visitors last year, 60,000 of whom watched at least one movie screened at the ASTRA Film festival, according to a press release cited by local news agency Agerpres.
The number of visitors to the Sibiu museum complex was slightly higher than the National Village Museum’s in Bucharest, which had some 346,000 visitors in 2014, according to Paula Popoiu, the museum’s general manager. The Bucharest Museum hopes to attract some 400,000 visitors this year.
Corina Chirileasa writes about a half a day train trip by the Mocanita, the famous steam train in the Maramures region of Romania, an experience which should not be missed while in Romania. read more
Corina Chirileasa writes about a half a day train trip by the Mocanita, the famous steam train in the Maramures region of Romania, an experience which should not be missed while in Romania.
It’s the start of a working day in Vişeul de Sus, a village in Maramureş, Northern Romania. At 8 in the morning, people already form long queues to buy tickets and jump on the famous steam train, the Mocăniţa, that used to carry wood down the mountain.
Now the same train, fed with wood and water, very slowly takes travelers through the woods, to a place that seems close to the end of the world. Of the modern world.
Before getting there, however, some preparation is needed: summer is a busy season for the Mocăniţa, which runs from early July to mid – September. It’s the season when four trains, and not just one, make the daily 21-km trip, and when people need to sign up on waiting lists for a chance to be on one of the four trains. So piece of advice: make sure you reserve seats in advance! Or that you’re there way before the sun rises….
We ended up on a waiting list, and we were lucky enough to be called quite fast and let know there were two seats for us on one of the four trains – that really made our day!
The Republicii St. is the main pedestrian street of the old center in Brasov. It features a surprising amount of shoe, clothing, accessories, and bookstores. read more
The Republicii St. is the main pedestrian street of the old center in Brasov. It features a surprising amount of shoe, clothing, accessories, and bookstores. You will also find ATMs, pharmacies and banks.
Guest writer Mariana Ganea goes to Mogosoaia palace to meet with history and art.
I took advantage of the beautiful autumn days last weekend, waking up early and spending the day very close to read more
Guest writer Mariana Ganea goes to Mogosoaia palace to meet with history and art.
I took advantage of the beautiful autumn days last weekend, waking up early and spending the day very close to Bucharest, in a wonderful place. It’s called Mogosoaia. As I had expected, there I found the mix of autumn colors on the background of the Palace that stands there by the lake. After half an hour of driving from Bucharest, or some 10 kilometers away, on the road between Bucharest and the ancient capital of Wallachia, Targoviste, I arrived at the museum complex. My plan was to spend the entire Sunday there, inhaling fresh air, listening to the birds singing and walking on the park alleys, but my expectations were exceeded. Mogosoaia can offer so much more.
The Kulinarium restaurant in the Central Romanian city of Sibiu offers a 10% discount to bikers, provided they come to the restaurant by bike. read more
The Kulinarium restaurant in the Central Romanian city of Sibiu offers a 10% discount to bikers, provided they come to the restaurant by bike. Kulinarium is located in the Small Square – Piata Mica – in Sibiu.
Comana, 35 kilometers to the south is known as the Delta near Bucharest, and is a good place for adventure tourism. read more
Comana, 35 kilometers to the south is known as the Delta near Bucharest, and is a good place for adventure tourism. With an adventure park on site, a place to cool down at the Comana monastery and plenty of options for off-road cycling, this is a destination worth discovering. Don’t expect lots of amenities and either pack your lunch or eat beforehand in the nearby Calugăreni. The paeonies reservation is a must see – they’re in bloom in late May. Enjoy bird and animal watching, as well as having a look and taking some pictures of the remains of the lacustrine houses there.
Mogoșoaia Palace is 10 kilometers from Bucharest and the ride is usually popular among cyclists. A 17th century palace made of red bricks, a beautiful lake and a nice park await. read more
Mogoșoaia Palace is 10 kilometers from Bucharest and the ride is usually popular among cyclists. A 17th century palace made of red bricks, a beautiful lake and a nice park await. The palace was built in the Romanian Renaissance style or Brâncovenesc style (after the Prince of Wallachia Constantin Brâncoveanu).
With its lake and the forest, Snagov is one of the choices for countryside villas near Bucharest and a summer destination for many. read more
With its lake and the forest, Snagov is one of the choices for countryside villas near Bucharest and a summer destination for many. 40 kilometers North of Bucharest, it is easily accessible via the highway towards Ploiești. The forest is the largest remaining part of the Codrii Vlăsiei, the large forest that once surrounded the capital. Visit the Snagov monastery where Vlad Țepes’ tomb is to be found.
The Romanian seaside at the Black Sea seems to have something for every taste. It’s got posh resorts, places for family fun, resorts for folk lovers and for nudists, lively resorts for the youth and read more
The Romanian seaside at the Black Sea seems to have something for every taste. It’s got posh resorts, places for family fun, resorts for folk lovers and for nudists, lively resorts for the youth and even a few untouched beaches away from the noise.
Despite complaints from tourist associations that tourism in Romania is underdeveloped, the Romanian seaside is fully booked every summer. Almost everywhere you go, expect it to be crowded from June to the end of August. Some resorts are more popular than others and some have gained an almost overnight popularity. The official seaside season starts on May 1, when many Romanians go to the seaside for the first time that year. September is sometimes a good month to go to the Romanian seaside, depending on the weather, while August is probably among the busiest.
When most Romanians speak about going to the seaside they have one destination in mind: the famous resort Mamaia. It is the posh choice for spending time on the Romanian seaside and, as a result, it is overcrowded every summer. The name of the resort – which translates as Grandma – has nothing to do with the people who go there, who are usually the country’s rich, expats and young people who want to be trendy. It is an expensive resort with plenty of luxury accommodation options, which boasts a lively nightlife. Many choose Mamaia not so much for its beach – which is almost entirely privately managed – as for its parties. Most of the hotels and discos in Mamaia are close to the beach or within a reasonable walking distance, so whatever the choice, you will always be close to the sea, even if you can’t hear it over the music.
When it comes to parties, Vama Veche is a second option for people looking to spend their summer nights dancing near the beach and is definitely a cheaper option than Mamaia. Vama Veche – which is in fact a village – used to be a folk-only resort, home to a flower power and free spirited generation (think Woodstock forever), but it has become increasingly popular in recent years and now hosts a mixed crowd: those who come to regain their free spirit and listen to music while camping on the beach and those who are there because it is trendy. Either way, with its newly discovered diversity, Vama Veche has become the second favorite seaside destination in Romania for many.
While Mamaia is easy to reach – just take the highway from Bucharest and Mamaia will be found next to Constanța, to reach Vama Veche a slightly longer route is required. Vama Veche is close to the border with Bulgaria, to the south of Constanța. By car, you have to pass by Mangalia and head more to the south, while public transport will get you by train or bus to Mangalia train station and then by bus to Vama Veche, and to its sister resort 2 Mai – which is yet another option for those free spirited people who want to enjoy a less commercial holiday. Another option for those searching for a peaceful holiday is Gura Portiței, a seaside resort which lives in two worlds: the Black Sea, and the Danube Delta. To get there, you have to take the boat from Jurilocva, which is in the northern part of the seaside, and cross the Golovița lake. Public transport to the resort is slow so if you’re in a hurry and want to reach Gura Portiței fast hire a private speed boat. However if you are taking the one and a half hour boat trip, which costs RON 30 per person per trip, go early in the morning, as the last boat returning to Jurilovca is at 20:00 and you will want at least a full day of enjoying the wilderness. Remember, private, faster boats are also available and for larger groups the pricing per person is better.
It feels like the end of the world, as it is one of the few remaining almost unspoiled seaside spots in Romania, but you’ll not be alone there. There is accomodation available as well as enough room for camping.
If being cut off from the world is your cup of tea, then head to either Corbu or Vadu beaches, which are in the northern part of the seaside. These are two virgin beaches where, although you will not be completely alone (others have discovered them too), it will be much quieter than in the rest of the seaside. Access is not easy but they are not far from the seaside city of Constanța – just keep north and drive past Mamaia and Năvodari, on the same route which takes you to the Danube Delta. Just bear in mind that these two beaches are indeed virgin meaning there’s no accommodation available, no amenities just a place to camp, the sand and the sea.
For a more conventional holiday, there are several seaside resorts combining the two extremes we’ve just covered. While Năvodari is known as the place where generations of school children went on their summer holidays, it’s becoming more and more the new choice for seaside lovers, with several resorts known either for their family entertainment or for being youth hotspots.
Costinești falls in the latter category. If you want to meet the country’s students, or high-schoolers, then Costinesti is the place to check out. The place somehow always manages to stay young and loud.
A bit north from Costinești are two resorts, Eforie Nord and Eforie Sud, which are perceived more as places for spa or for boat afficionados who will surely enjoy the nice marina: Ana Yacht Club. Eforie Nord is also known as a good place for families with kids for its beach. Both resorts, because of their closeness to Techirghiol lake, are top targets for those searching for relaxing spa treatments.
Going further south, there’s Neptun resort, the place where the Romanian president and many state officials like to spend their summer holidays. The star resort back in the communist period, Neptun now hosts a mix of tourists, who find accommodation in a variety of hotels. As with elsewhere on the Romanian seaside, it is advisable to either ask friends to recommend accommodation or be very thorough in your search, as we have heard many cases of hotels which looked OK-ish on the outside, but whose rooms had not been renovated since the communist period.
Olimp, Venus and Saturn and three smaller resorts further south, which are usually preferred by average income earners in Romania, including families with kids and pensioners, however life on their beaches will always be a mix of different kinds of tourists.
We listed here several highlights in terms of accommodation, restaurants and fun places in these resorts.
A land of wood, pointy haystacks and stork nests, Maramureș is scattered with old peasant customs and crafts, waist tall grass, hard working men and spontaneously growing poppies. read more
A land of wood, pointy haystacks and stork nests, Maramureș is scattered with old peasant customs and crafts, waist tall grass, hard working men and spontaneously growing poppies. Here each day ends with a blissful smile. Dear home to many Romanians, this enclosed valley in the mountains once belonged to the mighty Dacian Kingdom only to be separated, like fellow Bucovina, from its northern historical half right after the Second World War. It remains a serene place surrounded by stormy rivers where the sun cozily sets amid the sound of wind bells.
Oftentimes men and women live to see many generations of grandchildren with 90-year-old patriarchs, a pretty common sight around the gravel road villages. Perhaps the air or the warm, foamy milk drank right after the cow is milked does the magic trick. Perhaps it is all about their extraordinary generosity and innocent shyness. Locals always invite their houseguests for a meal and a traditional glass of horincă, happily sharing the drinks but politely refusing the food as a way of paying respect to the guests. Who knows, maybe Maramureș is charmed. It’s definitely charming.
THE LITTLE WONDERS OF MARAMUREȘ
Merry life & death
Wandering the land of Maramureș, a traveller will find no less than the sheer joy of life’s small things. Every Sunday, without exception, young and old attend the church service wearing peasant trousers and blouses, women displaying their black and red fotă – a hand woven apron worn wrap-around the waist. The elaborate garments aren’t only for locals as each guesthouse proudly lends all size costumes to their guests.
Much to the delight of children and adults, the artisan clothes are a must during the National Folklore Festival “Nights of Sânziene” in Borșa (June 24) and the giant Hora la Prislop, a circle spin folk dance which gathers people from three counties in Prislop village (August).
As life here is woven out of humorous storytelling, music and dances, death is never frowned upon but lightheartedly accepted. What image could better describe this constant anticipation of a better afterlife than the sight of the Merry Cemetery of Săpânța? The tombstones are hand carved oak crosses, painted in a lively shade of blue and covered on both sides with naive paintings and carved poetic epitaphs depicting, in the most comical way, the life of the deceased and the cause of death.
Close to Săpânța is the town of Sighetu Marmației, home of the Memorial Museum of the Victims of Communism, the Elie Wiesel Memorial House and the Ethnographic Museum of Maramureș.
Wooden gates & churches
Timeworn guardians of the village’s greatest assets – the churches and houses – the monumental gates of Maramureș rest firm on their three massive pillars. These oak wood giants were, and still are, meticulously carved by craftsmen faithful to ancestral rituals and symbols: the sun and the twisted rope mark life and endlessness, the tree of life depicts eternal youth while the Christian fish and the protective figures of the forefathers also appear among the carvings.
The more intricate the gate is, the simpler the home and church are. Churches are a truthful expression of how people cherish the wood, using it to erect time proof houses of worship. Built exclusively out of well-sealed logs, they are usually double-roofed, covered with wood shingles and have one tall, narrow steeple placed above the entrance, which is always faced to the west. The finest and best-preserved churches can be found in Bârsana, Ieud-Deal, Joseni and Poienile Izei, while the tallest wooden church in Europe was erected in Săpânța-Peri.
The wizardly road of Cavnic
On the way to Ocna Șugatag, the village famous for its salt water, and north of Cavnic, the little town that prevailed against the last Tatar invasion in 1717, the most unusual thing happens. There are about 20 meters of road where each car, regardless the size, drives uphill without its engine running.
The experience is both spectacular and intriguing as there are a few legends and lots of assumptions regarding the mysterious cause, yet no scientific explanation. Nevertheless, if you’re interested in solving this mystery yourself, make sure you let us know as we can provide thorough information how to get there.
Fiery water & food for the soul
Every autumn the wine press treads the grapes while the juicy plums, ripe apples and pears ferment, giving birth to the star of the season: the fiery Romanian water, known locally as horincă, pălincă or turț. As the story goes, this strong plum brandy is double-distilled in large grounded alembics to reach around 50% alcohol by volume then aged in oak or mulberry barrels. You may easily recognize it by its intense fruit flavor, the small, perfectly arranged beads when shaken and the alcohol warming your heart and spirit. It usually lacks color, but if you’re ever invited to drink horincă with a yellowish tint, you are being greatly honored by the head of the household as the shade represents undeniable proof of the age. The families living in Maramureș are, by definition, the perfect hosts. Once you’ve crossed their threshold, they shall welcome you with a glass of homemade horincă and the most appetizing three-course meal.
The most difficult task will be to pick your favorite when it comes to tasty creamy soups, shepherd’s balmoș (milk and cream boiled polenta with pot cheese and a buttery finishing touch), sour cream omelets or the heavenly pancove, a flat pastry filled with jar preserved salted pot cheese, fresh dill and shallots. However, we kindly advise you to leave room for dessert as there is no other place in the entire country where you can eat homemade cakes with such a delight. They’re indescribably good and there’s no need to blush at the thought of asking for more, as the lady of the house will be highly appreciative.
Mocănița, the chirping steam train
How would you like to touch, on the fly, the mountain and dwarf fir trees while traveling on a tiny steam powered train? The Vaser Valley Forestry Railway, fondly nicknamed Mocănița and built in 1932, is the last operating forestry railway in Europe. Although present in Bucovina and other regions of Romania, this Mocănița travels the longest track, which is 43km long (26.7mi), however only 21km (13mi) is operated for tourists, using an Austro-Hungarian standard gauge of 760 mm (30in).
A round trip journey from Vișeu de Sus is quite an exciting experience as the scenery changes from sunny villages to cool wild forests. You’ll see colorful butterflies and ladybugs while smelling fresh cut lumber and burned wood from the locomotive. The train is usually followed by a converted minivan on rails. Although there’s a fair chance you’ll get a bit of soot on your face and clothes, you can always wash up in Vaser’s clear water during the halts.
At Paltin turning point, passengers are offered catering services in covered and open-air seating. Each car has a multiple language tour guide. July 1 through September 15, Mocănița travels daily, but it is better to check the website for the complete timetable and special events with scheduled trains.
For more adrenaline rush, the Borșa area is suitable for mountain climbing (Pietrosul Peak), off road, hiking and mountain biking to Știol Lake and Horses Waterfall. Local guesthouses can provide tour and logistical assistance.
By Alexandra Duță
Alexandra Duță is the co-founder of 5 Senses Romania, that provides premium customized tourist services, bringing a new concept to the Romanian tourist market, the 5 senses vacation not for tourists but travelers in search of a multi-sensory adventure. 5SR offers them the choice of the finest ingredients for a true feast of thrills, thus having the possibility to select and combine those which best create the complete holiday experience. More details at 5sensesromania.com
Also known as the land of beech trees where tall, blonde, blue-eyed and kind-hearted people live, Bucovina is the place where the earth keeps warm even in winter time and the dishes are refined to read more
Also known as the land of beech trees where tall, blonde, blue-eyed and kind-hearted people live, Bucovina is the place where the earth keeps warm even in winter time and the dishes are refined to everyone’s liking.
The historical region of Bucovina, now divided between Ukraine and Romania, covers the northern part of the latter and represents the most fruitful Romanian land in terms of history, linguistics, traditions and religious ancestry.
The painted monasteries
There are six of them, one more spectacular than the other, from north to south: Putna, Sucevița, Arbore, Moldovița, Humor and the crown jewel, Voroneț. Called by some the Sistine Chapel of the East, the latter displays vivid frescoes painted in the perfect cerulean blue. Go round the main church and you’ll be rather surprised to discover the northern wall has its unique paintings almost wiped out due to the north wind.
Red, green, yellow and blue, each monastery has its own historical charm as the monastic residents share old time legends sweetened with their soft regional accent. Do not leave the monastery without enjoying every bit of a finger-licking lunch. Our tip is to ask for rose and raspberry sherbet as a dessert, you’ll be amazed. Then test your bargaining skills at the nearby permanent fairs for the most whimsical woven peasant blouses and other artisan objects.
The best way to visit all-important monasteries with a single tour is to hire a car transfer; check for availability with local guesthouses in Gura Humorului. We highly recommend guided bicycle tours and leisure walks to Humor and Voroneț monasteries as they’re located within reach of Gura Humorului city center.
The art of decorating eggs
The locals from Bucovina are most proud of their ancient craftsmanship: the art of decorating eggs. The egg is carved, dyed or painted and, even though every technique is spectacular, perhaps the most exceptional is the ornamentation of the egg with six layers of colored wax which creates a unique texture. A visit to the largest egg collection in our country would be well worth it for a chance to assist the artist herself while she decorates the eggs with archaic symbols belonging only to land of Bucovina.
Marginea black pottery
The northern village of Marginea shelters more than 30 potter families, distinguished bearers of the unequaled tradition of crafting nacreous black ceramics. They are proud to share each stage of the manual production as visitors are welcome to join the process of preparing the clay, molding it barehanded on the potter wheel, applying stone polish and finally burning the pots in sealed ovens.
As the renowned Sucevița stud farm is close at hand you shouldn’t miss the chance to take a recreational ride or enjoy an equestrian show.
Covering the Eastern Carpathians, the thick forests of Bucovina, a wildlife haven indeed, are pure bliss for hiking, mountain biking, horse riding, bird watching and of course, mushroom and berry picking. The local star is the fleshy porcino along with the chanterelle, both enriching the taste of the zesty baked appetizers and pickles. The enthusiasm for this mushroom rises every autumn when locals from Vama celebrate the Porcino Festival (between September 1 and October 15).
Bucovina, tastefully yours
Bucovineans are truly passionate about food. Their cooking tradition has been influenced in the past centuries not only by the local ethnic minorities but also by the Orthodox heritage. Vegetable sour soups and hot peppers (borș cu ardei iute), nests of meat stuffed cabbage rolls and polenta (sarmale cu mămăligă) and tinted trout (păstrăv la baiț), all topped with organic sour cream. The local housewives’ cooking techniques can only be matched by monastery kitchens where exquisite fasting or vegetarian meals are prepared. These are entirely homemade, including the bread. Nonetheless, the masterpiece of cuisine is by far the freshly puffy and delightful poale-n brâu, a cottage cheese and raisin filled pie.
Every dish is thoroughly matched with the finest Moldavian wines, from the rich flavored farmer harvest to the award-winning boutique wines.
A day in Gura Humorului
At the heart of Bucovina, this charming little town knows no dull moment regardless of the season. The Ariniș recreational area includes an Olympic-size swimming pool, heated during winter, floodlit sport courts and an ice rink. In wintertime, bare limbed apple orchards with their ripe fruits still hanging are the most inviting places to enjoy a glass or two of fresh apple juice and perhaps a soothing massage after a ride down Șoimul ski slope located in the immediate vicinity of the town.
Also, don’t miss the opportunity to visit the close-by Cacica salt mine for a look around and a bath in the salt-water pool.
By Alexandra Duță
Alexandra Duță is the co-founder of 5 Senses Romania, that provides premium customized tourist services, bringing a new concept to the Romanian tourist market, the 5 senses vacation not for tourists but travelers in search of a multi-sensory adventure. 5SR offers them the choice of the finest ingredients for a true feast of thrills, thus having the possibility to select and combine those which best create the complete holiday experience. More details at 5sensesromania.com
Everything happens at a different pace here – that’s what most travelers notice about Cluj after being exposed to Bucharest. read more
Everything happens at a different pace here – that’s what most travelers notice about Cluj after being exposed to Bucharest. One of Romania’s most dynamic and cosmopolitan cities, the city of Cluj – “The Treasure City” as it is also known – has inherited some of the patient and pedantic ways of the Austrian empire. This legacy is noticeable not only in the ways of the place or the architecture of its boulevards, but also in the people, as the city is a multicultural blend of all ethnicities that have been living here for centuries.
When in Cluj, the first stopover is the medieval centre of the city, with its heart – the Union Square. Here you can visit the gothic St. Michael’s Church with the famous Matthias Corvinus statue guarding its flank, the Banffy Palace Art Museum or the Iuliu Maniu street, called the Mirror Street for its symmetry, and unique in Romania. Head towards the Museum Square on the little cobblestone streets and you are sure to pass by dozens of street merchants, traditional craftsmen or local farmers who will entice you with their mastery or treats. Next, you reach the Casa Matei, a 13th century inn where Matei Corvin, the great Emperor of Hungary, was born. Keep walking until you reach the Museum Square, the most beautiful square in the city. This square is home to the History Museum, the Franciscan Church and Monastery and countless terraces spread around the Carolina Obelisk, a monument honoring the 18th Century imperial visit of Emperor Francisc I and his wife, Carolina Augusta, who fell in love with the city.
Then continue towards the river, cross the bridge and climb the stairs to the Cetățuia hill, where you can indulge in an ice cream, coffee or cocktail at a panoramic terrace, enjoying the most stunning views of the city. Wrap up this perfect afternoon in the Botanical Garden for a few hours of walking through this green paradise in the center of the city. Or, for a more cultural though somewhat morbid experience, visit the Hazsongard Central cemetery next door, a cemetery famous across Central Europe.
You can visit one of the many museums in town – a particularly interesting one is the Pharmacy Museum right across the street from St. Michael’s Church. In the evening, head to watch an opera show at either the Romanian or Hungarian National Opera Houses or a play at the two National Theatres in town. Cluj is one of the few cities in the world with two State operas in different languages. Finish your evening with a glass of wine at Bruno’s Wine Bar, right next to the History Museum in the Museum Square, or try one of the clubs, bars and cafes filling every house within a 3-block radius around the Union Square – just follow the music.
If you’re in Cluj May through October, there are several festivals bursting with energy around the city. You can enjoy TIFF – the Transilvania International Film Festival, Romania’s largest and one of Central Europe’s most prestigious film festivals. Or take your blanket with you in the Central Park for a summer evening of wine, culture and acoustic Jazz at the Jazz in the Park festival.
Nature & surroundings
One of the best things about Cluj is its proximity to many wonderful destinations. Within a half hour’s drive you can admire the incredible Turda Salt Mine with its indoor Ferris wheel, hike through the gorgeous natural reservation in the Turda Gorges or canoe on the Tarnița Lake. If all you want is a picnic, you can just drive on the Cetățuia hill passing the Village Museum and enjoy the Hoia Baciu forest that cuts deep into the heart of the city. Or, drive up on the Feleac hill and head to Făget, a large forest in the South.
If you’re in town for a longer stay, you can always take a two-day trip to Padiș, one of Romania’s most beautiful and popular regions, with mountains that nest hundreds of caves, underground rivers and canyons. One caveat: make sure you’re prepared for a proper camping experience, as there are very few amenities in the area.
Access & getting there
Cluj is easily accessible by all means of transportation. You can hop on one of the 5-6 daily Tarom flights from Bucharest and be there in less than 1 hour, plus the 15 minute cab ride to downtown. You can drive 6-7 hours via either Brașov or Sibiu, or take the train- an 8+ hour ride.
• When meeting someone in Cluj, meet at the “horse’s tail” – this is the most common meeting place for the locals, right behind the equestrian statue of Matthias Corvinus in Union Square.
• Try jogging on the river banks, in the Central Park and around the Iuliu Hatieganu park. Take your bike with you, cycling is a fast growing activity.
• If you’re interested in a guided experience, contact City Tours & Events, they have the friendliest and most knowledgeable guides in town, www.city-tours-events.ro or +40264 439 364
By Andrei Roth
Andrei Roth is the general manager of Recognos Romania, a software development company based in Cluj. He is also involved in the local startup ecosystem, managing a startup accelerator and several educational programs in Romania. He studied in California at UC Berkeley and currently lives in Cluj.
Since its status as the European Cultural Capital in 2007, Sibiu has become especially well known, far beyond Romanian borders. read more
Since its status as the European Cultural Capital in 2007, Sibiu has become especially well known, far beyond Romanian borders. Previously, it had enjoyed renown as the Jewel of Southern Transylvania, though perhaps it was not quite as polished as it is today. Five years later, the city still offers a broad cultural programme throughout the year.
Like numerous other cities in the region, its origins can be found in a settlement founded by German colonists in the 12th century. They say that a certain Hermann was the leader of these settlers, so the village – initially mentioned in 1223 – was baptised and carries it unofficially even today the name Hermannstadt..
National Road DN 7 passes through Sibiu, which is actually one of the most important transit routes to Bucharest from the Hungarian border. Coming from Bucharest you head for Pitești and follow the road signs to Sibiu, five hours by car in total. Coaches leave Bucharest from Autogara Militari (Blvd. Iuliu Maniu no. 141, next to Metro Station Pacii), a recommendedable and low priced alternative to the train. If you prefer to travel fast and comfortably a plane might be your means of transport since Sibiu has one daily flight to Bucharest with Tarom, but only from Monday to Friday. Book in advance for excellent deals.
What to do
The oldest and most interesting part of the town lies at the end of a ridge that protrudes in from the valley of the River Cibin. In the middle of the old town you will find an incredible square, called the Great Square (Piata Mare). This square is framed with a couple of interesting houses. The most impressive ones are situated on the northern side. On your right-hand side you see the comparably new Catholic Church that was built ostensibly between 1726 and 1733 by the Austrian Habsburg sovereigns (having conquered Transylvania in 1699), who demonstrated to their respective protestant and orthodox subjects the new constellation of power. The next building on the left houses the Tourist Information Center on the ground floor. The ladies who work there are very kind and helpful. Beside this renovated edifice is the new town hall, and right above the tourist office is the office of the mayor, whose seat is taken by one of the few remaining Saxons in Transylvania, Klaus Johannis.
A nice side note: although Germans represent only 2 percent of the population in the city, namely some 2,000, they command the political power on both local and county levels. After 10 years of stagnation, the Romanians decided to vote for the Saxon, Klaus Johannis, who won the mayoral elections in 2000 , and, since then, has held office. Two hundred years earlier, there was also a Saxon who rendered outstanding services for the region.
Samuel von Brukenthal was the only Transylvanian governor during the Austro-Hungarian regency. He bequeathed a fabulous collection of paintings as well as real estate to the Saxon nation. The impressive baroque building at the square’s exit is the Brukenthal castle. Today it serves as the main complex of the museum with the same name, with its world-renowned collection of Flemish masterpieces. It, however, has a lot more to offer and, in any case, is worth a tour.
At this point we could go on and on, as every house could tell a story, but you will discover and learn more if you come to visit. When you leave the square between Brukenthal castle and the Town Hall you will reach the innermost point of the former three defensive rings (the Great Square was the third one). Huet Square (Piața Huet) is dominated by the Evangelic Church, dating from the 14th century. The Gothic church was finished around 1520. The building is currently under reconstruction. After many years of fundraising, the parish obtained EU funds which enabled the restoration. Despite the reconstruction, you should not miss the view from the tower. If you catch a clear day you will enjoy a delightful view over Sibiu, decorated with the panorama of the Carpathians.
Opposite the church entrance stands Brukenthal High School, a renowned school where pupils are still educated in German, thus attracting a lot of Romanian children with wealthy parents (Speaking German is a highly-prized asset in Romania!). Walk around the church and enjoy the view across the roofs of the lower town. If you have not noticed yet, keep an eye on the dormer windows, or let them keep an eye on you – these eye-shaped dormers are unique and almost exclusively found in Sibiu.
On the eastern corner of the square you see a little bridge above the road to the lower town; this is the so-called Liar’s Bridge. If you come at the weekend you will most likely see a newly-wed couple posing for their wedding album. Directly to the right is the Small Square (Piața Mică), then the second fortification, now the pub mile, where on summer evenings you will jostle for tables at the overcrowded bars and pizzerias.
Festivals all over the year
We mentioned Sibiu’s cultural programme at the beginning of our article. The city strives to preserve and strengthen its cultural profile by supporting a broad range of festivals, concerts and exhibitions. During the summer the streets and places, especially the Piața Mare, act sort of as an open-air stage with thousands of spectators.
An extraordinary highlight is the annual Sibiu International Theatre Festival which is held every spring, starting at the end of May. The festival comes with a multitude of events. It stages major international productions, the finest productions in Romanian theatre, as well as street and music performances from around the world, all taking place daily in Sibiu’s historical centre, in its squares and buildings, and inside the churches and medieval fortresses of Sibiu’s scenic surroundings. The festival also features dance–theatre performances, puppet theatre and light displays. The only hard choice is where to go.
There are a couple of other festivals such as the Jazz Festival in May, the Romanian-American Music Days in June, or the Rockfestival Artmania and the Medieval Festival both held in August. A long tradition has the annual pottery market which is held on the first weekend in September is also a long running tradition. A couple of years ago, Sibiu began organising a Christmas market in December, which is modelled on original ones in Western Europe, and is growing from year to year. If you are staying in Sibiu at this time of the year then we recommend drinking a hot mug of mulled wine at the snow-covered Great Square.
Besides, there is a vivid cultural life in the city, expressing itself by organizing small concerts and theatre performances in cafés, churches and other places. You can obtain the latest information about upcoming events i.e. in the official tourist office at Piata Mare.
Cafes & Pubs
Sibiu has a wealth of cafes and pubs. Just walk through any one of the three squares and take your pick. Don’t like what you see? Just walk 30 meters forward and there will be many more to choose from. Especially in Piața Mică (the Small Square) you will find a great selection.
Founded by Teutonic knights at the beginning of the 13th century, until the 18th century Brașov was still predominantly inhabited by Transylvanian Saxons – a heritage that gives the city its read more
Founded by Teutonic knights at the beginning of the 13th century, until the 18th century Brașov was still predominantly inhabited by Transylvanian Saxons – a heritage that gives the city its distinctively German feel.
Through the ring of communist blocks, at the heart of the city lies the old town, framed by the steep slopes of the surrounding valley. At its end soars the 65 meter high tower of the so called Black Church, which got its name after a devastating fire swept across the town in 1689 leaving it with soot-blackened walls. The largest Gothic church in Romania, it was built between 1385 and 1477; after several renovations the interior became mostly baroque. The large collection of Turkish carpets inside the church give an impression of just how close the connections between Transylvania and the orient have been over the centuries.
A walk up the pedestrian precinct Republicii Boulevard reveals shop after shop, numerous cafés and restaurants, usually with plenty of inhabitants and tourists. A little further on is the fan-shaped Town Hall Square (Piața Sfatului), a wide space with the Town Hall in its middle, lined with red-roofed merchant houses. The building dates from 1420 and for centuries hosted the Saxon town council. The Town Hall hosts the city’s tourist office, which provides plenty of information about accommodation, sights and events.
Visible from some places at the city’s entrance and unmissable from the center is the town name in Hollywood-style lettering, high above the city’s roofs atop the forested peak to the east. The mountain is called Pinnacle (Tâmpa), and is 955 meters high. There is a funicular (cable car) on Aleea Brediceanu, which is also the starting point for a marked footpath up to the top.
Through the Șchei gate, situated some 300 meters behind the Black Church, is the traditional Romanian district. Up until the 17th century Romanians were not allowed to acquire property within the city walls, which was a privilege of the Saxon population. Thus, Romanians settled in areas outside the fortifications, such as the Șchei District, which is one of the oldest. Here houses are smaller, huddling together, streets are narrower. In the midst of this quarter at Unity Square (Piața Unirii) stands a pretty Orthodox church, and alongside, the oldest Romanian school.
At the end of the narrow valley a forest road leads through the woods to the Poiana Brașov ski resort, 12 kilometers outside the city. It is accessible by car via Stejărișului St. or from the small town Râșnov. Eight ski-slopes are available ranging from 300 meters to three kilometers in length. Brașov’s surrounding regions also offer some interesting places. Pretty much everyone has heard of Bran Castle, the legendary home of Count Dracula. Let’s get rid of this myth. Since Bram Stoker’s novel was published well over one hundred years ago, Western tourists have come searching for the vampire’s castle. At some point, somebody decided to sell them Bran was the one. Anyway, the castle looks nice, but actually was built by the Brașovians to control a toll collection point. Yes, there are stories that Vlad the Impaler, the historical Wallachian prince who inspired at least in part the Dracula legend, stayed a night or two here, but it was definitely not his castle. In the case of Vlad Tepeș (Vlad the Impaler) there are definitely more authentic places.
Still, the castle lies at the edge of the Bucegi Massive. A recommendable natural site is the National Park of King’s Rock (Piatra Craiului). Lying along the 25 kilometer long limestone ridge are a number of peaks, the 2,244 meter Piscul Baciului being the highest. The area is a hideaway for rare plants and animals, among them wolves and bears – a paradise for nature lovers and hiking fanatics.
You must not miss the fortified church of Prejmer. The monolithic white colossus dominates the wide square of the village that is about 15 kilometers outside of Brașov. Ten meter high walls repelled the enemies that came, which was often bad luck for the inhabitants across the mountains. The village was sacked more than 50 times over the centuries, but the holy fortress resisted. In 1999 UNESCO put it on their world heritage list. Any of the former Saxon villages in this region has its fortified church, as you will see if you drive through the country; in contrast the peasant fortresses are a rarity.
By Holger Wermke
Holger Wermke is a native German who has been living in Sibiu for three years, where he is a journalist for the Allgemeine Deutsche Zeitung für Rumänien, a German-language newspaper. He also founded pluspole, an agency for communication and marketing.
City Compass—in cooperation with the local tourism development association TravelBuzau organizes guided tours (in English, French, German) to the future Geopark Buzău, off road trips, family safari and cycling tours, rafting as well as special events (truffle hunting, wine events, teambuilding, executive retreats) in the region.
• Further information available on our Tours & Vacation services section on our site.
Thorsten Kirschner holds a master’s degree in International Business and Cultural Studies and has been working as an international development and export consultant for more than ten years all over the world. He has been living in Romania since 2009 and is passionate about traveling. He is co-founder of TravelBuzau, the tourism development association of Buzau county, and of Carpathian Tourism Cluster Romania. Since 2012 Thorsten has been a partner at City Compass and responsible for tours & events within the group.
Most restaurants are in Buzău and become very scarce outside the city, apart from several lackluster motels on the main roads (definitely not recommended). read more
Most restaurants are in Buzău and become very scarce outside the city, apart from several lackluster motels on the main roads (definitely not recommended). Most of the guesthouses have integrated restaurants or offer half or full-board for their guests. Prior booking is recommended.
The partner company of City Compass, Terra Carpatica offers a unique fusion cuisine with regional high-quality products according to the slow food concept. i.e. fresh Carpathian truffles & mushroom, venison products, smoked freshwater fish, goat creme cheese or rarely used fruits and herbs like elderberries or wild lemon balm. Upon request Terra Carpatica organizes culinary outdoor events in Buzau county for tourist groups with more than 10 participants (www.terracarpatica.com).
“A landscape that could only be dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm.”
That’s how a British journalist with the Guardian described the Buzău region after a week’s bicycle tour through the read more
“A landscape that could only be dreamed up by the Brothers Grimm.”
That’s how a British journalist with the Guardian described the Buzău region after a week’s bicycle tour through the Buzău Mountains. Despite being one of the closest travel destinations to Bucharest, Buzău county is largely unknown to tourists as it has not been included in publicized tourist programs – up until now. Buzău offers breathtaking mountains and wild forests, unique natural phenomena, the cradle of Christianity in Romania, a future geo-park and one of Romania’s best wine regions.The sparsely populated forests, hills and mountains of Buzău are perfect for sport and adventure activities such as off-road tours, mountain biking, rafting, canyoning or paragliding. Traditional villages, monasteries and archaeological sites are waiting to be discovered.
Buzău county has a quite diverse and picturesque landscape, with sun drenched hills in the south west, sub-Carpathian forests and hills in the center and wild mountains to the north of the county. Rural tourism is predominant. Tourism development in Buzău is still in its infancy but here, off the beaten track, a truly enchanting environment can be found. Unfortunately, good maps or official tracks are unavailable, so a local guide or good preparation in advance is recommended. Information signs are rare and the same goes for restaurants, whereas rural guesthouses can be found in the whole county, but quality varies a great deal.
Buzău city is the capital of Buzău county and makes a convenient starting point, but as a tourism destination it pales next to the surrounding countryside.
The best-developed tourism destination in Buzău county is Sărata Monteoru – nicknamed ‘Little Switzerland.’ Sărata Monteoru was once a famous spa with tourists visiting from all over Europe, but nowadays it is sadly a long way from its former glory. Crowded by tourists on summer weekends – who mostly come to swim in the salty waters – off-season, Monteoru is a peaceful place for recreation and walking in the spacious and hilly forests. Sărata Monteoru is a good starting point to discover the Dealu Mare (Big Hill) wine region.
Another tourism center is the Berca area, which will be the center of the planned geopark ‘Land of Buzău.’ It’s a perfect place to start hiking, biking or off road tours to the hilly landscape of the muddy volcanoes, the salt mountains, the Meledic plateau, Lake Mocearu or the Living Fires. Real mountain aficionados and climbers will find an eldorado at Gura Teghii, the area of Lake Siriu, Chiojdu or Bisoca.
Buzău county is mainly a weekend destination for Romanian tourists during the summertime. Spring and autumn, however, offer very good conditions for leisure activities. The winter – completely free of tourists – creates an enchanting environment in the sub-Carpathian mountains. Despite missing ski-lifts, a lot of activities can be done including sledge riding, snow walking and – the latest tourism product – truffle hunting. Due to its proximity to Bucharest, Buzău is perfect for a one-day or weekend trip.
That’s why Buzău is also on the way to becoming a destination for corporate tours and corporate events. Several new wineries, luxury wood cabins and guesthouses offer extraordinary places for team-building activities and events.
Access to Buzău is fairly easy, compared to the Prahova Valley. The closest destinations can be reached in 1 ½ to 2 hours’ drive from Bucharest.
• From Bucharest:
DN 2 Voluntari–Urziceni–Buzău (c. 110 km)
București–Ploiești Highway–DN 1B–Urlati–Buzău (c. 120 km), this route is much more attractive as it passes the Dealu Mare wine region
• From Brașov: DN 10–Prejmer–Întorsura Buzăului– Lake Siriu (80 km)–Buzău (180 km).
The Brașov–Buzău route is one of the most beautiful Trans-Carpathian routes.
If you like adrenalin and unique places, then probably a trip on Transalpina is the kind of experience you are looking for. read more
If you like adrenalin and unique places, then probably a trip on Transalpina is the kind of experience you are looking for. The road has been officially opened again although it has the “under construction” status, so the necessary restrictions should apply.
Transalpina is the road that is situated at the highest altitude in Romania, as well as in the whole Carpathian chain, both in Romania and abroad. The highest altitude it reaches is 2145m in the Urdele Pass. Transalpina crosses the Parang Mountains from N to S, linking Transylvania and Oltenia, going in parallel with the Olt Valley and Jiu Valley in between which there are the two villages Saliste in the Sibiu County and Novaci in the Gorj County.
The name of the road comes from the Latin “Transalpina” (the country beyond the mountains) as Tara Romaneasca (“The Romanian Country” – a former region of Romania) used to be called in the old Latin texts and on the old maps. It is also called “The Kings’ Road” because king Carol II inaugurated it himself together with the Royal Family in 1938 after its completion together with the Royal Family.
Although it’s situated at a higher altitude and it is said that it’s more beautiful than the Transfagarasan road, it is still less known because even if it’s considered a National Road, it has never been asphalted before 2009.
Transalpina has been built by the roman armies on their way to Sarmisegetusa, paved by King Carol II after 1930 and rehabilitated by the Germans during the Second World War after being forgotten for centuries. Nowadays it offers spectacular views and a challenging drive for the adrenalin enthusiasts.
The fact that it has been forgotten and it has become very hard to drive on helped Transalpina keep its wilderness and special charm untouched, unlike many other places in Romania. It is one of the only roads in Romania where you can actually drive up to the clouds and even above them.