Traveling to different countries made us realise that we haven’t visited our own country that much so we decided it is time to be tourists in Romania. We already knew that staying in one place is not an option so we planned a road trip to different regions of the country.
We flew into Bucharest to visit my sister and friends and since Cristi has only been through Bucharest, I decided to show him around a little bit. We started our day in the old city centre which is the liveliest place in Bucharest. The narrow, paved streets are filled with cafés, restaurants, bars and clubs. Here you can find the Macca-Vilacrosse passage, a glass-covered, arcaded street with several cafés and bars. Next stop was Cişmigiu park, the oldest public park in Bucharest. Amongst others, there’s a lake with rowing boats (or for skating in the winter) and an alley with a rose garden. One thing to keep in mind though – there are a lot of birds around. We continued through Piața Victoriei and the Athenaeum where brides and grooms were queueing up to take pictures. We went back to the old city centre to meet two of our Erasmus friends and catch up over a few pints, after which other friends joined us and we decided to go to a club, which went on until daylight. Next day obviously started in the afternoon for us – we went for a few drinks back to the old city centre – not as much as the previous night though, since we had a train to catch early next morning.
7 Scări Canyon
After spending two days in Bucharest, it was time to head on and start the road trip. We grabbed a cab to the train station early on Monday morning. Now usually, we try to get public transport whenever possible, but I have to mention that cabs are extremely cheap compared to other places we travelled to – approximately 1.39 RON/km. We took the train to Braşov, arriving around 9, where Lia was already waiting for us on the platform – this was her 5th trip with us – out of many more to come, hopefully. Outside the train station we met Brigi and Zsolti. We had some peaches, gathered by them from their back yard (they had a full crate in the car) and decided that our first destination will be “Cascada 7 scări” – which translates to Seven stairs waterfall. It is quite a nice hike, not too strenuous. Takes about an hour from the road to reach the cabin, where you have to pay an entry fee. There are some picnic tables over here, which you can take advantage of. After the cabin, there is another hike until you reach the base of the waterfall. From here you have to climb (guess how many?) seven vertical ladders, with the longest one being 14 meters in height, and it runs parallel with one of the waterfalls, meaning you get quite a bit of splash as you go up and your hands will get cold on the wet, metal ladder – it is mountain water after all. I have to add here that although it seems scary at some points, the ladders and platforms seemed quite well maintained and pretty safe. After climbing the ladders, there is a hike to the right that takes you around and back to the cabin again. We stopped for a short lunch here at the picnic tables before continuing back down to the main road. The whole hike takes approximately half a day, but there are some other marked paths after the ladders that you can take, if you decide to spend some more time in the nature.
Our next stop was the Râşnov citadel. This citadel was built between 1211 and 1225 on top of a hill by Teutonic knights. Entering the citadel walls, there is a winding road that takes you up to the main building, road that posed an awesome opportunity for photographs. From the top building there is an excellent view of the surrounding town and the forest behind us. We managed to snap some pictures just as some light was shining over the fields. With this achievement under our belt, we started heading down. Although the entire day was a bit cloudy, we weren’t expecting rain – which obviously happened, precisely as we reached the car. And it wasn’t just a bit of rain, it was heavy downpour. Luckily, we managed to get to the car. Five minutes later the heavy rain had already stopped. After having some snacks and some peaches, we carried on to Braşov.
We went to our accommodation first, then decided to go into the centre for dinner. More often than not we use Tripadvisor to find good places to eat. We chose to go to “La Ceaun” for some traditional food and this place didn’t disappoint us. Lia insisted we have to see one of the worlds’ narrowest street – “Strada Sforii”. While trying to find it we stumbled upon a place where the town was organizing Oktoberfest. We ended up having some pints at Oktoberfest and some Jagermeister test tube shots, after which we went back to our accommodation to get some sleep for the night.
Bran Castle – also known as Dracula’s Castle
Next on our list was Bran castle which is also known as Dracula’s Castle among the tourists due to Bram Stoker. The entrance fee for the castle and the surrounding gardens is 35 RON. Depending on the day and time of year, you might want to get there early to beat the crowds. Some of you might be surprised to know that Vlad the Impaler, the historical character portrayed as Dracula, never had a significant role in the history of the castle, although he did pass several times through Bran. After going through the narrow hallways, small rooms and secret passage, we went down to the courtyard to the wishing well, and after to the castle’s estate for a few pictures of the castle. Afterwards we bought some snacks and ate some peaches (told you, full crate) since we had quite a bit of driving ahead of us.
Road to Transfăgărăşan
We drove down to Curtea de Argeş and then up into the mountains following the Transfăgărăşan Road. At the Vidraru Dam we made a short stop to take some pictures of the lake on the left and the valley from where we came on the right. We also looked for some toilets without any luck. After passing the Vidraru Lake, the road starts to become more winding as it climbs all the way to Bâlea Lake, with it’s highest point at 2042 meters. Top Gear did an episode on this road, naming it the best road in the world. By the time we reached Bâlea Lac, the rain was pouring heavily outside so we decided to drive past it straight to our accommodation near Cârțişoara, the village that resides on the north side of the Transfăgărăşan Road, with the plan of returning next morning. We found a nice restaurant in walking distance from our apartment (the only one) where we wanted to stay on the terrace for dinner. Before we even got our food, the heavy rain started, and we had to get inside. Few minutes later, the entire restaurant went dark due to a blown fuse. It didn’t take long for the generator to kick in though. We waited for the rain to stop and then we went back to the apartment to sleep, looking forward to seeing the winding road and the lake next morning.