The Nomad camp is located in a small village in Transylvania, an idyllic location set apart from the distractions of modern life. The restaurant serves delicious traditional fare including fresh fish caught from the camp's lake.A million miles away from English camping, spend the night snuggled up in a luxurious Yurt complete with a log fire and animal skin rug. Cleanse your skin and your soul as you bathe in the camp's salt bath or treat yourself to a well deserved massage. A comfortable and completely unique experience, fully recommended for all the family! Great value for exceptional quality.
Di and Jez provide a fully inclusive stay in the traditional Saxon village of Cisnadioara with its storks, hwoling dogs and unmade roads. They really mean 'fully inclusive'. Di's food is outstanding, and the highlight are the tours, tailored to what you want to see, from salt mines to mountain peaks, remote hill walks, bustling markets, historic towns... and they even collect you from the airport! The best way to get to know Transylvania.
Str. Bisericii, 555301, Cisnadioara, Romania
+40 (0) 2695 62119
The northern Romanian county of Maramures is a magical region of beech covered hills, timeless villages and peerless wooden churches. Best of all though is the wonderfully named Merry Cemetery in Sapanta, where you can admire a riot of beautifully carved and exuberantly coloured wooden grave markers, many of which depict the lives and loves of the deceased, often in rib-tickling fashion – such as the one of a stern-looking mother with an accompanying final message to her son, proclaiming ‘Griga, may you pardoned be, even though you did stab me’...
Get up to Maramures, on the border with Ukraine: we stayed in Sighet, a border town with an oddly stately and historical feel to it, in a decent hotel, the Coroana, redolent of other days: a fascinating market selling local agricultural produce and splendid, head-scarved old matriarchs sitting behind stinking vats of good cheese. Visit the Museum of Arrested Thought, housed in the old Ceaucescu era prison for moments of genuine sadness and quiet despair, but then hire a driver and go on to the Merry Cemetery that makes mortality amusing and vibrant and then on further to the wooden churches, redolent with genuine piety and a sense of community that previous regimes have clearly failed to touch – and all in a bucolic world of green, wild-flowered neatly scythed meadows and horses and carts that Hardy would have recognised and was mourning for well over a century ago.
Str. P-ta Libertatii nr. 8, Sighetu Marmatiei 435500, Romania
+40 362 103 244
Google map: bit.ly/117c5qx
If you’re in central Transylvania to visit the cultural hubs of Sighisoara and Sibiu, take the opportunity to head off the beaten track and explore some of the Saxon villages of Târnava Mare. With most towns preserving their colourful history with names in Romanian, German and Hungarian, settlements such as Biertan (Birthälm; Berethalom) and Richis (Reichersdorf; Riomfalva) boast extraordinary fortified churches, sleepy monasteries and a tangible sense of the past. You could book a tour, but best of all is to explore the area under your own steam by means of the local bus network, which is reliable if slightly unpredictable. Medias is a good starting point.
Google map: bit.ly/XJo4Cd
Close to the Retezat mountains and in the part of Romania which was Dacia are the ruins of Ulpia Triana Sarmizegetusa. Find your way there on the local bus from Santamaria-Orlea, hop off when the locals tell you because there are no big signposts and wander around the ruins of the outpost of the IVth legion.You will be enthralled by its size and you will find there every building that a Roman settlement should have. If that is not enough just a short walk down country lanes brings you to beautiful Densus church, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Cobbled together from stones probably taken from a Roman mausoleum the church contains frescoes, paintings from the 15th century oh, and those Roman carvings set into the outside walls!
Santamaria- Orlea, Hunedoara
Google map: bit.ly/YDqEAH
An erect willy is a part of the chef's special in Sighişoara's smartest dinery. Made from pork meatloaf, it salutes Vlad the Impaler, the Translyvanian hero whose birthplace is just around the corner. The town is the best preserved medieval citadel in Europe, old MittelEurope alive and well in Transylvania. The impressive Tolkienesque clock-tower houses a good museum. Climb to the top to gaze down on the pan-tiled roofs, cobbled streets and ancient covered walkways that link nine defensive guild towers. And the willy was delicious, thank you for asking.
The place to stay in Sighisoara is the Casa cu Cerb - the name translates as the Stag House and the hotel is easy to find: on the front of the building there's a painted rearing stag, complete with real antlers that project into the small main square.
A face behind reception may look familiar; this is where Princes Charles has stayed on trips to the area. HRH is apparently related to Vlad the Impaler but you wouldn't guess, a friendly autographed 'Charles' portrait welcomes you to Translyvania. Ask for a room overlooking the square: you can watch the Transylvanian world go by, see and hear the clock-tower, listen to the echoing chacks of jackdaws, and almost don't need to leave your room. The top floor rooms are the best value.
The hotel is not quite what it seems, dig a little deeper to discover that in 2001 it was restored to an extremely high standard (a traditional wooden staircase is particularly superb) by the Messerschmitt Foundation www.schloss-anras.com/messerschmitt_eng.html. Established by Willy Messerschmitt it is dedicated to preserving the best of German architecture. The link between Germany and Transylvania, if you're wondering, is that the region was formerly peopled by the Saxons, their churches and villages remain today. (You should also know for politeness at least, that until the first world war Translyvania was very much Hungarian and for many, still is.)
Two must-see-dos (as well as the pork willy) in Sighişoara are a) a walk up the covered walkway (protection against winter snow) to the defensive church and graveyard at the top of the hill. An old horse-drawn hearse parked round the back adds atmosphere, as if it were needed. Then b) is a little pizzaria, San Gennaro, near the main square. Baked in front of your eyes, the pizzas are thin and fresh and delicious and costed us two euros each. There's a garden at the back to enjoy them with a beer if the weather's good.
To aid in creating a sustainable new Translyvanian rural economy Prince Charles bought a couple of farmhouses and converted them into self-catering accommodation. These are managed for HRH by Count Kalnoky www.transylvaniancastle.com/kalnoky/kalnoky.htmlwho who also welcomes guests to his own estate in Miklósvár - a typically Translyvanian agrarian village. We stayed there in a 'gingerbread' cottage with maize cobs hanging under the eaves. Meals including breakfast are usually served al fresco under a wonderful grapevine-covered loggia, or in the evening in a very atmospheric ancient dining room (think dark night, Dracula, flickering candles, intriguing fellow guests, Dracula ...)
The last stronghold of the European Wolf is Translyvania; there are an estimated 3000 still roaming the forests, more than the rest of Europe combined. There are also brown bears and lynx. Count Kalnoky organises guided nature trips into the woods and forests. We first met sheep, with their shepherd, and our guide issued a sheepdog cautionary - speak softly and carry a big stick (you may look like a shepherd). The dogs are large and can need watching, their role is, after all, fighting wolves and bears.
We found ammonites in a forest stream, saw really beautiful insects, and picked and ate delicous wild raspberries with our picnic which included the ubiquitous strong plum spirit. This was enjoyed in a meadow alive with grasshoppers and birdsong. The raspberries you also see being sold at the roadside by gypsy women and girls along with baskets of some luminously yellow fungi. In the middle of nowhere on a wooded hill we came across an American archaelogy professor plus students excavating a Hunnish 4th century settlement. But the very best came last, as we crossed a stream on the way back, there glistening in the mud were the very recently formed spoor of a large brown bear.
Casa Cu Cerb
Str. Scolii, 1, Sighisoara, Mures, 545400
+40 265 774625
Google map: bit.ly/WOXqd8
The Hotel Sighisoara is a good hotel next to the square with a separate outdoor restaurant with good quality food where the aforementioned chef's special is good value, five or six meats served on large wooden board. A meal to remember. www.sighisoarahotels.ro/
Pizzeria San Gennaro - just opposite the Casa Cu Cerb. Baked to order delicious thin pizza, garden in the rear. Was 2 euro for an eat-in pizza.
I prompted my parents to take me here aged fourteen due to an interest in Eastern Europe. Unsure we arrived to gorgeous rolling country side, with great wildlife including gold oriole and eagles. This Saxon/Romanian village was friendly and tranquil, and Vala Verde was run on an easy going, helpful basis that helped to support the community. The food was excellent especially the veranda breakfast. The Carpathian Mountains have ancient thatched farm houses and incredible vistas. The traditional ways, the solid churches and castles were a fascinating contrasts to the relics of communism. A very memorable adventure.
Viscri is a pretty Saxon village with a fortified church that's a world heritage site. It's worth climbing the tower for countryside views. Many Saxon buildings have been restored and a traditional way of life endures - the cows are driven to the fields in the early morning, returning in the evening and people use horses and carts.
+40 742 202586
This rescue bear centre is a a wonderful experience. It is 5km outside a town called Zarnesti which is easily reached by train from Brasov, you will need a taxi from Zarnesti as the sanctuary is down a lot of country roads. It's not unwalkable - I walked back, but you would need to know where you were going. It's not obvious.
You need to book in advance by email or phone (a day or so) as it is not designed as a 'drop in centre' for animal lovers, but a real working santuary (hint - go to the bathroom before you get there, there is a visitor centre but as they are a bit out in the sticks they have limited facilities). They need a mimimun of 10 visitors to make it worthwhile for them and it's $25 a head. Note, that doesn't mean that you have to be in a group of 10, just that there has to be other people booking on the same day.
You will see bears (60 to 70 ) that have had awful histories and it is very moving to see them living in a safe and happy environment.
Romania does have the largest bear population in Europe, and in suburbs of Brasov there is a documented bear issue, so it's very much a part of the culture. (Someone offered me bear paw pate to eat - rebuffed by me!)
Take the train from Brasov to Zarnesti (one every hour or so- costs about a £1, then a taxi to the sanctuary. The tours run to time, so book your pickup for two hours later.
Sibiu is well worth a visit. Admire Transylvanian icons and Romanian Impressionist paintings in the Brukenthal Museum on the Piata Mare. Stroll to the nearby Liars’ Bridge, Romania’s oldest cast-iron bridge, said to collapse if you tell a lie when standing on it (somehow it survived intact when Ceaucescu made a speech from it.) Visit the 14th Century Evangelic church where the son of Vlad the Impaler (inspiration for Dracula) was stabbed. Saunter back to the Piata Mare, with its sherbet-coloured buildings, to people-watch or enjoy an open-air concert. Relax in the elegant Hotel Imparatul Romanilor round the corner – just £45 for a twin room with a fantastic buffet breakfast.
Str.Nicolae Balcescu, Sibiu 550159, Romania
+40 269 216 500
Google map: bit.ly/WwXVaB
Piața Mare 5, Sibiu 550163, Romania
+40 269 217 991
Google map: bit.ly/XMjSm5
This is the top club in Bucharest and if you like extravagance you will love it. Think Ibiza style club with magnificent chandeliers, hordes of beautiful women dressed to kill and not so cheap drinks.
Restaurant Chevalet has the most idyllic location on the shores of Lake Siutghiol. Light streams in through the French doors, or in warmer weather, you can eat on the terrace. Prices are incredibly low and the cooking is almost a floor show in itself-the cheery chef prepares food at the table, most of which comprise freshly-caught fish (including enormous prawns who clearly considered themselves to be part-lobster) and flamboyantly concocting indulgent desserts made from local berries or crepes with wild almonds, honey and buttery caramel. When the sun sets, the lake sparkles...as did my husband's eyes when the bill came! Very reasonable, washed down with a dark, spicy local wine and finished with sweet, strong coffee. Perfect.
A rare nod to Romania's literary heratage that it seems shy to acknowledge, this restaurant is woefully under-used, and the owners struggle to market it. Spooky inside and out, with themed, good quality and inexpensive meals, along with friendly staff, Dracula restaurant is well worth a visit during any stay in Bucharest.
Splaiul Independenței, București, Romania
+40 21 312 1353
Google map: bit.ly/112Hs5D
Timisoara is the birthplace of Romania’s bloody revolution. It bursts with culture, history and beauty, with a ring of parks, a lovely river, pretty squares, colourful trams, an opera house, a theatre-in-the-park, museums and a sensational art gallery. It was the first town to publish a newspaper (1771); to light its streets (using suet and oil in 1760); to have horse-drawn trams (1867). Architecturally, it is dubbed “Little Vienna”. Wander through the Easter craft stalls amid a million intricately decorated eggs – Romania’s traditional symbol of new life. But go now, before this enchanting city is ravaged: the next revolution might be mass tourism.
Timisoara is easy to reach from the UK via Munich; or via fabulous 8-hour train journey from Bucharest along Danube and through Transylvanian Alps. Try Hotel Central, bang in the heart of the city: no-frills, clean and cheap (rooms from 37 euro) with good reviews.
Google map: bit.ly/XMlU5z
This is a true gem of heritage and culture amid the splendour of the Carpathian mountains.
Rustic dishes prepared to traditional recipes by the Family who own and operate Cabana Postavarul.
You don't need a Royal Compass, like Prince Charles who owns property in the region, to find it and you will always remember it's beauty and integrity.
If you do need a Royal Compass then you will find the best Ski and board instruction money can buy with Silviu and Alex and their team.
There is a small Christmas market held in the beautiful setting of the central square. It is straight out of Ruritanian romance and there's a very good chance that there will be snow to add to the atmosphere. Plenty of cosy cafes around the square and the gluhwein was only 60p. We stayed at Casa Luxembourg which was both comfortable and very reasonable.
Piata Mare, Sibiu
Google map: bit.ly/YAVjOW
It is a really nice boutique hostel, in a tastefully renovated old mansion with a lot of handmade details. It also has a nice terrace facing the big garden from which you can help yourself with seasonal fruits and vegetables or where you can have a barbeque. It is located in a quite residential area on the river bank, very close to the centre of the city.
If you can avoid the slightly disconcerting packs of feral dogs that race across the plateau - and occasionally snarl at cornered tourists - then the Bucegi mountains are fantastic, not least because a cable car ascends to the top. Then it's an undulating plateau culminating in the huge Caraiman cross that overlooks the valley directly and vertiginously below. Airy and easy and fairly quiet until the cross is close.
Google map: bit.ly/JkkLMK
The mountain resort of Sinaia is only a couple of hours from Bucharest and is a must-see on any tour of Romania with its fairy-tale Peles Castle set amongst beautiful pine forests. To add a touch of romance though, you should leave the main town behind and hike or taxi up to stay in the Economat Hotel, which is part of the castle gatehouse and has amazing views. It's beautiful, quiet, and ridulously cheap (30 euros per night for a double room) and even in August, when Bucharest swelters in 35-40 degrees, up in the mountains the night chill forces you to snuggle up close!
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