Final day in Romania and the dictator’s palace. 

After last nights exploits we weren’t up and about till midday, and we needed to stop off and get breakfast in a cute cafe with van gogh paintings on the cushions and jars hanging above us with plants growing inside.

(Van Gogh cushions)

Today was our last day and we had to be up at 4am to get a taxi to the airport so it was going to be a chilled out day. We walked round a small antiques market with bullet casings and army gear mixed in among the trinkets and walked to see the Romanian Athaneum. I took us through the independence square with bullet holes still in the buildings from the revolt in 1989.

There were a couple of memorials to the event as we walked through the square towards a big park, Cisimigu, with it’s  black swans and a big duck pond, huge boating lake with restaurants overlooking it and the chilled shady air beneath the trees, it was just the place to relax with a hangover. We sat on benches with ice cold drinks and people watched, deciding on our next course. Noticing that the parliament palace was nearby we set off in that direction.

Construction of the palace started in 1984 and still isn’t finished, the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu ordered it to be built and it is now the worlds second largest building and dominates the skyline. As we walked towards it Peter wasn’t very impressed, until we walked around a corner and realised it was just the side of it we had first seen.

It is absolutely massive and took panorama settings on our phones to get a picture of it all. Apparently it has 4 underground levels too, including a nuclear bunker. Quite how someone could tell the people communist ideals while building something so extravagant is amazing. It’s where he took his final speech in front of an angry crowd before fleeing, being caught and then executed in the space of a few days.

It was the only violent overthrow of a communist government at that time.

Leading up to the palace was a long wide boulevard with fountains running all the way down the centre. A grand approach to the place. We walked down here and stopped near the huge fountain from the day before, still not in use, and I had a tasty hotdog that was baked into a bread roll. At this point we had done a lot of walking around so stopped off for a refreshment and deciding what to do. There was an interesting 19th century arcade nearby with stain glass roof and lots of little cafes along it. We walked through and had another walk along the old town streets back to the hotel.

There are a few more things to do in Bucharest and it’s actually quite pretty in places, we had a bit of a lie down and went back to Bazaar for our last meal in Romania. We’ve had an amazing time and like visiting any country there is so much more to do. I would have liked to go to the Danube Delta where the bug river finally spills out into the black sea.

There’s meant to be great beaches out that way too, and to the north there are more mountains and a land full of coloured churches. We also never wemt bear tracking (Officially) so maybe we’ll be back….

The food was great again and we sat enjoying the last couple of hours and the final bit of sunshine.  Then it was an early night and an easy taxi ride (35lei-less than £10) to the airport. Blue air are actually quite nice to fly with, efficient and the seats feel roomy and comfy, well we’ve managed to sleep well on both journeys anyway! Now back to rainy Manchester…next destination Latvia in November.

Bucharest and how it all went downhill after Palinca…

Up and ready early, continental breakfast devoured and a happy birthday song for Peter we hit the road for the last day of driving.  We were headed for Sinaia, named by a former king after Mount Sinai from the bible. The royal family had built their decadent summer palace here, and it was conveniently on the way through to Bucharest.

We drove up into the mountains through ski resorts resembling Austria or Switzerland with their wooden chalets everywhere and went round more hairpin bends with vertical drops at the side of us.

As we neared our first destination Peter, unsure which road to go missed a stop sign, unluckily for us a policeman was right there directing traffic and pulled us over. Luckily for us we got away with a warning when he said he could have given Peter a 30 day driving ban!

Being a little more cautious and navigating instead of napping (Oops) we wound our way to Peles. Everything is made very simple in Romania, with easy parking at all the destinations we have been to so far.

It’s a short walk up to the castle and was pleasant in the crisp morning air.  It opened at 11am and we had timed it to perfection. I got us some cheap machime coffees to drink while queuing and we got the full tour ticket at 50lei, this means you get an extended tour to the upper floors. It’s the priciest one so far but it’s a completely different experience as it’s less than two centuries old.

The castle exterior is very cute and disney-esque but also very grand. The queuing to get into the tour was awful with everyone pushing and shoving and no real direction to it. I thought I would hate it but Peter wanted to do it and I wasn’t standing in his way on his birthday!

Once the tour actually started and we had our plastic blue shoe covers on I actually really enjoyed it. Peter later said he was unsure about it when the chaos of the queue unfolded but agreed it was worth it. The guide was great and there’s a real sense of history and art inside. Each room carefully planned out in various styles using different woods, metals and big leather walls.

There were also lots of secret doors and spiral staircases.  The opulence was incredible inside and the cost that must have gone into it all would have been vast. There were imports from all across the globe with italian, chinese and ottoman inspired rooms. The tour took about an hour or so in total.

(Spiral staircase in the corner)

With the castle viewing over we had 3 hours before the car needed to be dropped off so with no hangimg about we were back on the road, winding down the other side of the mountains this time and entering the plains. It was odd not seeing any mountains looming up before us and it’s nice that each area of Romamia seems to have their own style and vibe. The best things were the bright yellow fields of sunflowers we went past.

(Sunflowers on the road)

As we entered Bucharest you could see it’s the capital with traffic increasing and the area more built up. We dropped the car off with no problems and got a taxi to the old town. I love how all these places have kept hold of their historic centres without feeling the need to tear it down to build a shopping centre or flats.

We passed through leafy green areas, around the Romanian Arc D’Triumph and through some big squares.

The driver dropped us off and suddenly we were in the thick of city life. Restaurants and bars spread out down every street and alleyway and, after a bit of retracing steps we arrived at our final home for the holiday, the old town bucharest hotel.

It’s right in the heart of the city along a pedestrianised street surrounded by bars. We dropped our stuff off and went to explore Bucharest, opposite us was Pasajul Francez, an alley that I had seen online that looked interesting. It’s basically just sofas and chairs running the length of it but it’s very pretty with a real North African feel.

(Pasajul Francez)

We stopped to have a beer in the 31°c heat and cool down before setting off through the pedestrian streets of old town, arriving at the river and walking along to see a statue of Vlad Tepes and his princely court.  There’s a beautiful church opposite too. We stopped off for a quick coffee and cake, wandered around a park towards a huge fountain but it wasn’t in use which was a shame.

(Bridge over the river)

(Vlad Tepes)

Back up into old town we went back to the hotel and got changed ready for Peter’s birthday night out. Grabbing a drink in the Pasajul Francez again, we sat as the sun went down and the street turned a brilliant purple colour from the lights. It was absolutely stunning and looked like somewhere from Istanbul or Casablanca.

(Pasajul Francez at night)

(Looking down towards Bazaar restaurant)

We decided on a restaurant called Bazaar that was in a huge great looking building and we sat outside watching the world go by. It’s a lively place with everywhere full of people enjoying the warm evening with food and drinks flowing.

(Fooood at Bazaar)

Our food was excellent and cheap! Peter had chicken breast with chips and grilled vegetables. I had chicken wings and coleslaw (and a few of Peter’s chips) we finished off our food and drinks and decided to try a shot of Palinca, a Romanian 50% spirit. It came and we knocked it back, it smelt and tasted like paint stripper! Really warming the stomach and hitting the back of the throat.

We paid up and stopped off at another bar for a drink, starting to feel the effects of the palinca. Watching the busy hustle and bustle of the streets around us, and enjoying the attitude of the staff towards customers.

Next stop was somehow a karaoke place, Peter immediately signing himself up to sing…a lovely rendition of Your Song by Elton. The other people who sang were really good which made me reticent to have a go…a couple of beers later though and I signed up to sing Wicked Game.  Peter was off dancing and making friends with the only other English person in the place and they soon got us to join them.

(Not sure about this nightclub)

I gave my song a good go (From what I can remember) and a couple more shots were had before a dodgy rendition of ‘Take me home, country road’ by me. Peter had sung Robbie Williams by this point and it was definitely all going downhill from the first songs we did.

One more song by Peter (David Bowie) and a couple more drinks and it was a short walk across the street to the hotel. Party over, it was fun to have a night out in Bucharest and it definitely lives up to it’s night life reputation.

Transylvania and the 11 mile Carpathian hike

Today we got up and had breakfast in the hotel, stocked up with a couple bottles of water and checked our route to the Carpathians.  It was a 40 minute car journey back towards Bran but turning off to Zarnesti, a small town at the foot of the mountains. We found the national park building with ease where we bought our passes for the park, I made a new friend and we were given very good instructions and a map for a great 5hour hike.

(My new friend outside the national park building)

I would recommend stopping here before anything else as there’s information on flora and fauna you can see in the park. Plus stuff on all the routes running through the mountains. The guide gave us a route up and it was a quick 10 minute journey to the start of our hike.

(Start of the hike)

Ill prepared as usual we set off with a map and a botttle of water each. Walking up a gravel track road to find the starting point, which turned out to be an entranceway to a huge gorge. It was absolutely spectacular walking through with hundreds of feet limestone cliffs towering above us and deep green forests pouring down the steep cliffs.

I was hoping to see a wide range of animals during the hike including golden eagles, mountain goats and maybe even a lynx or bear! Within the gorge I thought it would be the perfect place for birds of prey but sadly saw nothing.

After about 40 minutes of walking we found the start of our official trail. A yellow dot showed us the way up the steep side of the karst rock and into coniferous forest. There was a huge drop down into a small valley on one side with a stream trickling it’s way through and trees for as far as you could see up the slope.

The yellow dot trail led us down into deciduous forest and along the stream, opening up into small glades and back up into the pine scented woods above. It was so peaceful as I attempted to track animals along the way. Noting mushrooms that had been nibbled at and bark ripped off trees, I felt like we were on the right track to meeting a bear (Not that I would have known what to do if we did bump into one). Alas there were no signs of any animals let alone a huge bear or pack of wolves.

The trail suddenly brought us out into blinding light as a scene from the sound of music unfurled before our eyes. A huge mountain meadow with a flock of sheep and huge rocky outcrops in the distance. It looked like pictures of the Alps and was breathtaking. We both stood in silence, taking it all in before continuing onwards and upwards.

We had probably been walking for 2 hours and a bit by this point and we were certainly high up! The path led us along a rocky stream and I’m sure I spotted bear poop! Peter didn’t look convinced, we got to a sign which said we had just 20 more minutes to reach our destination. Peter was starting to flag at this point and the next part was a steep ascent up a grassy hill.

I think he had 4 or 5 breaks and when I had reached the top and the lovely chalet overlooking the mountains he was led down with about 25 metres left to walk. Finally he joined me and we sat on some benches looking out over the Carpathians.  It was so picturesque and after almost 3 hours of walking it really felt like an accomplishment, especially when we realised how high we had climbed.

I got a beer to celebrate and some water to keep hydrated amd we shared some chocolate to refuel. After about 20 minutes or so enjoying the view and watching a cat pace around the chairs (The only animals we saw the whole time were completely domesticated ones.) we headed back down the mountain, the walk down took us through a forest where I was suddenly and brutally attacked by a wasp! It stung me on the back of the head and flew off. It was basically a hit and run and it hurt!

Luckily I’m tough so no medical aid or airlift was necessary so we continued our climd down and we again emerged into a huge meadow pock marked with rocks.  This time there was a herd of cattle up there and we just imagined wolves hiding in the trees around the edge, licking their lips at the thought of some fillet steak.

We descended further, zig-zagging our way down a steep slope with a few hair raising skids and slips on loose stones. Eventually we reached the road and the car! It took us 4 and a half hours with a 20 minute break in the middle. We sat on the cool grass overlooking the river before setting off back to Brasov. Where we sat and enjoyed homemade lemonade and an ice cold beer.

After a quick relax we decided to treat ourselves and go to a steak house that was recommended in lonely planet. We stopped for a pre dinner glass of chilled red and meandered through the square to Keller’s.

We ordered a bottle of red and Peter had his usual tomato soup to start, while I had goats cheese wrapped in aubergine in a tomato sauce. Both were delicious but nothing on the trip so far compared to the steaks…..They were huge, two think sirloins, cooked to perfection with chips, roast veg and creamy garlic spinach.

I devoured mine with a lovely roquefort sauce in no time at all, the hike definitely made me hungry, I even finished some of Peter’s off! The last mouthful that he couldn’t manage went to an adorable little cat.

Satisfied, stuffed and tired, we went back to the hotel to plan our trip to Bucharest. The capital is 2 hours and 30 minutes away by car and we planned to stop off at Peles castle on the way.

Transylvania and the tale of two castles…

Today was the day Peter had been looking forward to. Today we were visiting Bran Castle, although it has numerous ties with Dracula and Bram Stoker, it actually has none. It is more linked with Queen Marie and defending Bran pass between Transylvania and Wallachia.

Regardless we set off from Brasov and as luck would have it another castle was en route. Rasnov fortress is a ruin overlooking it’s namesake town and is a 5 minute detour on the way to Bran.

You know you’re nearby as Rasnov, not to be outdone by Brasov, also have their own hollywood style sign.

Parking up we paid 5lei each to ride in a trailer on the back of a tractor up the hill. Passing Dino World (Which I was secretly desperate to go in) we arrived at the entrance and paid 10lei admission.

(Tractor up the hill)

It’s a stunning castle and the weather was again all blue skies and sunshine.  We walked up and entered the main gate.

(Main gate to Rasnov castle)

Views were (again) stunning and it was like going back in time wandering around the streets where you could see that it was like it’s own town. Lots of small houses and little streets.

(Views views views)

It’s not huge so after an hour we had explored enough so we tractor’d back down the hill and headed onwards to Bran. It’s only another 20 minutes or so to get there and we parked up no problem with Bran Castle looming over the town. The way is obvious with lots of market stalls selling Romanian products and dodgy vampire souvenirs.

(Drive to Bran)

(Bran Castle)

We got to the gate about 15 minutes before opening and queued up, after what felt like forever we were in! The admission was 35lei making it the most expensive one so far. It’s a short walk up to the castle and once you get to the top we queued again up a flight of stairs to gain entrance.

(Spooky cross outside Bran)

There’s not much scope for moving around at your own pace as the crowds were pretty big so we were herded through various royal rooms trying to catch some of the history of the place.  The castle itself is in the best shape of the 5 we have visited so far, the most exciting bit was queuing for a hidden staircase.

(Hidden Staircase)

(Royal bedroom)

The prettiest part was the courtyard and the walkways above it. There was also a room at the top of the castle woth a lot of vampire mythology including a story of a ruler in europe who bathed herself in the blood of her victims thinking it would keep her young.

(Courtyard)

(Sink or Float?)

As we left we both agreed it was very commercialised and the worst one so far. With no real link to Vlad the Impaler and busy with people pushing and shoving their way round. Looking back at the pictures it is a nice castle but there are more interesting ones along the way.

It’s no coincidence that the first song that came on in the car was Field Music – Disappointed. Since we were in the heart of the mountains we drove up a windy road out of Bran and found a picnic spot to have our sandwiches and crisps overlooking the valleys.

(Cute village in the valley)

Lunch sorted we took the 40 or so minute drive back to Brasov and went wandering around more of the town in the warm afternoon sun. Stopping off for a beer along the way.

(Cental park)

(Old soviet looking building)

(Gateway to our hotel road)

Thanks to our wandering we found a great little pub with a couple of tables hidden away so we stopped off after an hour or 2 of walking round.

Feeling a little drunk we continued down the road to our hotel, noticing a nice looking italian restaurant and another pub. Once back in our room it was power nap time for an hour or so and the back out for dinner.

We stopped off at the pub we had seen previously for a pre dinner drink then hopped next door. It was a very polished place with huge lightshades.

It was also the best food we’ve had so far. Peter had lamb ribs and i had pizza (suprise surprise) for a glass of red, peroni, two mains and side salad it cost less than £30 something you don’t get often back home.

The sky was a deep blue when we left and slowly wound our way down to Deane’s irish bar un the hope the Wales v Moldova game was on, as they had a tv in the window so you can still sit outside and watch. Unfortunately it wasn’t on but there was free wifi which we used to plan our hike the next day and I followed the game online. A few beers later and it was back to the hotel.

(Deep blue Brasov sky)

Brasov and the death defying feats.

Breakfast at the hotel was….interesting, several types of sheep cheese, boar and deer salami, home made honeys and the tasty elderflower soda. It was actually really good, our host served us fresh thick black coffee and I tried a bit of everything while Peter stuck to his cereal.

(Great location for breakfast)

I’d definitely recommend the hotel as something a little different and the warm welcoming attitude of the host.

Our route to Brasov looked nice and simple on the map so off we went in the cool morning air. Our host had given us a map with a few points of interest to look out for on the way, and as the sun warmed the land we enjoyed the saxon villages and views over the countryside.

After about 45 minutes of driving we came to a town called Saschiz and noticed a huge ruined fortress overlooking it. Spotting signs up to it we turned the car around and set off up a steep gravel track hoping the car would make it.

We parked up near the top with no idea how to get there, after a quick walk in the wrong direction we set off up into the forest….hopefully to find the castle!

We walked up deep channels surrounded by dense forest thinking about the large bear population in Romania.  When we emerged between old ruined gates of the fortress and a scenic view for miles. We explored the old ruins climbing up onto the ramparts and round collapsed towers. The best bit? That we were completely alone, having the car really gave us the freedom to just stop and see something off the beaten track.

(Walking up to the castle)

(Peter on the ramparts)

(Castle walls)

(Castle window overlooking the valley)

The walk up and down was very pretty with fields of wildflowers spread out before us and butterflies winging their way past.

It turns out the castle was called Taraneasca, and rumour has it the old well links to the town below through a secret tunnel.

Back in the car we continued our relaxed drive towards Brasov. After another 20 minutes or so and a quick petrol stop we saw another big fort on the hill. This was called Rupea and had been restored to good effect.

(View from the road)

We parked up paid 10lei admission and climbed the first staircases up what was called the bacon tower, though no bacon was to be found! It was a stark contrast to the previous ruinous castle but interesting to see the difference. Being able to see what it would have looked like half a century ago was ace.

There were 3 areas, the oldest part was the summit, with the 2nd and 3rd walls added later on. You could see from a defensive view point it would’ve been difficult to lay siege as you could see in every direction for miles.

We reached the top up a small staircase and walked round the walls. Discussing how to defend and attack these castles.

We walked back down to the car and set off again towards Brasov, heading further into the mountains towards the Carpathians.

The drive between the mountains was full of hairpin bends and driving through forests, ascending up before tumblimg back down. Peter really enjoyed driving at this point and the roads were in good condition. Finally we emerged onto the plains and, with even bigger mountains shrouded in mist before us, we arrived on the outskirts of Brasov.

The city was pretty big as we navigated our way through the streets before parking up in a space just down from our hotel…The Drachenhaus. Once we had parked (In a spot an elderly German woman seemed to be holding for her husband who didn’t seem happy she had lost it) we checked in and to our surprise were given an upgrade, the room was exquisite with dark wooden beams and a huge bed, kitchen and lovely bathroom.

There was even a picture of David Bowie on the wall for Peter…it must have been fate! The hotel itself was great, with a terrace in the middle of the rooms to sit and have breakfast/beers. Our host Florin gave us some advice on where to go and off we went to climb the 940m Mount Tampa.

Luckily for Peter there was actually a cable car to take us up as he didn’t fancy the hour long walk up the mountain. (I was thankful when I experienced the walk down)

(Going up)

We reached the top in record time  and it was only a quick 5 minute walk before we were at the funny Brasov hollywood type sign looking out over the beautiful city. It seems a theme of our trips are views from a great height of sweeping vistas.  A few pictures later and I wanted to reach the summit, so a few more metres up and we reached the top, where a badly out together wooden stage hung out iver a vertical drop. Absolutely scared to death I hopped over the wooden planks onto the platform and bum shuffled my way to the edge, it maybe isn’t a death defying feat but it felt like it at the time. It was great to sit there and take in the surroundings, feeling like you’re hanging out over the edge of the world.

Not to be outdone Peter climbed up onto a wall overhanging  the mountain and sat on it to get a picture of the incredible views in the background.

Once we had soaked in the scenery we decided to walk back down, bot realising that this involved metre or less wide paths running back and to on an almost vertival drop. At one point a fellow climber slipped and rolled down one bank above us, luckily hitting a tree bringing an end to his igmonious descent. Thankfully he was okay apart from a cut or two but we were more careful going down after this!

It was fun and over 7000 steps later we were on flat ground. We walked along the old walls of the city and down a couple of small side streets to the old town.

We definitely deserved refreshments after that so stopped off at one of the many bar/restaurants and had a thirst quenching elderflower lemonade and chilled for a bit.

Just what we needed we carried on, emerging onto a wide pedestrianised street full of outside seating and shops. It led us to the main square, packed full of people enjoying their Sunday evening.

The Black Church was in the corner, a real gothic architectural delight. Named because of a fire which gave it’s colour for a time. One lap and it was back up towards the hotel where we stopped to have a beer in the terrace and decide whete to eat.

(Black Church-not so black)

Settling on Festival 39 as there was a wide selection and a quirky interior we got ready and enjoyed the last of the sun with a beer and wine on the terrace.

The restaurant was a short walk along the pedestrian street, it was very grand inside and the menus were fun. Peter’s soup was good and pork wrapped in bacon with rosemary riast wedges was great. I had the equivalent of popcorn chicken to start and gorgonzola cream pasta which was goid but nothing to write home about.

(Newspaper drinks menu)

The best thing was washing it down with a £3 dirty martini.

After dinner we had an evening walk round the quiet streets of the city and a nightcap at the restaurant before bed.

Castelul Corvinilor and the birthplace of Vlad.

We woke early after a night of imagining a vampire coming through the huge curtains that went across the balcony. After a tasty and useful breakfast (They had bottled water so we took a few for our car journey) we tapped in the address for Castle Corvin and set off.

It only took us 15 minutes or so to get out of the city limits and start climbing up into the hills. Leaving behind a gorgeous view of the city.

Entering the Romanian countryside, it’s all rolling hills and golden fields. Lots of sunflowers but not in full bloom, I bet it looks spectacular when they are.

We passed loads of small villages based around big spectacular churches of different shapes, sizes, and I’m sure, denominations.  It’s  about 2 hours and 45 minutes from Cluj to Hunedoara where the castle is located. Contrary to info I had read before arriving the roads were in good shape and there were signs all along the roads that it was down to EU funding. I personally think this is great and just wish we were still part of it all.

Politics aside, the views were stunning, helped by the weather, yet again boiling hot. We stopped off for a refreshing drink and ice cream before arriving at Corvin Castle. We parked and walked up and enjoyed the view as the castle dominated the skyline. The rumour is that Vlad Tepes (Dracula) stayed a few nights here.

(Outside Corvin Castle)

It’s 25Lei admission (About a fiver) and really worth it as you climb towers and spiral staircases.

(View from a window in the castle)

(Castle interior)

The main square inside had a myriad of paths and steps to explore the castle and stories mapping out the history of the place.

(Old walls looking out over Hunedoara)

(Obligatory castle selfie)

There was even a hangman’s stand, hopefully not still in use! There were bear pits where prisoners were flung down to be devoured by the wild beasts. Stately bedrooms and a huge throne room.

(Hangman’s  gibbet)

(Castle dungeon)

Once we had walked round the castle in it’s entirety it was time for the long drive to Sighisoara. Peter was exceptionally excited  for this as it is reportedly Dracula’s birthplace and where Bram Stoker got some of his ideas from.

It was a 1 hour and 45 minute drive there along a highway, you soon learn in Romania that everyone is in a rush to get where they’re going. To the extent that they’ll  overtake anything and everything. At one point we were overtaking a horse and cart when a car behind us overtook us too!

We drove past Sibiu which is recommended in various guides but we didn’t have the time to stop so carried on past. Entering a forgotten Saxon world of coloured houses, fortified churches  and shepherds tending to their flocks. It’s all very pretty and I can’t comment on the views from the trains, but it feels worth the cost of a car just to experience it all.

(Horse and cart, one of many)

Arriving in Sighisoara we parked up at the bottom of a hill where the old town and all the sights reside upon. It’s a quaint Saxon influenced town with winding cobbled streets, coloured houses and the mandatory churches. Walking up the hill we entered the town through medieval gates and found that our hotel was an extension of these.

It’s called Pension Am Schneiderturm and is super cute. All yellow with big double wooden gates to enter the courtyard. We were greeted by the hotel man who swiftly checked us in once he had guven us free mugs and more importantly a shot of sour cherry liqour! The room was small and rustic but very quirky with beautiful furniture and furnishings. Two small windows overlooked the street with a tiled roof leading up to us. Ready for any vampires to climb up with ease.

(Hotel to the left)

A quick change and a glass of complimentary homemade elderflower soda and off we went to explore the town.

(Typical street in Sighisoara)

It was a gorgeous little place with a small square and a few old churches. You can walk around it at a leisurely pace in around 20 minutes. There were some great panoramic views over the rest of the City.

(Views out over the City)

As we wandered Peter spotted a statue, it was none other than Vlad! As we conitinued onwards we found the house that he was meant to be born in, now a restaurant called Casa Dracula.

As we had done some walking, we decided to stop for a beer on a lovely terrace with greenery and flowers everywhere. Peter even made a new cat friend.

Next up on the sightseeing list was the church on the hill. A covered walkway leads up to the buildings from the town, and with sunlight streaming through the wooden slats and the sound of two guitarists strumming out some Deep Purple we trekked up.

(Walkway selfie)

The top of the hill isn’t hugely interesting, there’s a church, a spooky graveyard and a couple of other buildings. However we purposefully timed it for the sunset which was amazing over the hills leaving a deep glow over the church. Now we were getting ‘House of the rising sun’ from the guitarists.

With the sun going down we descended the steps back  the city and got ready at the hotel for dinner. We had to have a drink in Dracula’s birthplace so two glasses of red wine were ordered in Casa Dracula’s lovely terrace. Even though we had been told the food in the old town was poor compared to the main city, we couldn’t face walking down and ended up in a small Italian off the main square. The food was just okay but cheap and did the job and the surroundings were picturesque.

(Gatehouse at night)

Tired from the travelling we had a quick saunter around the town again, scaring each other walking down dark streets and discussing how the vampires would get us, before retiring to the hotel ready for an early rise to Brasov.

(The hotel corridor)

Vampire hunting in Romania…Cluj. 

After much contemplation over a holiday destination, we decided on Romania. Mostly over Peter’s love of vampires and the idea of being in spooky surroundings, but also because of the beauty of the countryside. Managing to find cheap flights the dates were set for September and off we flew to Cluj.The flight with blue air was hilarious for the no nonsense attitude of the air hostess and the speed in which they did the safety presentation. I had done a lot of research beforehand and we thought the best way to have freedom and experience as much as possible  in a week would rent a car. 

Arriving  at Cluj-Napoca 45 minutes before expected arrival time, the capital of Transylvania was minutes away. We hopped in a taxi and arrived at the car rental, after reading about driving in Romania it was with some trepidation that Peter set off in our new Ford Ka. Luckily our hotel was around the corner and we made it with zero incidents. I booked the Hotel Beyfin and when we entered our room we couldn’t  have been happier. The view from our mini balcony was incredible.

(The Orthodox Cathedral)

There just so happened to be a rooftop terrace too, so we jumped in the lift and got to see a panoramic view of Cluj. It’s  not a huge city so we could see over the old town and the opera house nearby. I loved the rolling hills surrounding the city. So far it was a very green country which was fab.

(View over old town)

We had our first holiday beer and left the hotel  to explore. We walked down a large boulevard with chairs and tables running along the length of it towards the main square. The sun was shining at a balmy 27 degrees celsius as we came out onto the square which houses an impressive statue of former ruler Matthias Corvinus. The backdrop to this is the huge St Michael’s Church.

(Matthias Corvinus and St Michael’s)

After this we wandered through the beautiful old town, passing numerous small bars and restaurants  with outside seating. After a few twists  and turns  we came out into the Parcul Central, and a monument against communist rule.

(Small square in old town)

(Anti-Communist monument)

Wandering round the park was lovely, lots of people were having picnics and hanging in hammocks. We came to a lake where lots of people were pedal boating on dragon and VW car boats.

After this we wandered back towards the hotel, stopping for the obligatory beer in the sun, had a quick wardrobe change and headed back out. Peter had noticed a restaurant in the lonely planet guide that mentioned great steaks so off we went.

We arrived at the (M)eating point restaurant and sat overlooling the river. The food was great for the price, my two course meal and whiskey sour was the equivalent of £16! It was pretty quiet so after discussing the various ways vampires  could appear around us we left and went back  to the winding streets of old town. Here we sat for a couple of beers, planning our journey to Corvin Castle and the birthplace of Vald the Impaler himself, Sighisoara. The old town really is great, sat outside in the winding streets with a definite buzz about the place. It helps when two beers cost less than 20Lei which is about £4!

(Che Guevara bar)

(St Michael’s by night)