Saturday, 1 April 2017

The Romanian Road Trip - Our Crazy Transylvanian Adventure (August 2015), Part I

I've been looking forward to writing this post for so long! It's about by far one of the craziest trips I've ever done, and it's also a trip that would never ever have been possible without a person willing to drive on the not-so-modern roads of Transylvania in Romania. I have to say that I LOVED everything about this trip, and I LOVE Romania!

Coming from Finland, Romania, for me, was always a mythical place somewhere unimaginable. It was also difficult for me to believe that it actually existed or that I would ever end up going there, for that matter. Whenever I heard the word 'Transylvania', the first (and, admittedly, the only) thing that came to my mind was Count Dracula and, with that, images of gloomy, vampire-like cemeteries and dark and ominous woods. I seriously knew nothing much about Romania. However, spending my summers right next to the Romanian border in Hungary had made me really curious, and actually quite desperate to jump on the train from Békéscsaba to Romania, which is why I was very excited when Julcsi's dad said we could go on a road trip across Transylvania with his then lady friend. She used to be a tour guide on group trips and was familiar with the roads, so it didn't take us long to say yes to this adventure!

So, in August 2015, we set off for a couple of days in the most exotic locations I never knew even existed before.


Day 1
Julcsi's dad's then girlfriend came to Gyula early in the morning to pick us up for the trip. She had a car full of food, which I didn't quite understand, but apparently it's very important to have access to chicken and kolbász (sausage) whenever...:D Our first stop wasn't far away, so it didn't take us long to already have arrived somewhere, namely Salonta (in Hungarian: Nagyszalonta). This small village is the birthplace of a Hungarian writer called Arany János, so we went to see the house in question and Julcsi's dad went to get his first ice cream of the trip. Let me tell you, that man could live off ice cream! Every time I see him in the summer, he's either queueing for an ice cream or already consuming one while wondering which flavour to pick next :D!

Us in front of Arany János's birth house.
After our mini stop, we drove through a village where I felt as though I'd been taken back in time...People selling stuff by the side of the road, horse carriages passing us by...It was surreal to me in many ways.



Not a particularly good picture, but I want to post it here. I didn't expect to bump into horses mid-gallop...
Romania is such a beautiful country! The scenery is breathtaking and there is nature all around you basically wherever you go. I was actually surprised to notice how big a chunk of Transylvania is uninhabited - we drove A LOT, which is why we also saw how empty the country is.



Our first proper destination was Peştera Urşilor, which basically means "The Cave of the Bears". It's a dripstone cave in Chişcău, a really beautiful place with gorgeous views of the Apuseni Mountains. The cave was actually only discovered in 1975 and it was named after the bear skeleton that was found there. To get there, we had to drive through the town of Beiuş, which looks like this...


Once we'd arrived in Chişcău, we had a quick lunch break and then climbed up the hill to the entrance of the bear cave. While you're walking up, and also when you're coming back down, you can have a look at the many stalls where local people sell home-made things like jams, squash, honey and handicraft. We had a guided tour in the cave - both in English and in Romanian - and, ermh, you weren't really allowed to take pictures...:D










This is the bear skeleton that the cave got its name from.


Bear souvenirs :).




Julcsi's dad enjoying a Romanian beer :).
After our visit to the cave, we had the craziest adventure ahead of us, namely crossing the Apuseni Mountains to get to our guesthouse in Vlaha. Oh my God, the road we took has to be the craziest road ever! It was normal up until Padiş, but after that, there was no more real road - just something resembling a very wide forest path full of potholes. And this went on for hours and hours...and hours and hours...finally, another car was coming towards us, which in itself was a happy moment because it proved that the road had an end somewhere. We stopped to talk to the people in the car and it turned out they were just as desperate as us, wondering how much more to go, or if there even was an end to the road. Word of advice: Don't EVER try this road without a jeep!

You seriously need to watch this video to understand what I'm talking about:



Some pictures...

The Apuseni Mountains


Reaching the end of the concrete road...

The support group for those seeking a way out of the mountains...:D


Honestly, I think it took us at least 2,5 hours, plus one stop to read a map and another to ask for directions from a Romanian couple living in the mountains, until we got out. Not normal! It was dark by the time we arrived in our guesthouse, Pensiune Csáni, in Vlaha. It was a lovely, lovely place with delicious Transylvanian food - I had fish with mamaliga (polenta) and gogoşi (kind of donuts). So good!



It was an absolutely mental day, but obviously in a good way :D! Still, let's just say that it was nice to go to bed :D!

Part II is coming up shortly, so stay tuned :D!

7 comments:

  1. This is great. I've never really thought about going to Romania before, but it looks really cool.

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    1. I think it's truly a hidden gem - so beautiful, and so much to see that at least I had never seen before :).

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  2. I had some similar looking donuts in Croatia, which was called fritule. Yum! :)

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  3. Love Romania too!!!! What an adventure you had!! Great post! :)

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    1. I think it's such a beautiful country with so much to offer :). Thanks so much for the lovely feedback!

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  4. haha, what an adventure, guys! :))) you're right, sime villages look like if you traveled back in time :), but you can also stumble upon some hidden beautiful landscapes! if you want a spectacular road, try Transfagarasan or Transalpina, they are very high, basically cross the mountains! and if i remember correctly, the first one was tested on a Top Gear shows, and said to be one of the best in Europe. Cheers! :)

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