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.
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.|
|Not a particularly good picture, but I want to post it here. I didn't expect to bump into horses mid-gallop...|
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 :).|
You seriously need to watch this video to understand what I'm talking about:
|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!