Our time in Romania is over, wow that went way too fast. We thought 10 days might be too long to visit one castle and maybe see a mountain, in reality Romania had enough to hold us for a good 4-6 weeks. We haven’t touched the Black Sea, the Delta or gone up to the North where we read the scenery rivals Transylvania and we made a decision not to visit the capital this time. So all in all we need to come back to Romania, there really is so much we want to see and the other bonus is it has to be the cheapest place we have ever been. Add to that the campsites are our kind of style – small, 10-20 pitches, great facilities, right in the villages and less than £7 a night – for us perfect.
Outside the campsite gates in Carta – scary geese on the main road
We spent much of this week around the Sibiu area, a mix of the very traditional and the modern. The first village we stayed at, Carta, is a place of contrasts. Older housing with much of it still lived in by Romanians who work the plots of land and dress in traditional clothes but also within the village are the houses are renovated and owned by German and Dutch families. Some roads are paved with individual bricks, more than most are dirt tracks. But whether it was the old or new, all have a real pride in where they live, forget the tales of the how run down and ruined Romania is – most of the villages are exceptionally well kept. We stayed on a Dutch owned campsite, in the middle of the village so very much a part of everything that is going on. The chap next door had some very unfriendly geese, which did chase me down the road but other than them everyone was very friendly towards us.
Many people still wear traditional clothes
After leaving Carta we spent a couple of days in the Marginimea Sibiulu area, 18 Romanian localities who maintain their own unique styles of architecture and heritage and similarly follow unique cultural practices. We aimed for one of the more remote villages, Jina, half way there the snow started, as we climbed the snow got heavier, we made it through three villages before deciding against getting the van stuck up a mountain and heading back down. Luckily though we did see a few of the villages, it feels like time has stood still as you drive along the roads. We stayed in Saliste, one of the bigger heritage towns, on a campsite owned by a young Romania couple. We were invited in for a welcome drink of plum / cherry brandy by Iulian, it would be rude to refuse so we took a drink each, then another- then we headed out for a walk around the village to walk off the effects, its powerful stuff and must be what gets them through the bitter winters. It was great to talk to Iulian and hear his take on the country and how things have changed since 1989, the EC etc,
The area is famous for its customs such as the wearing of traditional folk costumes (which look a bit Welsh), glass painting and the most ornate wooden churches, often with the insides painted in elaborate frescos. The housing is mainly traditional but most of the original wooden houses have long since gone, in some villages there are still a few around and more so the wooden barns remain in many gardens, The architecture is strongly influenced by the Saxons, most streets have the traditional big houses, with internal yards and barns all enclosed with big walls and massive wooden gates.
A saxon house just waiting for us to snap it up 🙂
In Saliste we found, for probably the first time, no one in the village spoke a word of English. I went to get bread one morning and was a source of much mirth and laughter. I opened the shop door to be told off by several local women making bread, you buy it from the small hole in the wall outside. I went to stood at the hole in the wall and had no idea what to buy, the lady held something up, they all laughed, it was stuck in the microwave and then given to me, again to much giggling, as I walked away I heard further peals of laughter. Back at the van we had it for lunch, akin to a deep fried pizza with cheese wrapped inside, we quite liked it and have no idea what was funny!
Just outside Sibiu is an amazing outdoor museum where houses from all around the country are brought to and re-assembled. We went down for an afternoon, we lasted half an hour. It is with out a doubt a brilliant place to visit but with the sleet coming down and the wind chill making it feel like it was below freezing we retired to the cafe for hot drinks and thawing, a mega shame as so much to see. The cafe made up for it a little, an original hostelry rebuilt with all the original furniture, tiled fireplaces and stone floors – the coffee on the other hand could rival Greek coffee for pinging your eyes out on stalks.
Houses at the living history museum
We drove from the Sibiu area up to Baile Felix where we are now parked up in a strange little campsite that rather resembles a car park that has been fenced in so everyone passing can stare in. Just us staying as usual though, despite this being a bit of a holiday haven. The thermal waters are a major draw here with two massive water parks, even this evening whilst it is what you would call ‘bloody chilly’ there are loads of daft buggers sat in the thermal swimming pools, a few are throwing beach balls around but most are just sat. For us spa conjures up the image of a tasteful weekend complex, here its like Butlin’s on acid. The hotels are massive, concrete and just a little scary looking but the cafes and shops are modern welcoming, there are swimming pools, slides, wave pools everywhere and stalls selling every colour of bikini as long as its lurid. All a bit in your face after the calm and tranquility of Transylvania to date.
The drive up today was the usual long and winding road affair. It has to be said that when they build some decent roads things will be easier and a bit more comfortable. Today we found a motorway, so new it wasn’t on Sat Nav and our map showed it as still being built. We sped over 60 km in well under an hour, then we came off and onto the major European road North West and it took us over 6 hours to drive 130 km! Roadworks, potholes, traffic lights and in places missing roads – it was the never ending journey. Iain deserves a medal as driving here hasn’t been much fun, whilst we are both sad to leave Romania we cannot wait to get back to proper roads, we will be buying a stack of cable ties and getting out the No Nails to put the van back together over the next couple of days!
A whole new road
Tomorrow marks our fifth month away – Day 154. No it doesn’t feel we have been away that long but yes France and the windscreen wipers feels like a lifetime ago. We will be making border crossing number eight as we cross into Hungary sometime tomorrow, with over 400 Hungarian Forint to the £ we will be spending the rest of this evening making space in our pockets for our wads 🙂