14 Days / 13 Nights
August 7 - August 20, 2021
All day long we seemed to dawdle through a country which was full of beauty of every kind. Sometimes we saw little towns or castles on the top of steep hills such as we see in old missals; sometimes we ran by rivers and streams which seemed from the wide stony margin on each side of them to be subject of great floods.
"My friend. --Welcome to the Carpathians. I am anxiously expecting you. Sleep well tonight. At three tomorrow the diligence will start for Bukovina; a place on it is kept for you. At the Borgo Pass my carriage will await you and will bring you to me. I trust that your journey from London has been a happy one, and that you will enjoy your stay in my beautiful land.--Your friend, Dracula." ~Chapter 1, "Dracula" by Bram Stoker.
While on our quest we'll learn about the real Dracula or "Vlad the Imapaler", the journey will take us through towns and villages of beauty unseen anywhere else in Europe or the rest of the world. The culinary delights of Romania left me brushing aside any thoughts of an English breakfast, going straight for the Goulash soup, a concoction more than the sum of it's ingredients and clearly the further this dish made it from Transylvania, the more diluted it became.
There aren't many places in the world, if any, like this, and when you find one full of such rich history, culture and lore it's worth exploring on every level. Somewhere between East and West, of great importance from Roman times to the modern era lies Romania. This Journey has dazzled our senses, surprised us around every corner, and filled our imagination with endless fodder. Come with us as we take you to the land of Legends and Fairytales ~ XO
The Lore & Magic
DAY BY DAY ITINERARY
DAY 1: Forward - Departing from Home
Spread your wings and fly to the legendary center and capital of Romania - Bucharest.
DAY 2: Chapter One - It's just the beginning.
After gliding down to "Henri Coranda" Airport we'll be met by a very friendly guide who will escort us to our centrally located Hotel Union Plaza in Bucharest where we will check in and relax before we are treated to a hearty and mouthwatering welcome dinner at "Caru cu Bere in the Old Town. We're treated in such a way to prepare for the Saga ahead.
DAY 2: Chapter 3 - Bucharest, The Paris of the East
After our fresh breakfast, we'll be taken by one of the best guides in Europe through Bucharest. Highlighting the important sites and peeling back layers of history from the Roman Rulers, Kings, Queens, Princes and Dictators its all there for your eyes to see and an experienced Romanian to explain. Bucharest is a city of the past and present all happening in the same moment.
DAY 4: Chapter 3 - The Transfagarasan Highway to Sibiu
After our hearty breakfast, we begin our journey out of Bucharest along the Transfagarasan Highway to the Ancient Town of Sibiu. The Transfagarasan Highway is known to be the best road in the world and the second highest paved road ever constructed. Very curvy in nature and originally built as a strategic military road, we'll see castles, damns, and views of beauty all around us. The best route we'll travel in Romania, our driver and guide will safely take us to the town of Sibiu.
Known by some as the "City of Eyelids" Sibiu displays ancient and unusual architecture of colors and buildings in a Romantic State of decay. The Olde town is charming, and wonderful to walk. We'll gather our group after checking in to our hotel Continental Forum and be taken to a traditional restaurant in the charming Old Town Center. Afterwards, you can explore on your own with eclectic and appealingly odd places for drinks and nightlife. The evening is yours for the making. Enjoy.
Tonight we stay at the Hotel
DAY 5: Chapter 4 - Traditional Transylvania
Once we've had our last cup of coffee and finished a wonderful breakfast, we take a full sightseeing tour of Sibiu, including it's ancient large and small square. We'll take a leisurely drive to the ASTRA Village Museum, the largest open air museum in Romania, fully displaying the traditional houses, mills, churches and life of the early Romanians. Afterward, we'll step back in time by entering Sibiel, meet horse riders in authentic period costumes and visit the Museum of Icons on Glass.
At the end of this tantalizing day well gather for a traditional dinner including homemade wine and brandy with the locals of Sibiel. A perfect way to end the day immersed in Romania Culture.
DAY 6: Chapter 5, The Forgotten Capital & The Underworld.
Your eyes open perhaps slowly this morning from the wine and brandy of the night before. Perhaps dancing and celebrating you could be sore in places you once never thought. Nothing a little coffee, breakfast and a nice drive to the archaic and former capital of Transylvania won't fix. Today we'll visit the renowned stronghold of the 17th century Vauban Fortress, the Princely Palace and the Batthyaneum Library - Housing some fo the oldest and most rate manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark and Matthew, David's Psalms, The Codex Burgundus and the Biblia Sacra.
Onwards we go to the Salt Mines of Turda, the oldest known on earth. Over 120 meters down we find one of the most beautiful places in the underground world. Mining stopped in 1992 but then it was converted into a gigantic underground museum with an amphitheater, underground lake, a Ferris wheel, bowling alleys, minigolf and spa treatments. After all the stimulation, it's time for a wine tasting at "La Salina, a local winery not far from the mine before we spend the night in Cluj-Napoca.
DAY 7: Chapter 6 - The Tale of Cluj-Napoca and Laughter from the Grave.
Cluj-Napoca is a city of nightly pleasures by comparison to our stops as of yet. If you've enjoyed your night prior in the city, you'll awake to a great breakfast at the hotel but we encourage you to experience some of the pastry shops and other offerings of this old-but-modernized city. We will visit the significant cathedrals of the city and wash our sins away as we prepare to embark on our next journey and laugh at death in the face. No, Peter won't be driving, but we will be heaeded towards Sapanta and the world famous and peculiar Sapanta Merry Cemetery. Explore the graves, with "headstones made of wood" and upon them a depiction of how the person died along with a poem in Romanian. This poem gives insight into the person buried by loved ones, and sometimes critics of the dead. Tread lightly over the mother-in-law of one plot as the poem asks "Not to wake her up" for fear of her return.
After meandering through the wood carvings we find the maker of these carvings, and have some time to hear him talk about the carpentry skills as well as perhaps his most memorable moments - Over Brandy - Because, like many things in Romania, Brandy compliments most. Hope on our carriage as we make our way to Sighetu Marmatiei and discuss our findings over dinner at the hotel. We prepare for another amazing day ahead.
DAY 8: Chapter 7 - The Monastery of Barsana, The Wooden Church of Rozavlea and the Prislop Pass
This morning we enjoy a prepared breakfast for our small group of adventurers and are whisked off to visit the Barsana Monastery and the wooden church in Rozavlea. It's miraculous that this church survives to this day given the wars, political struggles, changes of power and the fact that it is made of ancient pine beams resting on top of oak down the center of the church. Inside is a work of art painted in Maramures traditional style, with much to marvel take note that the foundation is made from local river stone. Navigating through the Prisop Pass we arrive at our destination, Gura Humorului, another chapter in our Romanian Adventure.
DAY 9: Chapter 8 -The Painted Monasteries & The Black Arts of Marginea
After our morning fare, we travel to the Painted Monasteries. Many now believe these played the sole purpose of worship, but they were much, much more. The painted Monasteries were fortresses of control, power, trade and battles occurred over several hundreds of years. Now, although they still remain a fortress their primary purpose is for learning, worship, a way of life and preservation. Setting foot on these grounds are sacred, and a privilege.
After our Monastic Visits we head to the dark arts of Marginea. Here you will find craftsman creating beautiful pieces of art using a method kept mostly secret and passed from generation to generation. Plenty of vases, plates, saucers and decorative pieces adorn the walls and tables as the potter spins his wheel. This method of firing the clay creates its beautiful black luster, which can only be found in this region of Romania and few parts of the world.
DAY 10: Chapter 9 - The Long Lake, Lacu Rosu and Goulash Soup.
What wonderful day we have planned. We have a fantastic breakfast and take a scenic drive along the Izvorul Muntelui Lake, the longest in Romania. Spectacular views can be had the entire way in this picturesque land. Today, we treat you to lunch at Lacu Rosu, set aside the Red Lake. With your lunch comes our favorite, goulash soup. This is not to be confused with you lunch lady style macaronis and ground beef, but rather a magical blend of spices, sauce, vegetables and meat. Served with a pepper on the side and a smile on your face.
The Red Lake has an entire History & Legend surrounding it involving Love and Disaster, much like real life. Peter our guide will explain the story over lunch, but as you look out over the lake you'll find ancient trees piercing the water surface where a forest once thrived. After lunch we continue our scenic trek to reach Sighisoara where a whole set of new adventures await.
DAY 11: Chapter 10, The Birthplace of Dracula, Vulcan and the Saxons
Sighisoara may be hard to pronounce, and a city of goosebumps, but this is the direction we must head today in order to make it through our adventure. We'll do some sightseeing in this deceptively quant little town before visiting the dubious UNESCO Upper Town, the Clock Tower, and the birthplace of Dracula. Watch your back as we visit the actual room where the horror is palpable. We must witness where one of the most cruel men on earth came into the world, Vlad the Impaler.
After this delightful visit we will need, and enjoy a complimentary brandy tasting in the Upper Town of Sighisoara. WE then venture to Viscri for a drive by horse cart to visit and meet with an iron smith and the UNESCO fortified church. Lastly, a drive to Vulcan, the former Saxon village where you can still hear battle cries near Brasov and check in to our hotel. We cannot be responsible for those abducted by supernatural forces along the way, and will conduct a body count before leaving each location.
DAY 12: Chapter 11 - A Bearish Outlook, the storming of Brasov, the Black Church and Bran Castle
As we make our way to Brasov, we stop at the largest Brown Bear Sanctuary in the world. Some of you might not know it, but we have been traveling with a bear all along, and his name is Peter. He is the first photo. The Bear Sanctuary continues to rescue bears abused and treated cruel for the sole purpose of entertainment, advertisement and personal reasons. These bears, although now some with physical and mental disabilities roam free in this sanctuary to live out the rest of their lives in the best way possible. In addition to bears, Romania's wolf population has been on the increase and we'll see a few of their rescue wolves as well. In case you didn't know, Peter is a bear by day and a wolf by night. He can speak the language of both animals and will be happy to interpret for you, for a fee of course.
Next we are off to Brasov, a place that begins to bring us back into some nightlife and city dwellings. We'll visit one of the most significant structures in Brasov, The Black Church. Not named for it's congregants, but rather a fire in 1869 that destroyed much of the church and was rebuilt in later years. A few notable things inside are the largest collection of ancient oriental rugs outside of Turkey, one of the oldest alters in Transylvania from the 15th century. If we have time we will visit the first Romanian school built in 1495 and can be a special treat complete with instructor. He bites.
At dawn, we drive to Bran and visit the famous Dracula Castle with all it's glory, maze like hallways, rooms and stairs and enjoy a delicious dinner at Casa De Ceai in the Garden of the castle. Much like in the old days of Vlad, he invited his most important nobles to dinner and serving them meat before impaling them alongside the Turkish because of some minor objections to policies he implemented.
DAY 13: Chapter 12 The Royal Residence - Peles Castle and the final resting place of Vlad the Impaler. The end of a Grand Era, or just the beginning?
Some of the last of the Royals of Romania lived in Peles Castle. A location of pride and respect, the Royal Family of Romania is both loved and missed by many Romanians. Here we find out about their accomplishments, rise to power, reign, and saddening downfall. Will the throne ever be retaken? Let's hope so. After Peles we visit the white church, and Snagov on the lake. This is the final resting place of Vlad the Impaler. He is buried inside the monastery.... or does he still live to this day. Ask the local Romani and you may find an intriguing answer. Tonight we'll share all out memories and favorite moments over a farewell dinner in Bucharest!
DAY 14: To be continued.....
After breakfast this morning its time for hugs and to say goodbye for now. We'll be taken to the airport for our journey home. We may have souvenirs and fond memories, but more often than not, we've got new friends. Onward to the next exploration with myXOadventures.com!