Romania is some dark Eastern European country, where gypsies still eat their kids, right? What the duck? I had some false stereotypes installed, that I needed to get rid off. Besides, I have never been there. Right after I first saw the best projection mapping performance, I knew I will visit the place someday.
Romania has one of most dangerous and epic roads (Transfagarasan) in the world, according to Top Gear’s producer Jeremy Clarkson. As a man, that loves the experience of driving itself, it became somewhat the focal point of the roadtrip. That and the mountains…
Romanian Road Trip stats
Quick road trip to Romania summary in numbers:
- 8 days;
- 8 borders;
- 4500 km;
- 4 wheels (20 year old Honda Civic, 1,4 gasoline, 66kW)
- Total budget: 800 €.
- 2 friends
On the side note: you might disagree with me calling this as an Eurotrip, but for me any journey that includes driving a car and passing several borders constitutes an Eurotrip.
So the whole route looked something like this:
First night we spent in Kosice, Slovakia, on the evening of the second day we were already in Romania – Cluj-Napoca.
Images have been more impressive than reality.
Apparently this haunted and mysterious forest. We did not feel a thing. It was just on the route to Cluj Napoca, so why not pay a visit… Reality:
Those interested in mysteries, might find this video interesting.
That’s the second largest city in Romania. During the week of our visit there was a Untold festival going on with stars like Armin Van Buuren, Busta Rhymes, Bastille. When we asked a local for an address while searching for our booked apartment, a guy (perfect english – nice) he told festival gathered around more than 300 000 people. I was surprised.
Anyway, some moments from evening walk in Cluj-Napoca center:
Simple, nothing too fancy. Quite a few graffiti and street tags on the buildings. Just like in Bulgaria. Regional-cultural thing I guess. Disappointed youth.
Next morning I was really excited what’s ahead. 20km from Cluj-Napoca awaits Salt mine Salina Turda. It’s an underground facility, that from 2005 got its current Sci-Fi style form. Salt and other resource extraction dates back to 1271 according to official site.
Views inside are really unlike anything I have seen in other caves. Romanians really have put some great effort to convert the cave into superstar of caves.
Inside Salina Turda there’s: Ferris Wheel, Mini Bowling, Mini Golf, Table Tennis, Pool tables and even ability to rent a boat! Crazy.
Next stop was much appraised Medieval City of Sighisoara.
A really nice medieval oldtown inside. Other than hour-two walk, not too much to look at.
One of few occasions, when we got wet. However ~+30 Celsius Temperature and Sun soon fixed things. For some reason I really loved this casual street view outside of Sighisoara city center.
Booked apartment this time was in Cârțișoara, right at the beginning of Transfagarasan (70th) road. However we arrived pretty soon, and weather forecast predicted the rain for the morning, so we decided to explore a third of a road on the same day.
Evening exploration and first entry to Carpathian Mountain Range. Steep ascend, but Civic has seen mountains already…
Driving here is just as I imagined. INSANE. Jeremy did not lie. One of the most fascinating roads on the planet.
Balea Lake is another highlight on the Road. Some evening shots before we head back to rest.
Next morning it was raining, as forecasted. When we were hiking to Balea Waterfall it has been raining with Lightnings and left us soaked. We did not reach Waterfall and decided to continue driving through Transfăgărășan.
Same road, second day, more experience, better shots.
After we passed the tunnel and got on the other side of mountain range, more sunrays have welcomed us. Sweet.
There is a LOT of sheep herds in Romania. A LOT.
Not for sale. Not yet at least.
At Curtea de Argeș we changed direction and headed to Bran / Dracula’s Castle in the city of Bran. 73 road, may not be above 2000, but offers quite a driving experience as well. Unless you are stuck behind a truck for half an hour.
Romania has a lot of stray dogs. These were attacking cars (trying to bite tyres) that started moving. Stray dogs would appear from the most surprising and remote places, where no towns were around as well. Interesting.
Bran / Dracula’s Castle
I’m not a fan of crowded places. Whole character of Dracula is fictional and to me this spot, right after visiting peace in the mountains have been somewhat off the beat.
In case one day I ran out of reading material these might contain something interesting.
City of Busteni lies just below Bucegi Natural Park is a city with lots of tourists. Typical mountain resort vibe.
Bucegi Natural Park
My partner was of lower physical form, and whole day ~1500m altitude hike seemed too much, so I figured a cheat way to taste mountains and solo hike as well. 713 road is another sweetie to drive on. Ascending beyond tree line (around alt. 1800m) opened scenic natural panoramas on lots of turns.
After leaving the car at around 2000m, we started walking to first checkpoint – Sphinx.
This is a natural stone formation that is said to resemble Egyptian sphinx.
From here we parted ways and I began my first solo hike to the #5 highest in Romania – Omu Peak.
Car – Peak – Car around 600m elevation and 3-4 hours. Easy and pleasing. Conscience burns… A bit too easy. Next time, elsewhere.
Nearby peak is few meters lower and provides 360 panoramic view.
Cool. Bucharest next.
Approaching Bucharest, we were finally on a highway, or at least and even road. Because I have figured out why I had seen so many scrap metal car lots around. Roads are terrible between smaller cities in Romania.
Bucharest is a capital and truly large city. And it really reminded me of Casablanca. The Center is really tidy and western looking. with beautiful architecture. But outskirts and other regions are… not so nice.
In the morning we were very lucky to immediately enter a starting English tour at Bucharest Parliament Palace. That is the second largest administrative building in the world (can you guess which one is the first one?) and first if compared by functional purposes. Soviet Russia really tried to impress world with this one.
Among shit loads of luxurious halls, there’s a theater, galleries inside…
Chandelier weights around 3 tons and is one of world’s largest.
Symbol depicts approximate building plan.
Officials greet foreign visitors in this one. Like on news outlets.
1.5 hour tour only covered like 4% of Parliament area. It has 12 floors and god knows how many underground. Massive building, massive madness of Soviet officials back then.
In the evening we headed to western – south Romanian corner where another scenic drive and hike awaited.
Ciucacu Mic Hike
30 minutes, around 300m ascend effort and you get this Beauty.
On the same road, minutes from here there’s also Decebalus sculpture.
Next morning we started another picturesque ride along Danube with Serbia on the other side of the river.
After noon we reached Timișoara, third largest city of Romania.
I don’t know why, but I really loved Timișoara. Live music in the center, lots of people, great weather, despite short rain.
First time in Orthodox Cathedral. No Benches..?
It took a challenging but only 2 days to reach Kaunas from the bottom of Romania. We chose the route through Budapest, Hungary to avoid the terrible road quality we have experienced further from Bucharest.
Short and fast paced walk around Budapest center and a lot of road the last, 8th day. That’s the second road trip.
Notes from Road Trip to Romania
Road trip in Romania? Think through
Anything way from Bucharest is next to terrible. At times we had to drive at around 60km/h where 90 was the speed limit. Roads between smaller cities (Sighisoara, Curtiosara, Bran, etc.) were at the time styled by patches of asphalt on each other. On the other hand, we got to see more through the windows. And there’s plenty for plains-accustomed eye.
As we have passed a lot of kilometers in the countryside, I can elaborate a bit on the outskirts of Romania. Several times we encountered cattle crossing roads, lots of sheep herds. Overall picture of agriculture and machinery used seemed from the FAR past. On one occasion we saw several people cutting grass near the road with scythes…
Every time I encounter this (thinking of Georgia as well) I think is this what Lithuania would still look like if we haven’t joined EU?
Romania’s agricultural fields are dominated by sunflowers and corn.
I suspect a lot of investments will be made in upcoming decade improving agricultural productivity. Ping investors.
Romania won’t surprise people that have been to western Europe already. Neighboring Budapest (Hungary) is far more beautiful than any of seen Romanian cities in my personal opinion. However they really vibrant.
I would have liked to talk to locals more; but that’s the trade-off of travelling with someone. Of the few people we talked to, everyone seemed really nice and if English was of difficulty that rarely was, people were still willing to help anyway they could. Younger generation is very fluent in English.
For me, that’s the selling point of Romania. Scenic driving experience, as always – gorgeous mountains, valleys made this to Romania all very worthwhile.