From pretty pastel cities to rugged mountains, our week-long Romanian road trip showed us the best of Transylvania. This travel diary comes almost four months after our adventure, but I decided it was about time I captured the essence and jotted down my memories of this enchanting region.
Our first stop in Sibiu was unforgettable. With no ambitious itinerary or expectations, we wandered the streets of the old town where the paint peeled from the rainbow-coloured buildings. A highlight was scaling the rickety wooden stairs to the tower of the Lutheran Evangelical Cathedral. Pigeons rustled and cooed in their nests while we admired the city and mountains from our lofty viewpoint. A stroll along Strada Nicolae Bălcescu took us past hole-in-the-wall bakeries where we joined the queue of locals lined up for freshly baked goods.
Tip: We were happy to find our daily caffeine fix at the city’s hippest coffee spot: Hug the Mug.
Half a day was all we needed to explore this medieval walled town. The colourful theme continued as we aimlessly wandered the cobbled streets lined with pastel buildings. Despite the souvenir shops and cafe terraces, Sighișoara felt like little had changed for centuries. Beneath a covered walkway, 176 steps led us to a hilltop church with views over the city and surrounding valley.
Set against the backdrop of Tampa Hill, complete with its own answer to the Hollywood sign, Brasov is somewhere between a happening hotspot and historic gem. Well worn yet picturesque, its streets served up the perfect mix of modern eateries and old-fashioned charm. We spent a drizzly morning climbing Tampa Hill to take in the views of the compact city below, then rode the red and white cable car back into the city. Back on the ground, a visit to the Gothic-style Black Church filled us with awe and told the historic tale of the Protestant Reformation.
Tip: Don’t miss the excellent Italian food and wine at De Frati. Generous bowls of seafood linguine, creamy mozzarella and hearty risottos are amongst the highlights.
A little town located around an hour’s drive south of Brasov, Bușteni tempted us in with its snow-capped mountains. The town itself was somewhat strange, feeling like a tired ski resort and lacking any real atmosphere or authenticity. Our stay was made worthwhile when we rode the cable car to the top of the Bucegi Mountains, then traversed the bright white snow across the summit.
Tip: At the foot of the mountains, the blissfully quiet Caraiman Monastery provides the perfect spot to take in the views and relax in the tranquil surroundings.
Sinaia was an altogether more grand affair than Bușteni. Centred around a neat park edged with elegant hotels, it took me a while to figure out this town’s story. Whilst walking into the centre, we came across abandoned old buildings oozing with character within metres of monstrous new hotels catering to the winter ski crowd. Why were those beautiful old constructions empty, disused and forgotten while the town seemed to be alive and kicking. I’m still not sure.
Tip: In Sinaia we visited Peleș Castle which you can read about on Victor’s blog.