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Intrepid Tour 2 - Romania

Explore Eastern Europe Part 2


Slightly sleep deprived we had a massive day of travelling from Eger and ended up in Romania. I have to say that I was pretty happy to be on our tour when we crossed the border and I had my passport taken off me for 10mins for the first time... This is normal. It also meant we got our first lot of stamps. Yay!


We finally arrived in our beautiful home stay in the Maramures with our host, Romona. Her families hospitality was exceptional. We had home-cooked four course meals every night. Our first night was eggplant dip, green bean soup, beef stew with first class potato mash (not a lump in site) then apple cream sponge cake for dessert. Needless to say we were stuffed after the massive amount of food and it was all gloriously delicious!


Our guide the next day was Nikolai, the local doctors husband. He was a wealth of knowledge and had an awesome day set up for us. We started with the Merry Cemetery.


This place was extraordinary! The headstones were bright in colour and told the story of the person who was buried there. The carver writes the story, which rhymes in Romanian and the family has no say in what is written... Some of the headstones are missing maybe for this reason. It was excellent to walk around with Nikolai while he told us the history of these people (the butcher, the drunk womaniser, the communist) and what they were remembered for.


We headed away to have a massive picnic on the hill with our wine for lunch and grabbed few fresh apples from our driver’s orchard below us. They were some of the best I have had...nothing beats fresh fruit straight from the tree. Yum!!
After lunch we headed to an old wooden church that is no longer used and is now considered a UNESCO heritage site. It was impressive and beautiful. This was one of the first places warning of vaccinating your dog to protect from rabies from the foxes in the area.


We continued on to a distillery for Palinka (plum schnapps) where we watched the process, listened to some music and drunk palinka. It is strong highly potent alcohol and most are fairly sharp in taste.


After a Lewis saved me from a potential marriage proposal from the owner’s son we were off to see the wood carver. He carves the gates of houses and religious statues. The gates are important in Romania as they show the status of the house (the better the gate the more wealthy the owner of the house is). They were impressive. Everything was done by hand so you can imagine how time consuming it is. It reminded Lewis of the Maori carvers at home. At this place Lewis and I got taken to be shown a beautiful crib. ... my goodness it was never ending!


I saw a lovely little old lady gathering things from her garden. When I went over to take her photo I was asked in for a cup of tea. If I'd had time I would have loved to spend the time with her even with the language barrier. Our last stop off the day was to a monastery on the hill that 10 nuns now live in. Unsurprisingly it has a peacefulness to it. The monastery was rebuilt after it was destroyed by the German - Austrian invasion. The church had two parts; The lower the nuns used everyday and above that the main church. It was a lovely end to the tour as the sun slowly began to drop over the beautiful area.


Along the drive in Romania our driver had to battle getting around horse and cart. This is how the Romanians move there produce and hay and they are everywhere. We also had to dodge flocks of sheep on the road. The thing I found interesting is most of the paddocks don't have fences yet the animals aren't all over the road. Most have a minder with them. Romanians are hard working people who have pride in the little they have. You could see this in all the people we interacted with and saw along the way.


After the day trip we are back to Romona's to have another delicious meal with more strong palinka and wine. Dinner was a mozzarella style cheese with spiced chicken followed by chicken soup with dumplings, chicken legs with sticky rice and salad and lamingtons for desert. The lamingtons were amazing! Yum!


We had another fairly large travel day to get to Sighisoara, a town with an old historic area on the hill with a clock tower.


We arrived and went straight into the hills for a walk. It was awesome to get away from the hussle and bustle of the town centre. The forests are a little different than what we have at home. Rather than moss and small plants under the massive trees there are just masses of leaves layer upon layer. It was quiet enough in the forest to hear the leaves falling from the trees…an amazing sound and experience to stand there and just listen.


We headed off to Viscri, a small remote village with Saxon origins for the next night. Here we stayed separately from the rest of the group with another member of the village.

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Our room had a wetback shower, which was lit while we were at dinner that night. It took Lewis back to time on the Marae. The town of Viscri now has 13 Saxon families left and the remainder of the population living there are gypsies. Walter, our guide and host explained the Saxon heritage of the area and why the Saxon people originally moved here (free land, no taxes, less likely to be called to war in exchange for protecting the border). Walter and his wife campaigned for the poor village to be protected and have succeeded in making it a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They also have the help of the Prince Charles Trust. Walter showed us around the village,' including the old meeting areas, the wooden church, the sock project (people in the community make socks and they get sold around the world) and the blacksmith. The blacksmith is part of the gypsy community. As you can see by the photo he is already so proud of his son.


On the way to dinner we happened to meet all the cows coming home from the fields. These cows knew where their homes were and we found a few in the courtyard and one waiting for us to go though the gate perturbed it had to wait seen we were in it's way.


Our dinner was delicious with veggie soup, homemade bread, beans and sausage and chocolate vanilla cake to finish. We of course had to have more palinka and homemade wine. Everything we ate was from local produce of the village.


We left Viscri sadly the next morning. I loved the simplicity of the village. It was a beautiful and relaxed place and I hope it doesn't ever loose it's rustic charm with it's dirt roads, roaming dogs, horses and carts and solitude by being wifi free.


Brasov was our next destination. We had a tour with Claudia our guide for the next few days. We walked around the old city walls and learnt how. traders were allowed in one day a week and had to pay taxes to enter. Most traders were the Romanians and they also use to have little protection when a siege occurred as they only could take what they could carry into the castle walls for protection. We saw the black tower (It was called this as it caught on fire and was black after this). The black church (bombed /destroyed ) was always trying to be the best church in Transylvania and was always competing with others in the area. The traders were required to leave expensive rugs for the church for acceptance.


Brasov has a massive Hollywood-style sign on the hill. There are two ways to get to the top - walk up the zigzag path or take the funicular. Obviously I took the path. I quickly learnt not to walk and look at the view (quickly learnt after a mishap of falling down a bank to the path below...a bruised and scratched leg as well as a wounded pride later the lesson was learnt).


We headed to Braun's castle (Dracula's castle) the next day. The Dracula tale is quite a different story to the one I was expecting. Dracula is based off Vlad the Impaler. Vlad was sent to Turkey when he was young by his father under some form of agreement. Vlad, when he was of age was sent to Transylvania to collect taxes and be the ruler. Nobles of the area didn't like Vlad and had previously killed his father and buried his brother alive. When Vlad arrived to rule he invited all the nobles for dinner. Some were worried of revenge and didn't attend. Those who did were wined & dined. When they were full of wine Vlad locked them in the hall and burnt it down as punishment for the death of his family. Vlad was known as a harsh enforcer of the law. He punished his people as well as traders. Most punishments were by the way of death by impalement. He tested people also. The story goes that a merchant left his carriage unattended overnight. The next day his money was gone. Vlad promised to find the thief that stole the money. He was found and the money returned, except Vlad added extra. Vlad asked if it was all accounted for. The merchant admitted there was extra. Vlad responded; "Good. If you had taken it you would have been a thief too." Vlad ensured all the dead were impaled (via punishment or natural death) on the territory border. This was to scare away via intimidation those who wanted to invade the region. The Turks wanted to invade as he wasn't paying them the taxes he was collecting but on arrival they were scared of all the bodies impaled on the border. The story of Dracula came about from the propaganda being spread about Vlad the king who impaled everyone which was merged with the discovery of the vampire bat, which had happened around the same time. The two of these were put together and the story was not famous until some time after it was written.


We went to a massive citadel fortress and there happen to be a car rally on at the bottom. Lewis was in heaven with the cars zooming to the race and the lack of safety regulations meant they zoomed right past.


To end the day we headed to a village with a forted church which was for the villager in times of siege. The wall had small openings with wide gaps on the inside wall so they could shoot from any angle to the enemy below. The toilets were also up here so emptied below.


Our last stop in Romania was Bucharest, a new city in Romanian standards. It’s around 550 years old. We saw the beautiful Opera House, built when the city was trying to Replicate Paris.


We saw Revolution square and it's ghastly statue. We saw the old town area with it's mix of old and semi new. A hotel; the best on the street can't get insurance due to the crumbling apartment building beside it and so without insurance it can't operate. It's been fighting for insurance for two years now! We heard how parliament was built during a time when people went hungry. It's massive and it's mightiness doesn't seem so grand we consider that people died of hunger so it could be built. We discussed Romanian orphanages and how they appeared when abortions were made illegal. Apparently a recent story of an orphan adopted by an Australian family who committed suicide; when reported it was discovered two thirds of the children from this orphanage had killed themselves. The children were not allowed to be touched. When the revolution occurred the President was done for genocide also due to the number of women who died from birth and illegal abortions and the children in the orphanage who died. We went to one of the oldest Beer halls in the area. that were closed down in communist times, Churches were also moved in Communist times so they were hidden from view ... out of sight out of mind.


We left Romanian after an amazing week. It was a magical time off the normal tourist route and this is was what made it all the more amazing. Romania currently isn’t an amazing typical tourist destination. This isn’t what Romania is about. Romania is about a place that is untouched, where things are simpler and money is not large as there is little of it for most. Romania is where you go to remove yourself as a tourist and immerse yourself with the people, people who are proud of there work and the produce they grow. People who work extremely hard for any form of income yet are still happy. Happiness can be seen constantly in their faces. Although Romanians have a bad reputation. This is unjust. The reputation comes from the gypsies that call themselves Romanian but aren’t. There are a lot of gypsies in Romania. The big difference between Romanians and gypsies is one begs and trades while the other works hard for their wage and living. The communist background has lead to more begging as under communism everyone had jobs and now they don’t and some don’t know what to do and how to get income. Romania is a step back in time where horse and carts are still used on roads and cars are expected to go around them. Where a lack of power is normal. Where you eat your own produce and make your own food. If I had to choose my favourite it would have to be in Maramures where we stayed in a lovely family home and saw the beautiful region. It was where we picnicked on the hill with the most beautiful views. We picked fresh apples from the trees and saw locals doing their work and showing their exceptional produce with pride.
Viscri seeing the cows come home and seeing the place after the tourists had departed was also quite stunning.
Would I come back to Romania? You bet. Would Romania have been the same without Intrepid? Definitely not. They found quite a few little gems that are still untouched and tarnished from the tourist crowds.


Posted by chellebelle 07:29 Archived in Romania Tagged people beauty intrepid homestays carts pride palinka

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