Rest and Peace in Transylvania

Leaving Brasov was certainly bittersweet. Our nearly four weeks in Brasov were everything we wanted them to be and I told Chad that I thought August 2019 would be remembered as one of our best months ever. But, everything comes to an end, so this post is a tribute to our wonderful life in Romania.

Our four cats that hung out outside our place all the time. I didn’t mind them too much.

I think Chad and I are happiest when we are able to establish a great daily routine, and Brasov was perfect for this. We were both very engaged in our work during our time here – Chad primarily on his new film and me figuring some things out with my business and landing three new clients (woo!), and committing myself to writing a novel this year by writing 1,000 words a day (which I’ve now maintained for 16 days straight at time of departure and counting!). And, we enjoyed all of our meals together each day. Because our Airbnb (review below) featured such a great kitchen (with dishwasher!), we went back to our routine of five dinners each week at home, eating out for just a “cheap night” and a “fancy night.” And the prices for food – both groceries and eating out – we found in Romania met our expectations for being extremely affordable.

In the basement of Deane’s Irish Pub

The town of Brasov itself is very charming and we were so happy with our decision to stay in the older neighborhood that had been the village of Schei. It really made Brasov, which has a population of over 200,000, feel like a small town. Most of the restaurants are in the touristic old town, about a 15-minute walk away. And, of course, we found an Irish Pub to watch our Liverpool English Premier League matches since another great thing about August is that it means the new season started. But this pub had the added appeal of belonging to a Liverpool fan and had a basement room that was all decked out in Liverpool logos and colors. It was the perfect place to watch most of the matches. 

The pretty church in our Brasov neighborhood

Because it was August, there were definitely lots and lots of tourists in town, especially from German (which makes sense because historically there were a lot of Germans in Romania until after World War II when they were deported). But, the tourism didn’t feel as intense as western Europe and our location in the mountains meant that Brasov was quite a bit cooler. And, like everywhere, the people were very nice. Everyone we met on the street would always exchange the traditional greeting of “buno ziua” (“good day”) with us.

Highlights from Hiking

We found time every day for a hike, usually at least four miles and set a goal for August to hike 100 miles, which we crushed. There are dozens of trails crisscrossing the mountains next to Brasov and we discovered a fabulous nature area for picnics called Pietrele lui Solomon (Solomon’s Stones) a forty-minute walk from our place that also had dozens of trailheads. 

Our favorite hike was to the resort area of Poiana Brasov, which was charming in an entirely different way from the main town of Brasov. It was about a four-mile wooded hike to get there and we had a great time walking around the town with all the Romanian tourists and then enjoyed a meat-heavy lunch before taking the bus back to Brasov. We also enjoyed a hike up to the top of Mount Tampa to get a photo behind the big Brasov letters and took the funicular down. But truly, all of our hikes were wonderful and we’ll be looking for similar destinations in the future, especially for summers.

Day Trip to Bran Castle

We pretty much shunned the main tourist activities of Brasov, including the famous Biserica Neagră (Black Church). But we made time to take the bus out to see Bran Castle, Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Count Dracula’s castle in his novel. It was really cool and worth the morning we spent doing it. 

It was easy to get the bus from Autogara 2, which leaves pretty much every half-hour (we took an Uber up to the bus station). The ride there was great and we easily bought tickets at the entrance right as it opened and enjoyed touring the rooms and the grounds. What was cool was that the castle was old, really old, built in the 14th or 15th Century, but then renovated and used as a royal summer home by the Romanian queen in the early 20th Century. So there was definitely a homey, cosy aspect to the castle. 

The only slight issue we had with the day is that there wasn’t a bus back until 11 and so we ended up having to kill a bunch of time waiting, and then the ride ran into a lot of traffic and wasn’t the most fun. This would have been mitigated if we’d been trying to make more of a day of it, and decided to have lunch in Bran or something, but we were both anxious to get home and do some work. But regardless, the trip out to Bran was definitely worth it. 

Our Transylvania Road Trip

Toward the end of our time in Brasov, we rented a car for two days to complete most of the Transylvanian road trip we had planned to do before our schedule got interrupted with movie stuff. We picked up the car in the morning (in Romania, you need an International Driver Permit in addition to your home driver’s license, which Chad got from AAA before leaving the US this time) and drove straight to the Transfagarasan Road, a hilly highway through the Carpathians leading to Balea Waterfall and Balea Lake. It was really cool to get a view of the super-windy road from the top and we enjoyed a nice picnic in the nature area at the top of the waterfall. 

Then we went on to Sibiu to enjoy that medieval town, which is just a little bit smaller than Brasov. We found it completely charming and had a great afternoon and evening there, especially enjoying the unique attic windows that make it appear the buildings are watching you. We went to a wine bar cleverly named Wine Not to enjoy some lovely Romanian wine and then had great Portuguese food for dinner.

The next morning, we visited the ASTRA Folk Museum, which is a sprawling area with restored traditional Transylvanian buildings. Chad loved looking at all the mills and the houses were charming. We had a perfect misty morning for exploring the park and since we were there on a day that the buildings were closed (a Tuesday), we had the place nearly to ourselves for most of our morning visit.

From there we drove on to Biertan to check out one of the UNESCO-protected fortified churches. The town was as charming as the drive there from Sibiu, which is to say EXTREMELY charming. We enjoyed the church (just a small fee to enter) and then had a nice light lunch at one of the restaurants below it before carrying on to the town of Sighișoara.

Sighișoara was also very nice (though we enjoyed Sibiu more) and is a UNESCO site as well. It has medieval city walls and charming cobblestone streets and boasts being the town where Vlad Dracul was born. It was all VERY Transylvanian. We had a very nice evening there, enjoying some nice beer on a terrace and then a traditional Romanian meal. We got up early the next morning to drive back to Brasov and return our car to Avis. Driving is an excellent way to see Romania and I’m glad we took the time to do it. 

Summary

We were so happy with the time we spent in Romania and very much want to come back in the future. We get the feeling there is much more to see (we barely scratched the surface of all the castles!) and it is a very easy country to like.

Airbnb Review

Voicu’s apartment was one of the best Airbnbs we’ve ever stayed in. It was very comfortable and was nice and cool even on hot August days. The kitchen was very functional and everything was quite clean. The wifi works great! And the view from the bedroom windows is stunning – what a way to start and end each day. We were so happy we chose to stay here in this neighborhood for several weeks. It was very charming and convenient to the tourist part of town, but felt separated, which we like. It was easy to walk to the lovely hiking trails in the mountains around the town and even to Pietrele lui Solomon, which is a great natural area to enjoy. Voicu was a great host and he had his charming family meet us to check in, which was very easy. They provided everything we could possibly need. We appreciated our stay here very much and highly recommend it!

Hotel Reviews

Vila Saguna – Great place – The location is an easy walk to the town center and main plazas. We chose it because of the free parking. I was a little skeptical when I realized it was just public street parking, but it worked out fine. I really liked the self-check-in. Very easy. Room was very clean and comfortable.

Venesis House – Very nice place – The room was nice, clean, and a good size and the staff was friendly. Very easy to walk to many of the main attractions in town and they had a reserved parking spot for us.

La Livada Hotel – Really good for the night before our flight out – Great place to stay right before a flight. It was easy to get an Uber to take us to the airport early in the morning when we left. Comfortable room and very nice staff. Good restaurants are an easy 15-minutes walk away.

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