A few special things and places in Romania
by dangaroo on February 25, 2009
Hidden away in the South-Eastern Carpathians, a short distance away from the mountain resort Sinaia, lies this dramatically and in some ways over the top building - Peles Castle. The entrance easily recognisable by a beer drinking blind bear on a chain (may well be dead or his status changed by the entrance to the EU by now)Before the entrance to main gates are several stalls, old ladies selling cheese, clothing, wooden nic nacs and the typical fare of any such tourist attractions in the Carpathians, whether it be Poland, Ukraine or Romania. The cheese is delicious, mind! This glamorous old school building lies in magnificent grounds, grassy fields and a bit of forest - there are street dogs (albeit quite tubby ones) as far as the eye can see..either relaxing on the grass or trying to cause trouble with each other..aah it's a dog's life!A nice little pub/snack bar stands near the entrance, the beer isn't particularly over-priced and whilst the communist style service leaves little to desire - it's worth it all for the nice view of the building. I've been here twice, once I paid entrance to go inside the building and the second time not. Personally, I prefer the grounds - the over the top nature of the architecture and artefacts inside don't really do it for me. Whilst nearby Bran castle manages to remain quite quaint, Peles goes over the board with a huge collection of armory (4000 weapons!), ivory, glass, leather, rugs from the finest sources, painted stained glass and a large collection of paintings from the finest contemporary artists of the time.The castle built between 1875 and 1914 is impressively grandiose, using gold, brass, marble and just about any expensive commodity that King Carol I of Romania could get his hands on! The estimated cost of building it is around $120 million dollars and sections of it were used as tourist villas for the wealthy and aristocratic. Visitors included the extremely powerful Kaiser Franz Josef and in more recent times Richard Nixon and Yasser Arafat. There is an additional structure nearby, the more quaint Pelisor - a chateau made for King Ferdinand I and Queen Marie, this is more to my liking..although I have to say that I absolutely love the grounds and even Peles castle from the outside is pretty cool. I'm sure that some will marvel at the insides, it's definitely impressive but it's not really to my taste! Entrance is 15 Lei with additional charges for using a camera. Some rooms are off limit but you'll definitely get value for money.
Bran Castle is an overpowering structure which lies on top of a hill overlooking the small village of Bran which is closely located to Brasov. Bran is famous as being "Dracula's Castle", although there is no proof that Vlad Tepes actually ever set foot in the building, although it is thought that he may have hung out there for a few days during warfare. There is even less evidence that Bram Stoker knew anything about it. This is however a cracking selling point and the eerieness of the castle's gothic architecture adds to the feeling. What doesn't really add to the feeling is the large amount of stalls selling Dracula and Romania memorobillia nor the hoardes of tourists waddling along in a line. Like so many "special" places, the people visiting it often take away any feeling of authenticity the landmarks have and I'd be a hypocrite to say I didn't - as I was also a visitor! The building was originally built in the 13th century but was destroyed by the Mongols, it was later re-built and remained a mainstay of the Hungarian Empire for the centuries to follow. The castle is really sublime and it exhibits a wonderful collection of art and furniture from Queen Marie's collection. It became a residence of the Romanian royal family at the turn of last century and that's when Queen Marie who was actually part of the British Royal Family became involved, the grandaughter of Victoria and Prince Albert (daughter of their 2nd son), she married Ferdinand I of Romania and lived at this residence. She was an avid collector of Romanian artefacts and a lot of the things on show are very interesting.Marie didn't get on with her husband and was a bit of a saucey mare, having several lovers and giving birth to several children of other lovers supposedly, one which mysteriously disappeared. Some of the tour guides stories are pretty humorous and despite the museum feel, it's actually pretty homely - I think I could live there!Before or after entering the castle, there is an exhibition at the bottom of the building which has some fine examples of Romanian farm buildings and houses from throughout the country. This in itself, is an interesting little lesson. Whilst cheesy in places, it is still an interesting structure and a must visit. The 30km from Brasov is easily covered whether it be by mini bus, bus, your own car or hitchhiking. It's also possible to walk across the mountains from Sinaia and possibly Brasov too.
Bella Musica is a restaurant that I used to visit on a regular basis during my stay in Brasov. Located very centrally, near the Black Church at "Gheorghe Baritiu 2", you must walk through a small gate with a music shop by the entrance, turn through the door on the right and down some sharp stairs into a 400 year old cellar. You will most likely be greeted by the friendly staff, there's a good chance it will be busy too as this affordable restaurant is so stylish that people can't help but like it and come back, make sure you reserve a table. The staff are used to crowds though and you won't need to have to wait particularly long for your food. Sit down at your table and you will be given menus, some palinka (fiery plum brandy) and some nachos...this is on the house and not a money making scam! Choose from the menu of international dishes, try something local perhaps (mostly Hungarian dishes in fact) or if it looks too adventurous - stick to the less wilder choices from the Mexican range. Personally I recommend the lovely "bean broth in bread" as a starter, you get a small thick delicious half a loaf with it's centre pulled out and filled with a delicious bean soup. The soup and the bread are both outstandingly outlandlingly delicious! If the food and cosiness of the place isn't enough then maybe it'll be the unique method of calling a waiter which will grab your attention. There's a little bell on the side of the table and the waiters rarely if ever take longer than 10 seconds to get to your table. If that's enough - they also provide you with a music menu, a menu full of songs to choose from and each person is allowed to select some - if it's busy you may only get to choose one or two songs per person but if its quiet - you can be a DJ whilst you eat!A meal for two with drinks should cost no more than 60 Romanian Lei (£12).. now that's what I call value!
by dangaroo on January 13, 2009
Sighisoara deep in Transylvania, has an eerie feel to it but is a very pleasant day trip or one night stay on any trip to Romania.History=====In the 12th century, the king of Hungary invited German craftsmen to reside in Sighisoara and to defend the Hungarian Empire, Sighisoara therefore started off as a Saxon settlement. Sighisoara (known then as Schaesbrich), was one of the busiest market towns and artesan centres in Central Europe. The strong fortifications and impressive buildings still stand today, despite various battles between Transylvanians, Hungarians, Russians and Wallachians, Sighisoara remained Hungarian or Transylvanian Hungarian until after World War 1, when it was given to Romania by the Austro-Hungarians.The population is about 75% Romanian, 20% Hungarian and the remaining 5% either gypsy or German. The most famous inhabitant is undoubtedly Vlad III (Vlad the Impaler - Vladislav Draculea in Romanian) who most likely inspired Bram Stoker to create Dracula as he was known for his cruel punishments which he had learnt at the hands of the Turks who had kept him hostage as a child and beaten him. Vlad III, had an incredibly interesting life, being born in the citadel as an illegitamate child to the King of Wallachia who was in Translyvania having been ousted from the throne, his mother was said to have been a Moldavian princess but little is known about her. It's worth visiting Sighisoara just to get an insight into his life.Getting There===========Plenty of trains, minibuses and buses go to all destinations in Romania. There are also connections to Budapest (twice a day) and Krakow (once a day). The roads to Satu Mare and Brasov are in fairly good condition.Places to stay============Gia Hostel comes highly recommended by me! At just 10 euros, you can get a large single or romantic double room, with cable television, an immaculate bathroom with hot piping water. The rooms are immensely comfortable. There is also a kitchen downstairs and the place is very relaxed, it's also just located across the small river from the citadel and incredibly close to the station. They often have touts at the station who can show you the way for free.If you are looking to meet plenty of others and want a bar atmosphere, then there is always Nathan's Villa. A backpackers hostel which also charges 10 euros. Expect noise!If neither of those appeal, then you will undoubtedly attract attention with a backpack on and someone will offer you a room for around 8 euros.Sightseeing==========Fear not, despite a vampiric reputation.. it's a very safe place with plenty to see! The town is small and quaint, with cobbled street and huge gothic buildings. The clock tower is undoubtedly the stand-out feature, 64m high with a beautiful clock and turrets, this building now works as a museum, housing just about everything there is to know about Sighisoara and a lot of superb relics. Price (about 5 pounds) is dearer than most things in Sighisoara but you only live once!Casa Vlad Dracul is the house that Vlad was born in and is also fairly impressive, it's now a restaurant and beer hall, I had some food there a couple of years ago and it was good then, so unless something has happened to the chef. I'd defintely recommend some of the tasty Romanian cuisine. The terrace is very pleasant, I'd recommend coming here for lunch.The last not to be missed place is Evangelische Bergfriedhof, a Saxon graveyard with some amazingly picturesque gravestones, it's not often you come across graveyards like this!Medieval Festival=============Each year in July there is a Medieval Music Festival that sees thousands of teenagers heading for it, it's more of an excuse to drink a lot of beer than anything, so you might be disappointed if you are only going for Medieval music! There are plenty of different styles of music played and loads of stalls selling junk. Hotels are booked up weeks before the event but you are bound to find someone renting out a room.My opinion=========Sighisoara is a quaint town with great architecture but it sometimes feels a bit lifeless and I prefer Brasov. There are hiking opportunities in the near by hills and unless you are combining it with some hiking, I would only spend either a few hours there or one night at the most. It is definitely worth visiting though.
by dangaroo on July 10, 2008
Kismet Dao Hostel is a hostel in Brasov, Romania. It's semi-owned by a Korean thus the intriguing name.Although the hostel is the opposite end of the old town from the Central Train/Mini Bus station, it's easy to get to, here are someinstructions borrowed from their website:Taxi: A ride from the train station should cost about 3 EUROS or 10 RON (as of Dec 2006). Use only taxis with company names on them (e.g. RO, ATI, MARTAX, TOD) and make sure they turn the meter on. It is better most times to take a taxi than a bus.Bus: Take bus #51 from the train station to the last stop at Piata Unirii. Each ticket costs 1.2 lei which you buy from a kiosk. Make sure you validate your ticket on board and watch out for pickpockets!By Foot: From the #51 bus stop (Piata Unirii) walk to St. Nicolas Church (in your front left), then walk uphill on Balea Street (between the church and the big Coca-cola sign),then take the first right on to Str. Democratiei.Look for the green gate and fences on your right with number 2B.They normally have a character working in their office at the train station who will help you find the way to the bus stop etc. Personally I wouldn't worry too much about pickpockets, despite months of travelling in Romania, I've never had any problems. Then again, some people (mostly Americans) still strangely keep their wallet in their backpocket. Surely a dumb thing to do anywhere.The staff are helpful and friendly, the hostel organises cheap tours to nearby destinations like Bran Castle, it has a room downstairs where you can enjoy a beer or two and listen to music or have loud parties, close to the reception is a Television room where they have cable television and very comfy sofas. The hostel also sells its own beer and you get a free one for every day you stay (if you don't drink, you can have water or soft drink), a free breakfast made up of toast, jam and coffee is also available and definitely worth abusing if you are on a budget. They offer a free laundry service, baggage storage and safe and the hostel itself is only a short walk (about 5 minutes) in a straight line from the old town! There is a bathroom on each floor (4) and the water is always hot but particularly piping in the middle of the afternoon when it's had time to relax after being overused in the morning! As I recall the bottom one is always hotter for some reason!One of my favourite things about this hostel are the terraces on each floor, I particularly enjoyed sitting on the terrace by the kitchen and drinking a beer with the enjoyable view of the hills of Brasov behind it. The hostel (apart from the room downstairs before the cleaner has managed to get to it) is always spotless and everything tends to look brand spanking new. There is also a left item section and this can be a great place to pick up some *new* clothes if you've been on the road for a long time! Just be careful you don't mistake the dirty laundry for the left luggage or vice-versa.The selection of rooms starts at 40 Lei (about 12 euros) for a 10 bed dorm up to 130 Lei (do the maths!) for a large private room (of which there is only one but there are various others outside of the hostel which they can hook you up with)All in all, a really enjoyable place to stay and one of my favourite hostels in Europe, I spent a couple of weeks there once as Brasov is easily one of my favourite places in Europe.Address:Str. Democratiei 2Brasov 2200RomaniaTelephone:514-296 inside Brasov0268-514-296 inside Romania(40) 268-514-296 outside RomaniaEmail:email@example.com. com
by dangaroo on October 17, 2008
Festival 39 is a cafe/bar that also serves up in Brasov. It's very centrally located and seems to attract a mixture of expats and locals, the place is very plush inside and also offers a large amount of seating, the prices are no way the cheapest in the town but they're not prohibitive either, the food is good but best of all for me is the eclectic choice of music, the staff here always manage to pull out some gems and put them on the speakers, playing a mixture of old jazz, blues, chanson and gypsy music, the place has a very relaxed feeling and is an ideal place to go on a rainy day or to soothe off a hangover.It has become popular over the years, so much so that they've now opened a chain up in Bucharest. Book a seat if you plan on eating, in particular if it's around lunch or dinner time. Otherwise it shouldn't be a problem. Not really a place to go crazy but a very nice place to stop off in the middle of the day or at the end of a long day's hiking. The pub is very asthetic to the eye and tries to give off a New Orleans vibe, it succeeds.To pay the place a visit, then head to the old city and look for the following address: Muresenilor 23
Up a steep hill overlooking Brasov lies Viron Pension, quite a climb with a backpack but good fun going down! I found Viron Pension on the internet and decided to stay there with my fiance a few years back, several rooms in a large Romanian chalet with a breathtaking view of the city and nearby mountains, a pleasant garden and a shared kitchen.I like a soft bed, so the beds were comfortable for me but might not be for those who like a hard bed. Overall I found the place comfortable, even if it was a bit basic. The showers were warm and the only thing that let the place down was a visit from a local brigade of mice.Personally, I quite like mice but couldn't eat a whole one. My girlfriends attitude was quite different though, when one rustled around in a waste paper bin while she was on the loo, she shot out like a ghost had come out of the toilet! I found this amusing but soon changed my tune or faced coventry for the rest of the trip! I also found a dead one on the floor by my bed in the morning, poor little blighter! It did look as though the patron was trying to do something about it! When we were leaving, we also met one in the kitchen, so I don't know if the Biker Mice from Mars had actually checked in or it was just a local gang!The room was ok, the view was good, the facilities basic and the location was ok if you're training to climb Mount Everest! They may have got over their bout of rodents by now!The pension claims:Accomodation:5 double rooms with double bedFacilities:dining roomliving-room with TV and minibarfully equipped kitchenSpecial for Guests:terrace with barbeque (true)waterfall (very nice but more of a spring)Other services provided:private parking for 6 carsinternet connection to reception (can't say I noticed that one)post card deliverylaundry facilitiesAddress:Administrator: Simona RaduLocation: Brasov, str. Cibinului nr. 23, jud. BraşovTelefon: 0268 / 476.208Fax: 0368 / 815.441Mobil: 0766 / 465.444E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
by dangaroo on August 11, 2008
I worked in Brasov about 4 and a half years ago and spent considerable time exploring the area. Brasov is a wonderful little city in the Transylvanian mountains, don't worry though - there are no vampires! Hell there are no scam artists these days either! Brasov is almost completely safe and the locals are truly wonderful, very friendly and helpful. Nestled between the mountain this reasonable sized city has a lot to offer, the hiking opportunities immediately at the top of the hill above Brasov are immense. A superb mix of architecture including the powerfully gothic Black church, the communist blocks, the new apartment blocks and villas and the old buildings in the centre give it a nice feel. Don't try to use the public transport without a ticket, there are regular inspections. Be careful around the main train station, there's often young gypsies high on spray paint/glue or something of that order being a bit of a nuisance. I've been back after my initial stay on several occasions and wish I was right there as I'm writing this! Brasov is a superb place for all of the family. Completely gorgeous. There are plenty of cafe's to sit outside of during the summer and lots of cosy little bars to hang out in when it's raining or during the freezing winter. The cobbled streets (should be fully renovated by now) and small parks add a very relaxed feel to the town. The centre is wonderful, the outskirts like the majority of cities in Eastern Europe - are nothing special. Oh and if you are a single man.. the beautiful local girls have a penchant for not wearing bras during the summer ;).
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