Maramures Romania – A Collection of Flowers

Monasteries in Romania are usually well kept, inside and out. And the outside consists of meticulously and tenderly groomed gardens, like at the Transylvanian Monastery – Sambata. In the spring they are brimming with flowers, every color and type imaginable, in harmony with the architecture around them.

Here is a collection of flowers from the Barsana Monastery in Maramures, Romania – just in time to wish everyone a Happy International Women’s Day!

Winter Adventures – Brasov

Brasov, Romania is one of the seven original Saxon fortresses of Transylvania. Now, it’s one of the country’s largest and most vibrant cities. The center has kept its old charm with restored traditional buildings hosting refined boutiques and classy restaurants. A University city, located at the foot of the Postavaru mountains and in the recent years booming with business, it’s the best of both (or rather many) worlds.

There’s so much more to say and show you about Brasov. And I will soon enough. But for now, a glimpse of the city on a cold winter evening.

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Winter Adventures -the Rasnov Fortress

I have been writing bout my snowboarding trip to Poiana Brasov, Romania, which was so much more than just hitting the slopes. Having stayed at a quaint little pension in Rasnov, only ten kilometers from the resort, we were tempted by other attractions in the region. This town is probably most famous for its fortress – Cetatea Rasnov which towers over the entire region.

The first fortification on this steep cliff seems to have been during the Bronze Age. The medieval structure was then built between 1211 and 1225. In the 15th century Ottoman armies were unsuccessful in overtaking the fortress despite numerous attempts. Having to surrender the citadel to Saxon armies in 1612 because their route to the water spring was blocked off, the Rasnov people decided to build a well within the walls of the fortification. The 146 meter well was dug straight down into the rock cliff over a period of 17 years. The well was then used from 1640 to 1850.

After hundreds of years this structure is still standing tall, no longer defending against enemy armies, but welcoming inquisitive tourists from all over the world.

Winter Adventures – Rasnov and around

On our day off from snowboarding in Poiana Brasov, Romania’s famous ski resort just outside of the beautiful city of Brasov, we visited the area around the town of Rasnov. Rasnov is a great place to stay overnight while skiing in Poiana Brasov (which literally means the Brasov Meadow). It’s only ten kilometers away and offers very affordable accommodation.

And those ten short kilometers offer three worthwhile attractions. On the drive to the slopes you’ll pass the entrance to the imposing and recently renovated hill-top fortress – Cetatea Rasnov, the newly opened dinosaur museum meets adventure park – Dino Parc, and the Valea Cetatii cave which offers an exciting guided tour.

On the other side of Rasnov, you might be interested in a detour through Cheile Rasnoavei (the Rasnov Gorge) for a quiet walk surrounded by nature. The only other human you see might just be the shepherd and his flock.

Fagaras and Beyond Intro

If you look at a map of Romania and try to point to the direct middle of the country, you’re probably pointing to the town of Fagaras. Fagaras, my home town, is most know to foreigners for giving its name to the Fagaras mountains, the range with the highest peaks in the country, and the Transfagarasean Highway, which crosses these mountains with hairpin turns at great heights.

I can recommend two more reasons to stop in Fagaras:

1. to visit the Fagaras Citadel in the center of town

2. to make it your home-base for visiting the area

I have recently discovered that Fagaras, being so central, is the perfect starting place for various day trips in the area. To the north you have got Sighisoara, to the east Brasov, to the south the Fagaras mountain range with varying options of hikes and visits and to the west Sibiu and Alba Iulia. Of course, a car is helpful, but the main train line Brasov-Sibiu passes through Fagaras, as do many buses.

In the next few posts, I’d like to let you know about the day trips we made around Fagaras with a car. Here they are in short.

Day 1: Sighisoara, the Viscri Fortified Church, and the Rupea Castle

Day 2: Alba Iulia, Sibiu

Day 3: Transfagarasean Highway (Balea Waterfall and Lake) and the Sambata Monastery

Day 4: Sinaia and the Peles Castle

But first, since it was our starting point, let me introduce you to theĀ  main attraction in Fagaras, the Citadel.

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Winter Adventures: Poaina Brasov and around

My five days of snowboarding in Romania’s most famous ski resort, Poaina Brasov, were not limited to the slopes. Accommodations were in the nearby town of Rasnov, evenings were spent in Brasov, and when a storm closed off all ski lifts, one day was spent hiking in the mountains.

What can I say about the resort? Good service, great prices, slopes for all levels, and a few long runs – almost 5 kilometers! Yes, I realize that my use of long is subjective. My reference point is not the Alps, Rockies or anything of the sort, rather it is the reference point of any Torontonian – the 2 minute runs of the Blue Mountain Ski Resort. However, if you are in Romania for the winter and want to hit the slopes, I do recommend Poiana Brasov. And if you’re not big on winter sports, at least take the cable car up for the magnificent view.

 

 

Steam Train Ride – Maramures, Romania

Maramures, Romania. The keeper of traditions. This northern region of the country is famous for its people still wearing traditional, handmade clothing on Sundays and holidays. It’s recognized for its unique wooden houses and churches, some over 500 years old and declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The people, however, often make the biggest impression. They are incredibly welcoming and warm, natural hosts that make everyone feel like part of the family.

Now, I’d like present to you the Mocanita Steam Train in Viseu de Sus village. You leave in the morning, chugging slowly up the mountain valley, have a lunch break surrounded by nature and descend again to be back in the village by mid-afternoon. A unique chance to experience the train ride of a lifetime through lush-green forests. And keep an eye out for the Maramures carved wooden gate, the emblem of the region, which you typically only find standing tall in front of the traditional houses.

Winter Wonderland – Piatra Craiului Mountains

Dambovicioara, Romania. A village in the southern foothills of the CarpathianĀ Mountains. About three hours from Bucharest, one from Brasov, just south of Magura (from my last post) and the Bran Castle (infamously known as Dracula’s castle).

About half hour from Dambovicioara we (barely) reached the cabin we had rented out, Cabana Pietricica (Pebble Cabin). Getting our cars up to this house was quite the adventure. It included slipping around on the icy forester’s road and pushing said cars. Thankfully, we were an adventurous bunch.

Our cabin had heating: fires in fireplaces and electricity: from a generator that was running out of fuel. Basic conditions, but all you need for a weekend away from the city. We were far away from civilization in a winter wonderland. The only sign of other humans in this corner of the world was a sheepfold with the shepherd’s cottage, deserted for the winter. But the beauty of nature was more than enough. I think you’ll agree.

Magura – My favourite village

Magura, my favourite village in Romania. As you may already have noticed, I’m a huge Carpathian mountain lover. And Magura is surrounded by mountains. To the east, the Bucegi Mountains. To the west, the Piatra Craiului Mountains. And the village is not low in the valley as you might expect, rather sprawled on top of rolling hills with a stunning view in every direction.

For those who just want to enjoy the scenery and traditional, home-cooked food, there are many pensions to relax at. For those who are more active, head to the Zarnesti Gorge (Cheile Zarnesti) just below the village to see the place where parts of the movie Cold Mountain were filmed, or to find some great outdoor rock climbing spots. Or you can go up into Piatra Craiului Mountains – for moderate hikes or for the most challenging hiking one can do in Romania, climbing to the top of these mountains from the Plaiul Foii Cabin.

Some logistics: You can arrive here from Brasov, through the town of Zarnesti. If you don’t have a car there are frequent trains to Zarnesti and inexpensive taxis to the village. There are plenty of pensions, some in the traditional houses, many in massive, new structures that ruin the scenery, unfortunately. I recommend the Pepino Pension for a more traditional house, locally-grown, delicious food, and warm hosts. Moreover, if you are in one of the two larger rooms, you will wake up with the sun rising over the mountain peaks and warming your face. This will be the view from your window.

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Quaint Transylvanian Houses

I’ve already mentioned my love for the traditional Transylvanian villages, houses and big gates. Here are some of those typical Saxon-style houses. Hope you enjoy!

Village of Viscri (between Brasov and Sighisoara)

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Village of Crit (between Brasov and Sighisoara, near the village of Viscri)

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