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Mountains, Monasteries and Medieval Cities

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Jul 1st, 2017, 01:03 AM
  #1
ESW
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Mountains, Monasteries and Medieval Cities

I spent ten days in Romania in May and came back with a folder full of notes and over 1100 pictures. These are now eventually on the web.
http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/otherh...nia/index.html
Many of the pictures of scenery were taken through the coach window, explaining the poorer quality.

Romania is still very much an agricultural based economy with small family farms. 
 After the fall of Communism, the land was returned to the peasants but many holdings are quite small and only just large enough to support a family. Agriculture is still very much semi-subsistence farming. Villages are surrounded by cultivated fields with long narrow strips and no boundaries and must look very similar to our medieval field system. Houses are surrounded by gardens used to grow fruit and vegetables for family use. They have a yard with barns and sheds. Most families have a cow and keep a few sheep. They pay a shepherd to look after large flocks of sheep. The cows go out to graze during the day and make their own way back each night.

There are hay meadows and pasture. Every available bit of grass is cut for hay, including road verges. Smaller areas are still cut by hand using scythes and we saw hay drying racks and hay stacks. We saw people working in the fields, ploughing with horses and many people are still using a horse and cart for transport.

This area had been settled by the Saxon in the C12th and was characterised by the fortified churches with a huge defensive wall with towers. The area was under regular attack by Mongols, Tartars, Ottoman Turks etc and the families and their animals retreated into the church until the raiders had gone. In Bucovina are the wonderful painted monasteries. Each one built after a defeat of the Ottomans in Battle. 

My abiding memory of the trip is the countryside, wooden houses in the villages and the wonderful churches. Away from the large towns it really is a completely different way of life and a step back fifty years – BUT it is changing.

I went with Cox and Kings who were the only company who had an itinerary taking me to the places I wanted to visit. I had specifically wanted to avoid the Bram Stoker Dracula theme which is the highlight of so many itineraries. Vlad the Impaler was a particularly nasty C15th ruler of Wallachia but has nothing to do with the Dracula myth.

One thing I should mention is driving times. I admit I hadn’t done my homework properly and hadn’t realised just how long we would be sitting in a coach. Times given in the itinerary were very much an underestimate once coffee, lunch and toilet breaks were added on. I felt the itinerary was rushed and very often we didn’t have as long in places as I’d have liked.
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Jul 1st, 2017, 03:56 AM
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Have just been looking up some of the towns you mention, so interesting. I can imagine your frustration at not having time to explore. Fascinating country. I like your photos, your personal narrative and the historical context in your blog. (And I remember enjoying your UK photos on some previous posts.)
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Jul 1st, 2017, 07:02 AM
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Thank you for those kind comments. It took me a long time to get to drips with the history of Romania. It is a fascinating country and I'd love to go back if I can find a suitable itinerary - but not with Cox and Kings again...
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Jul 1st, 2017, 07:22 AM
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Glad you appreciated Romania! It seems to get little coverage here. I have visited twice. The first time I used a car and driver for the north, but I had no trouble using public transport for my second trip, which concentrated on Transylvania and the west (TR on Fodors). A tour is unnecessary.
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Jul 1st, 2017, 08:04 AM
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I would normally agree with you, but I don't drive, am by myself, have osteoarthritis which makes walking long distances and carrying things difficult and of the age that I welcome the 'security' of going as part of an organised group.
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Jul 1st, 2017, 08:27 AM
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I will turn 70 this year and also travel solo. I don't drive in Europe either, but I found the taxis in Romania quite remarkably cheap. I rarely use taxis and book hotels close to transport but I did use them several times in Romania. Since you didn't care for your tour, and most tours suffer from the same issues, I wanted to make it clear that it was possible, at least for some people, to visit Romania without one.
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Jul 1st, 2017, 01:00 PM
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Thank you thursdaysd I appreciate your comments. I much prefer being in control of my own itinerary but needs must now. Having got back from Romania I have been comparing different Cox and Kings itineraries with those of other companies I have used, and think the problem may be Cox and Kings...
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Jul 1st, 2017, 01:40 PM
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If it is a case of a tour or no travel, then I would opt for a tour too. In fact, given the way my body is behaving this year I may soon be opting for a cruise....

I took a look at the tour itinerary and it does seem fast paced, however, a couple of others I saw online are worse. If you have found a company with a slower-paced trip I would be interested. The only tours I have taken in Europe have been with Rick Steves, but you need to be fit to take those.

Enjoyed your photographs, thanks.
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Jul 1st, 2017, 06:36 PM
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I was wondering how you thought this tour might compare

http://www.viatransylvania.com/tours...tic-and-beaut/

Looks like there is flexibility, but naturally, then there would be the likelihood of the extra cost of not travelling in a larger group.

Interested to read that thursdaysd used a private driver.

Those cities look stunning, so unexpected, I had no idea it was such a beautiful country.
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Jul 1st, 2017, 07:12 PM
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I see that it cuts down on the driving by not making a loop. Not sure I would want to take a night train in Romania, although the day trains were fine. However, a night train to Budapest would probably be OK.

The private driver/guide turned out to be a major, although cheap, disaster. However, I still enjoyed Romania.
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Jul 2nd, 2017, 11:39 AM
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Thanks for the link Adelidean.

I'd also found this itinerary from Ffestiniog Travel which concerntrates on the north of the country.
https://www.ffestiniogtravel.com/sma.../rural-romania
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