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noe847 Jul 8th, 2006 05:49 PM

Planning a Romanian trip for September 2006
My father, brother and I will be visiting Romania in September to celebrate my father's 80th birthday. My grandfather emigrated from Romania in the very early 20th century. My father first visited the country 25 years ago with my mother and returned in 2001 with my brotherís family. I have never been, but hope for a future visit with my husband and daughters.

We will be in the country around 10 days, flying into and out of Bucharest, arriving on Friday September 22 and departing on Monday October 2. The first and last weekend will be devoted to visiting with relatives in Bucharest and Fagaras (Transylvania). Weíre planning 5 days (M-F) for touring in Transylvania and Maramures with a guide/driver.

To research this trip, Iíve read trip reports/descriptions by Clifton, Michael, faux, nan_49, Alcatelboy, Ben Haines, scullerygirl, USNR, and alyssamma, along with just about every thread related to Romania.

We have the Lonely Planet guidebook and have ordered the Rough Guide. We have a Romania map from my father/brotherís 2001 trip to Romania, which I have been using to plan the trip. I have ordered Transylvania and Bucharest maps.

At this point I would love some guidance:

1. We are considering staying at the Rembrandt Hotel in Bucharest, which comes fairly highly recommended. Iím not expecting much from downtown Bucharest, but wonder if this hotel is in a good location for the city.

2. We are extremely interested in the Saxon fortified churches near Medias. Iíve looked at lots of pictures of these churches and read descriptions, and I want to see them all - help! Which ones have you seen and can recommend? Are they open and accessible, or do you need to track down the guy with a key (Michael, I know that you came across some that were locked)? It seems that there are seven that have been inscribed on the UNESCO list (Câlnic, Prejmer, Viscri, Dârjiu, Saschiz, Biertan and Valea Viilor). Would it be correct to assume that these are the most architecturally interesting? How many could we reasonable expect to see in a day?

3. I have a lot of interest in seeing Hunedoara and the church at Densus, but canít tell how much time that detour that would take (say, from Alba Iulia). I really LOVE medieval architecture, so I donít want to miss anything wonderful. I think Clifton and Michael differed on their reactions to this castle?

4. We plan to skip Bran, but are trying to decide about Rasnov. Again, the reports about it seem to be mixed.

We are all getting excited about the trip (my father is making spreadsheets with our mileage), and I want to have a bit more of a handle on our areas of interest as we work out a customized itinerary with our guide. Thanks for any help you can give!

tower Jul 8th, 2006 06:43 PM

Do you have a guide as yet? If not, I can highly recommend a very professional group October I escorted 16 of my readers on a 2 week tour of the entire perimeter, and this guide organization provied the bus and an excellent perfect English-speaking young man. They also picked everyone up at the Bucharest airport and after the tour drove evertone to the airport at different times. If this interests you, I'll be happy to give you the contact points (e-mail, etc)

Stu T.

noe847 Jul 8th, 2006 07:25 PM

Stu, I have been in contact with Andrei Nicholau, who I read about on this board. The other names I came across (after I contacted Andrei) are Dan Comanescu/NNV Travel and also a gentleman with an email address of [email protected]. Did you use any of these?

tower Jul 9th, 2006 10:34 AM, since I had 16 people with me, and I neer used a guide for any of my previous visits into Romania, I wanted to get a very professional company with the gear necessary (bus, driver, hotel arrangements, etc) we used:

[email protected] [email protected]

Catalin is a young man with perfect English...his company has new autos and vans. Very prompt and incredibly itinarary covered the grater partof Transylvania, Maramuresh, Bukovina and Wallachia

We stayed at the boutique Hotel Opera in a very close-in district, walking distances everywhere..near Calle Victoria. Elevator and large rooms...excellent.

Stu Tower ([email protected])

ben_haines_london Jul 10th, 2006 06:19 AM

I used and found
Alba Julia 0512, 2 changes, Hunedoara 0726
and Alba Julia 0659, 1 change, Hunedoara 1051.
The castle is large and impressive.

Ben Haines,London
[email protected]

massagediva Jul 10th, 2006 06:24 AM

Wow,Stu-You just knocked me over the head with a memory.In '90 I went to rural Romania(near Moldovan border)to work in an orphanage.One of the most engaging and (obviously) unforgettable boys was named Catalin.

I'd love to imagine that the wonderful guide you used was the same-he'd be about 28 now,but I'd have to put on some pretty rosy glasses to believe that.

tower Jul 10th, 2006 09:31 AM


Catalin is certainly around 27-30 I believe..engaging type, yes! Some of the women on my trip were quietly smitten, I would say. Even the wife!!
His last name is Tudor-Rata.
Stu T.

massagediva Jul 10th, 2006 10:13 AM

Well,Stu,if you ever speak to him again,ask him if he's spent any time in Halaucesti.

noe847 Jul 10th, 2006 02:07 PM

Thanks to all who replied. I appreciate the contact information, Stu. We're still planning, so it's nice to have more information in the mix. As it turns out, the Opera is the other hotel that we were considering. The Rembrandt is in Sector 3 and the Opera is in Sector 1. Any opinions on the relative merits of those areas of town?

tower Jul 10th, 2006 03:14 PM

noe: The Opera is small and boutiquey...excellent breakfasts and bar. It is within a qick walk to Calle Victoriei (Victoria), one of the main shopping streets and also close to the more historic areas of the city. It's on a quiet side street with a few restuarants nearby...The Vatra, very good, one block away.
Stu T.

ben_haines_london Jul 11th, 2006 11:52 PM

A brother and sister in Brasov did good work for me with advice on what to see and where to go all over Transylvania, including in the fortified villages. They are Martia and Grig Bolea, phone 0744 8169 70, address Str Vasile Saftu 32, Brasov. They live a mile south of the Black Church in Brasdov, offer bed and breakfast, speak fluent English, meet almost any train you ask them to, and know western tastes and standards.

Ben Haines, London

TylerTraveler Jul 12th, 2006 12:08 AM

I met a man in Munich who had married a woman from America and was currently living in the US who was originally from Transylvania and had recently taken his son to Romania to see the country. (That sounds confusing)... but the point is that he said the kid really liked the trip there... so I hope you do too :)

I love Romania... it's so different than the rest of Europe.

I have some pictures from my trip to Brasov and Bran here:

And you can read my Transylvania update here:

noe847 Jul 12th, 2006 05:31 AM

Thanks, Tyler. I actually had just finished reading the Romanian portions of your trip right before I saw your reply here. Sounds like you had an amazing trip. I am looking forward to Romania, especially how different the travel there will be compared to the countries in Western and Central Europe that I've seen. I also read your Prague sections (have been there twice and loved it) and Krakow (really want to visit it SOON).

TheHills Jul 13th, 2006 09:14 PM

Dear Noe,

Here are some of our thoughts as far as Romania is regarded:

- Lonely Planet does not do justice to the country. They are in the habit of making fun and/or putting down what they think " it is wierd"....
- Rough Guides is much better. Instead of being opinionated (like Lonely Planet) it does offer excellent background information.
- I see you are looking for a tour guide: definitely go with Andrei Nicolau. This guy got a prize in 2004 as Romania's best English speaking tour guide, used to work for both Fodor's and Frommer's and has a great knwoledge of the country. He is something like Rick Steves for Romania. We have been using his services a couple of times and managed to send him over 10 couples out of our friends.
- Andrei has the advantage of having his own fleet of sedans and minivans so that you transportation will not be a rented one. Please note many travel agents claim to have thier own cars while they actually rent it which makes the final price higher.
- Andrei has hundreds of US references.

Andrei can be contacted at [email protected]

Please email us any time if you have questions. We love talking about Romania.


tower Jul 14th, 2006 10:30 AM

Noe...I notice that you've not mentioned Sighishoara in your notes.
That intriguing town and Tirgu Muresh would be good add-ons for your trip. In Sighi stay at the Casa Wagner..excellent lodgings in the heart of the old town. Perhaps the better of the few restaurants in town, also.

I can send you some pix if you wish...need an e-mail address...I don't have them placed in a www.

Stu T. ([email protected])

noe847 Jul 14th, 2006 01:04 PM

Thanks, Stu. I haven't shared our itinerary thoughts, have I? Sorry, just dived right in with a few specific questions.

My brother and father have been to Romania previously, so we are balancing seeing new things for them, "must-sees" for me, and seeing family members who live in Romania. My greatest interest is in the medieval parts of Transylvania. My brother is an architect, so the more buildings we see the better. Of course we are all excited to see the members of my grandfather's family.

I will be working out the details of the route with my brother, father and the guide, but here's the rough outline of the trip:

Fly into Bucharest, Friday (Day 1: Sept 22). Probably seeing relatives, hope to get a bit of a nap.

Saturday morning (Day 2: Sept 23) we will ride a train up to Fagaras, where we will stay for the weekend. Probably a family reunion/dinner, visit to my grandfather's village (Dridif), attend church, visit graves, etc.

Monday (Day 4: Sept 25) meet up with guide/driver, head west through Sibiu, Alba Julia - possible Hunedoara and Densus - to Cluj. This sounds like a long day. We have a family history tie in Alba Julia, and my brother has not been, so we have to check out the old town.

Tuesday (Day 5: Sept 26) drive from Cluj up to Maramures. Home stay arranged through guide. Maramures is kind of far, and this is likely to be a long day but we are interested in something new for my brother and father to see. My brother is an architect, so the churches will be fascinating.

Wednesday (Day 6: Sept 27) leave Maramures, drive through Bistrita to Sighisoara. We are looking at the Casa Wagner, but also the Hotel Sighisoara, which I have heard is nice. Bistrita looks interesting, but I don't hear much about it.

I hope to stay in Sighisoara 2 nights, and tour the Saxon fortified churches on Thuusday (Day 7, Sept 28).

Friday (Day 8, Sept 29) drive to Brasov, which my brother has not seen. Possibly Raznov.

Saturday morning (Day 9, Sept 30) drive from Brasov to Bucharest. Will not see Peles (brother and father have already seen it) or Bran.

Saturday and Sunday (Day 10, Oct. 1) see Bucharest relatives.

Monday (Day 11, Oct. 2) fly home early morning.

I know that this is a lot of moving around, but given the lay of the land and the travel times between towns, it seems like the way we need to structure the trip. We will pack light, and luckily there will be a few stops of 2 nights. Our plans are still somewhat fluid, so I'd be happy to hear reactions. Thanks!

USNR Jul 14th, 2006 01:23 PM

If you plan to go from Brasov to Bucharest, it would seem a shame to miss the wonderful castle of King Carol just outside Sinaia. We found it to be completely enchanting -- the design, the materials, and the workmanship simply cannot be beat. Built between 1871 and 1914, the castle features some things that were quite modern -- electricity, even a central vacuum system. It's German Renaissance design and the craftsmanship is gorgeous. Take your time -- the castle and grounds should not be seen if you are in a big rush.

noe847 Jul 14th, 2006 01:43 PM

Thanks, USNR. I think you're speaking of Peles Palace? As it turns out, my father has seen it twice and my brother has visited it once. Rather than going there again, we will probably skip it. Truth be told, I really am not a palace person (I have been to Germany/Bavaria three times without seeing Ludwig's castles). I am very much looking forward to seeing the little Saxon towns with their old churches - medieval stones, crumbling down or not, just speak to me.

julies Jul 14th, 2006 07:07 PM

Bucovina isn't calling to you? We only had one day there but wished we'd had more. The churches and scenery were outstanding. As far as the Maramures, this is one of the most unforgettable areas I've ever visited because it was as though time had stood still for the last 70-80 years. We did a 3 day homestay which was about perfect for us as far as time.

When we planned our trip 4 or 5 years ago, there was a guy called the Romanian Bat on the Lonely Planet message board the Thorn Tree. He was a font of information. Try posting there.

Also, I found the Blue Guide Book to be extremely detailed as far as the architectural details you will probably be interested in. Lonely Planet is opinionated but so is Rough guide. Read them all. Have you taken a look at the on-line In Your Pocket guidebook?

noe847 Jul 14th, 2006 08:24 PM

Thanks for the great tips, julies. And, yes, Bucovina is definitely calling me... I just have to respond, "see you next time". We are limited by available vacation days and or plans to visit with relatives on the weekends. With only 5 touring days in the countryside, we can only do Maramures or Bucovina. Looks like Maramures will win out on this trip.

We will most likely order the Blue Guide. The art history/architectural detail will be very welcome (art history was my major in university).

I've forgotten about the In Your Pocket site. I'd looked it over a few months ago when I first considered this trip. For what it covers, it will be useful. I've already compiled an impressive list of restaurants for our one night in Brasov!

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