Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   Planning a Romanian trip for September 2006 (

tower Jul 15th, 2006 07:57 AM

Nancy...I'm sure whomever guides you will stop by the exceptionally unusual "Merry Cemetery" (Sapinta) en route from Cluj to the Maramuresh region....ask him to do so...none other like it anywhere...Rough Guide gives a very good description...
Stu T.

noe847 Jul 15th, 2006 05:00 PM

The "Merry Cemetary" is definitely on the radar.

Clifton Jul 15th, 2006 05:30 PM

Appears you've already read my thoughts on Hunedoara... I suppose even knowing that it's been reconstructed to an extent, I'd still recommend it. I appreciate the history behind it as well as the architecture, including that it's a combination of ruin and standing castle. If you read a bit on Matthias Corvinus and the Hunyadi family, I think the site improves in impact. The castle is the inspiration for prt of the model castle set in the main park in Budapest, by the way.

I couldn't imagine getting all the way to Maramures without seeing the Merry Cemetery either, but that probably goes without saying. But the town of Iued made it's own impression and we enjoyed getting a peek inside the old church with the company of a lady who cares for it. Ask around the village. Someone came right up to us and mimed a key turning in a lock to ask if we'd like to see inside, then ran to get the keyholder.

After hearing the phrase "it is not possible" countless times in so many situations throughout Romania (requesting a certain wine, menu items, etc), it brought a smile when we asked (charade style) if it was ok to climb to the top of the ladder to the overhang inside the church, where the children went during services. The only English she spoke was "It is possible".

Hope you all have a great trip. It's a country with a wealth of possibilities.

Faux Jul 17th, 2006 02:46 AM

Hi Noe, Biertan is definitely worth a visit but just the fortified church - the town is quite pretty but is not going to detain you. Most churches we visited had someone you had to see to be let into the church and that is where a guide is so useful (and not expensive in my view). It was October 2002 so the cat at Biertan might not still be there but one of the highlights of the visit to the church was a very friendly grey cat that escorted us up and down the steps into the castle/church. There are some remarkable iconic but full sized portraits/frescos on the wall of what I believe to be priests (or equivalent) of the church in what seemed to be either a burial chamber or a memorial room.

I had all kinds of concerns about travelling alone (a middle aged woman) with a guide but Dan Comanescu is a fantastic person and I recommend him highly as both a guide, driver and companion. He specialises in Maramures and that was the highlight of my trip and I wished I had more than the 2 days I spent so I wish you could allow a little more than a single day getting there and looking around.

I really loved the small town square in Sibiu so if you are only driving through, at least stop and look around that square (the big square is not nearly as gorgeous in my opinion). I thought Sighisoara was a one day town and I would prefer one night in Sibiu (loved the Roman Emperor hotel) as we saw Medias and Biertan on the way to Sighisoaro so it is also close to the saxon fortified church towns.

I am most envious of your trip and I am sure you will love Romania, particularly given your family links. I did not like Bucharest but having friends and relatives in a place adds a different dimension. I enjoyed the Village Museum there with a guide as you get an overview of the different styles of housing in various areas of Romania and if you decide to do a 2 hour tour to see it with a guide at the beginning of your trip, it will make the rest of your trip more interesting as you note the different characteristics of the buildings in different areas of Romania.

noe847 Jul 17th, 2006 06:09 AM

Thanks, Clifton and Faux. As we continue to read and research the trip we getting more and more excited.

This weekend I looked at reversing the direction of travel in Transylvania/Maramures (from clockwise to counter-clockwise). This seems to even out our travel and allow a greater chance for the Hundoara detour. It also gives us a night in Sibiu (yay!) So, it would be as follows:

Mon: Fagaras to Sighisoara (seeing some Saxon fortified churches, possibly Medias and/or the glass icon museum at Sambata monastery.

Tues: Sighisoara to Maramures (Bistrita, Ieud, more)

Wed: Maramures to Cluj (Sapinta, more)

Thurs: Cluj to Sibiu (Alba Iulia, Hunedoara, Densus/Strei)

Fri: Sibiu to Brasov (Prejmer, Harman, Rasnov)

We am doing lots of reading about the Maramures and the Saxon areas, and will work with the guide on the appropriate stops. I wish that we had more time in Maramures - actually everywhere - but we are working the best we can within our time constraints. Yesterday my brother started talking about how nice it would be to do some hiking in the mountains and I almost hit him with the guide book!

That's an interesting suggestion about seeing the Folk museum in Bucharest before we head north. I had thought to do that on our return to the city at the end of the trip, but it does make sense to do it at the beginning. I could visit on the afternoon of our arrival while my father rests (he has seen the museum on both of his previous visits).

The other thing I might do that first afternoon in Bucharest is try to track down the source of some (modern) icons that my brother and father were given on their last visit. I think there is a National University of Arts in Bucharest (Universitatea de arte din Bucuresti) and I'm hoping that there is an associated shop. If any of you know of a good source for handmade crafts, I'd love suggestions.

Faux Jul 19th, 2006 04:01 AM

Noe, do get a guide for the village museum as they point out things like the use of very ornately carved and high double gates for houses in Maramures and the use of a bright light blue in the Szekelyland area of Transylvania which (I believe) was thought to help the house resist disease. I really enjoyed the visit.

In Sibiu, if you can get in, please stay at the Imparatul Romanilor (Roman Emperor) Hotel. It is a grand old Austro Hungarian building and even my single (had a double or twin beds as I recall but hot water was a bit unreliable as in many other places in Romania - if the water is hot when you get there and test it, shower at once in case it is not in the morning) was a nice room and as at October 2002, with dinner bed and breakfast (nice restaurant visually but food while healthy not exciting there or anywhere I went) was only 25 USD. I supposed it is more now but will still be good value I assume. This is one website I found which has some photos but I dont think it is the hotel's official website

ben_haines_london Aug 6th, 2006 12:16 AM

There is an official website for the Roman Emperor hotel at

Ben Haines,London

Faux Aug 6th, 2006 01:08 AM

Ben, Thank you for the website

Clifton Aug 6th, 2006 05:40 AM

I also agree with the Imparatul Romanilor. We had a very large room. A bit faded, the longer hallways a bit dark, but almost in an appropriate way, if that makes sense.

I'm not sure if there are other good views to be had, but I can recommend asking for one over looking the Orthodox cathedral. We arrived at night, and this was the unexpected view when we opened the curtains the next morning:

Also, this direction looks straight down into the tiny street behind the hotel where there is a small guarded parking recommended by the hotel. Parking was around $1.5 US at the time. Some photos on websites show cars new the front door of the hotel. This area was marked as residents only when we arrived, and required visible permits.

Michael Aug 6th, 2006 06:45 AM

Most of the churches were locked. The better known ones were open to the public on a regular basis. But as I reported, in one case someone opened the door for us, and in another (Apold) there was some type of schedule, although it was not in the organized fashion of the better known churches. I suspect that if soemone in your party knows Romanian, you will be able to see more of them.

noe847 Aug 9th, 2006 01:17 AM

Thanks, everyone. I'm traveling now in the UK, so my internet access is a bit sporadic (as well as time for Fodor's). I believe that we are confirmed at the Imparatul Romanilor in Sibiu. Clifton, that is a wonderful picture and I'll remember to ask for a room with a view.

Michael, thanks for the additional info. We are hoping to wind our way from Fagaras to Sighisoara, seeing several of the fortified churches along the way. With any luck, the guide will be able to help locate the elusive key!

ben_haines_london Aug 25th, 2006 01:43 AM

The Imparatul Romanilor in Sibiu is a treat, and good value, but you need to ask times of floor shows in the dining room, and take your dinner in your room if you are not to be invaded by dancing girls and loud music.

Ben Haines

noe847 Sep 18th, 2006 12:24 PM

OK, everybody, we are leaving for Romania in 3 days! I do have a follow up question for this group - (I think that all the Fodorites who are known to have been to Romania have replied to this thread).

When I went to the travel clinic to get my hepatitis shots, the rn there gave me the whole drill about food and water caution. She recommended not to eat any fresh vegetables and no fresh fruit that I don't peel myself. Also, no sandwiches, no vendor food. Drink only bottled beverages, only boiling tea/coffee, and don't use water to brush my teeth.

This took me by surprise a bit. My question is: did you follow guidelines like this on your trip to Romania?

Michael Sep 18th, 2006 12:52 PM

We did not follow your RN's guidelines with the possible exception of not drinking local water--but we brushed our teeth with it--and are alive to tell the tale.

gabrieltraian Sep 18th, 2006 01:32 PM

As you may already know by now, from my other posts, I am a Romanian and I can vouch for a few things, even if I have lived somewhere else for many years now.

However, I go there almost annually, so here's what I have to say.

Fruits and vegetables tasting like in Romania you will never find anywhere (and I travelled to many countries).

Buy them from the open market, or even from the supermarket, but make sure they are local produce and not imports.

Tomatoes, green peppers, cucumbers, fruits of all kinds, are so flavoured and you feel the taste.

Even cheeses you should try some (ask for "telemea", for example, or some kashkaval). But again, make sure they are Romanian produce and not imports.

Of course, buy them from safe places, not from any vendor sitting on a street corner. as long as it is an organized shop, it is all right.

Water is good even from the tap. Maybe less so in Bucharest, but by all means try it when you go to Transylvania, in the mountains.
You could buy bottled water while in Bucharest, 'cause sometimes you may feel a too pronounced chlorine taste.

But in the mountains the water is so good.

And your relatives might take you to some natural springs to drink directly from the ground.

With the vegetables and fresh fruits you should take the absolute NORMAL precautions that you take at home: wash them before you eat them.

Sandwiches and vendor food... There are plenty of places to eat, and besides the usual American ones (McD, Pizza Hut, KFC), you get some other ones, like "Patiseria" in Romanian.

Plus try this one, which opened this summer and I have been to it recently.

When you are in Bucharest, ask your relatives to take you to "Casa Gorjeana". This is a traditional restaurant from Gorj county.

It is located on street Domnita Anastasia 13. This is somewhere opposite Cismigiu gardens, behind the Town Hall, near Whispers Cafe.

Your relatives in Bucharest should be able to find it.
Oh! Here's the phone no. 315.64.29.

My wife and I had some delicious food there at offensively low prices.

Ask your relatives there to take you to buy some apple strudel, cheese pie, and other stuff like that. Or buy some pastries from Fornetti stores.

They are all over the place in Bucharest.

The lady at your travel clinic must have confused Romania with some other place.

Enjoy your time there and I'm looking forward to your (detailed) report.

I want to see how you've found that country, the places you visited and what you think about the people.

And I will want to know what did you think about the taste of the fruits and vegetables. I, for one, know that I miss them.

And yes, we do wash our teeth with tap water, even in Bucharest.

Michael is living proof that it can be done.

tower Sep 18th, 2006 02:56 PM

Nacy dear:

First of all...have a wonderful, satisfying, meaningful, fun trip..hope dad loves his return, too.

Secondly, pay close attention to Gabriel's suggestions...your RN knows nothing about Romania, it you know I've traveled there extensively since the late 70's...drank the water everywhere except Bucharest for the same reasons set forth by GabrielTrajan...but we brushed our teeth in the water everywhere...

Gabe is 100% correct in praising the fruits and vegetables...deeee-lish!!
Ate salads everywhere...still alive today...

I had no qualms about buying off the fact, the best savarinas (Romanian's most gallant version of a French rum soaked pastry) came off a vendor's cart in Piatra Neamts...ask for it in any pastry die favorites!(Even repeatedly mention it in my book)

You will love Maramuresh...please stop into the Elie Wiesel House and Museum in Sighetul..a Nobel Peace Prize recipient, eloquent survivor of Auschwitz...the best place for costumed locals is nearby Ieud (Yay-ood). Cameras ready!!

Have fun, Nancy..looking for a trip report!!

Stu T.

tower Sep 18th, 2006 02:57 PM

of course, I meant "Nancy"...!!!


tower Sep 18th, 2006 03:02 PM

Nancy:Where are you staying in Bucharest, I highly recommended the Opera..sounds like you're staying with the Rembrandt. You may be pleasantly surprised at downtown has a lot of old world charm to it...give it a chance.
Stu T.

Clifton Sep 19th, 2006 04:27 AM

Our experience was like the others: didn't drink tap water but brushed with it. We ate fresh vegetables and such. Not saying it's the "right" thing to do, but anecdotally, we were fine. In S.E. Asia, we took most of the precautions your RN suggested, so we do not generally just ignore those sorts of concerns. I hope you have a great trip! I'd like to hear your impressions of Maramures too when you get back.

noe847 Sep 19th, 2006 06:22 PM

Thanks, everyone for the reality check. We will most likely try to be cautious about the water, especially in Bucharest, and sensible otherwise. Oh, and I must apologize for my apalling grammar/spelling in that last post - I was in a big hurry and didn't stop to preview.

You are right, Stu. We are staying at the Rembrandt, so we will let everyone know how that turns out. I was intrigued with the look of it - a boutique hotel, and I think a better rate. We will be seeing lots of relatives in Bucharest, both on the day we land and on the following weekend when we return. There are a few other things we will try to squeeze in while we're in the city.

Thanks for the reminder of the Elie Wiesel home in Sighet. Ieud is on the itinerary, per your recommendation, as well as the Merry Cemetary. Thanks again to all.

I will post a trip report when we return. The forum needs as much information about Romania as possible, although I don't think mine report will reach the epic proportions of Clifton's classic - or Michael's either!

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:19 PM.