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tcreath Jul 10th, 2007 08:02 AM

Planning a short trip to Romania (Transylvania to be extact) and need some advice!
DH and I are planning our vacation for April or May of next year. Right now the itinerary is 4 nights in Istanbul and 6 nights in Romania. I know this is a weird combo but we can't decide between the two so we are deciding to do both. We will be flying between Istanbul and Bucharest.

Anyways, basically we will concentrate our time in the Transylvania region and will fly home from Bucharest. This seems to be the most logical as its closer to most of the areas we want to see in Transylvania than, say, Budapest. Is this correct?

Now we will probably spend 5 nights split up in Transylvania and 1 night in Bucharest since the flight will more than likely leave around 8:30 am (we will be flying BA with FF miles).

Right now I am thinking we will fly into Bucharest and immediately drive to Brasov, where we will stay for 2 nights. Afterwards we will drive to Sighisoara for 1 night and then onto Sibiu for 2 nights, where we will daytrip to Hunadoara to see the castle. We will then head back down to Bucharest for the evening.

This essentially makes a somewhat circle so we will not be doing much backtracking. How does this sound? I know its not idea and it sounds rushed. Is there any way around this? Is there a better itinerary? I know that the roads are slow moving and I'm trying to take that into consideration.

And lastly, are there any good guidebook recommendations? There doesn't appear to be many out there, so I'm assuming I'll pick up Lonely Planet or Rough Guide unless there are some better options I'm not aware of.

Thanks for any/all advice!


bilboburgler Jul 10th, 2007 08:12 AM

Basiclly a good plan. Alternatives in ROumania are bird watching in the Delta or painted monasteries in the North.

Hotels come in various types. Very expensive semi-modern things (ie Brasov), Modern Inns (10 20 rooms) and what remain of the old offical hotels which are terrible. Try for the Modern Inn (often a Pensione) as best value and really great.

Rough guide did perfectly for me.

I would also recomend any good books on the races of ROumania. The whole racial issue in the country is very complicated and a little awareness will avoid any difficult situations or at least explain why some of the villages look as they do. The economist did a paper a few years back for example

tcreath Jul 10th, 2007 04:07 PM

bilboburgler, thank you for your comments.

We have considered the painted monestaries and have not completely ruled that plan out. If we did that I assume we would fly out of Budapest and work our way over there afterwards. However, I don't think DH would want to go to Romania without seeing some famous castles!

Thank you your comments on accommodations. I havn't really looked too much into them yet, and because of the tourism infrastructure in the country I guess its better to not expect too much. Luckily this isn't usually a problem for us, as we spend as little time as possible in our room while on vacation.

Thanks again!

bilboburgler Jul 10th, 2007 11:37 PM

Try Panzio Lobogo in Homorodfurdo

You will also find the Transylvanian tourist Info centres (run by Hungarians manly) are far more useful than the TI in the rest of Romania run by Romanians. Transylvania is the best of the country as far as I could tell

Note that Transylvania is countryside with a few towns dotted across is and so clean hotels may become more attractive than on other holidays

Clifton Jul 11th, 2007 04:35 AM

For the amount of time you have available, it sounds ok. Of course, there's a lot more to do and around each of the places you'll stay than you'll have time for - but when is that ever not the case??

I don't find the roads *between* your cities particularly slow really. They're some of the largest in Transylvania. Good paving, much less in the way of bikes, livestock and animal powered vehicles on the road. It's the side rides that'll really slow you down. You spend a good portion of the time then straddling the center line due to sharing the road with everything imaginable.

enroute to Brasov, you'll pass through a few scenic mountain towns, doubling in season as ski towns. The best we thought, is Sinaia. Interesting monastery and Peles Palace is there (google an image - very pretty)

I don't know the interior of Brasov well, but around it is Bran Castle, the Rasnov fortress, and several interesting walled churches. Of the churches, Prejmer was more unique, but we met the caretakers at Harmann and got a history lesson in the now diminishing "Saxon" presence, so we have better memories there.

Sighisoara has an amazing center, but is small and can be seen in a day. A few more walled churches enroute there, but I'd recommend pushing through from Brasov so you have time to see the museums in the clock tower before they close. Be sure to go up to the cemetery at the top of the town, by the church.

You might want to check out Beirtan on the way to Sibiu. It's one of the largest and is the best preserved of the walled churches. Very interesting. A student guide who was sitting and reading outside showed us around the treasury room and crypts, then let us on our own to explore. It's not very very far off the main road and really worth it but not a replacement for the others, which are smaller, but more... hmm atmospheric. They all have thier own personalities and history.

Sibiu's a good wandering town. Lots of little plazas and alleys. Check out the roof vents. They're called the eyes of Sibiu because it looks like they're watching. I understand that they've really been Sibiu the soap and water since we've been, due to it being the culture capital this year. So it ought to be in tip top shape, but hopefully they didn't scrub the character off of it, if you know what I mean.

Speaking of character, we also liked the center of Medias, between Sibiu and Sighisoara. Now there's a place that doesn't see tourists. A pretty cool, if down at the heels, city center. You'd get some "who's that?" looks here.

Be prepared on Hunedoara. The castle is a partial ruin, and not furnished, but we thought pretty interesting anyway. Especially the front facade and it's history of being the Hunyadi family home. But, you should know that Hunedoara town is very industrial and there's a smokestack pipeyard right there across the front parking lot from the castle. It ain't a pretty view our the front windows of that castle.

If you're sort of "in the area", you may also want to see the church at Densus. A little church in a little village, most unusual one you may ever see. The caretaker is a sweetheart, but only speaks Romanian - and mime. Built over a period of years, without any plans, it's just an oddity. Then you look closer and realize that you can see scavanged Roman inscribed marble tablets mixed right in with the rest of the bricks, stones, etc. It's different!

Good luck with the trip!

tcreath Jul 11th, 2007 09:44 AM

Thank you again for your replies.

Clifton, I read your trip report when you first wrote it and recently printed it up to help us with our planning. I can't thank you enough for writing such a detailed trip report, especially when Romania isn't a well-covered country on these boards.

So much to see, so little time! Such is life. We assume that we will only get a small flavor of Romania, but hopefully the country will capture us enough that we will want to return. And to be honest I think DH is a little happy we aren't staying too long because there seems to be conflicting thoughts on Romania on here from those who have been and he's thinking that if we aren't enjoying the country then at least we aren't there for a long time. Not a great way of thinking though! I for one am looking for a challenge and geting off the well-beaten tourist path.

We've gotten that "who's that?" look when we were in a little town in Bosnia that I'm sure doesn't get too many American tourists in their little town. I love it though because it a way it makes you feel like you discovered a place that few have!

And thanks again bilboburgler for your accommodation recommendations...they will certainly come in handy as we start planning!

Thanks again!!

julies Jul 11th, 2007 08:16 PM

I know you plan to limit yourself to Transylvania, but the Maramures area was by far our favorite because life there is truly unchanged in many ways from past centuries. Can you add this in?

I know you didn't ask for advice on how you plan to split yor trip, but, having been to both Romania (about 5 or 6 years ago) and Turkey (last month), I'd suggesst you pick one place or the other. We had 4 1/2 days in Istanbul and found it to be too short. Romania and Turkey are both so fascinating that I think you will be kicking yourselves that you decided to do both on the same trip rather than exploring them individually.

Clifton Jul 12th, 2007 04:42 AM

I think you'll get a pretty good feel, but I would encourage you to definitely get off the main roads at least once. Go looking at a few of the village churches, stuff like that. You'll see the Romania I remember best. Just be careful with the driving.

And Maramures really is the best of the best when it comes to authenticity of traditional life. And Bucovina is the best of architectural/church type stuff. The only problem I see there is that you only have 6 days. It took almost all day to drive from Sighisoara to the first monastery. And Maramures is a closer drive to Budapest than Bucharest... but I bet the car drop fees would be astronomical if they allowed that one way drop at all. I'm just sayin'...

I did read your Bosnia stories awhile back (although I'm never very timely these days) and enjoyed it. I'm pretty sure if we eer get down the Dalmation coast, we'll have to get into Bosnia a bit. Whenever it is we get back into Europe anyway and can agree where to go! We have that type of discussion too, which sounds like it split this upcoming trip.

noe847 Jul 14th, 2007 06:34 PM

tracy, we had 6 days to explore, beginning and ending in Transylvania, and this is what we did:
Monday- began in Fagaras and explored a series of Saxon fortified churches (loved Cincu the best), ending in Sighisoara
Tuesday- walked Sighisoara in the morning, then drove up to Maramures, visiting Ieud (oldest wooden church) and Barsana (new wooden convent complex), a woodcarver's studio, then overnight home stay in Maramures village.
Wednesday- morning photo walk in Maramures village, visit Merry Cemetary and Sighet (Elie Wiesel's house), wooden church at Surdesti, then drove to Cluj for the night
Thursday - Explore Cluj in the morning, the Alba Iulia, then drove to Sibiu (overnight there), stopping in a beautiful village near Sibiu in the late afternoon.
Friday - Explored Sibiu in the morning, then drove to Brasov, stopping in Carta to see the Cistercian abbey ruins, Rasnov (over-built and kitschy at this point) and Bran (surprisingly appealing), spending night in Brasov.
Saturday - Walking around Brasov in morning then touring nearby Prejmer and Harman (both wonderful), before driving to Bucharest.

We did not have time for Hunedoara and Densus, although both were tentatively on the itinerary. We had to push to make it up and back to Maramures, but our time exploring there was extremely rewarding.

The painted monasteries are pretty far from Transylvania, an even longer drive than Maramures is, so we didn't have time for them. I suspect the story would be the same for you. They are not that close to Budapest either, being a good bit further east in Romania than Maramures is.

I think I may have emailed you my draft report a few months ago?

tcreath Jul 16th, 2007 05:14 AM

Thank you all so much for your replies. I really do appreciate it.

I think that at this time we are going to reconsider our plans. I do agree that we will be trying to do too much, and I don't see any way around that if we try to fit in both places (Transylvania and Istanbul). We are going to think about it some more and figure out what it is that we want to do.

Thanks again everyone!!

Brahmama Aug 30th, 2007 07:37 AM

We are also contemplating visiting those two areas and were wondering what you decided?

It's so hard to choose between them.

tcreath Aug 30th, 2007 08:30 AM

Brahmama, I reread this post and am sad to report that we are not doing either country. Basically it came down to logistics given the driving distances, time we have available, and ff flights available. So in short we decided to put this trip off for a few years and will probably do two separate tripsother; one to Romania and one to Turkey. But if you do decide to go I will be anxiously awaiting to read details and a report afterwards!

Best wishes,

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