Roaming Romania, Take Two

Old Oct 25th, 2014, 10:50 AM
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thursdaysd:

I loved Peles's and Pelsor Castle,although Peles's Castle is more like a Palace.

I never saw a Dinning Room done in total wood as in Peles's Castle.

I agree the Square is Brasov is lovely, done in a tile pattern , that Cathedral at the Square looks a bit like a Mosque.

Thank annhig
Thanks thursdaysd

will e mail you tower.
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 11:00 AM
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@annhig - do consider Romania, but also Bulgaria and Macedonia (see my B trip TRs). And do try to make it to the north if you go to Romania. Public transport was pretty problematic there when I went in 2006, may be better now.

@stu - itinerary after Vienna: Graz - Ljubljana - Trieste - Ferrara - Venice - Aix - Nice - Evora - Lisbon - London.
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 11:57 AM
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@annhig - re: the first class RailJet ride. I didn't buy the ticket until I was in Budapest, and the lady in the MAV office (conveniently situated a few blocks from my apt.) said first class would be less than second - it certainly wasn't full. Anyway, I thought 29 euros very reasonable. You can even order food at your seat, although in Hungary you have to worry about it staying on the tray table!
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 01:20 PM
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€29 seems like a bargain, thursdaysd, though with 2 of us, it might be more economical to drive. I don't suppose you would have been aware of how many hire cars there were around - I do know that it can be difficult to rent a car if you re coming from outside the country as there has been a problem with thefts of foreign vehicles.

Not sure where we might be going next year, so Romania's going on the list.
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Old Oct 25th, 2014, 03:10 PM
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Still reading... eastern Europe has some interesting places to visit...
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 09:35 AM
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@annhig - sorry can't help with rental car info. Haven't rented a car in Europe for ten years, and that was for two days to visit Hadrian's Wall.

Sep 29-30, 2014: Bored at Bran, Pleased with Prejmer, Still loving Brasov.

Around Brasov, the only site that seemed to be open on Monday was Bran castle. Never having read Bram Stoker's "Dracula", nor seen (as best I remember) a Dracula movie, and having no interest whatever in repairing those omissions, I nearly decided to skip Bran. However, some visitors reported that the Dracula connection was played down in the castle itself, and I figured that I had had plenty of practice in ignoring souvenir stands.

Before setting off, I trekked up to the Black Tower, part of Brasov's 15th century fortifications, enjoying a beautiful clear morning. Then I stopped by the T.I., which had finally opened, to confirm the transport information in my Lonely Planet, and by the T-Mobile store, which kindly explained that my data access would only work if I turned data roaming on. Duh...

Neither the T.I. nor Lonely Planet had mentioned that the bus to Autogara 2, where I would catch the bus to Bran, only ran once an hour. I took a taxi to the bus station, which cost about as much as the bus. (All of 7 lei, around $2.00 US.) Once we cleared the suburbs (modern Brasov is quite big) the rural scenery was enlivened by snow-capped mountains.

Before tackling the gauntlet of souvenir stands, and the trek up to the castle, perched on the top of a short, steep hill, I ate lunch. The omelet wasn't bad. The park at the foot of the castle hill was quite pretty. The castle itself I considered a complete waste of time. Unlike the pseudo-castles at Sinaia, it had been a proper defensive castle, originally built in 1382, and supposedly visited by Vlad Tepes (reimagined as Dracula) in 1462. The castle was handed back to the descendants of the Hapsburgs in 2006, and its curators put more emphasis on that connection.

If you haven't seen any other castles, I suppose this one might be impressive. Its location, what can be seen of it, certainly cries out for a castle. But you have to tackle a lot of steep, narrow and claustrophobic stairs in order to visit a sequence of sparsely furnished, white-washed rooms of minimal interest. On the way back I had a good view of Rasnov castle, also built as a defense against the Turks. That might be a better choice than Bran: it should at least be less visited. I was lucky, perhaps because it was the end of the tourist season, but there are plenty of postings on TA from people who had to queue to get in, and then couldn't see anything because of all the tour groups.

The centuries of Turkish threat resulted not only in castles, but in fortified churches. The villagers would retreat inside the walls, taking their provisions with them, and wait until the invaders gave up, or a relieving army appeared. My last day at Brasov I visited a prime example at Prejmer. I couldn't help thinking, looking at the 4.5 meter thick encircling walls, honeycombed with 272 rooms including a school, that many people today would be ecstatic if they could find similar protection. Unfortunately, modern artillery has rendered Prejmer obsolete. I ate a lunchtime sandwich in the shelter of the walls, before climbing up and down the galleries and finally walking around under the roof, where I could peer out through the arrow slits and murder holes.

I had had some difficulty locating the bus to Prejmer, which didn't leave from either of Brasov's bus stations, but from a stop some distance from the main one, on the other side of the road. Once I found the right stop, I had a lengthy conversation with a woman who lived in Prejmer, and referred to herself and her husband as "the last of the Saxons". Presumably she was just talking about Prejmer, rather than the whole area, since the mayor of Sibiu, in the running to become President, is a Saxon. Still, apparently most of the Saxon settlers, whose ancestors had arrived in the 12th and 13th centuries, moved back to Germany after WWII.

Tensions still exist between the Hungarian minority and the Romanian majority, and must have existed for centuries between the Saxons, living behind the walls of the upper town in Brasov, and the Romanians living outside, beyond the Schei gate.

When not visiting castles, palaces and churches, I continued to wander around old town Brasov. I visited the Schei gate, at the south end, although I was unable to enter the nearby synagogue. To the the north I took a look at the park I had noticed on the way in. No wedding party (they seemed to be confined to Saturdays), but plenty of men (no women....) playing chess and backgammon. After I bought my train ticket for Sibiu, I put Brasov on my "should revisit" list.
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 01:12 PM
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Never having read Bram Stoker's "Dracula", nor seen (as best I remember) a Dracula movie, and having no interest whatever in repairing those omissions, I nearly decided to skip Bran. >>

lol, thursdaysd, they made a whole radio series [or 3] out of that premise, getting a different "celebrity" each week to do 1/2 a dozen things they'd not done before; they called it "I've never seen Star Wars" which in your case would have been "I've never seen Dracula".
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 01:45 PM
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this is such a fascinating report about many places I have never heard of nor thought of going to.. until now. Romania.. sounds fabulous!

Did you get to Spoon Café in Budapest along the river near the Chain bridge? We loved that pace.
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 02:02 PM
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You have me doing a lot of Google Map searches . . . not that that is a bad thing.

Ian
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 05:26 PM
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THURSDAYSD,

"Tensions still exist between the Hungarian minority and the Romanian majority, and must have existed for centuries between the Saxons, living behind the walls of the upper town in Brasov, and the Romanians living outside, beyond the Schei gate."

Loving the historical detail! Wow, you are an intrepid traveler! Along for the ride...
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 11:44 PM
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Thanks all!

@ann - sounds like an inverse Desert Island Discs - I think I'd prefer doing that!

@lincasanova - not this trip. I reinstated the Central as my favorite cafe, and did do the evening Danube cruise again (complete with small child that WOULD NOT SHUT UP).

Am now in Vienna (definitely museum weather), leaving for Graz tomorrow. The crowds in the historic center are HUGE.
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 11:47 PM
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Are you moving more freely now, or still dealing with ankle issues? I'm sure that I'm not the only Fodorite who is wishing you well
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Old Oct 28th, 2014, 11:57 PM
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Thanks for asking, kja! I have gone from right foot limp, to both feet, to left foot. I thought it was getting better, but it got tangled up in a kneeler in a pew in St. Stephens yesterday because some idiot want to get past me instead of picking a different row. I did buy some cream and a new ankle wrap. I am moving a bit faster, but have mostly been doing museums, since it is quite cold and very crowded. I can manage my usual museum speed.....
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Old Oct 29th, 2014, 01:25 AM
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OMG, you are such a trooper! I love that you keep finding ways to forge ahead -- awesome!

There are SO MANY ways in which I hope to emulate you ... but then there are some ways in which I hope to never EVER - ever!!! - follow in your footsteps. I guess I'm learning that one can travel despite injury -- so many thanks for the (I'm sure) unintended lesson. ;-)
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Old Oct 29th, 2014, 08:44 AM
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@kja - I think you're doing just fine already. Definitely don't emulate my foot problems, although, given a choice, I'd take foot problems over stomach problems. I may be moving at a snail's pace (it was a pregnant snail's pace but I'm a shade faster today), but I am moving. There are more elevators in Vienna, too.
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Old Oct 31st, 2014, 11:23 PM
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I hope you are either enjoying your pregnant snail's pace (what am image! ;-) ) or finding greater ease with every new step. And I trust that you are enjoying more than the elevators in Vienna! The Klimt entryway to the Kunsthistorisches Museum is one of my all-time favorite places, so do give it an extra glance for me.
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Old Nov 1st, 2014, 12:21 AM
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I am finally walking somewhat better, thanks! Going down stairs still problematic, but have speeded up a bit on the flat. Am now in Graz, where the weather is better, too. I did visit a number of museums in Vienna, but not the KHM this time. Did see some new-to-me Klimts in the Leopold, and had a lovely time at the Hundertwasser museum.
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Old Nov 1st, 2014, 12:43 AM
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Well then you MUST go back to Vienna! OK, maybe next time...

I'm glad you are moving a bit better, and that you are therefore more free to see what is around you, rather than watching every bit of pavement ahead. I'm quite certain that if anyone could write a trip report about pavement, and make it worth reading, it would be you -- but truth be told, I'd rather read about some other things!
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Old Nov 1st, 2014, 12:53 AM
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This was my third visit to Vienna, so I had already visited the KHM. I had considered a return visit, but the admission is steep, and there were several other places I hadn't been to that I wanted to see. I didn't go back to the Hofburg, either, but I did make it to the furniture repository.
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Old Nov 1st, 2014, 01:25 AM
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Oct 1-3, 2014: So-so Sibiu and an outdoor museum.

Somehow, I just never warmed to Sibiu, European City of Culture or not. Maybe it was the weather. Maybe it was my hotel. Or maybe it just couldn't match Brasov for charm.

The weather was mostly cool and grey, with actual rain some of the time. My room at the Levoslav was really a suite, with two big rooms, two TVs, two desks, two armchairs.... Trouble was, the furniture didn't fill the space, and the decor had an industrial feel. The overall effect was stark, plus the shower was vey awkward to use and breakfast was poor. And, when Lonely Planet told me it was walking distance from the train station if might have mentioned that half of the walk was uphill. In Brasov the Saxons had lived behind the walls, here they lived on top of a significant hill.

The upper town was built around three "squares", but I didn't find them welcoming. The two biggest were so big they effectively swallowed the cafes, and there were no fountains and few benches. Some parts of the old walls remained, but they were just walls. The History Museum was seriously disappointing, aside from some guild artifacts. The Art Museum in the Bruckenthal Palace owned a lot of rather bad paintings and a few interesting Turkish rugs, plus a couple of Rubens, but its star exhibit consisted of paintings retrieved after their forced transfer to Bucharest under the Communist regime. These included a brilliant, and brilliantly lit Brueghel: "The Slaughter of the Innocents", but I could hardly see the rest, the lighting was so dim. (I should also put in a good word for the Greek Orthodox cathedral, and its massive iconostasis.)

The best part of my stay in Sibiu was a visit to the ASTRA open air museum just outside town, a good substitute for the museum I had missed in Bucharest, and apparently the second largest in the world. In season, it looks like a lot of demonstrations and activities fill the buildings, but I was there off season, and little was happening. Still, I enjoyed wandering around under the trees and beside the big lake, checking out the churches, houses, barns and mills, and even a small flock of sheep. I did notice that the gates from Maramures were all inferior to the elaborately carved ones I had seen in situ.

I didn't eat particularly well in Sibiu, but I drank rather better than I ate. The desk clerk at the Levoslav said he didn't drink coffee, and couldn't recommend a cafe, but the very helpful T.I. sent me to the Cafe Wien, with a view down to the lower town, and good coffee. So, after Brasov I found Sibiu a bit disappointing, and it is firmly on the "glad I went, no need to return" list.
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