Originally we were going to fly from Bucharest to Budapest. Then, one night when I couldn’t sleep, I realized that the driving time wasn’t a whole lot different than flying given all the time involved in driving back to Bucharest from Brasov to fly to Budapest. It was an adventure trying to cancel a refundable flight with Tarom airlines, eventually involving the credit card company. But I was successful in the end. We got a refund.
We decided to make the seven hour drive in two days to enjoy the countryside of Romania. Vlad the Storyteller agreed to drive us with an overnight stay in Cluj Napoca. I don’t know why but I love to say that name — it just sounds so fun. Cloooj Nah-poke-ah.
With Vlad as our always positive guide, he had planned the day for us from Brasov to Cluj Napoca.
Our first stop along the way to Cluj Napoca was the Sinca Veche Monastery. It has been dated to about 7,000 years old though no one knows the original builders and it has interesting carvings from a Star of David to a Chinese yin-yang symbol and carvings that I couldn’t decipher. Overall the monastery has nine rooms, including two chapels. . Carved into the rock there is a hole in the ceiling which is the only source of light. The cave ceiling and walls are supported by beams and covered to protect it from the elements. It is known as the Temple of the Chosen Ones. Inside the rock cave you can ‘feel’ the energy – some say it has paranormal activity while others simply say it’s the nature of the monastery. It is believed that wishes come true and many visitors leave notes behind.
Continuing our drive we arrived at the Carta Monastery in Carta, Romania. It unfortunately was not open in spite of arriving during ‘open’ hours. We learned that the monastery was closed due to lack of visitors. Documents exist that establish the founding between 1202-1203. It is the oldest gothic cathedral in Eastern Europe.
We stopped for a nice walk around the town of Sibiu which is a well preserved medieval town and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The name of the town is a combined Bulgar-Turk word meaning ‘rejoice.’ The Saxon influence is obvious throughout the village dating back to its founding in the 12th century. The Lutheran Cathedral, dating back to the 14th century is a city landmark with a massive 240′ tower.
The Council Tower was built in the 12th century and is considered the most iconic building in Sibiu. We climbed to the top to get a view overlooking the town.
The Alba Iulia Fortress
The star shaped citadel took 23 years to build between 1715-1738 during the Habsburg rule. It took over 20,000 laborers. Named after Charles VI, the shape of the citadel is based on the architectural offensive design of Sébastien Vauban. Unfortunately we visited on a day where the museum was closed, but we were able to walk around the fortress and visit a few of the highlights.
We walked into the Coronation Cathedral and had the pleasure of getting to listen to a group singing.
Though it had been a full day already, we made one more stop along the route and took a lovely short hike.
We crossed the bridge and arrived at a very funny ‘memorial’ that was used as a belay point for rock climbers. Bob was a rock climber prior to our marriage nearly 40 years ago, so he enjoyed the stop and the walk was very nice.
As we were returning towards the parking lot we ran into three young Americans who asked if we had found any car keys. Unfortunately, they had lost the keys to their rental car somewhere during their hike. They area is very isolated and we felt sorry for them as they would have to figure out how to get someone to make a key for them if their search was unsuccessful.
Arriving for the night in Cluj Napoca, we stayed at the Hampton Hilton as something was going on at the fully booked Doubletree and there aren’t any Marriott’s in the city. We had a nice local dinner at Casa Maramureseano where the service was slow, the food was ‘okay’ but our hunger was satisfied. Leaving again in the early morning we continue our adventure through the countryside of Romania.
Vlad will help set up tours all over Romania. He’s a lot of fun, knowledgeable and can be reached at Facebook.com/ghidulcuchitara or instagram vlad.chiciudean